Welcome to Love of Place. Most of my work celebrates our connection to the natural world.

Most recently, my Knocking on Heaven's Door is the winner in the category of science fiction in the 2016 New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards and in the category of fiction in the 2016 Arizona Authors Association Awards. A number of reviewers have been enthusiastic, including the website Geeks of Doom, which makes me smile. Not many people know me as a geek of doom! But I am happy to embrace the complexity of my personality.

I'm also so pleased that Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World has been awarded the 2016 John Burroughs Medal for Distinguished Nature Writing, as well as the 2014 WILLA Award for Creative Nonfiction from Women Writing the West.

My historical fantasy Teresa of the New World won the 2015 Arizona Authors Association Award for best Children's Literature and was a finalist for the New Mexico/Arizona Book Award for Children's Literature, the WILLA Award for Children's Literature, and the May Sarton Award for Children's Literature.

These are nice landmarks in a writer's life. I would be writing regardless--but, still, whew. It's good to have some encouragement.

Feel free to contact me at http://www.sharmanaptrussell.com or through my author Facebook page, Sharman Apt Russell.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

I don’t think this has ever happened before. But I found this review of my historical fantasy Teresa of the New World surprisingly insightful, bringing up aspects of the book (and one problem) that were a little new to me. Reviews don’t usually illumine work for the author. I’m still absorbing this. Maybe it’s a fiction thing, since stories like this one come so much from the unconscious depths. The review concludes: “There are several lyrical passages about life on and under the earth’s surface…making this a good book to give to a nature-loving, daydreaming child. Adults, too, are likely to find that it unfolds unexpectedly into strange depths.” I so like the idea of strange depths. And of nature-loving, day-dreaming children. I can see better now, too, why the book may not have broad appeal.
I am concerned the first chapter starts too slowly. Yes, it’s a little late for that! I find myself still engaged in the writing of this book, which is odd.

I am concerned the first chapter starts too slowly. Yes, it’s a little late for that! I find myself still engaged in the writing of this book, which is odd.

Chapter One
Later, Teresa remembered.
When she was a child, the earth whispered to her as she lay on her stomach, her stomach pressed to the earth. Often this happened when she was hungry, and she was hungry often, for her people lived in a difficult, swampy area along a mosquito-filled bay where they ate fish and roots and not much else.
One day she woke to find her cheek pushed hard into prickly grass. She didn’t know how she had gotten here. The last memory she had was of her mother nursing the new baby. Although Teresa had lived four winters she had just recently stopped nursing, when the new baby came, and that had been sad—for her mother to feed someone else and not her. She must have left her mother then and fallen to the ground and gone to sleep. Now she felt dazed, her stomach empty, a distant ache. The earth beneath her also felt distant, far away and cold. Her naked body was cold. She wished someone would cover her with an animal skin.
In a hollow voice, her empty stomach complained to the earth. Her stomach told the earth she was about to die of hunger. Her stomach said it was glad because it was tired of being so empty and unhappy.
The earth rippled with a kind of amusement. Teresa listened, a skill she had learned because of her father. No, the earth said, she is not going to die. She is only a little hungry. She should eat some dirt now, mixed with water. She should look around for some roots or grubs.
She can’t, her stomach complained. She can’t move.
The amusement in the earth swelled. Go find some leaves, the earth whispered. A grasshopper, an animal skin to chew.
The ground under Teresa seemed warmer, and Teresa tried to burrow into that warmth. I love you, the earth whispered, not to her stomach but to her throat and mouth. I love humans. I love watching you. I love watching and wondering what you will do next.
Her stomach grumbled. Teresa spoke out loud, “Tell me a story.”
The earth said, I will tell you about a girl with long black hair who could swim through rivers of stone. She moved through stone as wind moves through the branches of a tree. Once she followed a vein of fire to a lake of fire, and she swam there smiling at all the bright fish, yellow and orange and red and blue. She had never seen anything so beautiful, and when she swam back up and rested on the ground, as you are resting here now, she held one of those glowing fish in her hand. Of course, it burned her. She dropped the fish with a scream, and the fish fell on the grass and burned the grass and died. She was sorry then, with her hand on fire. She is not from your tribe. She lives in the mountains.
Teresa didn’t much like this story, which had ended badly for the girl. What are mountains? Teresa asked drowsily.
Oh, I love mountains, the earth said with a thrill that prickled across Teresa’s skin. Sometimes I rise into the sky until I am high above myself looking down on myself, and I can see so much and so far and the mystery of what I am is almost clear to me . . .
“Teresa!” Someone else was speaking, a human voice. “Teresa!” Not very gently, her father shook her arm. “Wake up! Eat this.” Something in Teresa’s mouth felt too big against her tongue, and slowly she began to chew. A baked prickly pear pad. He must have gotten this from her aunt, who Teresa had seen gathering prickly pear that morning.
“Come,” her father said. “The men are fishing on the shore. Let’s build a fire and watch them.”
Her father was not a good fisherman. He was not a good hunter of rabbits or peccary or a trapper of mice. He did not seem to know what plants to gather or how to prepare them. In truth, he rarely found his own food. Yet he ate as well as anyone and usually had something to give to Teresa. All this was because her father was a good trader, taking seashells and oyster knives from her tribe to the tribes inland and bringing back deer tassels dyed red and a special paste for making arrows. Her father could do this because he was a stranger and no one’s enemy and because the tribes in this area considered him lucky. They thought themselves lucky to have such an interesting creature live among them, a man so absurdly incompetent, with a ridiculous long nose, blue eyes, and hair flowing down his face and chest. They were not sure if this creature was human—not even Teresa’s mother was entirely sure—but they treated him with kindness and gave him food.
“They are a generous people,” Teresa’s father told her more than once, and she agreed. Her people were generous. They fed new babies, and they fed her father.

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