Saturday, March 12, 2016

During a recent subbing job, while assigning an article on environmentalism, I was reminded of one of several reasons I am writing books.

When our boys were little (if you know them, you'll find it hard to believe they were ever little!), my husband and I moved to northern Nevada--ranching country. I was fascinated with ranch and cowboy life, so different from my more urban background. I realized many kids have no idea where their food comes from or the importance agriculture plays in our lives. Food doesn't come from the store--it is produced by farmers and ranchers. Cowboys aren't just colorful characters in the Old West, movies, or rodeos, but play in important role in beef production.

Having been a bookworm all my life, I read piles of books to my little ones, hoping to instill in them the love of books. Many were engaging and well-written, but some made me wonder if I couldn't have written a better one myself! I began to toy with the thought of someday writing books for children.

Fast forward a few years. My boys are bringing home papers from school with a strong environmentalist slant, sometimes (as in the assignment I mentioned above) with a blatant anti-farming/ranching element. My pro-agriculture feelings were kindled even further.

By this time I was writing and selling stories and articles to magazines and felt ready to attempt a book. I had read that nonfiction was a good way for a new author to break into the publishing game. I fumbled around with a few fruitless endeavors before it occurred to me that I could probably appeal to more kids in a fiction format, weaving background information into my story.

Not only did this approach prove successful, but during author talks I can bring out the agriculture angle even more, as part of an entertaining slideshow. The curriculum unit, while primarily integrating elements of reading and writing, helps teachers use the agriculture focus as a science connection and the Nevada ranching focus as a social studies connection.

Unfortunately, there was no time the other day to take the time to talk with my class about environmentalism, its agenda, and how it is pushed in the classroom and elsewhere. But through my books, I am doing what I can to educate kids about agriculture and the unique ranching sub-culture of the West.