I met Jenny at an alumnae gathering of our shared women’s fraternity. Her passion for the natural environment impressed me almost as much as artistic flair! Her e-book, “DEEP GREEN, Minimize Your Footprint; Maximize Your Time Wealth and Happiness” is a how-to manual on green living that was recently published in paperback,too.
Tell me about your background. Where you grew up, where you live now, education, work experience? Share some interesting things about yourself that we should know about.
Being in a military family (Navy), I grew up moving every couple of years, and pretty much loved every place in its own way. The place that made the deepest impression on me (even though I was only four years old when we were stationed there,) was Japan. We traveled a lot too, driving cross-country several times and camping along the way. I now live in a historic neighborhood near the ocean in Daytona Beach, my adopted hometown.
What inspired you to write this book? What is the story behind the story?
Growing up in the 1960s and 70s, and visiting national and state parks with my family, I experienced breathtaking natural scenery while at the same time getting the message that the environment was in danger from human excesses. As an adult, I traveled in Europe and lived in Japan, where I observed people living at a much lower footprint than the typical United States resident. It seemed to me not just eco-friendlier, but also an altogether richer, more satisfying, and, not incidentally, more BEAUTIFUL way of life than the harried, car-centric, money-focused lifestyle of my native culture.
I’ve intended to write books since I was a small child. At age 55, I’m just getting started a bit late! My favorite subjects as a kid were art, languages, and English literature. My college major was English with a minor in sociology. Later, I got an associate’s degree in graphic design. And I went on to study a field called permaculture design, which is a nature-based approach to the design of human living environments. Basically, permaculture is nature-based efficiency principles. It’s very powerful stuff, with great potential to not only mitigate environmental damage, but actually IMPROVE the health of ecosystems.
My career path has been a winding one, from magazine editorial staffer when I first got out of college; to English conversation instructor in Japan; to Japanese translator; to permaculture designer/educator; to artist and writer. I also teach a course on consciousness. And I’ve certainly done my share of odd jobs along the way to pay the bills! For simplicity’s sake, the umbrella title I use on my 1040 forms is “Sustainability Educator, Self-Employed.”
It’s taken me a while to figure out that I’m primarily a writer who also happens to make art, rather than an artist who also happens to write. Given my love of the natural environment, and my belief that it’s everyday people, in our many millions, who have the power to make the biggest difference in the world, it was inevitable that my first book would be a practical “how-to” manual on green living. Actually, I wrote a children’s story a couple of years ago, but I never illustrated it (or found an illustrator) and haven’t published it, so I don’t count it (yet). In addition to having other books on sustainable living in the works, I’m also planning to write short stories and a novel.
What has been your biggest challenge or obstacle?
Continuing to believe in myself over the years, when my heart and intuition guided me away from a more accepted mainstream path. Also, once I wrote my book, MARKETING was a far bigger challenge than the writing itself had been.
What has been your biggest “aha” moment or success?
Realizing that the book is good! Realizing that even longtime environmentalists dedicated to living a low footprint are getting new information and new ideas from my book. And realizing that the book has a very large secondary audience, of people who aren’t necessarily “green” but really want to save themselves money and take back their time, and add more beauty and joy to their lives. A low-footprint lifestyle gives all of these benefits.
What authors do you like to read? What books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?
I am a devourer of books, fiction and nonfiction alike. My favorite fiction writers I can think of off the top of my head right now are Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, Virginia Woolf, and D.H. Lawrence. In nonfiction, A Pattern Language (an incredibly rich, dense book about what makes urban spaces comfortable and functional) rocked my world, as did The Humanure Handbook by Joseph Jenkins, and Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands by Brad Lancaster. It’s hard to pick — so many books and writers have influenced me!
Do you write every single day? Any writing rituals?
I write most days. I let days go by too often without writing. I’m trying to get more consistent. What’s helping me is just having a “current notebook” in which I give myself permission to write ANYTHING that comes to mind, be it fiction fragments, reactions to news items, or whatever emotion is going on in my head.
What are your interests outside of writing?
I love the beach, walking, reading, exploring on foot and by bicycle the forgotten corners of whatever city I’m living in. I’m fascinated with traditional urban design; what makes urban environments functional and beautiful. And when I see something and think it’s “ugly,” I always stop and analyze why. One seemingly unexpected passion I have is decluttering and organizing. I’m kind of obsessed with cleaning fridges; making sure there aren’t two bottles of ketchup that could be consolidated into one.
Share some tips for other Authors or Aspiring Authors: What would you do differently? What would you do the same? Please share anything you think would be beneficial to those reading this.
What would I do differently? Not waste so much time listening to negative voices in my head! We all have a message to share, and we have to trust that there are people who need to hear it. It’s impossible to please everyone, but at least I can stop giving so much weight to my own negative self-talk.
Also, one piece of advice I’ve heard from many sources, and tend to agree with, is, “Only write a book if you can’t NOT write it!” Writing isn’t easy, at least not for most people I know, and sometimes the only thing that keeps you going is your own inner conviction that you CAN’T NOT write this book. Deep Green was a book I literally HAD to write. I couldn’t NOT write it. So, all those negative voices in my head, telling me every day to give up? They lost!
And one final thing I would do differently, and will do differently next time? Override my aversion to self-marketing, and jump in! A big thing I had to learn as a writer was, If I don’t love my book enough to market it, why should anyone else? On that subject, I’ve started a low-footprint lifestyle blog at http://www.jennynazak.com
Renee Garrison is the award-winning author of The Anchor Clankers. To suggest an author interview, email her: firstname.lastname@example.org