Monday, January 28, 2013

My Next Big Thing

Thanks to my friend, Kim Newton Fusco, award-winning author of Tending to Grace and The Wonder of Charlie Ann, for inviting me to participate in the online literary blog called MY NEXT BIG THING.

The blog is a series of questions about works-in-progress and not yet published titles. Many national and international writers have participated in this. It gives readers a glimpse into the working life of a writer. Part of the fun is tagging someone else. It is with great delight that I will be tagging two other writers at the end of this post.

is a book about the events that led up to the first Earth Day and the men who were instrumental in its development.

What is the working title of your book? When Rivers Burned: The Earth Day Story

Where did the idea come from for the book?
My publisher, Muriel Dubois of Apprentice Shop Books, was developing a series on pivotal moments in history. She invited authors to submit ideas.
I struggled all day to come up with something fresh, and at dinner asked my husband if he had any ideas. He’s a pharmacist, and at first he suggested things like the development of penicillin. That didn’t excite me. Then he mentioned a broadcast he had heard on NPR for the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. It talked about the impact Earth Day had on environmental legislation in our country.
This was a topic that combined two of my passions, history and nature. I was hooked. After dinner, I had a meeting to attend, but I turned around midway there, went home, wrote up the proposal for the Earth Day book, and fired it off. By seven the next morning, Muriel had accepted it.

What genre does your book fall under?
The book is nonfiction for ages ten and up. It touches on history, politics, and the environment.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
There are many “characters” in the book, but the main ones are Gaylord Nelson, the senator from Wisconsin who came up with the idea for Earth Day, and Denis Hayes, the college student who organized it. I’m dating myself, but I can see Jimmy Stewart as Gaylord Nelson; and maybe Jeff Bridges as Denis Hayes.

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?
A series of ecological disasters leads Gaylord Nelson to organize the largest demonstration in US history, forcing a dramatic change in environmental policy.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
It took me six months to write the first draft, because that’s how long my publisher allowed me. (Otherwise, I’d probably still be working on it.) We spent about three months more on revisions.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
The book that comes to mind is Tanya Lee Stone’s Almost Astronauts because both books combine many people's stories to give a glimpse of a particular time and place.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?
In one sense, this book was publisher-generated. I came up with something to fit Apprentice Shop’s Once in America Series.
But in a deeper sense this book was inspired by many things: my experience living through the sixties and seventies—1970 was the date of the first Earth Day—and my concern for the natural world. I worry that our abuse of the environment will have enormous, even life-threatening, repercussions. Yet many have tuned out the folks who try to warn us of the danger.

What else about your book might pique a reader’s interest?
I had the opportunity to interview Denis Hayes, who was the grad student who organized the first Earth Day. (Unfortunately, Gaylord Nelson has passed away.) Denis was incredibly generous with his time, answering my countless questions.
He gave me an inkling of what was involved in planning a political event of this magnitude. Earth Day was the largest demonstration in US history. It was estimated that a tenth of the country’s entire population took part. Denis Hayes was also instrumental in keeping attention focused on the environment afterward, when other world events threatened to eclipse the issue. We can learn much from his methods.

When and how will it be published?
When Rivers Burned: The Earth Day Story will be published by Apprentice Shop Books this spring. We’ve planned a special launch on April 21, 2013 at the RI Audubon Society.

Now it is my honor to tag and introduce you to two other marvelous authors:Joyce Ray and Leslie Bulion
Joyce Ray’s forthcoming early YA novel, Feathers and Trumpets, A Story of Hildegard of Bingen (Apprentice Shop Books, fall 2013), is an intriguing look at a dynamic woman of the Middle Ages. Hildegard became the 12th century’s foremost female writer and composer and has recently been named a saint and a Doctor of the Church. Joyce is co-author, with Andrea Murphy and other contributors, of a forthcoming title in the America’s Notable Women SeriesWomen of the Pine Tree State, 25 Maine Women You Should Know. The following series’ titles also contain short biographies written by Joyce: Women of the Golden State, Women of the Empire State and Women of the Prairie State. Her work-in-progress is a middle-grade historical novel. Joyce is a poet, contributes to Poetry Friday and reviews books on her blog Musings at

Leslie Bulion’s first two poetry books, HEY THERE, STINK BUG! (Charlesbridge 2006) and AT THE SEA FLOOR CAFÉ: ODD OCEAN CRITTER POEMS (Peachtree 2011), combine humor, science, rhythm, and rhyme in themed collections that have garnered accolades in the science and kidlit communities including NSTA, AAAS, Bank Street College, Book Sense, and ABC Best Books. Her third collection sports the favorite of her book titles: RANDOM BODY PARTS: GROSS ANATOMY RIDDLES IN VERSE (Peachtree 2013). Leslie is also the author of a picture book, titles for the education market, and three middle-grade novels, most recently THE UNIVERSE OF FAIR (Peachtree 2012), in which she explores various facets of string theory and lemon meringue pie. For more fun, explore Leslie’s website and blog at


Joyce Ray said...

Linda, When Rivers Burned sounds like a great book and one we need to remind us that we are still caretakers of our environment. Some of these Next Big Thing questions are challenging to answer, but your post offers a glimpse into both the history and scope of your book. I'm glad to know your launch date and site! Is that the Audubon in Warren, just down the road from my daughter? Yea! I want to come. Thanks for tagging me. Now I've got to get busy answering my questions.

Cheryl Kirk Noll said...

Can't wait to read it, Linda. It's so important for young people to know what a difference clean air and water legislation has had on our environment. I doubt many of them would imagine that we had choking smog and burning rivers right here in the USA.

Leslie Bulion said...

So glad to learn more about your process, and about WHEN RIVERS BURNED, Linda. Earth Day raises awareness about environmental issues that become more critical with each passing year--with each passing day. Your book will enhance and highlight the principles of Earth Day for a new generation of readers!

Janet Lawler said...

Linda - Very interesting! Can't wait to get an autographed copy as a birthday present for my husband, since he was born on Earth Day (long before it was such ...)!

Kimberly Newton Fusco said...

I love the story behind the story, and how you came up with the idea. What a great post!

Linda Crotta Brennan said...

Thanks everyone!

Linda Crotta Brennan said...

To answer Joyce, yes, my book launch will be at the RI Audubon Center in Bristol, RI.