Sunday, July 8, 2012

Wangari Maathai Environmental Award Nominations

In a moment of serendipity a few weeks ago, I made an instant friend in the person of Purity Ruchango, founder of Sister2Sister International Outreach Ministry, Inc. While training as a volunteer gallery sitter for Red Dog Gallery, home of the 501c Art for Arts Sake (AFAS) group in Winston-Salem, NC., an artist recommended that I visit another new 501c business down the street, Umoja African Crafts. ( Umoja is Kiswahili for "unity".) 

Tribute to Wangari Maathai

You will hear a great deal more about the remarkable Purity from me in the future, but today I want to share a bit about  Nobel peace laureate Wangari Maathai. Though I was aware of the Greenbelt Movement, I had little knowledge of the extraordinary woman behind it. My new friend, Purity, is a native of the same region of Kenya as Wangari Maathai. During a recent visit with Purity, I noticed she  was reading UnbowedDr. Maathai's autobiography. Purity said it was her second reading, in part as tribute to Dr. Maathai's passing in September of 2011. Because Dr. Mathaai inspired Purity to establish Sister2Sister International, I was motivated to read Unbowed. I finished reading it today. But considering how Dr. Maathai's words and struggles tug at my heart and lift my soul, her story will stay with me forever.

In her autobiography Dr. Maathai said, "the Nobel Committee made a [connection] between peace, sustainable management of resources, and good governance. This was the first time such a linkage had been forged by the Nobel Committee and it was the first time that the committee had decided to recognize its importance by awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to someone who had worked in these areas for over three decades. As we had said for many years, humanity needs to rethink peace and security and work toward cultures of peace by governing itself more democratically, respecting the rule of law and human rights, deliberately and consciously promoting justice and equity, and managing resources more responsibly and accountably--not only for the present but also for the future generations."

Just hours ago I learned of a new environmental award, the Wangari Mathaai Award,  from the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) that commemorates renowned environmentalist, the late Wangari Maathai. It is in the amount of 20,000 US dollars and will be presented this September in recognition of outstanding contributions made by an individual to preserve, restore and sustainably manage forests and to communicate the key role forests play in rural livelihoods and the environment across generations. The deadline for nominations is Friday, 20 July 2012. 

Please spread the news of this new award. To have her mission perpetuated in such a manner is an honor Dr. Mathaai could never have imagined when she began her journey so long ago. I believe she was correct in saying, "Heaven is green."
Until I can next get out of the garden, as always I can be found at:

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Companion Plantings

A quick share of a most helpful chart via . Tis the season. If it's too late for you to plant, plan for next season, be it this fall or next spring. Happy gardening. Green is good for you!  (Click on the image for a full view. Save and print.)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Meaningful Gifts for Your Caring Dad

Dad and Itchy
Do you have a thoughtful, loving, protective dad? A dad for whom material things are just that--things. A dad who doesn't need more stuff? That was my father and how I wish I could worry about what to give him for Father's Day. He was all about taking care of others. If he were on earth today, I'd give him something that honored his spirit. I'd adopt an animal in his name. 

Dad had a soft heart for all creatures and loved my adopted dog so much he frequently teased me about his plan to dog-nap Itchy. I credit Dad with inspiring me to write stories about teens who take dangerous risks to save wildlife from dastardly criminals.

Did your dad ever take you to the zoo? Or the aquarium? For many of us, those trips created memories of a lifetime. Why not remind your father how much you appreciated those trips? For $25 and a few clicks on the computer, you can thank him by adopting an animal from the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. Your gift helps provide the best daily care possible for the resident animals as well as needed medical attention.The Clearwater Aquarium is more than an entertaining and educational facility. It also rescues, cares for, and releases injured and ill wildlife. 

But not all rescued animals will recover well enough to be released into the wild. You may recognize Clearwater Marine Aquarium as the home of Winter, from A Dolphin Tale. Winter was rescued from certain death, and after being fitted with a prosthetic tail, she happily resides at this aquarium. Winter played herself in the movie and "today serves as a symbol of courage, perseverance, and hope to millions of people--both able and disabled--who have been touched by her remarkable story of recovery and rehabilitation."

While I have zoos and fathers in mind, I must tell you to watch for the release of a delightful book about young Whit who sleeps, eats, and even attends home-school at a zoo. Just one of the perks of having a father who's the head elephant keeper. I bet you know someone who'd enjoy Don't Feed The Boy, by  Irene Latham, coming October 16, 2012 from Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan.

I guarantee you that Whit would recommend you adopt an animal to honor your father!

If you're a home-schooler or interested in endangered animals, wildlife, tropical island life, sea turtles, or environmental issues in general, check out my own books and the teacher page on my website

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Filmmaker and The Author

Some writers are born entertainers, not only in print, but also on film. I'm not one of them. Put a camera in my face and all I think about is how I wish I could recreate the images and impressions recorded by a video camera the way I can edit pictures and perceptions formed by words on a page. What I wouldn't give to transform the me in the video lens into a younger, wiser, more fascinating version. Love being behind the camera. Hate being in front of it.

Image from Island Sting
Recently, I was reminded of my relationship with the camera when, as part of a larger project, I was asked to videotape myself. The video would then be used to introduce me, the author, to readers. Someone wanted me to video myself talking about myself? Groan. I'm not interesting. It’s my characters that are appealing. I write about teens that live in exotic locales, rescue endangered animals, solve mysteries, jump into treacherous and exciting adventures, deceive their parents, and create havoc for criminals. Why would anyone want to know about my quiet, ordinary world when they could dive into that intriguing one?

I'd accepted the fact that I was going to create a pathetic product when my thoughtful husband reminded me that we live in the City of the Arts, home of the renown and highly acclaimed University of North Carolina School of the Arts. We’re surrounded by young cinematographers, directors, editors,  producers, and screenwriters. 

Zach filming through
a magnifying glass
Enter talented Zachary Strum,  class of 2012,  UNCSA's School of Filmmaking. Poor Zach. I fought his HD camera every step of the way. (Did you catch that? HD camera. Every pore, wrinkle, smudge, every-everything would show!) I didn't simply turn away from that camera, I ran away from it. When that didn’t work, I tried to blink it away from me. Don't believe me? Watch the video.

I may not have liked the camera, but the photographer behind it was delightful. In spite of the challenge my discomfort presented, Zach produced an informative, entertaining, and spot-on accurate film. When I didn't play well with the camera, Zach simply worked around me. He shot in late winter when our yard and gardens—once nothing but a woodland jungle—were brown and dormant, but he envisioned how spring and summer would transform the property. That vision inspired his entire production.

In addition to keen vision, Zach has sensitive hearing. Corners inside my home and sites beyond its walls spoke to him. Old files, photos, and papers told him more than my nervous words could. I’m pretty sure he’s a dog whisperer, too.

Zach wove hours of film plus old and new stills into three minutes of video, then set it to music performed by Whistling Tom Bryant, a world class performer, who inspired a character in my 2011 EPIC winning novel, Island Sting. It took much more than precision of craft to produce this video, a creation that honestly and vividly introduced this author, Bonnie J. Doerr (a most reluctant subject), to the world. It took intuition, sensitivity, insight, ingenuity, persistence, patience, and kindness. 

If the film appears jerky as you view it, it's only because Zach jam-packed it with those tiny, magical digital thingies that hold incredible amounts of information. It's smooth as silk when viewed in a studio. If only I had a studio. Then maybe I could convert the images into a younger, wiser, more fascinating me. 

This film is as much about Zachary Strum, filmmaker, as it is about Bonnie J. Doerr, author. Watch for his name at the end. I'm betting you'll see it on the end of a major movie one day.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Technology Trouble and Green Guilt

This blog was first posted by and at the invitation of Precise Proofing. .

As an author of eco-mystery adventures, it’s a treat to be Precise Proofing’s guest blogger in celebration of Earth Day. Even though blogs began appearing in the 1990s, a period that seems like yesterday, I only entered the blogosphere recently. It seems time, technology, and celebrations wait for no one. According to Senator Gaylord Nelson, Founder of Earth Day, the first Earth Day celebration in the USA was held in 1970. And—boom—a heartbeat later, we’re marking the 42nd annual Earth Day which has now stretched into a month-long celebration.

Every Earth Day involves much consideration of trees: thanking trees, planting trees, saving trees. Remember when we were told technology would reduce our paper load and save trees? How has this prediction played out in your business? Glad I didn’t bet on that one coming true. In my work, I have more paper than ever to deal with. There are two main reasons for my massive paper collection.

The first  reason I’m not reducing my paper load. has to do with my research methods. When I’m not involved in primary research with wildlife in the Florida Keys, much of my research involves reading news accounts and research articles.

Truth is, I’m much better at organizing and processing articles I can touch and spread out all over the floor than dealing with information that miraculously appears on my computer screen. Half the time  I can’t even figure out how I found the articles. If I do manage to overcome the data’s mysterious appearance, I save it. How? The same way you save yours—by hiding it in a tiny picture of a folder that also wickedly disappears somewhere in my machine never to be found again.

But I know how to deal with this crazy-making situation. Can you guess where I’m going? Of course you can. I print out the good stuff. File it in a tangible manila folder, then put it in a heavy, walnut, file cabinet that holds a heck of a lot of paper.

Oh, the guilt. I’m not saving trees at all. All I can do is hope someone is replenishing the forests.

The second reason for my paper piles is that to find errors I need to see my text on hardcopy. My eyes can only handle reading a screen for a short time. So I print out my draft. I find pesky punctuation and grammar errors, those ugh!-that-reads-like-crapola parts, and get back to work on the computer.

Then, I print it again. Of course, there are additional pesky errors I missed the first time, plus new ones, and Yes, that’s brilliant! moments when I get a new and better idea for a scene. So I hit the keyboard again and improve the manuscript for the second time. You know where I’m going with this.

More printing, more editing, more insights, and with each change more opportunities for errors. But, no worries, it’s easy to make changes and print another copy. If I had to do all this by hand...well, I wouldn’t. But I keep producing mounds of paper because it’s so confounded easy, and it helps make my novels the best they can be. More guilt.

Why all this guilt?  I confess. I’m a tree hugger. I can’t help it. You can blame my parents. They’ll never know. But I’m proud to be wild about trees. Heck, we wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for their life-sustaining oxygen. I need their green. Every shade of it. I could never live on a desert, at a height above the treeline, or at either of Earth’s poles. Yes, my favorite color is green.

I do my best to make up for using so much paper. I buy recycled reams. (Do you know they make bamboo paper stock. Great idea. Bamboo is one rapidly growing tree—almost Internet fast). I use both sides of every sheet. I recycle used paper. I’ve even mulched with it.

Almost as an apology for my excess, I nurture the trees on our property. I move trees from crowded places to locations where they’ll thrive, relieve them of invasive vines, and weep when they die. And I plant new trees. Not only on Earth Day. If you, or anyone you know, question the importance of trees, Maria Rodale has some answers for you.

If you haven’t planted a tree lately, consider doing so. If you don’t have an outdoor space, plant one in a pot. Walk in the woods. Listen to the breeze whisper through branches. Savor the symphony of birdsong. Revel in the variety of foliage shapes and shades. Sway to the windy dance of mighty trunks, graceful limbs, and flittering leaves. Get up close and personal. Go ahead. Breathe deeply. Hug a tree. You might just relax and lose whatever guilt lurks.

Bonnie J. Doerr, a nature lover and lifetime educator, has taught students from kindergarten to college in eight states. Her acclaimed contemporary-realistic novels celebrate crime-fighting, fearless teens who take action with attitude and a touch of romance. Originally from western Maryland, Ms. Doerr lives in a North Carolina log cabin and spends weeks each year researching and writing in the Florida Keys. Ms. Doerr’s work has been described as a “mashup of Jean Craighead George and Carl Hiaasen” by some and by others “what would happen if Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and Lassie teamed up to crack a case.” She is the author of eco-adventure/mystery novels, Island Sting, Leap Books 2010 (2011 EPIC eBook Outstanding Children’s Book award), Stakeout, Leap Books 2011, (finalist 2012 Green Earth YA Book award) and the forthcoming Busted, Leap Books 2013.

Bonnie is also featured this month by the Girl Scouts of the USA, Aurora Reviews, TBR, and Leap Books Publishing where her books are on sale this month. You can read more about her and her work at and

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ask and You Shall Receive

This essay was first posted on Laurie J. Edwards, Author, Artist, Dreamer. By request, I share it here.

During Earth Week I’m reminded more than ever about why my writing took off in the direction it did. A deep appreciation of nature and the need to be immersed in the outdoors on a regular basis has defined my mental health for as long as I remember. I’ve been astounded to learn how many people are missing the gene that connects them to nature. In recent years my astonishment has turned into alarm. This dissociation from nature, I believe, is in many ways at the core of our environmental crisis.
Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods (Algonquin, 2005), defines this as Nature Deficit Disorder. As a result of a lifetime indoors, children have limited respect for their immediate natural surroundings. According to Louv, “An increasing pace in the last three decades, approximately, of a rapid disengagement between children and direct experiences in nature… has profound implications, not only for the health of future generations but for the health of the Earth itself.”
Watch the wonder and delight on a young child’s face when first observing a nest of eggs hatching, a tadpole growing into a frog, or a bean sprouting and reaching for the sky, and you know how much joy children naturally find in nature. We are wired to appreciate nature’s gifts. To nurture that appreciation, before it is lost to modern day society, can be soul saving.
Without first having experienced something, how can we come to care for it? So it seems tragically understandable that a lack of association with the natural environment leads to ecological abuse, or at the very least, taking our natural environment for granted.
I began to write poetry first, then short stories. But by the time I drafted my first novel, the die was cast. Each piece of writing had brought me closer and closer to natural settings, to crimes against the environment, and finally to where I am now—writing ecological mystery/adventures. I realize not every child can visit a wilderness, or explore a National Refuge, but every child can feel like they have when immersed in my novels. Teens can learn how much fun it is to be outdoors, how sensitive the environment is, and how they can set a good example for the adults in their world. They can virtually join other teens as they work to improve the Earth and save its creatures. It’s one small thing I can do to inspire environmental stewardship.
In celebration of Earth Month, Leap Books is offering my books at a reduced price the rest of this month. Forty percent off the paperbacks: Stakeout is only $7.79 and Island Sting is only $7.19

(The accompanying photos show the natural beauty that feeds my friends and family--body and soul.)