Official Apex Reviews Interview: Amy Lou Jenkins author, Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting Apex Reviews: Amy Lou , thanks for joining us for this interview. We're looking forward to sharing more about your book and other efforts with our readers.
What inspired you to craft this moving tale of the precious bond between mother and son?
Amy Lou Jenkins: While working towards my MFA in literature and creative writing at Bennington I wrote a few essays with themes related to my time in wilderness with DJ. My professors keyed in on these essays. While walking essays have been a part of the cannon of American writing, men have dominated the form. And not too surprisingly, the essays often explored solitary ideas or focused on man vs. wild. My walking essays are traditional in that they explore natural history and spirituality and they are nontraditional as they include a narrative thread with a focus on relationships, including mother and child. My professors identified my proclivities, and told me I was writing a book. The book unfolded within this vision.
AR: What's the significance of the book's title?
ALJ: RW Emerson said “Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact.” He also spoke of every natural fact being an emanation. As I wrote, the appearance of themes in nature coincided with the themes related to personal relationships. Even today the Transcendental tenet of finding an original relationship with the universe appears on nature walks. It is of note to me that we accept that we can’t talk about whales without talking about the ocean; we can’t know woodpecker without understanding the forest they live in, yet we often explore the nature of humanity as if it exits independent of an ecosystem.
AR: What led you to use nature as a means of strengthening your bond with your son, DJ?
ALJ: I’d been a Cub Scout leader for DJ, and he’s accustomed to spending time outdoors with me and with our family. As he was leaving grade school and I was entering Bennington, I was concerned about losing the connection with my son. As children approach middle school they seek more time with friends. This is to be expected. I wanted to increase the quality of our time together and this seems impossible in a world of computers, smart phones, iPods, TV, and advertisements. It turns out DJ and most kids still want to spend time with their parents. It’s nearly impossible to build a relationship amidst the noise electronic interruptions. Natural spaces are relationship incubators.
AR: Is the natural landscape of Wisconsin truly as wondrous as you depict it in the book?
ALJ: Wisconsin really is a wonderland, and every resident who loves the natural spaces of our state could likely give you long lists of additional places we should have visited. The north woods, lake countries, prairies, hardwood forests, wetlands, Mississippi River, Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, lowlands, highlands, glaciated and nonglaciated lands represent only a portion of the rich Wisconsin landscapes. I do believe that every State has a share of natural wonders. While we walked in Wisconsin, readers could recreate the disposition of our walks in any state.
AR: What kinds of responses have you gotten to the book thus far?
ALJ: I’m so happy that the book is receiving positive reviews and recognition. Every Natural Fact was chosen by the Midwest Booksellers Association as a Connections Pick, meaning that they suggest that booksellers feature the book in their store. Although ENF has only been out a few weeks, I’ve received multiple requests for appearances and speaking. It seems the idea of spending time with children in nature is fresh again. Our children are projected to be the first generation in US history to have a shorter lifespan than previous generations. Processed foods, sedentary lifestyles, and automated days all contribute to this woeful prediction. Time in nature and a connection to forests and fields is an obvious tonic to the innocent ills of our pudgy and pale children.
AR: Is there a central message that you'd like readers to take away from the story?
ALJ: I hope that a reader with my book in hand would feel torn between reading the book and heading outside for a nature walk. And if they know a child, or have partner, or precious friend, I hope they would want to bring them along. Whatever we need to be happy and to become satisfied with our lot in life is likely to come from spending time in a natural space where no advertisements are telling us we are insufficient without their products. Silence these noises to find the wisdom of the woods and the connection to our own voice and thoughts.
AR: Please share more with us about your publisher, Holy Cow! Press.
ALJ: Holy Cow! Press is a treasure of the Midwest. Jim Perlman has been seeking out the best literature of the Midwest for 33 years. Holy Cow! was the first to publish full-length collections by Natalie Goldberg, Kate Green, Dianna Hunter, Kirsten Dierking, Earl Fleck, Philip Red Eagle, and Todd Fuller. They’ve published titles by Brenda Ueland, Meridel Le Sueur, Frederick Manfred, Ruth F. Brin, Roberta J. Hill, Louis Jenkins, Diane Glancy and Ray A. Young Bear. I’m honored to be in the company of these great writers. The press has published some 100 books of poetry, fiction, essays, memoirs, biographies, and anthologies. The current and backlist titles can be found at www.holycowpress.org.
AR: You are quite the prolific writer. Share more with our readers about some of your other writings.
ALJ: Thank you for noticing. I’ve been freelancing and writing essays and articles for over a decade. My essays have been anthologized in well over a dozen collections, most recently Wild with Child and The Maternal is Political. I write about nature, parenting, health, and literature among and other topics that catch my interest. I run a writing site at www. anthologiesonline.com, a green living column at www.examiner.com/x-4002-Green-Living-Examiner, and a personal website at www.amyloujenkins.com.
AR: In addition to being an author, you're also a speaker and educator. Please share more with us about your endeavors in those fields.
ALJ: I’ve been teaching as an adjunct writing teacher at Midwest Universities and in workshops and seminars. I just returned from a week in Madison Wisconsin’s Write By The Lake writing retreat. I enjoyed leading a group of 15 talented writers. They are putting together an anthology of their writing, and I’m very excited to see this unfold. My schedule also includes giving keynote and other speeches related to health, environment, writing, and parenting as well as appearing at readings and leading workshops and seminars. I’m also a Registered nurse, so this puts me in a unique position to understand the benefits of time in wild places.
AR: What are your future writing/publishing aspirations?
ALJ: I’m currently working on several articles and interviews, and I’m writing a book about a family of US environmentalists. I believe that I will work on a fiction project after my next book. I love to write, teach, share, listen, and explore natural spaces; I hope my future unfolds within these passions.
AR: How can our readers learn more about you and your ongoing efforts?
ALJ: Please visit me www.amyloujenkins.com and you’ll find links to many of my projects, reviews, events, and appearances.
AR: How can they contact you directly?
ALJ: Contact me through my website at www.amyloujenkins.com. Just click on the “contact Amy Lou” tab.
AR: Any final thoughts you'd like to share?
ALJ: Studies show that the single most important indicator that a person will engage in environmentally responsible behavior is that they have a relationship with a natural space. The future health of the planet is indeed dependent upon our enjoying wilderness and teaching our children to do the same. I wish Every Natural Fact will in entice others to love their mother earth and to find their own original relationship to our universe. Thanks so much.
AR: Thanks again, Amy, and best of continued success to you in all your endeavors! Click Here To Learn More About Amy Lou Jenkins