Healthy Living

Mommy Greenest Positive Climate Fiction Summer Book Club

The New York Public Library defines “climate fiction” as dealing with “the impact of climate change on the earth and on society. Spoiler: it’s never good!” But who wants to read stories about destruction when we get that in the news every day? Beginning July 19, please join me for the (free) Mommy Greenest Positive Climate Fiction Summer Book Club! You don’t have to be an avid reader (or environmentalist) to participate!

Write What You Know

“Write what you know” is quite possibly the most widely disseminated piece of writing advice in the English language. Search “write” followed by “what,” and Google will find 119 million instances of “write what you know” in less than half a second.

What do you know when you’re young? Nothing except your own joy and pain — and that’s just not very interesting to other people. After coming to this realization in my twenties, I shelved creative writing and pursued a career as a journalist. I stopped describing what I knew and focused on what I could investigate. I did this for years, adding a marriage, a mortgage, and three children by the time I was thirty-five. Finally, I ended up working with environmental nonprofits. I gave a few TED talks, spoke on the TODAY show, and kept my creative writing in the back of a drawer. But then, everything changed.

Unexpectedly, when I was forty-eight, my carotid artery suddenly became seventy-five percent blocked and I narrowly avoided a stroke. Months later, I took my teenaged daughter on a trip to Europe, where I had once lived. As we walked the cobblestoned streets together, I began telling her the imaginary story of a woman who travels 30 years back in time to Paris, where she resets the trajectory of her life.

Two years later, the pandemic hit. Thankfully, my family was not directly affected, but I felt death’s shadow with every twinge of tension above my left eye and all the things I had put off became essential to Do. Right. Now.

The story that I had told my daughter became the kernel of a novel.

Creative Writing MFA

In 2020, I enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts in Writing (MFA) program at Pacific University. Over the past four years, I completed the first novel as well as a second.

On the surface, these two books could not be more different. One is the story of a middle-aged woman who time travels back to 1980s Paris to reset the trajectory of her life; the other follows two thirty-something friends as they attempt to flip a house and wind up preserving abortion access on an ecotopian island off Costa Rica.

But as I reworked both during my last semester at Pacific, I realized they share critical DNA: Each references more sustainable solutions that have the potential to transform our world.

It’s Not Climate Fiction

In this way, they are part of an emerging trend in fiction to which I am particularly drawn. It’s not dystopian, which explores the worst possible outcome for humanity. And it’s not utopian, which imagines an impossibly perfect reality. It’s part of the wider climate fiction genre, but not quite — because (see the NYPL definition, above) who wants to read fiction about destruction when we get that in the news every day? Not me, and I don’t want to write it, either.

(Side note: That’s why my newsletter focuses on positive sustainability news!)

Enter the Thrutopia

I see my writing as part of an emerging climate fiction subset known as “social-science fiction” or “thrutopia,” because these books attempt to answer the question of how — environment wise — we get from where we are now to where we want to be.

Like the aspiring zero-waste protagonist in my first book or the bio-diesel powered eco-utopia in the second — my writing is infused with details gleaned from my work as an environmentalist. (So I guess I did end up writing what I know, after all.)

Join My Positive Climate Fiction Summer Book Club

I want to write more positive climate fiction — and I want to read it, too. For years, I’ve participated in amazing book groups, and now I’m hosting one. Please join me for the Mommy Greenest Positive Climate Fiction Summer Book Club! We’ll meet on Zoom and you don’t have to be an avid reader (or environmentalist) to join!

P.S. Once you sign up, add the invite to your calendar. Sometimes it can be difficult to find the passcode so here that is again: MG2024.

July 19: That Dangerous Energy

Click here to sign up for the July 19 discussion of That Dangerous Energy by Aya de León!

“Two-time International Latino Book Award-winning author Aya de León brings her unique blend of commercial fiction, timely social commentary, and sexy, page-turning storytelling in a novel of climate change in which the personal and the political collide for one woman torn between her own survival and the survival of the planet. Marrying a billionaire will fulfill this struggling artist’s dreams–and enable her to make a difference. But exposing the truth will put all her convictions on one dangerous line . . . Coming from a troubled youth, Morgan Faraday grabs every opportunity to up-level her life. So she definitely plans to keep oil company heir Sebastian Reid interested . . . all the way to the altar. He’s brilliant, supportive, and is turning his billion-dollar company green to make up for his ancestors’ exploitation. With him, Morgan can have love, money, and the power to make the world better. And securing her future is far more important than the attractive environmental activist she suddenly has unexpected feelings for . . . But once Morgan gets a glimpse of Sebastian’s secret allies and confidential emails, she’s stunned to find he’s only talking a good game. His company is responsible for several ecological disasters, and a chance encounter makes it clear to Morgan the lengths he’ll go to stay on top. To gather enough evidence to expose him, Morgan will have to rely on her quick wits and new friends to stay one step ahead of a corporate conspiracy. But as the danger comes closer, will Morgan put herself first and run–or face down the risk, even at her cost of her life?” – Bookshop.org

August 16: The Morningside

Click here to sign up for the August 16 discussion of The Morningside by Téa Obreht!

“After being expelled from their ancestral home in a not-so-distant future, Silvia and her mother finally settle at the Morningside, a crumbling luxury tower in a place called Island City where Silvia’s Aunt Ena serves as the superintendent. Silvia feels unmoored in her new life because her mother has been so diligently secretive about their family’s past, and because the once-vibrant city where she lives is now half-underwater. Silvia knows almost nothing about the place where she was born and spent her early years, nor does she fully understand why she and her mother had to leave. But in Ena there is an opening: a person willing to give the young girl glimpses into the folktales of her demolished homeland, a place of natural beauty and communal spirit that is lacking in Silvia’s lonely and impoverished reality. Enchanted by Ena’s stories, Silvia begins seeing the world with magical possibilities and becomes obsessed with the mysterious older woman who lives in the penthouse of the Morningside. Bezi Duras is an enigma to everyone in the building: She has her own elevator entrance and leaves only to go out at night and walk her three massive hounds, often not returning until the early morning. Silvia’s mission to unravel the truth about this woman’s life, and her own haunted past, may end up costing her everything. Startling, inventive, and profoundly moving, The Morningside is a novel about the stories we tell–and the stories we refuse to tell–to make sense of where we came from and who we hope we might become.” – Bookshop.org

September 27: The Ministry for the Future

Click here to sign up for the September 27 discussion of The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson.

“The best science-fiction nonfiction novel I’ve ever read.” -Jonathan Lethem

“If I could get policymakers, and citizens, everywhere to read just one book this year, it would be Kim Stanley Robinson’s The Ministry for the Future.” -Ezra Klein (Vox)

“The Ministry for the Future is a masterpiece of the imagination, using fictional eyewitness accounts to tell the story of how climate change will affect us all. Its setting is not a desolate, postapocalyptic world, but a future that is almost upon us. Chosen by Barack Obama as one of his favorite books of the year, this extraordinary novel from visionary science fiction writer Kim Stanley Robinson will change the way you think about the climate crisis.” – Bookshop.org

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I recommend buying books on Bookshop.org, which supports independent bookstores, but you can also save money (and avoid Amazon) by purchasing used on ThriftBooks.

What are your favorite climate positive books? If we continue the book club beyond the summer, I hope the group will participate in the decision-making process on what we read next. Plus, I’m doing more interviews with authors on Instagram, and would love to invite an author to join us!

Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Can’t wait to see you in book club. Yay!

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