Category Archives: eco-farming

agroecology, permaculture, farming, transitional communities, sustainablity

Californians for Pesticide Reform: Twenty Year Anniversary Rally and Day of Action in the State Capitol

Please Listen to Tish Hinojosa’s song, “Something in the Rain”

Today, a new generation of teachers has awakened to the pesticide issue, and the embers of Farm without Harm have caught fire again. The new group, which meets once a month in Salinas and once a month in Watsonville, has named itself Safe Ag Safe Schools – SASS. And this growing group does have plenty of Sass, energy, and intelligence to move our cause forward.

A bit of history: In 1988 when I started teaching at Amesti Elementary in the Pajaro River Valley of South Santa Cruz County, California, my colleagues and I were only vaguely aware of the fact that pesticides were being used on the vast agricultural lands of the valley. The beauty of the valley and the excitement of having a good teaching job made it easy for me to repress my uneasiness about pesticides exposure.

IMG_6072But by the mid nineties, I could no longer hide from myself the fact that something was wrong at my school. Cancer, asthma, rashes, dizziness, miscarriages . . . I came to understand that two highly volatile toxic gases – methyl bromide and chloropicrin – were being injected into the soil of the strawberry fields just on the other side of the chain link fence from our school.

With growing concern, I participated in a forum on environmental health at the Louden Nelson Community Center in Santa Cruz where I met Gary Karnes, a pesticide activist from Monterey. Soon, I was attending meetings at the UFW offices in Watsonville with a group of teachers, parents, scientists, and concerned citizens. We formed a group, which  we named “Farm without Harm”,  to educate about pesticides and advocate for reform. Someone in the group reached out to Pesticide Action Network, an international organization based in San Francisco. PAN sent a full-time activist to the Monterey Bay to work with us.  It was around this time that Californians for Pesticide Reform was also created.

By 2000, the struggle over pesticide use near the schools had become so fierce and vicious that I, and many of the other teachers who were engaged in the struggle, left our jobs in the school district. In retrospect, I realize that our early work did help kick the door open for acceptance of organic agriculture in the Pajaro Valley. Today, the most successful organic vegetable grower in the valley is the uncle of one of my former third grade students from that era. Dick Peixoto of Lakeside Farms has personally acknowledged to me that it was we teachers who first got him thinking about going organic.

IMG_8735In 2010, under pressure to comply with the Montreal Protocol’s mandated phase-out of methyl bromide, the pesticide industry tried to roll out a chemical substitute that was even worse than the banned ozone-depleting chemical methyl bromide: methyl iodide.  Activists from the “early days” came out of the woodwork and helped to soundly quash the roll-out of the carcinogenic methyl iodide .

Farm without Harm no longer exists, but over the years since the founding of Farm without Harm, coalition building has been quietly moving forward. The Californians for Pesticide Reform is now a statewide coalition of more than 185 organizations.

Founded in 1996 to fundamentally shift the way pesticides are used in California, CPR’s mission is to protect public health, improve environmental quality and expand a sustainable and just agriculture system by building a diverse movement across California to change statewide and local pesticide policies and practices. CPR has built a diverse, multi-interest coalition to challenge the powerful political and economic forces opposing change. Member organizations include public health, children’s health, educational and environmental advocates, clean air and water organizations, health practitioners, environmental justice groups, labor, organizations, farmers and sustainable agriculture advocates. Members are actively engaged through a unifying four point platform: 1) eliminate use of the most dangerous pesticides 2) reduce use of and reliance on all pesticides 3) support safer, ecologically sound and more socially just forms of pest management 4) expand and protect the public’s right to know about pesticide use, exposure, and impacts.

The coalition is governed by a Steering Committee, currently comprised of:
California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation
Center for Environmental Health
Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment
El Quinto Sol de America

Monterey Bay Central Labor Council
Pesticide Action Network
Physicians for Social Responsibility – Los Angeles

Going forward in 2016, I’m proud to be affiliated with our new SASS-y generation of Pajaro Valley teachers, many of whom participated in a rally this summer in our state capitol. You can find out more about SASS on their Facebook page < https://www.facebook.com/safeagsafeschools/  >and website < http://dev-safe-ag.pantheonsite.io/ >, designed by students at California State University Monterey Bay.

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On July 12, 2016, the Californians for Pesticide Reform 20th Anniversary  “Day of Action” Rally for pesticide reform took place in Sacramento. Farmworkers, teachers, citizens, doctors, legislators, scientists, seniors, and children made their way to the California  Environmental Protection Agency building in the state capitol, with boxes to present to the Department of Pesticide Regulation full of thousands of signatures on petitions and letters signed by over 200 organizations. Many people got up at 3 am and traveled hours on buses to attend the rally.

During the rally, I had the opportunity to make some meaningful and hopefully lasting connections with some very inspiring people, including a young doctor, and a group of amazing young women and future leaders who will start college in the fall.IMG_8664

The goal of the rally was to demand that the people who work for the California Department of Pesticide Regulation do the job they are paid for: to protect the people, and our children, from harmful pesticide exposure. We want the DPR to draft new regulations requiring a one mile pesticide-free buffer zone around all ag fields that are near schools. Please send them your comments!

Following are some scenes and video clips from the rally and the  luncheon at St. John Lutheran Church.IMG_8646

 

 

 

 

 

Video: Rally in Sacramento, CA – Californians for Pesticide Reform July 12, 1916 Introductory remarks by Dr. Ann Lopez

Video: State Assemblyman Dean Florez speaks of dedication, leadership, and “ganas” during luncheon award ceremony at St. John’s Lutheran Church

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Organic and Sustainable Agriculture – Re-Designing the Food System

I’ve taken the last 6 months away from my novel to go back to classroom teaching in the Pajaro River Valley. My middle school classroom – a well-equipped computer lab in a state-of-the-art Google Classroom paperless school – is surrounded by agricultural fields. Many of my 7th and 8th grade students are children of freseros – strawberry workers.

I received a call to come back to Pajaro Valley School District for this one semester position because a dear colleague and old friend of mine was unable to finish the year and needed a replacement. She was stricken with a bone cancer linked to pesticides used around the school where she taught for over thirty years.

[Addendum: I wrote this post in May, 2015. I’m very sorry to say my friend and colleague Betty Geesman, died of Multiple Myeloma in June. ]

I feel as though my novel has come alive and I’ve stepped into its pages. The school where I’m teaching is at the epicenter of Fruit of the Devil. The bell of Our Lady of Help Church tolls hourly, just across the highway. And the St. Francis, the Catholic high school built upon the site of an Ohlone burial ground, which provides backstory for one of my main characters, is on the other side of the cyclone fence from my computer lab.

I’ve been shocked to find that so many of my students appear to be in a state of extreme mental and emotional chaos – more so than the average middle school adolescent. Attention deficit, hyperactivity, and Autism spectrum disorders are rampant. There are obviously many factors contributing to this, including poor nutrition and the proliferation of the cell phones, mp3 players, and the Chrome Book laptops to which every student is now constantly connected. But according to recent research findings, it is likely that much of the neurological anomalies we are seeing in the Central California schools are caused by long-term exposure to pesticide neurotoxins.

According to a soon-to-be-released California Health Report article < http://www.healthycal.org/ > Dangerous Drift by Lily Dayton:

In 1999, researchers from UC Berkeley began studying how pesticides affect the health of people living in the Salinas Valley. Researchers have studied hundreds of Latino families
who work in agriculture. Mothers in the study had higher levels of metabolites from
organophosphate pesticides in their urine than women in the general population. Related to chemicals developed during World War II for nerve gas, organophosphates are neurotoxins.
Children of mothers with the highest levels of organophosphates were more likely to have developmental problems, including abnormal reflexes, autism-related conditions, low IQ
and indicators of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, the study found.

Mixtec Immigrant Picking Strawberries

I thought that when I returned to the Pajaro Valley to teach, I’d be able to interest other teachers in the struggle to reform pesticide exposure around the schools. It’s been discouraging to find that everyone is overwhelmed by the stressful demands of the job, and few teachers want to discuss the subject of pesticide exposure or even think about it.

Nevertheless, it was a source of tremendous hope to reconnect recently with Dick Pexiote, the uncle of one of my students 20 years ago when teachers, parents and community members founded Farm without Harm to promote organic agriculture. Dick is the owner of Lakeside Organics, the largest family-owned and operated solely organic vegetable grower/shipper in the US. When I dropped by his Watsonville office one afternoon after school about a month ago, he welcomed me and told me he remembered very well the teachers’ fight to end pesticide drift. He said it was partly our efforts that first got him thinking seriously about going organic. Dick’s courageous transition, when fellow growers told him he’d “lost his marbles”, has not only been an inspiration to many others, but has also turned out to be a very profitable business decision.

In the 1990’s conventional growers were calling Organic Agriculture a “Communist Plot” and telling those of us with the dream of a model sustainable agricultural valley to, “Go back to Cuba”. Today, 30% of Santa Cruz County’s agriculture is organic. When Farm without Harm was founded in the mid 90’s, we teachers  proposed writing grants to help family farmers make the costly transition to organic. Now, there are millions of dollars in state grants available to farmers who want to transition to sustainable food production practices. Societal change can take a long time. But I  hear the voice of my favorite teacher, the late Dr. Kenneth Norris, saying, “Never give up.”

Farm without Harm no longer exists, but Pesticide Action Network, the organization that helped us file pesticide use permit challenges back in the 90’s, is now part of a broad coalition of environmental groups under the umbrella Californians for Pesticide Reform.

The CPR coalition has asked California Department of Pesticide Regulation to focus on development of a statewide policy to protect school children, staff and families from agricultural pesticide use near schools, parks and homes.

This spring and early summer the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) will conduct a series of workshops around the state to solicit public input from the communities most affected by pesticide use near public schools. 

Everyone who is concerned about childhood and community pesticide exposure should take this opportunity to attend a workshop where you can meet face to face with the state regulators. Together we can make real change! Please come out and make your voice heard. We need to fill the halls!

Workshops are scheduled for:

May 28th: Cal EPA Building, Sierra Room  
                  1001 I Street
                  SACRAMENTO, CA 95814
3:00 pm: Grower & pesticide applicator issues
5:30 pm: Community, parent, & teacher issues (with simultaneous Spanish translation)
June 2nd: Cesar Chavez Library
                  615 Williams Rd.
                  SALINAS, CA 93905
3:00 pm: Grower & pesticide applicator issues
5:30 pm: Community, parent, & teacher issues (with simultaneous Spanish translation)
 
June 3rd: Ventura County Govt. Center
                  Board of Supervisors Room
                  800 South Victoria Ave.
                  VENTURA, CA 93009
3:00 pm: Grower & pesticide applicator issues

June 3rd: Rio Mesa High School Library
                 545 Central Ave.
                 OXNARD, CA 93036
7:00 pm: Community, parent, & teacher issues (with simultaneous Spanish and Mixteco (Baja) translation)
June 4th: Kern County Library – Lamont Branch
                 8394 Segrue Rd.
                 LAMONT, CA 93241
3:00 pm: Grower & pesticide applicator issues
5:30 pm: Community, parent, & teacher issues (with simultaneous Spanish translation)

June 9th: City of Coachella Corporate Yard
                 53-462 Enterprise Way
                 COACHELLA, CA 92236
3:00 pm: Grower & pesticide applicator issues
5:30 pm: Community, parent, & teacher issues (with simultaneous Spanish translation)

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New State Report on Pesticide Use Near Schools

I just drove home, on this beautiful full moon California night in June, from a meeting at the AFL-CIO Labor Hall in Salinas with the Safe Strawberry Working Group. When I got home, I said hello to my dogs, poured three fingers of Chivas Regal in my glass, and read over the news and information about the new state pesticide report.

According to the new state study, Agricultural Pesticide Use Near Public Schools in California, authored by the California Department of Public Health, released in April, 2014, “over the past 20 years, incidence of many serious childhood diseases has risen dramatically. Health professionals tell us that we have a ‘silent pandemic’ of learning disabilities and disorders including autism and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Certain childhood cancers – such as brain cancer and leukemia – are increasing, as are rates of childhood obesity and diabetes. On the Central Coast, researchers have demonstrated a link between exposure to pesticides and a reduction in children’s IQ. Science now points to pesticide exposure as a contributing factor – and in some cases, a key driver – of these trends. Over 500,000 students attend school within 1/4 mile of highly hazardous pesticide use; 118,000 students go to schools within 1/4 mile of the heaviest use of these pesticides. There are 137 county schools, with 73,876 students, within a quarter-mile of the highest concentration (319 to 28,979 pounds) of pesticides used.1 in 4 Monterey schoolchildren (the highest percentage in all of California) go to school within ¼ mile of heavy use of highly hazardous pesticides. Latino children are 91% more likely to be in heavy use areas than white children.” ( see Californian article: http://bit.ly/1johQE0    and Herald article http://bit.ly/1lnKTfm )

In response to the report, Monterey County Farm Bureau Executive Director Norm Groot wrote in a Monday column in The Californian, “The report makes no claim that children are being adversely affected by farming activities, but only implies that, by proximity, the use of agricultural chemicals near schools is automatically a bad thing. The perception this report infers is that use equals risk, which is falsely implied by not providing proper context of the regulatory process that exists to protect against exposure incidents.”

Norm’s statement is PURE BULLSHIT. Orwellian doublespeak. Meaningless obfuscation in a belittling tone, intended to confuse and make the listener/reader feel stupid and uninformed. The sentence is nonsense. The report infers a perception?  Non sequitur!   (a report can’t infer anything – utter b.s.)  “…falsely implied by not providing proper context of the regulatory process….”  Go back to English composition class, Norm.

I’m not usually so hard on my English students, but this guy is trying to pull a trick that’s so old it’s irritating; “Talk down to them, use pseudo-scientific/technical language and double talk to make them think they’re dumb and they don’t understand.” Nope. Not buying it. Let me give it to you in plain language, Norm. Here’s the deal: Pesticides are poison. It is insane to poison our kids. The pesticide poisoning needs to stop. Stop pretending you don’t understand, that the context is “improper”, or that you need “more research”. Cut the bull.

This report is nothing new. The issue of pesticide exposure around schools and in residential neighborhoods has been studied over and over again, for decades. See my blog entry on the DPR Permit Challenge Hearing we had in the Pajaro Valley on this issue in the 90’s.

Way back in 1989, Cesar Chavez said, “In the old days, miners would carry birds with them to warn against poison gas. Hopefully, the birds would die before the miners. Farm workers are society’s canaries.  Farm workers – and their children – demonstrate the effects of pesticide poisoning before anyone else.” Whenever people get interested in the issue again, a new study is proposed, then released with hoopla. There is some discussion about the “findings”, and then the issue blows over until next time, when a new study is called for with great fanfare. Then it’s critiqued; then dismissed or forgotten. We’ve had enough studies. We have peer reviewed scientific papers documenting the health effects of pesticide exposure: cancer, brain damage, nerve damage, respiratory failure, miscarriages, birth defects, and death. We need real change. Now. We need to transition completely away from chemical-intensive mono-crop industrial-style agriculture, and move to a sustainable ecological food system as soon as possible.

Eric Lauritzen, Monterey County Agricultural Commissioner, quibbles over details. Timing, he says. Timing schmiming – an hour before or after school? WTF! Never, Norm. Never on school days. Read my lips. Never apply pesticides near schools on school days.  And the ag comish claims that the report “… inflames rather than informs.” Apparently, the report is not inflammatory enough, Mr. Lauritzen, or you would act. You see, People, our agricultural commissioner has the power to mandate much safer practices, immediately – such as buffer zones at least 1/4 mile wide, no pesticide applications on school days,  72 hour pre-notification to all residents, schools, hospitals, and work places within drift range of all pesticide applications, large and clear fog-and-waterproof signs in Spanish and English posted on fumigated and sprayed fields.

Oh, but the ag comish and the Farm Bureau Director were up in Sacramento just as this report was being released, to derail SB1411 – a bill that would have required notification of schools and residents prior to fumigant, aerial and air-blast pesticide applications, and would have required that pesticide “do not enter” signs include the name of the pesticide, the phone number of the local agricultural commissioner and the expiration date of the sign. The bill, sponsored by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, would have provided greater protection to farmworkers and would have assisted first responders in an emergency. The bill was defeated. Shsssss. Don’t tell. Don’t tell people when you’re going to poison them. We don’t want them to know. Does that remind you of anything? Like, the abuser, pedophile, or wife beater, for example, who always says, “shhusssss. Don’t tell anyone.” That’s sick. Yep. It’s about time we scream ’til we’re heard and we get some help. Time to start screaming about this, everyone. This time, don’t stop screaming ’til we get a real, complete 911 rescue from the poison.

Come on. Just do it, Mr. Lauritzen. Mandate 1/4 mile or wider buffer zones, no school day applications, and proper notification. You can do it. You have the power. It would be the right thing to do. You know it. You’re just scared to rock the boat. Right? Sorry, but the boat is going to be rockin’ way more than you may expect, maybe sooner than you think. Did you know that methyl bromide, the fumigant used on strawberry fields, is an ozone depleting chemical, banned by international treaty?  Yet it’s still in use more than a decade after it was banned because strawberries are such a lucrative crop in California that congress grants the growers “critical exemptions” to apply the banned substance. By the way, methyl bromide is also a dangerous greenhouse gas – a serious contributor to global warming.

Here’s something else you need to stop pretending you don’t believe: If we have any chance at all as a species to preserve our global food security and mitigate inevitable mass human die-offs from climate-change induced world-wide famines, we need to immediately redesign and shift our food production as well as our energy systems. Commercial, chemical-intensive strawberry production poisons people and destroys the soil. It relies on dangerous petrochemicals that drive global warming. It’s far too water intensive.  It fosters unjust political-economic conditions. The planet cannot continue to support these unsustainable practices. Big beautiful strawberries will be one of the first things thrown overboard as our boat sinks and over 50% of our biodiversity becomes extinct. “Get out of the way if you can’t lend a hand. The times, they are a’changing.”

Meanwhile, BUY ORGANIC! Go down to the Redman House Farm stand on the way to Palm Beach – or to your nearest Farmers’ Market – and buy some organic strawberries. They are big, they are beautiful, they are delicious, they are NOT poison, and the their workers and the kids nearby weren’t poisoned either.

 

 

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Our Watershed as a Lifeboat, Our Whole Earth Watershed, “Planet Water”

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“The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land.” Luna Leopold

This weekend, the University of California Santa Cruz Common Ground Center (“Education for a Just and Sustainable World”) sponsored a series of programs about restoring our watersheds. The keynote speaker was Brock Dolman of Occidental Arts & Ecology. He’s such an inspiring teacher! He coined the phrase “Planet Water” and talked about our watersheds as “basins of relations” and lifeboats.

We heard from community leaders who saved the San Lorenzo River Valley from becoming a 4 lane freeway and sewer canal in the 1970’s, and we took a walk along the San Lorenzo River with salmon expert Don Alley. Don talked about the loss of the Coho Salmon in the San Lorenzo as a consequence of city water diversion during droughts, and discussed the need new water use policies that leave water in the river for fish, including regulation of sand bar opening at the river mouth and regulation of the Branciforte Creek diversion channel. Our city Council needs to hear from us about these issues!

There are three major river systems that flow into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary: the Salinas River (subject of much of John Steinbeck’s writing), the Pajaro River (where much of the action in Fruit of the Devil takes place), and the San Lorenzo (which flows from the Santa Cruz Mountains through the center of Santa Cruz City). Historically, they all supported wild salmon, a keystone species, and now an endangered species in those watersheds. The presence or absence of salmon is an indicator of the health of the watershed, the health of our lifeboat and “basin of all our relationships”.

The Coastal Watershed Council, one of the organizations participating in the weekend watershed  “teach-in”, has started a new coalition of local watershed organizations – the San Lorenzo River Alliance. Recently, they sponsored a community paddle on the San Lorenzo, which has been closed to boating through the city for decades. I got to go on that adventure, and discovered the great beauty of the wild river that flows through our city. The City Council may decide to lift the ban on boating the San Lorenzo. I hope so! And “I hope someday you’ll join us!”

IMG_3216.JPG SanLorenzRiv1 SanLorenzRiv2  IMG_3214.JPG IMG_3215.JPG IMG_3217.JPG

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Luis Valdez, Anne Perry and Jack London

 

I’ve been rubbing shoulders with genius. I’m a huge admirer of Luis Valdez of Teatro Campisino. His work influenced my novel. This Fall, I went to see his brilliant Valley of the Heart (Oh, you MUST see it!) in San Juan Bautista, and he graciously consented to this photo. (Swoon)  LuisValdezThe San Francisco Lit Quake was on my birthday this year – October 19th. Joe accompanied me up to the City, where we heard Anne Perry and William Gordon (noir writer and husband of Isabel Allende ) in conversation. annePerrycityLights2Last weekend, Thanksgiving Holiday, I talked Joe into going with me up to Glenn Ellen in Sonoma area (wine country). I needed to make a pilgrimage to see Jack London. He’s been calling to me. I stood by his mossy grave under the oaks and he told me I needed to see this novel through to publication. That it’s important to get this story out there.

Jack London’s Ranch is now a beautiful park! 1400 acres of trails and pristine vistas, along with historic buildings and a museum. Luckily, the park, suffering from lack of public funding like all of our parks, was recently saved from closure.  I had no idea, until I went to visit Jack, that he was more interested in sustainable agriculture than in anything else. Did you know that? On his Valley of the Moon Beauty Ranch, he was an innovator in sustainable ag practices at the beginning of the 20th century.

“I am rebuilding worn-out hillside lands that were worked out and destroyed by our wasteful California pioneer farmers…I believe the soil is our one indestructible asset.” Jack London.

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Pregnant with Pears

PearPregnantDoes anyone have any pear recipes?  Our magical fairy pear tree exploded with pears this August. Raining down sweet perfect pears by the hundreds. I’ve been giving away as many as possible, and trying to make sure Joe and I eat at least one a day. Please, leave your pear recipes here.

My neighbor Beth’s pear salad: pears, chilled and sliced thin. mild red onion sliced very thin. blood oranges. toasted walnuts. gorganzola. arugula. a light dressing of olive oil and white peach balsalmic

This is the first year we’ve had good plums. Beautiful Santa Rosas. plumsSM

I waited nearly 20 years for the old plum tree to decide to bear fruit before cutting her down and putting in new plum trees. This tree bore in its third year. Next year, two more plum trees should begin to fruit.

Our gifted Orchardist, Mathew Sutton of Orchard Keepers, and his crew worked magic in our garden this spring.

 

squashLots of people complain about having too much summer squash, but I never seem to get enough.

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Summer Fruit

I’m thinking of adding a tag line to the title of my novel: The Death of the Gecko, “Fruit of the Devil”, “La Fruta del Diablo”. That’s what the freseros, the people who pick in the strawberry fields, call strawberries.

organic raspberries from our urban farmStrawberries are a beautiful fruit, and very nutritious, when grown organically. Fruit is one of the great gifts of summertime.

Our blueberries and raspberries are bountiful this year.Blueberry harvest!

 Can’t keep up with harvesting them!  And our new Santa Rosa plum tree, planted last year by orchard guru Mathew Sutton of Orchard Keepers, has suddenly exploded with sweet ripe plums.  The pears grow bigger every day.

Our pear tree. Fruit coming in.

An essential principal of Permaculture ethics is to redistribute surplus. So, it was such a delight today to have Rachel come over for eggs.

Rachel with eggs from our hens

I sent her home not only with a dozen beautiful organic eggs from our happy hens, but also with a bag of fresh picked salad greens, purslane, kale, plums, and blueberries.

She reminded me how healing and wonderful it is to connect with food from the source, when that opportunity isn’t usually available. Later, another egg friend came over with apricots fresh picked from her tree, and I sent her home with a bag of plums. Simple connections, but so satisfying. Happy Summertime.

Henny Penny and Rachel

 

 

 

 

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it’s my birthday. (archived)

Posted on October 19, 2011 by msflo

Finished the scene where Ms. B attends her first meeting of the Watsonville Wetlands Watch and learns about the struggle to save the Tai Property on the ocean side of Highway 1. Doing background research for this scene, I learned more about the courage, perseverance, wisdom and genius of the people who built the organic movement in this region and have saved wetlands and farmlands in our area. I am in awe of these brave and brilliant people. I hope my story can convey the importance of the work they have accomplished.

My story is a “roman a clef”, a true story thinly veiled in the guise of fiction. I need to figure out fictional names for the Wetlands Watch people and update my “character bible”. Since I’m going after Monsanto in a big way in this story, I have been told to get an attorney before I ever put the story into the public sphere. Monsanto is a very scary entity, to be sure. They are why my story is a murder mystery, if you get my drift.

Went to an excellent mystery writers workshop at Univ of SF downtown classroom last Saturday, put on by the Mystery Writers of America. Good information and advice. Nice to get out and network with other authors and wanna be’s. Among other things, we worked on our “elevator messages”:

“A teacher in an agricultural community on the California Coast discovers that the pesticides being used on the fields surrounding her school are deadly, in more ways than one.”

I stepped out of the classroom in the evening, right into the Occupy San Francisco/Occupy WallStreet march going by in the middle of Market St. So I joined in for about an hour. It was Invigorating! The cops and the spectators on the street were so so positive. Cops even smiled and flashed us peace signs. Very different from the civil rights and anti-war demonstrations of the 60′s. A hopeful experience.

Recently, I’ve had some excellent time with the Watsonville Brown Berets, who are working very hard on the ban Methyl Iodide issue (the chemical proposed as an “alternative” to methyl bromide). Last night, at the Resource Center for Non-Violence, I attended a sub-committee meeting on the juvenile justice system. The people who put their time and energy into these projects for the good of the community are so admirable. My respect and love for them just grows and grows.

I’ve taken about a week “away from the canvas”, to work on a permaculture rainwater harvesting project at my casita. Joe and I went to several of the excellent, free films shown around town this week at the Pacific Rim Film Festival. Another group of astounding people giving of their time, passion and intelligence to the community. Last night, we watched a Japanese sci fi animee called Summer Wars. The other night we saw an eco surf film from New Zealand called Last Paradise. I highly recommend both films, which you can probably find by googling.

Went to a meeting yesterday to try to try to help save the Salmon and Trout Education Project. The native Steelhead have now become such a threatened species in California that Cal Fish and Game will no longer grant permits for teachers and students to incubate eggs in the classroom for release in the local creeks. The meeting was tragic, heartbreaking. It underscored the urgency I feel to tell Ms. B’s story. I feel so strongly that people need to know what’s at stake, and what is being lost, from a personal, “being-there” perspective.

Ms B and my other characters are calling me back to finish the story. I’m looking forward to introducing Ms. B and her friends to you. I think you may have a lot in common. Let me know if you’re interested in reading the story when the first draft is ready to critique.

May the Clear Light Surround You. Peace and Love.
maryflo

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How Long? (archived)

Posted on August 17, 2011 by msflo

I honestly thought I’d be finished with my first draft at least by June. Well, it’s already August, and I’m at about 450 pages. I’ve been writing this novel for a year! Working on it, hacking out the words, nearly every day. But it’s been in my head, wanting to be written, for the last ten years. My editor told me I shouldn’t write anything over 300 pages max, but I think I’m only about half way finished telling the story, and I’m already over that by 150 pages. It may be that ‘cut cut cut’ is in my future, but I don’t want to think about that right now. For now, I just have to get everything on the page. Later, let the revisions begin, if they must.

The chapter I finished today felt like the famous “mid book slump”. Am I half way through? Well, I have all the main characters, dynamics, and plot threads painted in, and now just need to weave everything along to a thrilling climax. oooph. I want to be finished with the first draft so I can start showing it to people and getting feedback. I’m in love with my characters. They are more real to me now than most people I deal with.

I write every morning, walk my dogs, exercise (swim, bike, beach, kayak, hike), garden (play with my new baby chickens), and at night, I read. I’ve read a mountain of fiction since I started writing my novel. Mostly in the mystery/thriller genre. But lately, I’ve become Addicted to George Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. OH! It’s Wonderful! Five volumes, each almost a thousand pages long. Ahhhh. Finding a great fantasy series like this is like discovering a gold mine. Unfortunately, I’m almost finished reading the latest in the series, Dance of Dragons. Soon, like the rest of his fans, I’ll be anxiously waiting, for years, while he finishes his next book. (But I haven’t even begun to explore the TV series, the interactive games, and all the other fun stuff generated by Martin’s fantasy world.)

Imagine writing six big novels, in a series. I’ll be so happy if/when I successfully finish one! A series?? Don’t even want to think about that yet…..

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