Author Stacey Gerhart discusses her latest environmentally inspired middle grade book and passion to keep our waterways clean.
Rick Lite: Tell me about your latest book and why you wrote it?
SG: My latest book is also the first book that I have published. The protagonist is a nine-year-old girl named Pippin who wants to protect wildlife on the river where she lives. Pippin has a superpower to understand animal languages, some quirky insecurities, and a bold way of standing up to injustice when the new neighbor threatens her animal friends.
My father was my soul-mate for appreciating nature. When he passed away in 1996, I inherited his riverfront home which we use for weekend getaways. Since Florida is a growing state, I have observed many changes from increasing population—some good, some bad—on the spring-fed river.
A law against disposable containers has been very helpful for keeping the river clean and FWC has done a good job of controlling invasive species of aquatic plants. But the clarity of the river is not what it used to be. While there are many suggestions for the increasing murkiness, there are no definitive answers.
Today, the sleepy little town where my dad lived has become a favorite tourist destination for nature lovers. While it is good to see people enjoying life floating down the river, a few people lack respect for the environment. Occasionally, these infractions inspire me to write a story from the animal’s point of view—hence, Pippin’s superpower to interpret their languages.
Disrespect for the river may also come from homeowners who illegally cut wetlands, without regard for wildlife or the laws that protect aquatic plants. These lawbreakers were the inspiration for my first children’s book about protecting wildlife in the wetlands. According to my friends in law enforcement, there have been frequent disputes over the illegal removal of aquatic plants along the river.
I wrote my book, with insights from the animals’ points of view, to inspire kids to appreciate nature, raise awareness about the importance of wetlands, and encourage empathy for wildlife. The story is a fun adventure with an important message for protecting the environment.
Rick Lite: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
SG: Get outside, walk just about anywhere, walk my dogs, practice yoga, kayak, bike ride, take photos, browse social media, pretend I’m a computer geek while playing with plug-ins for WordPress, dream up ways to make people visit my website, stumble upon a story for Pippin, and fall asleep on the couch while watching TV.
Oh, and did I say, practice yoga?
Rick Lite: Has publishing your first book changed your process of writing?
SG: Yes. I’ve become much more focused on environment while browsing posts on Twitter due to the suggestions of Rick Lite. The environmental focus often leads me to new ideas for Pippin to suggest and implement in her community at Cypress Cove.
It is refreshing how much CAN be done to help the environment. People aroud the world have some very creative ways of doing their part to protect the planet. The internet gives me a source for finding their suggestions and plans. For me, it’s unifying to bring ideas together from around the world on social media for the common good of everyone. That is my highest goal in writing.
Rick Lite: What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
SG: As of right now, I can honestly say the money that has made the most difference to my writing/marketing was the money I spent on hiring Rick Lite, who brought my theme together. Most spending has been a donation to the economy in the land of book advertising. I tell my husband it’s less expensive than golf—but I’m not sure how long he’s gonna buy that reasoning.
My current thinking, at this early stage of marketing, is that leg work matters. People love talking to me about my book. They are very supportive of the theme of protecting the planet. And it warms my heart to see the looks on someone’s face when I give them a signed copy of my book with a personal message. Yes, it is also fun to give my paperback book away. Giving away signed paperbacks is also money well spent. Can’t wait to hear what the kids and grandkids say about them.
Rick Lite: How many hours a day do you write?
SG: I write one chapter per day. Since my books are children’s books, they are shorter than adult novels. A typical chapter is 1200-1500 words. I plan my books to be about 24-25 chapters. It takes about four to five hours of total focus to write one chapter, but at that stage it needs a lot of editing. I do not edit my book, except by way of review, until it is finished.
Rick Lite: If you could choose one superpower, what would it be? What would you do with that superpower?
SG: I would interpret animal languages, of course! And I would use that superpower to create the world of Pippin.
Rick Lite: What do you hope to accomplish now that your book is out?
SG: I would love to see my book used in classrooms to educate upper elementary school children about protecting wildlife and the environment. It offers many opportunities to open a dialogue about protecting the planet and other personal messages about family, friends and life. Pippin’s kind heart and insecurities should make her easy for kids to identify with. It is a wonderful read-aloud story for the classroom, for parents to share with their kids, or for kids to read by themselves.
Rick Lite: If you were to write a book about yourself, what would you name it?
SG: ‘Confessions of an Evangelical Yogi’ by Stacey Gerhart, DVM. I love yoga and would like to be part of its increasing spread to mainstream practice for all ages. Book Two: ‘Flower Children and Renegades: Life on the road with Yoga.’
Sometimes I daydream about an RV trip with family, friends, dogs and yoga mats in an outdoor setting to bring people together to talk about yoga while relaxing in nature. Dogs are a magnet for strangers and practicing yoga at a campground/RV park invites questions and/or thoughts and opinions. I think it would be fun to share the reactions, experiences, and advice. And I would love to spread the inspiration that you don’t have to surrender to aging.
Rick Lite: What Hollywood actress would play you?
SG: Diane Keaton. She’s smart, fun, and neurotic—-something I never thought I was until I passed sixty and didn’t care anymore!
Dr. Stacey Gerhart grew up on the waterways of Florida. During childhood, she enjoyed spending time with her pets and making up water adventures with her friends in her swimming pool. As an adult, she became a veterinarian to attend to the healthcare needs of dogs and cats as an associate in her family’s veterinary clinics. Later, she taught Human Anatomy and Physiology, as an assistant professor, at the local college where she also served on the sustainability committee. Today, she enjoys kayaking, hiking, yoga, pets, wildlife, and writing adventures about nature and animals for kids. She lives with her husband in Florida. You can read more about Dr. Gerhart on her website http://globalphotostories.com.