Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Interview with Andrea M. Jones: part 1

Andrea M. Jones is the author of Between Urban and Wild: Reflections from Colorado, published just this month. University of Iowa Press acquisitions editor Holly Carver asked her a few questions about the book. Come back next week to read the rest of the interview!

HC: You’re a native of Colorado. How has your homeplace influenced your writing?
AMJ: That issue of nativeness has essentially been my topic for the past few years, so my background in Colorado has most recently been an impetus to write, full stop. More generally and looking forward, I’d have to say that living in a place that calls my attention outward—with nice scenery and dramatic weather and very evident development pressures—urges me to resist being too self-referential. First-person narrative has the advantage of giving readers the sense that they’re connecting with a specific person, but I want to use my frame of reference as a point of departure, not as the destination.

HC: Who are your inspirations among nature writers and writers of place?
AMJ: Edward Abbey was an early influence, as I mention in Between Urban and Wild. Terry Tempest Williams shaped my perspective on the give-and-take between a person and the environment, and she’s also a role model for the craft of writing. In terms of thinking of and writing about place and constructing elegant essays, I am in awe of Scott Russell Sanders. Linda M. Hasselstrom, in both her writing and through the retreats she offers at her family ranch in South Dakota, pushed me to think longer and harder about the relationship between people and landscape and what that relationship means for those of us who live on the land but don’t make our living from it. And in the broader sense of the human place in the world, including the world of ideas, Mary Catherine Bateson’s Peripheral Visions: Learning Along the Way is a book I return to over and over again.

HC: You’re responding to my questions while, once again, it’s wildfire season in Colorado. How do you live with these annual dangers?
AMJ: Although we’ve been under persistent drought conditions for several years now, the fire risk will always be here—it’s built into the ecology of the region. There are days when I can put on my pragmatic hat and do some more planning; talk through evacuation scenarios with my husband, Doug; or go outside and pick a chore that counts as mitigation or that reduces an ignition risk around the house or barn. There are other days when I’m worn down by the anxiety and stress and wish I could just leave the whole issue behind. Aspects of our intense and destructive fires are climate-driven, however, and I know we are hardly alone in coming to terms with extreme weather events.

Trying to learn more about a topic is one of my coping mechanisms, so I continue to read and seek out information. And it remains true that fire season pushes me to be more attentive to our surroundings. This year, I am amazed yet again at how quickly and effectively the native grasses and wildflowers take advantage of whatever precipitation comes their way.

Between Urban and Wild: Reflections from Colorado by Andrea M. Jones

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