Loree Griffin Burns Interview

Wait!  Don’t run away!  Bees are GOOD!  And most of the time they don’t sting!  In fact, drones (the big, slow, male bees) don’t even have stingers.  And, we NEED these little guys, not just for honey and wax but also for their awesome ability to take a garden from struggling to bountiful.  Loree Griffin Burns (author of TRACKING TRASH , a fascinating book I love) is going to tell us all about that.
OK, now that I’ve calmed you down, I can show you Loree’s arm:
Ack!  That IS scary!  Thanks to Ellen Harasimowicz  for  this stellar photo.  And to Loree, for her arm.  That Loree is tough!  Read on:
Kathy:  Can you tell us how this book came to be published?

Loree: THE HIVE DETECTIVES grew out of my worry about dire news reports that seemed to be everywhere during the winter of 2006:  honey bee populations were disappearing, our food supply was at risk, and scientists didn’t know what to do about it. The more I read, the more I wanted to understand honey bees, how they live, why they are important to humankind, and how scientists planned to figure out their mysterious decline.

Kathy:  Tell us why we should buy this book.

Loree: Because page 41 has an amazing picture of my right arm with a bee stinger and bee guts hanging out of it!  (Note: see above!)

Sorry. I’m just kidding. (Although that image—and all of Ellen Harasimowicz’s images, actually—are pretty stunning.)

More seriously, I think beekeeper Dave Hackenberg said it best: “the biggest thing about bees is not honey … it’s that your food supply depends on them.”  If you want to understand honey bees, the role they play in our world, and what you can do to help protect them, then you should buy the book.

Kathy:  Who or what has been the greatest inspiration for your stories?

Loree: I am inspired by the natural world and by the men and women devising ways to understand it. I want to know their stories from beginning to end … and once I do, I usually feel the need to share them.

Kathy:  I’m glad you do, Loree.  (Those of us privy to one of Loree’s demonstrations will never be able to look at a pot without picturing those wormy thingees trailing like lemmings around its rim.)  You have the chance to give one piece of advice to young readers.  What is that?

Loree: Never be afraid to change your mind. My first career choice was to be a private detective (age 10) and then a veterinarian (age 12) and then an engineer (age 17) and then a scientist (age 21) and then a teacher (age 26) and, finally, a writer (age 33). Changing my mind was hard, and for a long time I felt like these constant changes meant I was not going to be successful at anything. It took me a long time to realize that growing and changing is natural. And invigorating. And good for you!

Kathy:  Excellent career choice(s), Loree, especially the writing one.  What’s an important “nugget” that you’d like readers to take away from your book?

Loree: It seems that there are always things to worry about (the decline of bee populations and climate change come quickly to mind), and I think the key to not being overwhelmed by these issues is remembering that we are not powerless. That is what this book is about. We humans can use our powers of observation, our knowledge of the world and how it works, and the scientific method to understand any problem … and then devise ways of fixing it. That is the nugget I hope people find in THE HIVE DETECTIVES.

Kathy:  Why do you write for young people?

Loree: I don’t. I write for anyone who is interested in the sorts of things that fascinate me: science, scientists, and the natural world. It just so happens that young people are the ones who are most interested in these things!

Kathy:  Oh, good, that means I’m young because you inspired me to take a beekeeping class!  When do you write?

Loree: Mostly while my kids are in school, between the hours of 8am and 3pm. If pressed, I can write at night or early in the morning, but I no longer enjoy working at those times. I think this means I am getting old.

Kathy:  Not hardly.  Where do you write?

Loree: In my office at my desk. I’m boring that way.

Kathy:  What helps you write?

Loree: Peace and quiet. A disruption to my wireless internet service is VERY helpful, too.

Kathy:  How do your ideas come to you?

Loree: Constantly and with no warning. I see things all the time that I wonder about, and I have learned to give myself the gift of time to look into them. It is surprising how often these little forays lead me to new book projects. Like the mating butterflies I saw at the Museum of Science Butterfly Garden last year. I wondered why they were allowed to mate when the Museum is not allowed to breed butterflies. After some interesting conversations with the garden docent and, later, the exhibit curator, I began working on a book about exhibit butterflies and where they come from.

Kathy:  How long have you been writing?

Loree: Since I was in junior high school, although it took me twenty years to realize that I might actually make a career out of it.

Kathy:  Do you have a favorite quote or bumper sticker?

Loree: “Frass happens.”

(It’s an entomology joke; frass is the biological term for caterpillar poo. It cracks me up every time. My kids have banned me from saying it in public.)

Kathy:  Ha!  I think I’ll use that one!  What’s an embarrassing story about yourself that you don’t mind telling?

Loree: They are all much too embarrassing.

Kathy:  :o)  What are you working on now?

Loree: I’m editing a book on citizen science that will be published by Henry Holt in Fall 2011. I’m also starting work on the butterfly book I mentioned above. (Research for that book involved a trip to a Costa Rican butterfly farm. It’s a tough job, but someone has got to do it!)

Kathy:  Why should kids read books when there are so many other things to do?

Loree: Goodness, this is hard to answer for someone else. I can tell you why I read, though. I read because the places that books take me are much, much, much more interesting to me than my living room couch. The way I see these places in my head and experience them in my imagination are much, much, much more enjoyable than the places I can visit electronically. I’m an addict, really, and books are my drug of choice; the thought of all the books out there on shelves that I haven’t read yet … it makes me giddy.

Kathy: Thanks for stopping by, Loree!  Please visit Loree at her website and blog — worth a stop for the photos alone, which are phenomenal.

Website: www.loreeburns.com Blog:  Blog: http://lgburns.livejournal.com


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7 responses to “Loree Griffin Burns Interview

  1. DeAnn

    Great interview! I can’t wait to read Loree’s latest. Her writing is so clear, informative, and FUN.

    And she has great hair.

    I’m off to pre-order!

  2. DeAnn

    Oh, and I guess I won’t be calling my daughter Sassafras(s) anymore. Thanks a lot.

  3. Thank you, Loree, for enriching my vocabulary. 🙂

    And I agree with your answer of who you write for: anyone interested in the good stuff.

  4. Thanks for a great interview! I especially liked Loree’s answer to the “why do you write for young people” question.

  5. Can’t wait for this one! Thanks for the lovely interview :)!

  6. Pingback: Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion « MLISsing in Action

  7. Pingback: soup of the day: the hive detectives by loree griffin burns! « Jama's Alphabet Soup

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