Between the Lines Book Club: Interviews with Tracy Chevelier

between the lines book club logoWelcome to Between the Lines Book Club! Our next in-person meeting will be at Arden Dimick on July 22, 2017 at 10:30AM. Our amazing librarian Kerri will be leading the group as we discuss At the Edge of the Orchard, by Tracy Chevelier.

Chevelier primarily writes historical ficiton, which involves a lot of research. In this interview with NPR, she describes eating apples and planting her own apple tree.

On, she talks about her favorite trees in fiction and why apple trees and Sequoias are so important to her story.

Finally, here’s a lengthy radio interview about At the Edge of the Orchard from The Book Show. Enjoy!

Summer Poem: Mask by Carl Sandburg

IMG_2291This poem by Carl Sandburg makes me think of all the outdoor festivals – concerts at the parks, music at fairs, giant music festivals and radios playing in beat up cars!


Mask, by Carl Sandburg

Fling your red scarf faster and faster, dancer.
It is summer and the sun loves a million green leaves,
masses of green.
Your red scarf flashes across them calling and a-calling.
The silk and flare of it is a great soprano leading a
Carried along in a rouse of voices reaching for the heart
of the world.
Your toes are singing to meet the song of your arms:

Let the red scarf go swifter.
Summer and the sun command you.

Between the Lines Book Club: William Lobb

between the lines book club logoWelcome to Between the Lines Book Club! Our next in-person meeting will be at Arden Dimick on July 22, 2017 at 10:30AM. Our amazing librarian Kerri will be leading the group as we discuss At the Edge of the Orchard, by Tracy Chevelier.

One of the main characters in the second part of the book is William Lobb, who was a real-life botanist. Lobb’s first plant-collecting venture was on behalf of James Veitch, of the famous Veitch Nurseries in England. Lobb set out for South America in 1840 on a gruelling trip that lasted until 1844. It is probable that, among other things, Lobb brought England the secret to making gunpowder from sodium nitrate (before that it was made with potassium nitrate).

Lobb’s next trip was from 1845-1848, and involved South America again. In 1849 he went to North America where he made the trip to Calaveras Grove that plays such an important role in the book. The grove was first discovered by a hunter who was chasing a bear (not the other way around?). Lobb took measurements of the Giant Sequoias, collected seeds and seedlings, and headed back to England early so as to be the first to bring the samples to England. Veitch was thrilled and made a lot of money from the find, since Sequoias quickly became popular with wealthy English gardeners.

Lobb became increasingly strange and frail. He died, probably of syphilis, in California in 1864. Perhaps fittingly, a google search of his portrait only shows pictures of plants, especially the Monkey Puzzle Tree, the Sequoia, and the William Lobb Rose.

William Lobb Rose


Interdependence Day May Have Been Silly But It Sure Was Fun

IMG_0708.JPGThis year on the Fourth of July, Sacramento celebrated its first Interdependence Day. The idea was to celebrate July 4th by celebrating “equity and inclusion,” two concepts I am ALL ABOUT. So off we went to Southside Park in Midtown Sacramento.

As a day of celebrating equity and inclusion, this was not what I’d call an effective event. It was mostly a mix of New Age and Eastern Philosophy inspired booths and practitioners. There was a shortage of booths focused on registering voters, disseminating postcard for people to write on about fair and affordable housing, protecting health care access, protecting the rights of immigrants, and other practical interests that disproportionately affect people of color. On the other hand, I had multiple opportunities to buy items the “Om” symbol on them.

On the other hand, as a self-care day, I couldn’t ask for better. I had a free chair massage and walked a labyrinth made of tape. I danced onstage with a funk band. Speakers recited poetry about the Muslim Ban while a group of women did singing therapy (you lie down and they sing over you). Once The Midnight Players kicked in, people danced on the dance floor. A group of old ladies waved their arms under a tree and a group of belly dancers shimmied under another tree. I started the day with one kid, acquired two more, lost both of them, and eventually regained the one I had started with (this is the math of parenting teens, who practice self-care by ditching their parents and running all over the park while laughing maniacally).

The Interdependence Day Festival represented the worst and the best of middle-class liberalism in Sacramento. There was a lot of cultural appropriation as well as some cultural appreciation and a lot of grey area in between. There was a focus on reading chakras and animal oracle cards instead of providing practical assistance and advocacy. Most of the attendees and vendors were white, although the longer the event went on the more diverse the attendance became.


Making the Mandala (photo by

However, this festival represented something Sacramento is very good at, which is a specific kind of joy. As the day went on, the event became much more racially diverse, and everyone seemed happy and relaxed. We have a lot of parks and a lot of trees and during the summer there  are outdoor movies and concerts in almost all of them, not to mention the year-round farmer’s markets. Any outdoor event involves toddlers and dogs. There will always be at least one barefoot twenty-year-old and at least one barefoot seventy-five year-old dancing to the same music. Middle-aged moms shake their bootys while teens congregate in corners and check their phones. Someone is wearing tie dye, someone is blowing bubbles, and someone is selling gelato or ices.

As an atheopagan/skeptic/hippie, I’m always going to have a weird reaction to the trappings of the New Age world, but I can’t deny that the chair massage I had was heavenly. As a white progressive who spends a lot of time online, I think all these white people reading chakras is problematic but the Mandala that people took turns creating sure is beautiful. I have no idea what people of color make of all this, but everyone seemed to be smiling.

Bottom line – this is late news as the Fourth has come and gone, but basically I’d much rather spend the next Fourth at the next Interdependence Festival instead of at anything involving eagles and beer (unless it involves live eagles – that would be cool). But next year, I’ll bring some postcards.



Between the Lines Book Club: Johnny Appleseed

between the lines book club logoOur book this month is At the Edge of the Orchard, by Tracy Chevalier. One of the main characters in the book is John Chapman, also known as Johnny Appleseed. Growing up, I was familiar with this historical personage only because of the song we used to sing:


Oh the Lord is good to me

And so I thank the Lord

For giving me

The Things I need

The sun and the rain and the appleseed

Oh, the Lord is good to me!

Johnny Appleseed was a real person, who lived from 1774 to 1845. He spent most of his adult live establishing apple nurseries, which he would visit and tend to every one or two years. He went barefoot, was vegetarian, and attempted never to hurt an animal. He was opposed to grafting, a process which allows new apple varieties to be created. Most of the apple trees he planted grew “spitters,” that is, apples used for making cider. His orchards were laid low not by flood or drought or pests, but by Prohibition.

Want to learn more about this peculiar and influential American figure? Try “7 Facts on Johnny Appleseed” on or “9 Facts That Tell the True Story of Johnny Appleseed” on For a less accurate take on the story, here’s the first part of Disney’s version, complete with the song and friendly chirping birds.

I Made A Thing!

Cover of Invisible 3
I’m incredibly honored to have an essay included in Invisible 3: Personal Essays and Poems on Representation in SF/F, an anthology edited by Jim C. Hines and Mary Ann Mohanraj.

One reason I’m so pleased to be part of this project is that all proceeds go towards Con or Bust, a non-profit that helps people of color attend science fiction and fantasy conventions:

Con or Bust, Inc., is a tax-exempt not-for-profit organization (EIN: 81-2141738) that helps people of color/non-white people attend SFF conventions. Con or Bust isn’t a scholarship and isn’t limited to the United States, to particular types of con-goers, or to specific cons; its goal is simply to help fans of color go to SFF cons and be their own awesome selves. It is funded through donations and an online auction held annually.

Invisible 3 is available digitally from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, and Google Play. Here’s the table of contents:

  • Introduction by K. Tempest Bradford
  • Heroes and Monsters, by T. S. Bazelli
  • Notes from the Meat Cage, by Fran Wilde
  • What Color Are My Heroes? by Mari Kurisato
  • The Zeroth Law Of Sex in Science Fiction, by Jennifer Cross
  • Our Hyperdimensional Mesh of Identities, by Alliah
  • Erasing Athena, Effacing Hestia, by Alex Conall
  • Not So Divergent After All, by Alyssa Hillary
  • Skins, by Chelsea Alejandro
  • The Doctor and I, by Benjamin Rosenbaum
  • My Family Isn’t Built By Blood, by Jaime O. Mayer
  • Lost in Space: A Messy Voyage Through Fictional Universes, by Carrie Sessarego
  • Decolonise The Future, by Brandon O’Brien
  • Natives in Space, by Rebecca Roanhorse
  • I Would Fly With Dragons, by Sean Robinson
  • Adventures in Online Dating, by Jeremy Sim
  • Of Asian-Americans and Bellydancing Wookiees, by Dawn Xiana Moon
  • Shard of a Mirage, by MT O’Shaughnessy
  • Unseen, Unheard, by Jo Gerrard