By Esther Sunde
West Seattle author, Brenda Peterson, is a nature writer, memoirist, novelist, and writing teacher. She feels that it’s fitting to think of libraries as ecosystems made up of diverse interactive communities where the books are living organisms and we work to ensure that the future is nurtured and sustainable. Books and stories are alive and we are changing ourselves and the community as we read.
Peterson talked to CLAMS members about how her childhood experiences with a librarian shaped her life. Peterson grew up Southern Baptist, yet her grandmother in Missouri sent her to the library every summer and the librarian got her hooked on reading. Peterson credits the book A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle, with sparking her imagination and inspiring her to tell stories. The librarian assured Peterson that it was okay to be different from others and encouraged Peterson to be her own person. Peterson was also influenced by growing up in Colorado, where her father worked for the National Park Service, and having many opportunities to interact with nature. She shared with the group about her passion for the marine environment and marine mammals. Peterson is the founder of Seal Sitters, http://www.sealsitters.org
Peterson has written a number of books including Build Me an Ark: A Life with Animals, I Want to Be Left Behind: Finding Rapture Here on Earth, Animal Heart and Leopard and Silkie: One Boy’s Quest to Save the Seal Pups. In 2012 Peterson self-published the young adult science-fiction novel, Drowning World, a book which ties together her love of nature and storytelling. The highly original plot contains shape-shifters and dolphins, a love story between a human boy and a mermaid, and a concern for the environment. Peter believes that kids today feel a lot of despair, and wrote this book to give them hope for the future.
Everyone attending the CLAMS conference received a copy of Peterson’s book on memoir-writing, Your Life is a Book. She had participants complete a short writing prompt that she uses with her students in which people worked together in small groups and shared either their first contact with a library or one scene that describes their whole life as a librarian. Many beautiful and interesting stories were told, and a number of them were shared with the entire group.