YA author Bonnie J. Doerr’s Take on Going Green, Earth Day, and the Writing Process


As an author of eco-mystery adventures, it’s a treat to be Precise Proofing’s guest blogger in celebration of Earth Day.

Even though blogs began appearing in the 1990s, a period that seems like yesterday, I only entered the blogosphere recently. It seems time, technology, and celebrations wait for no one. According to Senator Gaylord Nelson, Founder of Earth Day, the first Earth Day celebration in the USA was held in 1970. And—boom—a heartbeat later, we’re marking the 42nd annual Earth Day which has now stretched into a month-long celebration.

Every Earth Day involves much consideration of trees: thanking trees, planting trees, saving trees. Remember when we were told technology would reduce our paper load and save trees? How has this prediction played out in your business? Glad I didn’t bet on that one coming true. In my work, I have more paper than ever to deal with. There are two main reasons for my massive paper collection.

The first reason I’m not reducing my paper load has to do with my research methods. When I’m not involved in primary research with wildlife in the Florida Keys, much of my research involves reading news accounts and research articles.

Truth is, I’m much better at organizing and processing articles I can touch and spread out all over the floor than dealing with information that miraculously appears on my computer screen. Half the time, I can’t even figure out how I found the articles. If I do manage to overcome the data’s mysterious appearance, I save it. How? The same way you save yours—by hiding it in a tiny picture of a folder that also wickedly disappears somewhere in my machine never to be found again.

But I know how to deal with this crazy-making situation. Can you guess where I’m going this time? Of course you can. I print out the good stuff, file it in a tangible manila folder, then put it in a heavy, walnut file cabinet that holds a heck of a lot of paper.

Oh, the guilt. I’m not saving trees at all! All I can do is hope someone is replenishing the forests.

The second reason for my paper piles is that to find errors I need to see my text on hardcopy. My eyes can only handle reading a screen for a short time. So I print out my draft. I find pesky punctuation and grammar errors, those ugh!-that-reads-like-crapola parts, and get back to work on the computer.

Then, I print it again. Of course, there are additional pesky errors that I missed the first time, plus new ones, and “Yes, that’s brilliant!” moments when I get a new and better idea for a scene. So I hit the keyboard again and improve the manuscript for the second time. You know where I’m going with this.

More printing, more editing, more insights, and with each change more opportunities for errors. But, no worries, it’s easy to make changes and print another copy. If I had to do all of this by hand…well, I wouldn’t. But I keep producing mounds of paper because it’s so confounded easy, and it helps make my novels the best they can be. More guilt.

Why all of this guilt?  I confess. I’m a tree hugger. I can’t help it. You can blame my parents. They’ll never know. But I’m proud to be wild about trees. Heck, we wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for their life-sustaining oxygen. I need their green—every shade of it. I could never live on a desert, at a height above the tree line, or at either of Earth’s poles. Yes, my favorite color is green.

I do my best to make up for using so much paper. I buy recycled reams. (Do you know they make bamboo paper stock? Great idea! Bamboo is one rapidly growing tree—almost Internet fast.) I use both sides of every sheet. I recycle used paper. I’ve even mulched with it.

Almost as an apology for my excess, I nurture the trees on our property. I move trees from crowded places to locations where they’ll thrive, relieve them of invasive vines, and weep when they die. And I plant new trees—Not only on Earth Day. If you, or anyone you know, question the importance of trees, Maria Rodale has some answers for you.

If you haven’t planted a tree lately, consider doing so in honor of Earth Day. If you don’t have an outdoor space, plant one in a pot. Walk in the woods. Listen to the breeze whisper through branches. Savor the symphony of birdsong. Revel in the variety of foliage shapes and shades. Sway to the windy dance of mighty trunks, graceful limbs, and flittering leaves. Get up close and personal. Go ahead. Breathe deeply. Hug a tree. You might just relax and lose whatever guilt lurks.


Bonnie J. Doerr, a nature lover and lifetime educator, has taught students from kindergarten to college in eight states. Her acclaimed contemporary-realistic novels celebrate crime-fighting, fearless teens who take action with attitude and a touch of romance. Originally from western Maryland, Ms. Doerr lives in a North Carolina log cabin and spends weeks each year researching and writing in the Florida Keys. Ms. Doerr’s work has been described as a “mashup of Jean Craighead George and Carl Hiaasen” by some and by others, “what would happen if Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and Lassie teamed up to crack a case.” She is the author of eco-adventure/mystery novels, Island Sting, Leap Books 2010 (2011 EPIC eBook Outstanding Children’s Book award), Stakeout, Leap Books 2011, (finalist 2012 Green Earth YA Book award) and the forthcoming Busted, Leap Books 2013.

Bonnie is also featured this month by the Girl Scouts of the USA, Aurora Reviews, TBR, and Leap Books Publishing where her books are on sale this month. You can read more about her and her work at www.BonnieDoerrBooks.com and http://bonnieblogsgreen.blogspot.com/.

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