Nature is the air we breathe, water we drink, pollinator habitat we plant, and the energy savings we put in place. Let's play with nature! As an author of 6 children’s books, Heidi Ferris helps people put themselves inside our interconnected land, air, water, and life systems. Owner of Growing Green Hearts, LLC; Heidi is a science educator, environmentalSTEM specialist, trainer of teachers, and doctoral student studying educational leadership. She lives near the Mississippi River in Fridley.
1. Tell us about the featured book. What is it about, and why did you choose to write this story?
7 Water Wonderings: All About the Cycle of Water is a book for children that shares the magical-nature of water through words and pictures. I chose to write this story because water is a powerful force for play and health in my daily life. I also chose to write this story to educate young ones about how water never “goes away” but cycles again and again on our planet. The water cycle is a system more than a circle and there are everyday things we can all do to care for precious water. Did you know that there is a song with ASL actions that goes along with the book?
2. Tell us a little about your writing process. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
Nature play and environmental STEM are my specialty. Biking along the Mississippi River, getting muddy in my garden, or identifying prairie plants are all research for me! I especially enjoy watching kids explore in nature, which can be done right where we live and at the many beautiful Anoka County parks. Most of my book ideas come from misconceptions in science (like mentioned above with the water cycling rather than circling) or in areas where we often underestimate youth leadership. For example, in my book 5 R’s for Environment, young children are introduced to ways in which they can lead in care for our earth by rethinking, reducing, reusing, recycling, and rejoicing.
3. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
Language and pictures are powerful tools. The most difficult part of the artistic process for me is editing. I work hard to make sure that the words I choose are impactful, the sentences simple but not too simple, and that photos represent those words. I’ve learned that it takes practice to convey a big, often complex idea in short, kid-friendly sentences.
4. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
As with iterations of the engineering design process, my first book was much different than how I tackled the next book. I learned a lot both from my mistakes and in working closely with my graphic artist, Lisa Carlson.
5. Are there any writers or authors who have influenced your writing? If not, who are some of your favorite writers?
Writers and illustrators who have influenced me include Louise Erdrich, Andrea Beaty, Dr. Suess, Kadir Nelson, and Rachel Carson.
6. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Currently I have 3 half-finished, unpublished books.
7. What does literary success look like to you?
To me, literary success looks like children and/or adults reading my books. If one child becomes inspired to nurture our shared land, air, water and living things…then all my efforts were worth it!
8. What inspired you to start writing?
I remember story time at my local library as a child and how much fun it was to pick out books from the colorful shelves! When I was in fourth grade each student in my class wrote a chapter about a hamster then all of the stories were compiled into a book. I was inspired by the hamster’s adventures captured in words and pictures by my classmates. I guess it was that class book (thank you Mrs. Lewis at Eagle Point Elementary) that really taught me in a hands-on way that books can be a vehicle for sharing new ways of thinking with people near and far.
9. When you’re not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Kayaking, gardening, biking, reading, and time with family and friends are all things that I enjoy doing in my spare time. With four seasons, amazing lakes, curious critters, and many cultures—Minnesota is my favorite place to be. I also enjoy traveling the world (and reading about other places) because I can learn new things I never would have imagined!
10. Do you have a website or social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) where readers can learn more about your work?
Growing Green Hearts is the business I started 7 years ago to help people of all ages “Play, Learn, and Love Nature” and more information can be found at GrowingGreenHearts.com. In addition to being an author, I train educators in environmental STEM strategies, design natural playgrounds, and partner with communities on green projects that lift up student leadership. Yes, please check out local projects and nature play tips @GrowGreenHearts on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!