Gabe Snyder, author of the new children’s book Count on us!She moved from Austin, Texas, to Corvallis in 2013, when her husband accepted a position at Oregon State University. After spending a few years studying psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle, Snyder was no stranger to the Pacific Northwest. After receiving a college degree in Seattle, studying writing at the University of Texas, she was drawn to the program with her childhood love of composing poems and stories.
“I still remember the excitement of writing one of my first stories, about a piece of gum escaping from a gum factory and making its way to Hollywood,” she said.
While Snyder’s focus at school was originally on adult fiction, her interests soon led her to write books for children. Constantly receiving from nature and the memories of life and raising her children, Snyder said she enjoys tapping into her memories of childhood feelings and how it felt to live through certain touching moments.
“I think the study of psychology, especially child development, played a role in my interest in writing for children,” she said. “I have always been fascinated by how our brains develop and the factors that influence how we learn and how we learn to interact successfully – or not – with the world and the people around us.“
her latest book, Count on us! (Barefoot Books) strives to help children interact with the world at large – especially regarding climate change. Snyder said that in writing it she hopes to depict the way the movement can grow exponentially, from something small to something huge and powerful. Inspired in part by conversations with her young daughter about the state of our environment, Snyder has honed how best to help future generations deal with a world fraught with climate chaos.
I wondered how we could make an impact on such a huge, complex and overwhelming problem caused by so many things that feel involved in how our society works. Hoping to reduce the potential consequences of apathy and inaction, you decided to write something hopeful and inspiring to help kids focus on what they can do.
Snyder said that parents and educators can lead by example and prove that when we stand together, it becomes easier. While everyone’s first steps may seem a little different, we must work to inspire others to join the fight – starting with our children – so that our actions can spread outward.
“I want children to know that big corporations (especially major polluters, like oil companies) and governments have a lot of power to combat climate change by putting in place rules and laws to protect plants. So while actions like recycling and planting trees are important, we need to design To our children that it is also our duty to speak out, to let our leaders know that climate change is important to us.”
Count on us! Available for pre-order. The back of the book contains information about the activity, a list of inspirational ideas, and an easy daily guide to taking small actions. Snyder will also appear on September 19 at the 2022 PNBA Trade Show in Tacoma (open to booksellers and librarians). We spoke with Snyder about her inspiration for her work.
What is your style of writing and how would you describe your writing process?
Snyder: I like to start the day with Morning Pages to remove cobwebs and pick up anything that worries me or I want to remember. Write these pages by hand in a lined notebook. Then, I find it helpful to set aside a certain amount of time to work on the manuscripts in progress.
In terms of my process of working on a particular picture book manuscript, I usually write an initial draft by hand and then write it down on my laptop. I also like to let my drafts “get wet”. So, after crafting a new story, I generally put it aside for several days or even weeks. If, after marriage, I still think it’s worth continuing, I review. Usually after the soaking period, I will have new ideas to address any problems I’m having with the manuscript. After a few more cycles of review/refinement, if you still like the story, send it to a critique group for their opinions. They usually see issues that I haven’t even thought of. The story might go through a few more review cycles before I see it ready for my agent. Sometimes I realize the story doesn’t work and end up putting it aside for weeks, months, or even years.
I also find that my writing “flows” better if I walk before or in between writing sessions. In fact, I like to take my notebooks and pen with me on long walks. I’ve worked through thorny plot problems while hiking and have countless thoughts that pop into my mind while touring my city or hiking in the woods. I think it’s a combination of repetitive motion and the inspiration that can come from a change of scenery.
How did you get in touch with your painter, Sarah Walsh? Have you cooperated before?
The publisher, Barefoot Books, chose Sarah to illustrate the book and I think it was a great choice. I’ve never collaborated with her before, but I adore her beautiful and vibrant art. Check out the Etsy shop she shares with her husband Colin Walsh. They describe their creations as “weird and wonderful,” and they really are!
Tell me more about the role of environmental protection and activism in your life. When and how did you become passionate about them?
My daughter has inspired me to get more involved in the activity. Together we participated in rallies, including the Women’s March. Recently, my daughter and her friend were researching the ’90s Riot Grrrl movement and they created their own feminist movements to share with her classmates. They have researched and written on a variety of issues, including the school dress code. She inspires me!
I also realized how worried many children, including my own, are about climate change. I want the kids to know that there he is Hope and not feel responsible for solving this giant problem on their own.
In the age of technology, how do we give young people a renewed love for nature and the outdoors?
In the Pacific Northwest, we are fortunate to have an abundance of beautiful outdoor spaces and many of us live near hiking and biking trails. I think that a family or class nature walk, preferably free of screens, is a great way to develop an appreciation for nature and also practice mindfulness, which can be especially helpful when we feel overwhelmed or overly excited by technology.
I believe that getting children out into a variety of natural environments can help spark curiosity and a love of nature. My favorite place to get out in nature is the ocean. For my husband, it’s the mountains. And we all love hiking through the woods a few miles from our home.
My 2021 picture book, Listenprovides one example of how parents and educators use walking listening to develop an appreciation of nature by taking time to tune in to the sights, sounds, and sensations of walking.
What is your advice to parents of young children when it comes to talking about the state of the world in terms of global warming/climate chaos?
I think children deserve to hear the truth, but share information at a level appropriate to their developmental level. So, without using too much language of gloom and doom, we can teach very young children that climate change is real and that the world needs to respond with planet-friendly practices and laws. We can talk to children about positive actions we can take, and positive actions that many are already taking.