Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions with Alanna Mitchell

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Ten Questions with Alanna Mitchell

Alanna Mitchell is an associate at the International Institute for Sustainable Development and is a frequent speaker and guest lecturer on environmental issues. Her latest book, Sea Sick: The Global Ocean in Crisis, is published by McClelland & Stewart.

OBT:

Tell us about your latest book, Sea Sick.

AM:

It’s about how humans are harming the global ocean. We’re even changing its basic chemistry. And that means we’re altering which creatures can survive in it. That’s important to human life because without the complex dance of life in the ocean, humans will not survive.

OBT:

How did you research your book?

AM:

I tracked down scientists all over the world who are working on the pieces of this puzzle and then signed onto research trips with them so they could tell me what’s going on. Then I put the pieces together.

OBT:

What are the greatest threats to our oceans?

AM:

The single greatest threat is that some of the carbon dioxide we are putting into the atmosphere is also going into the global ocean. That carbon dioxide reacts with ocean water to lower the ocean’s pH level, making it inhospitable to much of life as we know it.

OBT:

What can individuals do to help protect the oceans?

AM:

We are at a time in human history on earth when every molecule of carbon dioxide matters. To protect the oceans, we have to move extremely quickly to a low-carbon economy.

OBT:

Did you have a specific readership in mind when you wrote Sea Sick?

AM:

I always secretly write my books for my mother and people like her: intelligent human beings with a thirst for knowledge about how the world works.

OBT:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

AM:

I wrote part of Sea Sick at a yoga retreat on the seashore of Costa Rica, part of it in a condo on Vancouver Island with the surf crashing in my ears, part of it in a solar-powered cabin near Haliburton in Ontario during a fierce snow storm and the rest at home in my office in Toronto. Each was perfect for the part of the book I was writing at the time, connected only by the presence of my (waterproof!) Moleskine notebooks and the internet.

OBT:

What was your first publication?

AM:

My first book was Dancing at the Dead Sea, which is about environmental problems on land.

OBT:

If you had to choose three books as a “Welcome to Canada” gift, what would those books be?

AM:

I have five:
Thomas King’s 2003 Massey Lecture The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative.
Robertson Davies’s Fifth Business.
L.M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle.
W.O. Mitchell’s Who Has Seen the Wind.
Northrop Frye’s The Great Code: The Bible and Literature.

OBT:

What advice do you have for writers who are trying to get published?

AM:

Get an agent!

OBT:

What is your next project?

AM:

It’s top secret. But it’s got me totally immersed.

For more information about Alanna Mitchell’s Sea Sick, visit the McClelland & Stewart website at www.mcclelland.com.

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