Monday, April 02, 2007

Plant Some Words and Writing Will Grow

Today, I interviewed Jodi Torpey, the author of "The Colorado Gardner's Companion." Many writers I know pen regional interest books. Jodi tells us how to do that successfully, as well as how to write a book on an activity that requires the writer to be outside, not inside all of the time in front of the computer:
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a creative, versatile writer and educator with a pretty good sense of humor. My career began a long, long time ago as a public relations and marketing professional. I’ve also done quite a bit of corporate training and instructional design. One day, while stressing out over a work problem, it occurred to me that I should be writing about what makes me the happiest—my garden. Since then my writing’s been published in national magazines, like Horticulture, American Gardener and Out Here, as well as in regional publications like The Denver Post newspaper. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of writing about plants, gardening and other gardeners.
I live in suburban Denver with my boyfriend, John, and our dog, Rufus T. Smudge. Rufus is part Brittany spaniel and Australian Shepherd. When he was a puppy I taught him to help me in the garden by digging on command.

Tell us about your book.
Colorado gardeners have to cope with a lot of challenges to get things to grow here. Our semi-arid climate, alkaline soil, and wild weather fluctuations can drive a gardener crazy. I wrote “The Colorado Gardener’s Companion” to help gardeners learn how to get more from their gardening experience. It includes practical information on dealing with soil conditions, selecting plants that suit our climate, and using water-wise gardening techniques. There are also chapters on planting trees and dealing with insects and other pests.

Are you from Colorado? How did you become an expert in gardening in that state? I’m a Colorado native and I’ve dabbled with planting since I was in college. I always had a container of tomato plants and a pot of flowers wherever I lived. With my first house came my first real garden and I haven’t stopped since then. A few years ago I realized a long-time goal to become a master gardener. But don’t let that title fool you. I don’t think I’ll ever master gardening; there will always be something for me to learn.

What were some of the challenges of writing a gardening book?
The biggest challenge was that the bulk of the writing had to take place last summer—during prime gardening season. It was a challenge to balance the demands of writing one chapter a week with the demands of planting, watering, weeding, and mowing. The actual writing was a lot of fun.

How do you do your research and how do you decide what to include/not include?
The publisher provided a basic outline of the topics that needed to be covered, such as soil, vegetable gardening, lawn care, invasive plants, etc. I limited the amount of information about each topic to what I thought gardeners needed to know—not what I wanted to tell them.
The research was also straightforward. I’d done quite a bit of garden writing already, so in addition to my own gardening experience, I tapped into some of my previous research, talked with experts from around the state, and used the Internet. My master gardener training also played a big part.

Do you have an agent, if so, how did you find them? If not, how did you find your publisher?
No, I don’t have an agent (yet). The book came about because I happened to be in the right place at the right time. The Globe Pequot editor saw a piece I wrote for Horticulture Magazine. She was looking for a Colorado garden writer who was also a master gardener and she tracked me down. The funny thing about this was I had been thinking that if I was serious about being a garden writer, I’d need to write a book. About two weeks later the e-mail arrived asking if I was interested in writing “The Colorado Gardener’s Companion.”

What are some of the challenges of marketing a book with a limited regional interest?
Actually, I think it’s easier to have a limited geographical area. I can target my efforts to the audiences I know will be interested in the topic. I hope to be able to travel throughout the state promoting the book, but more importantly, talking with other gardeners. Some of the best story ideas come from those conversations.

What is your best writing time and how do you mix research and writing?
I’m definitely a morning person. I try to get the as much writing completed as I can before afternoon fatigue sets in. When I was first starting out as a freelancer, many years ago, I used to work at night and on weekends. I just don’t have the stamina for that anymore, so I have to make the most of my morning hours. As for mixing research and writing—I have a hard time separating those two elements. They seem to fit seamlessly together for me.

What is one writing quirk of yours no one (yet) knows?
I have to have the lede sentence before I can start writing. Once I have that, the rest of the writing just flows. Many times the lede comes to me when I’m doing dishes, taking a shower or walking the dog and not sitting in front of the computer. 10). Where can people find your book?
The book is available at Colorado bookstores, online book sellers and through the publisher, Globe Pequot Press. My Web site,, also has ordering information and an excerpt from the book.


Post a Comment

<< Home