Alexandra Risen is the author of the new book Unearthed: Love, Acceptance, and Other Lessons from an Abandoned Garden. She is a founding editor of the online literary magazine Don't Talk to Me About Love, and she lives in Toronto.
Q: How was your book's title chosen?
A: I chose the final title when the book was almost complete. It came from my working title, “All Things Come From Earth,” which is part of a quote by Xenophanes (a Greek philosopher/poet): “For all things come from earth, and all things end by becoming earth.”
Q: What surprised you most in the course of writing this book?
A: I cried more tears, had more fun, and made more friends than expected. I realized that writing is a fulfilling endeavor. It helped me discover my parents and my legacy. And through sharing our journeys, we hopefully, sometimes inspire others.
Someone described my memoir as a love letter to my garden as well as a love letter to my parents. I guess it ultimately came from my heart.
Q: Did you plan out the structure of your book before you started writing, or did you make many changes as you wrote it?
A: As I started to learn about the plants around me, I began to relate their characteristics to the important people in my life. I wrote about 15 short stories about my “plant-people” as my husband calls them.
Over time, the stories morphed into a journey of self-discovery and the memoir was born. I kept the chapters as plants to celebrate our deep relationships with them, and to encourage the reader to look at these plants a little bit differently.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from the book?
A: I hope a reader will look at a plant in a park or garden, and see the depth of someone they know. I hope they will look through rose-coloured glasses and see the beauty and healing power of nature. I hope they will explore the legacy of their parents more fully than I could, and bring it forward to the next generation.
I hope when they read my story, they will laugh at me and with me, and in doing so, find the courage to reconcile with something important to them, however big or small.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Another book about our inter-connectedness with nature, but from a very different perspective.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb