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LISTEN to radio podcast on Wolf Nation, Wild Orca, and new kid's book

Wolf Nation, Nature Writing, Exploring the love of Nature, and More with Author Brenda Peterson

May 14, 2019
Amazing nature author Brenda Peterson (Wild Orca, Wolf Nation, and Catastrophe by the Sea) talks about her love of nature, getting into writing, finding the kernel of your memoir, wolfs, and much more in this Learning with Lowell interview with your host Lowell Thompson,Check this one out!
Audio Player

Amazing nature author of 17+ books Brenda Peterson (Wild Orca, Wolf Nation, and Catastrophe by the Sea) talks about her love of nature, getting into writing, finding the kernel of your memoir, wolfs, and much more in this Learning with Lowell interview with your host Lowell Thompson,Check this one out!

About Brenda Peterson (As seen on her website)

Through her work as a novelist and nature writer, Peterson’s curiosity about and respect for nature radiates through her 17 books, which range from her first memoir Build Me an Ark: A Life with Animals, chosen as a “Best Spiritual Book of 2001,” to three novels, one of which, Duck and Cover, was chosen by New York Times as Notable Book of the Year. Her new memoir, I Want To Be Left Behind: Finding Rapture Here on Earth was selected by The Christian Science Monitor among the Top Ten Best Non-Fiction Books of 2010.

Her novels include Animal Heart (Sierra Club Books) and River of Light (Knopf), as well as Becoming the Enemy (Graywolf Press). Her nonfiction books include Living by Water and the National Geographic book Sightings: The Gray Whale’s Mysterious Journey. These works established Peterson as a prominent creative nonfiction writer, extensively profiled in the reference work America’s Nature Writers. Peterson’s bestselling anthology Intimate Nature: The Bond Between Women and Animals is often taught in university courses. Her nonfiction has appeared in numerous national newspapers, journals, and magazines, including The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Reader’s Digest, Christian Science Monitor, O: The Oprah Magazine, and Utne Reader.

Peterson lives in Seattle. For the past two decades, she has studied and written about animals, especially marine mammals and wolves. She is the founder of the Seattle-based grassroots conservation group Seal Sitters. Since 1993 she has contributed environmental commentary to NPR and is a frequent commentator to The Huffington Post. See her blog and website for online links. Her new picture book, Leopard and Silkie: One Boys Quest to Save the Seal Pups, was published by Henry Holt for Young Readers and was a 2013 winner of National Science Teacher’s Association “Outstanding Science Books for K-12.” Her new novel, The Drowning World, part of her fantasy/sci-fi Aquantis Series begun with Animal Heart, is just out in ebook and paperback from Ingram and Espresso Book Machine Network.

Peterson’s new natural history book, WOLF NATION, is out from Merloyd Lawrence Books and receiving excellent reviews. Forbes magazine selected it as a Best Conservation Book of the Year. The new picture books are WILD ORCA: The Oldest, Wisest Whale in the World (Christy Ottaviano Books/Macmillan) chosen by the National Science Teachers Assciation as an Outstanding Science Book for K-12 and a Junior Library selection. LOBOS: A Wolf Family Returns to the Wild(Sasquatch Press) has just been long-listed for the GREEN EARTH BOOK AWARD. And the forthcoming Catastrophe by the Sea is due out on September 24th, 2019 from West Margin Press.

Read more about Peterson’s memoir:

Brenda’s Linked in profile:

More on Leopard and Silkie at the book’s website

For more on WILD ORCA:

For more on LOBOS:

 For more on Catastrophe by the Sea:

To see all of the Delphinius books please visit the website: Delphinius Publishing

 The Drowning World is available in paperback from Ingram and also on the Espresso Book Machine Network at this link:

Or if you’re in Washington state order the paperback through Village Books at this link:

Or view on IndieBound website:


WATCH our new book trailer for Catastrophe by the Sea!

We are really excited to share with you the book trailer for Catastrophe by the Sea, the story of a lost cat on the beach. Enjoy!

Much more back story about this new kid's book on the Catastrohe by the Sea page!


ORCA Sing video and our new WILD ORCA kid's book

Dear Readers,

Watch this wonderful video of ORCA SING that also illustrates our new WILD ORCA kid's book. Here is the YOU TUBE link to share or you can watch it here. Enjopy!



Trying to Be a Buddhist my article from New York Spirit magazine

Dear Readers,

Here's my latest publication "Can a Soul Transmigrate in the Supermarket," some spiritual humor adapted from my memoir, I Want to Be Left Behind. Enjoy! 



Animal Allies: Healing and Empowering Children

One of the most powerful storytelling experiences with kids, now on Tikkun magazine online.




Animal Allies: Healing and Empowering Children


“My imaginary  friend  really  lived. . . once,” the Latina teenage girl began, head bent, her fingers twisting her long, black hair.

She stood in the circle of other adolescents gathered in my Seattle Arts and Lectures storytelling class.

Here were kids from all over the city—every color and class, all strangers one to another. Over the next two weeks we would become a fierce tribe, telling our own and our tribe’s story. Our first assignment was to introduce our imaginary friends from childhood. This shy fourteen-year- old girl, Sarah, had struck me on the first day because she always sat next to me, as if under my wing, and though her freckles and stylish clothes suggested she was a popular girl, her demeanor showed the detachment of someone deeply preoccupied. She never met my eye, nor did she join in the first few days of storytelling when the ten boys and four girls were regaling one another with favorite superheroes.

 So far, their story lines portrayed the earth as an environmental wasteland, a ruined shell hardly shelter to anything animal or human. After three days of stories set on an earth besieged by climate change, environmental evacuees, and barren of nature, I made a rule: No more characters or animals could die this first week. I asked if someone might imagine a living world, one that survives even our species. It was on this third day of group storytelling that Sarah jumped into the circle and told her story: “

“My imaginary friend is called Angel now because she’s in heaven, but her real name was Katie,” Sarah began. “She was my best friend from fourth to tenth grade. She had freckles like me and brown hair and more boyfriends—sometimes five at a time—because Katie said, ‘I like to be confused!’ She was a real sister too and we used to say we’d be friends for life. .. .”

Sarah stopped, gave me a furtive glance and then gulped in a great breath of air like someone drowning, about to go down. Her eyes fixed inward, her voice dropped to a monotone.

“Then one day last year in L.A, Katie and I were walking home from school and a red sports car came up behind us. Someone yelled,‘Hey, Katie!’ She turned . . . and he blew her head off. A bullet grazed my skull, too, and I blacked out. When I woke up, Katie was gone, dead forever.” Sarah stopped, stared down at her feet and murmured in that same terrible monotone, “Cops never found her murderer, case is closed.”

The kids shifted and took a deep breath, although Sarah herself was barely breathing at all. I did not know what to do with her story; she had offered it to a group of kids she had known but three days. It explained her self-imposed exile during lunch hours and while waiting for the bus.

All I knew was that she’d brought this most important story of her life into the circle of storytellers and it could not be ignored as if she were a case to be closed. This story lived in her, would define and shape her young life. Because she had given it to us, we needed to witness and receive—and perhaps tell it back to her in the ancient tradition of tribal call and response.

“Listen,” I told the group,“We’re going to talk story the way they used to long ago when people sat around at night in circles just like this one. That was a time when we still listened to animals and trees and didn’t think ourselves so alone in this world. Now we’re going to carry out jungle justice and find Katie’s killer. We’ll call him to stand trial before our tribe. All right? Who wants to begin the story?”

All the superheroes joined this quest. Nero the White Wolf asked to be a scout. Unicorn, with her truth-saying horn, was declared judge. Another character joined the hunt: Fish, whose translucent belly was a shining “soul mirror” that could reveal one’s true nature.

A fierce commander of this hunt was Rat, whose army of computerized comrades could read brain waves and call down lightning lasers as weapons. Rat began the questioning and performed the early detective work. We determined that the murderer was a man named Carlos, a drug lord who used local gangs to deal cocaine. At a party Carlos had misinterpreted Katie’s videotaping her friends dancing as witnessing a big drug deal. For that, Rat said, “This dude decides Katie’s to go down. So yo, man, he offs her without a second thought.”

Bad dude, indeed, this Carlos. And who was going to play Carlos now that all the tribe knew his crime? I took on the role. As I told my story, I felt my face hardening into a contempt that carried me far away from these young pursuers, deep into the Amazon jungle where Rat and his computer armies couldn’t follow, where all their space-age equipment had to be shed until there was only hand-to-hand simple fate.

In the Amazon, the kids changed without effort, in an easy shape-shifting to their animal selves. Suddenly there were no more superheroes with intergalactic weapons— there was instead Jaguar and Snake, Fish, and Pink Dolphin. We were now a tribe of animals, pawing, running, invisible in our jungle, eyes shining and seeing in the night. Carlos canoed the mighty river, laughing, because he did not know he had animals tracking him.

All through the story, I’d kept my eye on Sarah. The flat affect and detachment I’d first seen in her was the deadness Sarah carried, the violence that had hollowed out her inside, the friend who haunted her imagination. But now her face was alive, responding to each animal’s report of tracking Carlos. She hung on the words, looking suddenly very young, like a small girl eagerly awaiting her turn to enter the circling jump rope.

“Hey, I’m getting away from you!” I said, snarling as I imagined Carlos would. I paddled my canoe and gave a harsh laugh, “I’ll escape, easy!”

“No!” Sarah shouted. “Let me tell it!”

“Tell it!” her tribe shouted.

“Well, Carlos only thinks he’s escaping,” Sarah smiled, waving her hands. “He’s escaped from so many he’s harmed before. But I call out ‘FISH!’ And Fish comes. He swims alongside the canoe and grows bigger, bigger until at last, Carlos turns and sees this HUGE river monster swimming right alongside him. That mean man is afraid because suddenly Fish turns his belly up to Carlos’s face. Fish forces him to look into the soul mirror. Carlos sees everyone he’s ever killed and all the people who loved them and got left behind.

“Carlos sees Katie and me and what he’s done to us. He sees everything and he knows his soul is black. And he really doesn’t want to die now because he knows then he’ll stare into his soul mirror forever. But Fish makes him keep looking until Carlos starts screaming he’s sorry, he’s so sorry. Then…” Sarah shouted, “Fish eats him!”

 The animals roared and cawed and congratulated Sarah for calling Fish to mirror a murderer’s soul before taking jungle justice.

Class had ended, but no one wanted to leave. We wanted to stay in our jungle, stay within our animals—and so we did. I asked the kids to close their eyes and call their animals to accompany them home. I told them that some South American tribes believe that when you are born, an animal is born with you. This animal protects and lives alongside you even if it’s far away in an Amazon jungle—it came into the world at the same time you did. And your animal dies with you to guide you back into the spirit world.

The kids decided to go home and make animal masks, returning the next day wearing the faces of their chosen animal. When they came into class the next day it was as if we never left the Amazon. Someone dimmed the lights. There were drawings everywhere of jaguars and chimps and snakes. Elaborate animal masks had replaced the super heroes who began this tribal journey. We sat behind our masks in a circle with the lights low and there was an acute, alert energy running between us, as eyes met behind animal faces.

I realized that I, who grew up in the forest wild, who first memorized the earth with my hands, have every reason to feel this familiar animal resonance. But many of these teenagers, especially minorities, have barely been in the woods; in fact, many inner city kids are afraid of nature. They would not willingly sign up for an Outward Bound program or backpacking trek; they don’t think about recycling in a world they believe already ruined and in their imaginations abandoned for intergalactic, nomad futures.

These kids are not environmentalists who worry about saving nature. And yet, when imagin- ing an Amazon forest too thick for weapons to penetrate, too primitive for their superhero battles, they return instinctively to their animal selves. These are animals they have only seen in zoos or on television. Yet there is a profound identification, an ease of inhabiting another species that portends great hope for our own species survival. Not because nature is “out there” to be saved or sanctioned, but because nature is in them. The ancient, green world has never left us though we have long ago left the forest.

As we told our Amazon stories over the next week, the rainforest thrived in that sterile classroom. Lights low, surrounded by serpents, the jaguar clan, the elephants, I’d as often hear growls, hisses, and howls as words.

They may be young, but kids’ memories and alliances with the animals are very old. By telling their own animal stories they are practicing ecology at its most profound and healing level. Story as ecology—it’s so simple, something we’ve forgotten. In our environmental wars the emphasis has been on saving species, not becoming them. It is our own spiritual relationship to animals that must evolve. Any change begins with imagining ourselves in a new way.

But children, like some adults, know that the real world stretches farther than what we can see. That’s why they shift easily between visions of our tribal past and our future worlds. The limits of the adult world are there for these teenagers, but they still have a foot in the vast inner magic of childhood. It is this magical connection I called upon when I asked the kids on the last day of our class to perform the Dance of the Animals.

Slowly, in rhythm to the deep, bell-like beat of my Northwest Native drum, each animal entered the circle and soon the dance sounded like this: Boom, step, twirl, and slither and stalk and snarl and chirp and caw, caw. Glide, glow, growl, and whistle and howl and shriek and trill and hiss, hiss. We danced as the humid, lush jungle filled the room.

 In that story stretching between us and the Amazon, we connected with those animals and their spirits. In return, we were complete— with animals as soul mirrors. We remembered who we were, by allowing the animals inside us to survive.

Children’s imagination is a primal force, just as strong as lobbying efforts and boycotts and endangered species acts. When children claim another species as not only their imaginary friends, but also as the animal within them— an ally—doesn’t that change the outer world?

The dance is not over as long as we have our animal partners. When the kids left our last class, they still fiercely wore their masks. I was told that even on the bus they stayed deep in their animal character. I like to imagine those strong, young animals out there now in this wider jungle. I believe that Rat will survive the inner-city gangs; that Chimp will find his characteristic comedy even as his parents deal with divorce; I hope that Unicorn will always remember her mystical truth-telling horn.

And as for Sarah, she joined the Jaguar clan, elected as the first girl-leader over much boy- growling. As Sarah left our jungle, she reminded me, “Like jaguar . . . . I can still see in the dark.”


BRENDA PETERSON’S over 20 books include Duck and Cover, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and the recent memoir, I Want to Be Left Behind: Finding Rapture Here on Earth, selected as a “Top Ten Best Non- Fiction Book” by Christian Science Monitor and “Great Read/Indie Next” by independent booksellers. “Animal Allies” originally appeared in Peterson’s essay collection, Nature and Other Mothers. Her new books just out for kids are WILD ORCA and LOBOS: A Wolf Family Returns Home, which has just been long-listed for the Green Earth Book Award for children’s literature.


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