Interview with Author Megan Clendenan

FRESH AIR, CLEAN WATER will release March 15, 2022.

Pre-order it now:

Hi Megan! It’s so great to chat with a fellow British Columbian about your forthcoming non-fiction book. Can you summarize your book for us?

If your drinking water is dangerous, your air is polluted and your soil is toxic, what can you do? Fresh Air, Clean Water: Our Right to a Healthy Environment explores the connections between our environment and our health, and why the right to live in a healthy environment should be protected as a human right. It features inspiring stories of people – including kids – who are taking their governments to court to protect both people and the planet, as well as profiles of youth activists, and actions anyone can take to make a difference in our world. 

What inspired you to write this book and how long did it take you to write? Have you always been passionate about the environment?

I have always been passionate about the environment, and spent much of my childhood outside in the woods behind my house or sitting in a tree reading a book! I was inspired to write this book because of the global movement of youth activists who are standing up for their future, such as Greta Thunberg and Autumn Peltier. As I began to research further, I found youth from across the planet who were taking action, and I reached out to many of them to interview for the book.

I believe this is an incredibly important topic as it’s a big picture look at how everything we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the materials we use every day affect our health, and that protecting the environment is also about protecting our own bodies. I had been introduced to the idea of the right to a healthy environment when I worked at an environmental law non-profit, and I have shared that rights-based approach in the book with readers. 

I worked on the draft of the manuscript and edits on and off for two years, from the time that I received news that the book would be published, to when I completed all the edits before the book went to print.

Tell us about your journey to publication! How did you connect with your agent and what has it been like working with her?

I have been very fortunate that Orca has acquired and supported several of my proposals, they are a fantastic group of book-loving people to work with. My first book with them came out in 2018; it was a fiction novel that was plucked from their slush pile. I then switched my focus to non-fiction and put together a query and then proposal for what would become Design Like Nature: Biomimicry for a Healthy Planet, co-authored with my writing buddy Kim Ryall Woolcock. That came out in March 2021 and was a ton of fun to work on as biomimicry is a fantastic and exciting topic. This year I signed with my agent and we will be working together to get more books out in the world!

I love hearing stories about being “plucked from the slush pile” that give us all hope! Tell us about the day you found out this book was going to be published. Did you already have a strong relationship with Orca after the publication of your last book?

Orca is a wonderful, supportive publisher to work with. I knew I wanted to continue working with them after such great experiences with previous books, so I prepared my query, and thankfully I got the green light to write a proposal. It took me a few month to complete my research and write the proposal. I submitted it and then I waited (there’s a lot of waiting in publishing!), as my proposal went through the acquisitions process. I was thrilled when I found out my proposal had been accepted and the book would be published, but I also got to work right away as I had a lot of research and writing to do! I was also excited to start contacting some youth activists and hear their stories. 

That’s so neat you interviewed youth activists! Was your book one of the ones impacted by the incident in BC this past month? I heard 15,000 Orca books (many by local authors) are sadly MIA after a ship caught fire off the coast of BC during a storm.

As far as I know, my books were not affected, but I’m so sorry to hear that other Orca authors’ books were lost. Local authors are such fabulous resources for a community, and so it’s great to support them as best possible! My go-to Christmas gifts for friends and family are books – there’s so many great Orca books for all ages and all styles of reader, so I encourage everyone to check out their offerings and to support local indies.

I agree, now is a great time to support Orca authors and purchase their books for the holidays! Where is your favorite place to write?

If it’s not raining, and not too chilly, I like to sit outside on my deck. I’m lucky to have trees nearby, and there’s usually a few squirrels around plus hummingbirds who visit our feeder. Otherwise, I sit at my desk, which also has a nice window where I can see the trees. I used to love going to the library to write, and as things open up more, I hope to get back to doing that more often. 

Outdoors in Beautiful BC is the perfect place to write books about the environment! What advice would you give to aspiring non-fiction kidlit authors?

Read as much as you can, both fiction and non-fiction. Read for both simple enjoyment, read for research, and read for inspiration. I find a lot of inspiration in adult non-fiction books, which often spurs me on to further research, which helps me to develop ideas for middle-grade non-fiction. I also read lots of recently released middle grade non-fiction and pay attention to the different styles and presentations. As well, if you’re interested in writing non-fiction then learning to write a proposal is a crucial skill. They take a lot of research and a lot of revisions, but it’s worth it when you have a solid proposal to send out to either agents or editors. I took several webinars to learn this skill and there’s often new ones offered if you do a little online research.

Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?

I once went on a six-month long camping trip with my husband – and yes, we’re still married, even after that!

What other projects are you working on?

I’ve got a few other middle-grade projects in progress – watch my website for updates!


What’s your favorite wacky fact about the environment?

If you’ve ever wondered why digging in a garden both feels and smells good, it turns out there’s a scientific reason why! Mycobacterium vaccae is a type of bacteria found in the soil that’s sometimes known as ‘the happy bacteria’ because it helps our brains produce more serotonin, a chemical that many scientists believe is connected to the feeling of happiness. Besides boosting our mood, happy bacteria can strengthen our immune system and protect us from allergies. So there are so many wonderful reasons to get outside and play in the dirt!

Megan Clendenan
Another book by the author. Biomimicry sounds fascinating!

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