Gabi Snyder, author of new children’s book Count on us!She moved to Corvallis from Austin, Texas, in 2013 when her husband accepted a position at OSU. After studying psychology for several years at the University of Washington in Seattle, Snyder is no stranger to the Pacific Northwest. After earning her undergraduate degree in Seattle, she studied writing at the University of Texas, drawn to her childhood love of writing poetry and stories.
“I still remember the excitement of writing my first story,” she said, “about a piece of gum escaping a gum factory and going out for Hollywood.”
Although Snyder’s focus at school was initially on adult fiction, her interest soon led her to writing children’s books. Snyder, who has always been known by nature, a lifetime of memories and the children who raised her, said she enjoys using her memories of childhood emotions and the feeling of going through a particular poignant moment.
“I do think that studying psychology, especially child development, played a role in my interest in writing for children,” she said. “I’ve always been fascinated by how our brains develop and the factors that influence how we learn and how we learn to successfully interact (or not) with the world and those around us.“
Her most recent book, Count on us! (Barefoot Books) is dedicated to helping children interact with the world at large—especially when it comes to climate change. Snyder said that in writing this article, she wanted to capture the ways in which movement can grow exponentially, from small to large and powerful. Snyder’s conversation with her young daughter about the state of our environment partly inspired her to think about how best to help future generations deal with a world riddled with climate chaos.
She wondered how we could solve problems so large, complex and overwhelming, caused by so many things intertwined with the way our society works. To curb the possible outcomes of apathy and inaction, she decided to write something hopeful and inspiring to help kids focus on what can be done.
Snyder said parents and educators can lead by example and show that things are easier when we come together. While everyone’s first steps may look a little different, we must work to inspire others to join the fight—starting with our children—so that our actions spread outward.
“I want kids to know that big business (especially major polluters like oil companies) and governments have a lot more power to fight climate change by setting plant protection rules and laws. So while actions like recycling and tree planting are very important It’s important, but we need to set an example for our children that it’s also our job to speak up and let our leaders know that climate change is important to us.”
Count on us! Reservations available. The second half of the book contains information on activism, a list of inspiring ideas, and simple everyday guides for taking small actions. Snyder will also appear at the 2022 PNBA trade show in Tacoma on September 19 (open to booksellers and librarians). We talked to Snyder about her work inspiration.
What is your writing method and how would you describe your writing process?
Snyder: I like to start my day with a “morning paper” to clear the cobwebs and catch anything that worries me or that I want to remember. I handwrite these pages in a lined notebook. After that, I found it helpful to make time for my ongoing manuscript.
As far as I’m working on a specific picture book manuscript, I usually write a first draft by hand and type it on my laptop. I also like to let my drafts “marinate”. So, after drafting a new story, I usually put it on hold for days or even weeks. If after pickling I still think it’s worth pursuing, I’ll revise. Usually after a pickling period, I have new ideas to solve any problems I have with the manuscript. After a few more revision/salting cycles, if I still like the story, I’ll send it to the comments group for feedback. They usually see issues that I hadn’t even considered. A story can go through several revision cycles before I think it’s ready for my surrogate. Sometimes I realize a story is not going to work and end up putting it on hold for weeks, months or even years.
I’ve also found that my writing “flows” better if I take a walk before or in between. In fact, I like to travel long distances with my notebook and pen. I solved tricky plot problems as I walked, and countless thoughts ran through my mind as I walked around my town or hiked in the woods. I think it’s a combination of repetitive action and inspiration from scene changes.
How did you connect with your illustrator, Sarah Walsh? Have the two of you worked together before?
Publisher Barefoot Books chose Sarah to illustrate the book, and I thought she was a great choice. I haven’t worked with her before, but I love her beautiful and vibrant art. Check out the Etsy store she shares with husband Colin Walsh. They describe their creations as “weird and wonderful” and they are!
Tell me more about the role of environmentalism and activism in your life. When and how did you become passionate about them?
My daughter inspired me to get more involved in activism. We went to marches together, including the Women’s March. Recently, my daughter and her friends have been researching the Riot Grrrl movement in the 1990s and have been creating their own feminist magazine to share with classmates. They research and write about a variety of issues, including school dress codes. She inspires me!
I also realize how many kids, including mine, are concerned about climate change.I want the kids to know there Yes Hope and they don’t have to feel responsible for solving this huge problem alone.
In the age of technology, how to make young people love nature and outdoor activities again?
In the Pacific Northwest, we’re lucky to have tons of beautiful outdoor space, and many of us live near walking and biking trails. I think nature walks in the home or classroom, preferably screen-free, are a great way to develop an appreciation for nature and practice mindfulness, which is especially beneficial when we feel overwhelmed or overstimulated by technology.
And I think exposing kids to a variety of natural environments can help inspire curiosity and a love of nature. My favorite place to go to nature is the sea. For my husband, it’s Mt. We all love hiking through the woods just a few miles from our house.
My 2021 picture book, listenProvides a model for how parents and educators can develop an appreciation for nature by listening to the sights, sounds and sensations of walking.
What advice do you have for parents of young children when talking about the state of the world in terms of global warming/climate disruption?
I think children should hear the truth, but share information at a level appropriate to their developmental level. So, without using a lot of pessimistic and pessimistic language, we can teach young children that climate change is real and that the world needs to deal with it through practices and laws that benefit the planet. We can talk to our children about the positive actions we can take, the positive actions that many have already taken.