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My Guest Appearance on the Wisconsin Vegetable Gardener Radio Show

Earlier this month I had the wonderful opportunity to be interviewed by Joey and Holly Baird of the Wisconsin Vegetable Gardener Radio Show.

To hear the interview (and so much more) go here. I am in segment three.

These are the questions they asked:

1. This is the first time we’ve interviewed a fiction writer, where does your passion for writing come from?

2. Tell us about your book series and where did your inspiration come from?

3. You like to motivate social change for young adults, why is that important?

4. How has going from farm life to city life benefitted you?

5. You are the member of your local seed bank, what is a seed bank and why would someone want to join one?

6. How can we find out more about you and your books?

Other great topics covered on this episode were:

Not all weeds are bad weeds in your garden, pressure canning rights and wrongs, and in segment four Joey and Holly answer garden questions! Check it out!

Sandra Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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A Story of Squash (Zucchini, that is)

As most of you know who follow my blog, I have only a tiny backyard garden. But sometimes I grow things in my parent’s garden. They are farmers. 

It seems the spaghetti squash seeds I planted out there were both spaghetti squash and zucchini! So I am the proud owner of a very prolific zucchini plant. And since I only get out to the farm once a week, I always find some too large zucchinis. If you are also the proud owner of a zucchini plant, you know the drill.

Here are some of my favorite ways to eat zucchini:

Marinated Veggie Sandwich : This sandwich is unbelievably good! It was a little complicated this time because I made the sun-dried tomato pesto and the ciabatta bread (ciabatta bread is very time-consuming to make and I didn’t know that going in!)

For the record, I didn’t have goat cheese or arugula, but it’s A SANDWICH, so improvise! I’m not the best at grilling, but YUM! Even the leftover zucchini that I’d grilled was great a few days later in something else I made.

Zoodles! There are many great zoodle recipes out there. Here is one I have saved on Pinterest, but I improvised, using fried tofu, for a meatless dinner. I recommend setting the cut zoodles between paper towels before cooking and then don’t overcook! You can use a lot of zucchini this way.

I also really love just sauting sliced zucchini with garlic and seasonings as a nice side, but this won’t use up as much squash and is best with the smaller sizes.

If I can’t use the zucchini fresh (i.e. there is just too much!), I usually shred it and freeze it and later on I make zucchini bread or zucchini brownies. Make sure you have a brownie recipe with enough chocolate! Not all zucchini brownie recipes are created equal. 🙂 And besides the traditional dark zucchini bread, I’ve recently made a lemon flavored zucchini bread–yum.

My sister recently told me about using zucchini in a curry sauce so I will be trying that soon!

What’s your favorite way to eat zucchini?

Sandra Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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Summer Busy-ness

Oh dear, a look at the date and I see it’s been three weeks since I’ve posted! Honestly, I write a post in my head weekly, sometimes daily; I even take the photos! But then I never get to it.

I’m a morning person. For the last month we’ve had hot, sunny weather. By the time I finish watering, harvesting from the garden, etc., my inspiration to sit at the computer and blog is gone. There, that’s my excuse. But guess what? It’s raining!!! I don’t have to water!!! Relief.

So here is a catch-up of what I’ve been doing in photos, and maybe I’ll be back soon with more words. But we all need a break sometimes, right? 🙂

A chocolate martini!? What?!
Saving the harvest
Too much basil!
My brother has plums!
Update on the compost pile!
Complimentary picture of Piper–my how she’s grown!

I hope all is well in your neck of the woods.

Sandra Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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2 Book Reviews & A Camping Trip

Our Lovely Spot

My husband and I went camping last week for three nights. It wasn’t easy, because this is the first time he’s needed to be on oxygen. It was a forest service campground without electricity. We camp with a tiny teardrop trailer which is one step above a tent. Despite the extra prep, I ended up glad we went.

The weather was also cooler than we prefer. Since I couldn’t spend much time in the water and turned lazy on my plans to hike, I got a lot of reading done. I finished a read-through edit of my WIP, finished reading a novel I started months ago (When Elephants Fly), and then quickly read the “spare” I’d thrown in, a tiny little book that had lingered unread on my shelves for who knows how long (The Lilies of the Field).

I promised myself I’d write at least short reviews for each, though now almost a week has passed.

When Elephants Fly by Nancy Richardson Fischer caught my attention because the main character has a history of mental illness in her family (her mother) and she has a “life plan” to do things to avoid triggers. I was disappointed that this turned out to be less of the theme than the adventure involving saving a baby elephant. I also think there was enough substance to the book that we could have done without the side romance, but since it’s a YA book, I suppose the pressure was there to have romance. I’d give it 3 or 4 stars, but I didn’t love it. The writing sort of bugged me, and I generally won’t read anything written in first person present tense, but I make a few exceptions. For me it’s a very annoying verb tense to read at length. (I know it’s popular, so let’s hope that changes soon.) I’m sure it would have helped if I’d read the book straight through in a few days rather than being one of those that gets set down for too long in between.

The spare book I threw in “just in case” was terrific! The Lilies of the Field by William E. Barrett is an older book, and only seven chapters long. The movie starring Sidney Poitier is probably more well-known. I’ve most likely seen the movie, but if I have, I didn’t remember, so nothing was spoiled.

It’s a well-told, well-written tale about a man recently out of the Army traveling across the West, taking on handyman jobs as he goes. He ends up helping some nuns. I don’t really want to say any more about the plot. Homer (the man) is a Black man and the nuns are German who don’t speak English. They have fled communist Germany. They live in an area of mostly Mexican immigrants. In my opinion, Barrett does a good job of subtly speaking to the issues of the different backgrounds and the inequities they’ve all faced. The story is also about faith, as alluded to in the title, taken from a Bible verse about faith:

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? Consider how the lilies of the field grow: They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these.

I really liked it! And such a quick read. Five stars.

All in all, it was a good trip. The campground was busy, but it was the kind of campground where you have your own space. I didn’t see a mask or hear a news story for four days and that was worth it. When I set my chair up in front of the river and just watched it and listened to it, I knew that even if it was too cold to swim, it was enough just to be there in front of the water.

Peace.

Sandra Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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How Does Your Garden Grow Garden Update June 2020

I snapped a few shots of my garden last week and I’m sure it’s gone ahead and kept on growing, but here’s how it looked then. How is your garden growing?

And now a peek at mine…

cabbage

The cabbage is doing very well, heading up earlier than usual. I read an article saying cabbage really loved being next to rhubarb and it certainly seems like it!

broccoli

The broccoli isn’t as big as I’d like, but it’s not too bad. I tried adding more nutrients today to see if I could make it get bigger.

Purple beans

The bush beans are just getting started, while the pole beans along the fence are struggling for space since the “volunteer” nasturtiums took over due to having to plant the beans about three times!

Walla Walla sweet onions

Looks like a banner year for onions. Wish I would have been able to snag some storage onions but I didn’t want to buy a bag with 100 bulbs (I don’t have the space) and I couldn’t find anyone to split with me.

Crazy snow peas

The peas are just way too tall. I don’t know why they do that. My sister’s peas also reached for the sky. But they are putting out some fine pea pods which we’ve been enjoying in stir-fry.

And then of course there are the berries. Yum!

The basil is finally starting to look good after a little cold damage and the tomato and pepper plants are looking fine. The cucumbers also look promising, but once more the melons don’t seem to be growing well. I’ll do another update later one.

How about you? What are your successes or disappointments? Please share in the comments below.

Sandra Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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Anniversary & July 4th Celebration Sale

Woohoo! Today is the one year anniversary of the debut of Seed Savers-Unbroken, fifth and final book in the award-winning Seed Savers series.

Seed Savers is a futuristic scifi series for ages 10 and up set in the United States at a time when gardening is illegal and most people don’t know about “real food.” Additionally, the media is tightly controlled by the Big Brother government.

“If you are looking for a series that can help YA readers understand all the control the government can have over it’s citizenry, this is an amazing example.”

To celebrate the release “birthday,” Unbroken will be marked down (ebook only) to $2.99! ADDITIONALLY, because the entire book takes place THE WEEK LEADING UP TO INDEPENDENCE DAY, the sale lasts through July 4th. Get the book now and read as if in real time. 🙂

Sandra Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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Book Club Questions for Seed Savers-Unbroken

And they are finally finished! There are now questions for each of the five Seed Savers books.

Seed Savers-Unbroken, released one year ago Friday, is the final installment of the series and well worth reading–especially if you enjoy politics and social commentary in literature. A very recent review of Unbroken is here.

As with Keeper, Unbroken is more teen than preteen, with lots of adventure, politics, and friend and family relationship issues. Read an excerpt here.

And now, the questions for Seed Savers-Unbroken:

Book Club Questions for Seed Savers-Unbroken

  1. When James Gardener discovers Lily has been kidnapped, he tries to turn himself in despite the council’s urging him not to. Do you agree or disagree with his actions? Why or why not?
  1. The leader of Radicle is a young man named Amos. What are your impressions of Amos and why?
  1. When Jason asks Cassidy if he owns a gun, Cassidy quotes playwright Edward Bulwer-Lytton saying his mantra has always been “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Explain how he and Jason end up proving this to be true.
  1. Lily is obviously one of the “heroes” of Seed Savers. What are some of her faults or weaknesses? Her strengths?
  1. Of all the characters in Seed Savers, which one reminds you most of yourself?
  1. Did any of the characters surprise you in this fifth Seed Savers book?
  1. One of the main themes in Seed Savers-Unbroken is the U.S. food supply. Had you ever given much thought to this before?
  1. There are a lot of strands in Unbroken–the unravelling politics, changing friendships, family relationships. . . which parts were your favorite and why?
  1. What does this story remind you of? (Other books, movies, current events…)
  1. What is the art of kintsugi as described by Lily’s mother and how does it relate to the title? 
  1. Seed Savers-Unbroken is the last book in the series. Compare how you thought the author might end the series with how she ended it. What would you have liked to have happened differently?

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Sandra Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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The Every Now & Then Update Post

So it’s June. My birthday month. I’ve had a lot of them. But this June is vastly different from all the others. First, the pandemic has kept many of us from our jobs. Shopping is not the same. Church isn’t in person. The sound of a person coughing sends chills down our spines. And now, while still in the pandemic, we find ourselves in the midst of demonstrations and protests on a level I’ve not seen in my lifetime. So, yeah, there’s that. But you don’t need an update on any of that from me. We are all living it. And this time, let there at last be real change from out of the upheaval. May we stand together in love for justice for all.

And now for the UPDATES

The Garden

I think on account of the pandemic cutting short my two part-time jobs, I caught the garden bug early this year. And although it’s been colder than usual, we had just enough dry days to get things planted. It’s early June and I have an excess of beautiful lettuce, chard and snow peas to eat, new potatoes and strawberries. The raspberries and blueberries are also turning color and I’ve had just a few shelled peas. All of my cole crops: kale, cabbage, broccoli, look terrific. We’ve harvested and eaten five artichokes.

How is your gardening going?

The Book Business

I will admit that I should be getting more done on this front. But I’ve been spending a lot of time outdoors whenever it’s not raining trying to make a slope of bad soil on the south side manageable and filled with flowers for pollinators. It’s too hot during warm weather, so spring, I’ve rationalized, is my only chance. During the month of May I also taught a writing class via ZOOM to a small group of students in China.

However, I am slowly polishing up my next book, Until the Last Star Goes Out. It is unrelated to the Seed Savers series.

For Seed Savers: I am sometimes asked if the books will ever be hardbound. Yes. Will the remaining four books all be on audio someday? Yes. Are there teacher resources? Yes.

So what have I done recently for any of this? I have been preparing discussion questions for each of the five books that can be used in book clubs or school. All of the questions can be read and downloaded from this page at Flying Books House or found here on the blog.

Another project: I started last week the task of moving this website to a self-hosted site so that I could more easily have a shopping cart. I haven’t quite managed that yet, but you can still order books directly from me. Simply send an email using the contact page and let me know what you have in mind. I can give you a significant discount for orders of the entire 5-book set.

Teachers, librarians, book clubs: I also do online visits. Please be aware that as an author I do require payment. (At the very least you can purchase books and offer reviews.)

The Birthdays

As I mentioned at the start, my birthday is in June. June also is the second birthday for Seed Savers-Treasure (June 11) and the one year birthday for Seed Savers-Unbroken (June 26).

You know how much I like celebrations so keep watching for ebook sales soon!

To make sure you don’t miss out, sign up for my newsletter or follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Thanks for reading!

Sandra Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on Twitter and InstagramSign up for the newsletter!

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Discussion Questions for Keeper

More discussion questions are ready! Hot off the press are discussion questions for Seed Savers-Keeper. They will also be available shortly at the publisher website, Flying Books House.

Seed Savers-Keeper edges up to a more teen rather than preteen audience as there is little gardening and a lot more politics. And as always, a lot of friend and family relationships, meeting of cultures, and intrigue.

Without further ado, discussion questions for Seed Savers-Keeper:

My favorite cover!

Book Club Discussion Questions for Seed Savers-Keeper

  1. At the beginning of Keeper, Lily reflects on mannerisms she loves about her dad–his love of hummingbirds, the way he pronounces “windows,” etc., but she also admits they are “still just getting to know each other.” Can you relate to spending time with a close relative you feel you barely know? How does it feel? If you cannot relate, how do you think it might feel?
  1. In Seed Savers-Keeper, Lily hears the story of the hummingbird. What is the story of the hummingbird and how does Lily relate this to her father?
  1. Why does Trinia Nelson place Lily’s friend Rose with a wealthy couple and enroll her in youth FRND classes? Did you think the plan would work? Why or why not? 
  1. While living in Whisper Creek Village, Lily experiences two cultures different than her own and learns new customs and also new skills. Have you had the opportunity to learn from other cultures?
  1. Jason tells Clare, “There’s an entire generation still alive who remembers how it was before. They remember when Monitor access was open and free. Think of it, Clare, the ability to ask any question that pops into your head. Access to talk to people around the world.” You are that generation. Have you ever thought what it would be like to lose the freedom of social media?
  1. The second half of Lily’s story in Seed Savers-Keeper takes place in Portland, Oregon. Do you know much about Portland? Where and why is Seed Savers Headquarters in Portland?
  1. Lily learns from Arturo that some states have recently passed laws legalizing home gardening though it is still illegal at the federal level. Can you think of any real life examples like this? 
  1. Are there any characters in Seed Savers-Keeper that you really dislike? Don’t trust? Want to know more about?
  1.  James Gardener worries about the hackers leaking information and riling people up. He feels the best way to change things is by voting and legislative power. Discuss these two viewpoints.
  1. In a future where the media is controlled and regulated, Jason and Monroe manage to hack into the system and show the viewing public that demonstrations are happening all across the country. What effect will this have? 
  1. Was there anything at the ending of Keeper that surprised you?

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Sandra Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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Dream Cast Picks for Seed Savers

Sometimes people ask when my books are going to be made into movies. I think this is something most authors like to hear, but we can only smile wistfully. If only…

I was thinking the other morning about my dream cast. You know, during this never-ending pandemic, we sometimes have a hard time getting out of bed in the morning. The old Groundhog Day effect. Same same. It’s in these moments we might do the wishful thinking of character casting for our novels. 🙂

So here goes:

For the part of Ana, the older woman mentor in Seed Savers: Meryl Streep or Oprah

For Gruff (Seed Savers-Treasure): Morgan Freeman or Bill Cobbs

For James Gardener: Matt Damon and I forget who else…

For Junko Gardener: There are really so many great female Asian actresses I haven’t ever been able to decide.

For Trinia Nelson: Reese Witherspoon

And for the kids–the real stars of the series–I won’t ever have any in mind because kid actors are always coming on the scene.

As far as direction, production, etc., of course I’ve always liked Spielberg because of the Goonies, E.T., etc. and my little group on kids on their bikes makes me think of him.

When we’re talking dream cast and dream production I think my choices are a little too obvious and wild because I don’t know that much about the industry. I think Disney could also do a good job with it. Seed Savers is great family entertainment. 🙂

Anyone else have ideas on casting for Seed Savers? Or if you are an author, have you thought of your dream cast? 🙂 Share in the comments.

Have a great week!

Sandra Smith is the author of the awesome and award-winning middle grade/YA series, Seed Savers. Visit her Facebook and Pinterest pages. Follow her on TwitterSign up for the newsletter!

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