Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Faculty Voices: Phyllis Root

Phyllis Root
The things we do for love

I’m currently working on promoting my new picture book Plant a Pocket of Prairie. As a raging introvert I’ve always loathed promotion. Talk to people you don’t know about how great your book is? Just the thought makes me curl up in a ball and whimper.

But I realized something with this book: I want people to love the prairie, not in a “aren’t the wildflowers pretty?” way but by understanding something of the complexity of prairie plants and animals in this vital and vanishing ecosystem and how even the small act of planting a seed might make a small difference. 

So I’m writing a reader’s guide for kindergartners. I’m gathering planting supplies for a planting project at book signings. I’m compiling photos of the prairie flowers I’ve seen for a very brief television interview. I’m practicing staying calm. I’m doing things I don’t normally do, and I’m doing it for love. You can’t love what you don’t know, and I want people to know and love the prairie.

I fell in love with a bog and wrote about it. I fell in love with the tall white pines in the Lost Forty and wrote about them. I have been in love with the prairie ever since I discovered it wasn’t just a field full of pretty flowers.

Most of all, for most of my life, I have been in love with words.

Love for what you are doing can carry you through the inevitable excruciating, sometimes hopeless, seemingless endless times. Love your words. Love your characters. Love your stories, painful or funny. Love your writing, even on the days (and I had many this past winter) when you must drag yourself to the page or the keyboard, when you hate what you’ve written and by extension everything about your life. 

Sometimes love is the only thing worth getting out of bed for.



  1. Thank you, Phyllis! This is just the loving tonic I need right now!

  2. Lovely and brilliant! Thank Phyllis!

  3. A great message to take into a classroom full of 4th graders and their words.

    Thanks Phyllis.

  4. Thank you, Phyllis. Down here in New Zealand, I am struggling to find time to do what I love-art and words. But I keep trying to find the time. Thank you for reminding me that we do what we do because we love what we do.

  5. Beautifully said, Phyllis, and a good reminder to me as I face a story that I love, but that I fear all the work that lies ahead, with no guarantee of success.