ENCINITAS — Author Alicia Previn has penned and illustrated two children’s books in recent years with very different focuses.
Her first, “The Earthworm Book,” illuminates the importance of the soil-dwellers. This year, she released “The Strange Disappearance of Walter Tortoise” — a book that explores what it means to be sustainable in light of the burgeoning green industry in the Mojave Desert.
You say there would be no civilization without earthworms. Could you tell me about that?
The whole job of earthworms is to eat decaying organic matter. And when it passes through their bodies, it creates humus — not to be confused with the stuff you dip in pita bread in (laughs). This improves the condition of the soil — what I call soil gold, making it so plants can grow. It’s important to know that plants wouldn’t live without earthworms, so of course we wouldn’t have food and there would be nothing. There are other interesting aspects about earthworms, like how they’ve spread all over the world.
There’s a CD that comes with the book that includes narration and one of your original songs. How does this help you tell the story?
A: The CD happened because I wrote a song in 1993 called “The Earthworm Song.” I worked with a gardener since I was 15, and he gave me this love for earthworms. So I wrote the lyrics and songs, and I got to record it back in 2009.
When I was looking at the lyrics, I decided I have enough information to write a book. I loved the idea of music and an audio book to go along with the story’s words to make it more appealing and add something to the story.
Shifting gears, “The Strange Disappearance of Walter Tortoise” explores how solar projects in the Mojave Desert could negatively impact the environment and wildlife. In what ways is this relevant to those living in Encinitas and other coast cities?
A: It’s important we think about what kind of an Earth our children are going to inherit, and deserts are biologically important. Electric cars are popular here, but we have to teach our kids what truly sustainable is.
That means we’re looking at everything in the environment — the Native American burial sites, the animals and other aspects in the desert and other places. We don’t want to solve one problem but create another. I use the example of electric car batteries.
We love to have electric cars because we’re not creating pollution now, but some are made from nickel, which is very toxic when it’s mined and can eventually leak into the earth.
This is a complex topic. How do you break it down so it’s kid friendly?
A: The book is from the animals’ perspective to help the kids understand the animals have been there for a while and don’t want to be removed from the desert. I know it’s a complex topic. But I think kids are much more hip today to environmental issues. They understand recycling and being green. Local schools here have programs where they grow food, so they’re beginning to understand how the whole world works together.
How did you get started as an author? And what’s the self-publishing route been like?
A: I love to write. I have all these idea for books, with more to come. I met someone who told me that self-publishing is a good way to go. They helped me make a website and format my first book to get it out there. But I realized there were limitations to what they could do and what I could afford to pay them. So I started to find out more about how to do things myself and realized I could keep cutting out middlemen. The more you can do yourself, as far as design and marketing, the better you are.
Previn’s books can be purchased at theearthwormbook.com