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Interview with Children’s Nonfiction Book Author Holly Fretwell

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Holly Fretwell is a PERC Research Fellow, and an adjunct professor at MontanaStateUniversity where she teaches economic principles, microeconomics, and natural resource and environmental economics. She also attended MontanaStateUniversity as a student where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and master’s degree in resource economics. She worked with Northwest Economics Associates in Vancouver, Washington, examining timber export regulation in the Pacific Northwest and has consulted for organizations including Plum Creek Timber and the Center for International Trade in Forest Products (CINTRAFOR). As author and co-author of numerous articles on natural resource issues, her current emphasis is on public lands management and climate change policy. Fretwell has published in professional journals and the popular press including the Wall Street Journal, Journal for Environmental Economics and Management, Duke Environmental Law and Policy Forum, Journal of Forestry, and Consumer’s Research. She has presented papers promoting the use of markets in public land management and has provided expert testimony on the state of our national parks and the future of the Forest Service.

Welcome to Beyond the Books, Holly.  Can you tell us whether you are published for the first time or multi-published?  Can you give us the title(s) of your book(s)?

 This is my very first book published though I have written several chapters for various books including The Untouchables: America’s National Forests, in Government vs. Environment. Eds Donal R. Leal and Roger E. Meiners. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Lanham, MD in 2002 and a forthcoming chapter in the Fraser Institute book, A Breath of Fresh Air. I have also written numerous publications for PERC, both Policy Series and Public Lands Reports. I have written a manuscript on public lands management that still awaits publication. 

What was the name of your very first book regardless of whether it was published or not and, if not published, why?   

Whither the Federal Estate was the first full book I ever wrote. After pursuing nearly a dozen university presses, Whither the Federal Estate has found a potential home with one of them. Over the past several years it has made it through the peer reviewed editing process. Unfortunately, the publisher has now requested that I rewrite the first chapter which is a history of the public lands from a property rights perspective. They are uncomfortable with this chapter; even though it is well documented they have made it clear that I am not a historian. In my mind this chapter lays the foundation for the remainder of the book. 

For your first published book, how many rejections did you go through before you either found a mainstream publisher, self-published it, or paid a vanity press to publish it?  

I was more fortunate with SKY. I found a publisher, World Ahead Media, before writing that stuck with me. Though we did not always agree on what the final product should look like in the end we came out with an excellent summary of climate change that is easily understandable by kids aged 8 to 100. This synopsis not only teaches about climate change but also teaches how to become a critical thinker. 

How did the rejections make you feel and what did you do to overcome the blows?

 My perspective on the world is different than the perspective many people hold. Hence, rejection is expected and being asked to rewrite is not at all surprising. When your views of the world are not always ‘politically correct’ it does make publication a bit more tedious sometimes. 

When your first book was published, who published it and why did you choose them?

World Ahead Media published SKY. I approached them because I had heard they were interested in publishing a children’s book on global warming. 

How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

 It is a fantastic feeling but publication came at the beginning of the school year which meant my teaching job was kicking in fast. Publication meant more work to promote the book which has kept me extremely busy throughout the entire semester. 

What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?

 I have done lots of radio interviews. They are lots of fun but also time consuming. I had no idea the time and effort necessary to promote the book once the writing was finished.  

If you had to do it over again, would you have chosen another route to be published?

 I think as an author you have to realize some tradeoffs. I wrote SKY as a quasi partnership with World Ahead Media. I contacted them before writing, they were looking for a specific book, and we compromised to come out with a book that suited us both.  Whither the Federal Estate has been more frustrating for me as the manuscript was complete when I began seeking a publisher and I was quite happy with the book as it was. Some editing is certainly expected but rewriting chapters is a bit harder to agree to.  

Have you been published since then and how have you grown as an author?

 I have realized that sometimes you have to compromise but that you also have to hold onto your guns for issues important to you. Like any editor, a publisher can turn a book around to be something very different than intended as an author. Between the 2 books there have been some changes I have welcomed and others I have refused to comply with. Integrity is important! 

Looking back since the early days when you were trying to get published, what do you think you could have done differently to speed things up?  What kind of mistakes could you have avoided?

 I have a tendency to take on too much at one time. My productivity is far better if I can concentrate on one or two projects at a time. I am beginning to learn to give myself extra time beyond deadlines for polishing, as even when I meet the deadline it seems the work is carried on far longer.  

What has been the biggest accomplishment you have achieved since becoming published?

 My biggest accomplishment is (and probably always will be) being a mom. It is the hardest and most rewarding job I have ever had. It is also part of the reason I wrote SKY; to help educate kids and parents about the true state of the world and how to decipher fact from fiction. 

If you could have chosen another profession, what would that profession be?

 I keep telling my husband I would like to be a stay at home mom but vocationally I think I would be a good architect – I am somewhat artistic and I love math and problem solving. 

Would you give up being an author for that profession or have you combined the best of both worlds?

 Well, architecture is out, as I have no intention of starting school over from scratch. Otherwise I have combined the best of many worlds – economics and policy analysis require creative thinking and problem solving. As an adjunct professor I get to share those ideas with many students and I also have a varied schedule allowing me to spend time with my own kids. 

How do you see yourself in ten years?

 In ten years I would like to travel the world, analyze the progress and the pitfalls of developing societies in hopes of getting a better understanding to share with others; If luck is with me this will occur throughout the next ten years as well. 

Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

 

Stick to your guns, write from the heart, and give yourself more time than you expect it will take.

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6 Comments

  1. ccmal says:

    Great interview ladies. Sorry to hear about the requested rewrites Holly. It is tough to be a writer and face some difficult decisions for your work. I hope it all works out for the best.

    Good luck with your virtual book tour.

    Cheryl M.

  2. Holly Fretwell says:

    Thanks fo having me at Beyond the Books. This all new to me – from the book to the virtual tour. I appreciate the opportunity.

    Holly

  3. Jim Melvin says:

    Dear Holly:

    Wow, what an amazing resume! You obviously are a person with not just a lot of intelligence but with a lot of heart. Good luck with your book and with your virtual tour. I’ll be tagging along with you.

    Jim Melvin

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