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July 9, 2015

Guest Post by Shari Becker --- THE STELLOW PROJECT

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When author Shari Becker was forced to take detours on a road trip because of Hurricane Sandy, the idea for her new novel THE STELLOW PROJECT was born. In this blog post, Shari details how her lifelong anxiety affected her and how she perceived the news. Being directly affected by a hurricane made her reflect on the rapidly changing climate, which in turn became a theme in THE STELLOW PROJECT. In this blog post, she writes about how modern-day issues inspired her fictitious world.


I have been a worrier since I was a little girl. Today, you might call me anxious, but back then I was just a Nervous Nellie.
 
Adults were constantly telling me things like, “there’s nothing to worry about” and “you’re being silly.” Then, I just worried that there was something wrong with me because apparently there was nothing to worry about, and yet, I was still worried.
 
I used to sit in front of the TV watching the news with my parents. All the day's horrors were broadcast on the screen: illness and poverty and hunger and wars and earthquakes. The Nervous Nellie in my brain just went to town turning all these events into Doomsday catastrophes. Clearly, the end of the world was just around the corner. And there was nothing I could do about it.
 
Fast forward a few years (or so) and I’m an adult who still worries too much. Now, though, I have much better ways to handle the angst.
 
I also better understand the news. I know that the horrible photos you see of the tornado are really the same photo on ten different stations. The videos? Yep, same thing. News is manufactured because there are channels dedicated to only the news, and they have to fill their airways --- even if it means showing the same freaky, scary tsunami wave over and over until you’ve memorized the horror.
 
Of course, bad stuff really does happen. Sometimes it even feels like it happens every day.
 
Watching news about climate change really gets me upset. And worried. I love animals. And forests. And water. And the air we breathe. All very important things, if you ask me. When I read about orangutans in Borneo becoming endangered because of deforestation; when I read about forest fires, hurricanes and tornadoes decimating communities; when I see my yard’s grass, brown, because it hasn’t rained in three weeks or six feet of snow towering by my sidewalk, I start to panic. Climate change is real. And it is happening now.
 
I was inspired to write THE STELLOW PROJECT after Hurricane Sandy. The hurricane hit just before I was supposed to take a solo road trip from Michigan to Boston. I got halfway home when I hit the first detour sign. It sent me hours out of my way --- like four hours out of my way. Entire highways were decimated. I was totally lost in the countryside. At night. In the dark. The GPS wouldn’t work. The detour signs were few and far between. And it seemed like I was just getting farther and farther off track. It was one of the scariest experiences of my life.
 
I had a long time to think about the weather and climate change on that drive. A long time to think about what it meant for our world. And then I started to think about what it might mean for a girl who has health challenges. I have really bad allergies, sometimes asthma, and when it’s humid, my chest is pretty tight. I wondered what would it mean to be someone who has to live in a climate controlled space because they could no longer survive outdoors. I envisioned a scene in my head and I wrote it down. A girl stuck in a building made entirely of glass with no fresh air. It was the beginning of THE STELLOW PROJECT.
 
Weather and climate change are woven throughout my book --- in the high temperatures, the water bans, the thunderstorms and of course, the tornadoes. I was inspired by what’s happening in the world --- by the bad stuff I can’t control, but wish I could do more about. Turning off my lights, recycling and using reusable grocery bags just doesn’t feel like enough.
 
I hope THE STELLOW PROJECT gets people thinking and talking about climate change. I hope it will make a difference. When the end of the world feels like it’s just around the corner, when I start to worry, feel anxious and feel like there’s nothing I can do, I take a deep breath. I remind myself that there IS something I’m doing right now. I’m writing. I’m in charge of a whole universe. I decide just how far the scary stuff will go and I decide what message I went to send out into the world. I am taming my fears instead of letting them take over. I am powerful instead of powerless. 
 
Who knows, maybe one Nervous Nellie’s story really can save the world.

Shari Becker was born in Montreal, Quebec, and was raised speaking both English and French. As a child, she spent her summers in the Adirondack Mountains catching fireflies, minnows, and toads. She has an MA from New York University and has worked for Nickelodeon, for Disney-owned companies, and even for an Emmy Award-winning puppeteer. She now lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, with her husband, their two daughters, and their dog.