Amy Tan and John Muir Laws

Sunday, July 19th
7:00est/4:00pst

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John Muir LawsHow to Teach Nature Journaling (co-authored by Emilie Lygren) is the first-ever comprehensive book devoted to helping educators use nature journaling as an inspiring teaching tool to engage young people with wild places. Bestselling author Amy Tan wrote the book’s foreword.

An author, artist, and educator, John is the founder of the Nature Journal Club, a community of people (on Facebook and at in-person groups all over the world) who love to explore the wonder, beauty, and mysteries of the world through the pages of their nature journals. For the last five years, Amy has been a member of that community and a devoted nature journaler. These two artists have become friends and sketching buddies, and they enjoy exploring nature together and finding new things to observe and wonder about in nature.

Amy Tan‘s The Joy Luck Club remains a classic examination of the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters. Amy was born in the U.S. to immigrant parents from China. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in a succession of twelve homes by the time she graduated from high school. At age 15, she lost her older brother and father to brain tumors. After this tragedy, her mother, fearing a curse, impulsively took Amy and her younger brother to Europe to see the world. After several missteps, the three wanderers settled in Montreux, Switzerland, where Amy fell in love, nearly eloped, played an unwitting role in the drug bust of friends, and still managed to graduate from high school one year early.

Amy attended five colleges: Linfield College, San Jose City College, San Jose State University, University of California at Santa Cruz, and University of California at Berkeley. She received her B.A. with a double major in English and Linguistics, followed by her M.A. in Linguistics. She worked as a language development specialist for county-wide programs serving developmentally disabled children, birth to five, and later became  director for a demonstration project funded by the U.S. Department of Education to mainstream multicultural children with developmental disabilities into early childhood programs. In 1983, she became a freelance business writer, working with telecommunications companies, including IBM and AT&T.

In 1985, Amy began writing fiction as an incentive to cut back on her heavy freelance workload. She attended her first workshop at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and then joined a writers group led by writer and creative writing teacher Molly Giles. Her first story was published in 1986  in a small literary magazine, FM Five, which was then reprinted in Seventeen and Grazia. Literary AgentSandy Dijkstra read her early work and offered to serve as her agent, even though Amy asserted she had no plans to pursue a fiction writing career. In 1987, Amy went to China for the first time, accompanied by her mother. When she returned home, she learned that she had received  three offers for a book of short stories, of which only three had been written. The resulting book, The Joy Luck Club, was hailed as a novel and became a surprise bestseller, spending over forty weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Her other novels are The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, Saving Fish from Drowning, and The Valley of Amazement (2013), all New York Times bestsellers. She is also the author of a memoir, The Opposite of Fate, two children’s books, The Moon Lady and Sagwa, The Chinese Siamese Cat and numerous articles for magazines, including The New YorkerHarper’s Bazaar, and National Geographic. She is also the author of the short story “Rules for Virgins” published in e-book format (Byliner Original).  Her work has been translated into 35 languages, from Spanish, French, and Finnish to Chinese, Arabic, and Hebrew. Amy’s latest book, Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir, was published in October 2017. She is at work on another novel, The Memory of Desire.

Amy served as co-producer and co-screenwriter with Ron Bass for the film adaptation of The Joy Luck Club, for which they received WGA and BAFTA nominations. She was the creative consultant for Sagwa, the Emmy nominated PBS television series for children, which has aired worldwide, including in the UK, Latin America, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, and Singapore. Her story in The New Yorker, “Immortal Heart,” was performed on stages throughout the U.S. and in France. Her essays and stories are found in hundreds of anthologies and textbooks, and they are assigned as required reading in many high schools and universities.  She performed as narrator with the San Francisco Symphony playing an original score for Sagwa, by composer Nathan Wang.

Amy has been nominated for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the International Orange Prize, and has won many awards including the Commonwealth Gold Award. She has lectured internationally at universities, including Stanford, Oxford, Jagellonium, Beijing, and Georgetown both in Washington, DC and Doha, Qatar. She has also delivered a TED talk and spoken at the White House, appeared on the popular NPR program Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me, as well as on Sesame Street on Public Television. The National Endowment for the Arts chose The Joy Luck Club for its 2007 Big Read program.

John (Jack) Muir Laws is a scientist, educator, and author, who helps people forge a deeper and more personal connection with nature through keeping illustrated nature journals and understanding science. His work intersects science, art, and mindfulness. His most recent book, How to Teach Nature Journaling, is the first-ever comprehensive book devoted to helping educators use nature journaling as an inspiring teaching tool to engage young people with wild places. Field-tested by more than a hundred educators, this book includes dozens of activities that easily support the Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards—and, just as importantly, that will show children and mentors alike how to recognize the wonder and intrigue in their midst.

Jack earned a Bachelor of Science in Conservation and Resource Studies from UC Berkeley; a Masters of Science in Wildlife Biology from the University of Montana, Missoula; and a Certificate in Science Communication from UC Santa Cruz. His work has been nationally recognized. He is a research associate of the California Academy of Sciences. He was given the 2020 Bay Nature Local Hero award for his work in environmental education. In 2009, he received the Terwilliger Environmental Award for outstanding service in Environmental Education. He is a 2010 TogetherGreen Conservation Leadership Fellow with the National Audubon Society. He was the 2011 artist for International Migratory Bird Day. In 2011 he was the Educator of the Year for the California Institute for Biodiversity. He was the 2013 Nature’s Inspiration Honoree, Committee for Green Foothills. And he was the 2010 Outstanding Learning Disabled Achiever. Honored by the Lab School of Washington D.C., in recognition for his contributions and achievements and as an example for children with learning disabilities.

Jack has written and illustrated several other books including The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling (2016), The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds (2012), Sierra Birds: a Hiker’s Guide (2004), and The Laws Field Guide to the Sierra Nevada (2007). He is a regular contributor to Bay Nature magazine with his “Naturalists Notebook” column.

I think of nature drawing as a spiritual connection to nature, and nature journaling is a written testament of miracles in the wild.

Each day, I wake with curiosity over what is happening in my yard. Each day holds discoveries that I write down.”

– Amy Tan

John Muir LawsHow to Teach Nature Journaling (co-authored by Emilie Lygren) is the first-ever comprehensive book devoted to helping educators use nature journaling as an inspiring teaching tool to engage young people with wild places. Bestselling author Amy Tan wrote the book’s foreword.

An author, artist, and educator, John is the founder of the Nature Journal Club, a community of people (on Facebook and at in-person groups all over the world) who love to explore the wonder, beauty, and mysteries of the world through the pages of their nature journals. For the last five years, Amy has been a member of that community and a devoted nature journaler. These two artists have become friends and sketching buddies, and they enjoy exploring nature together and finding new things to observe and wonder about in nature.

Amy Tan‘s The Joy Luck Club remains a classic examination of the sometimes painful, often tender, and always deep connection between mothers and daughters. Amy was born in the U.S. to immigrant parents from China. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in a succession of twelve homes by the time she graduated from high school. At age 15, she lost her older brother and father to brain tumors. After this tragedy, her mother, fearing a curse, impulsively took Amy and her younger brother to Europe to see the world. After several missteps, the three wanderers settled in Montreux, Switzerland, where Amy fell in love, nearly eloped, played an unwitting role in the drug bust of friends, and still managed to graduate from high school one year early.

Amy attended five colleges: Linfield College, San Jose City College, San Jose State University, University of California at Santa Cruz, and University of California at Berkeley. She received her B.A. with a double major in English and Linguistics, followed by her M.A. in Linguistics. She worked as a language development specialist for county-wide programs serving developmentally disabled children, birth to five, and later became  director for a demonstration project funded by the U.S. Department of Education to mainstream multicultural children with developmental disabilities into early childhood programs. In 1983, she became a freelance business writer, working with telecommunications companies, including IBM and AT&T.

In 1985, Amy began writing fiction as an incentive to cut back on her heavy freelance workload. She attended her first workshop at the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and then joined a writers group led by writer and creative writing teacher Molly Giles. Her first story was published in 1986  in a small literary magazine, FM Five, which was then reprinted in Seventeen and Grazia. Literary AgentSandy Dijkstra read her early work and offered to serve as her agent, even though Amy asserted she had no plans to pursue a fiction writing career. In 1987, Amy went to China for the first time, accompanied by her mother. When she returned home, she learned that she had received  three offers for a book of short stories, of which only three had been written. The resulting book, The Joy Luck Club, was hailed as a novel and became a surprise bestseller, spending over forty weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List.

Her other novels are The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, Saving Fish from Drowning, and The Valley of Amazement (2013), all New York Times bestsellers. She is also the author of a memoir, The Opposite of Fate, two children’s books, The Moon Lady and Sagwa, The Chinese Siamese Cat and numerous articles for magazines, including The New YorkerHarper’s Bazaar, and National Geographic. She is also the author of the short story “Rules for Virgins” published in e-book format (Byliner Original).  Her work has been translated into 35 languages, from Spanish, French, and Finnish to Chinese, Arabic, and Hebrew. Amy’s latest book, Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir, was published in October 2017. She is at work on another novel, The Memory of Desire.

Amy served as co-producer and co-screenwriter with Ron Bass for the film adaptation of The Joy Luck Club, for which they received WGA and BAFTA nominations. She was the creative consultant for Sagwa, the Emmy nominated PBS television series for children, which has aired worldwide, including in the UK, Latin America, Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, and Singapore. Her story in The New Yorker, “Immortal Heart,” was performed on stages throughout the U.S. and in France. Her essays and stories are found in hundreds of anthologies and textbooks, and they are assigned as required reading in many high schools and universities.  She performed as narrator with the San Francisco Symphony playing an original score for Sagwa, by composer Nathan Wang.

Amy has been nominated for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the International Orange Prize, and has won many awards including the Commonwealth Gold Award. She has lectured internationally at universities, including Stanford, Oxford, Jagellonium, Beijing, and Georgetown both in Washington, DC and Doha, Qatar. She has also delivered a TED talk and spoken at the White House, appeared on the popular NPR program Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me, as well as on Sesame Street on Public Television. The National Endowment for the Arts chose The Joy Luck Club for its 2007 Big Read program.

John (Jack) Muir Laws is a scientist, educator, and author, who helps people forge a deeper and more personal connection with nature through keeping illustrated nature journals and understanding science. His work intersects science, art, and mindfulness. He is a primary author and editor of the interdisciplinary curriculum: Opening the world through Nature Journaling. This standards based, curriculum is student tested and teacher approved and merges science, language arts, and visual arts through teaching students to keep a nature journal.

Jack earned a Bachelor of Science in Conservation and Resource Studies from UC Berkeley; a Masters of Science in Wildlife Biology from the University of Montana, Missoula; and a Certificate in Science Communication from UC Santa Cruz. His work has been nationally recognized. He is a research associate of the California Academy of Sciences. He was given the 2020 Bay Nature Local Hero award for his work in environmental education. In 2009, he received the Terwilliger Environmental Award for outstanding service in Environmental Education. He is a 2010 TogetherGreen Conservation Leadership Fellow with the National Audubon Society. He was the 2011 artist for International Migratory Bird Day. In 2011 he was the Educator of the Year for the California Institute for Biodiversity. He was the 2013 Nature’s Inspiration Honoree, Committee for Green Foothills. And he was the 2010 Outstanding Learning Disabled Achiever. Honored by the Lab School of Washington D.C., in recognition for his contributions and achievements and as an example for children with learning disabilities.

He has written and illustrated several books including The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling (2016), The Laws Guide to Drawing Birds (2012), Sierra Birds: a Hiker’s Guide (2004), The Laws Guide to the Sierra Nevada (2007), and The Laws Pocket Guide Set to the San Francisco Bay Area (2009). He is a regular contributor to Bay Nature magazine with his “Naturalists Notebook” column.

Visit the Book Passage website to have any of Amy’s books delivered right to your door.

You’re sure to enjoy these Book Passage favorites:

How to Teach Nature Journaling: Curiosity, Wonder, Attention

Nature Journaling

The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club

The Bonesetter's Daughter

The Bonesetter's Daughter

The Valley of Amazement

The Valley of Amazement

Get ready to join Amy in conversation, Sunday July 19th.

In the meantime, we invite you to take a moment now to help shape this upcoming conversation.

Check out the list of questions submitted by other registered attendees, and then vote to support any that match your interests.

Feel free to add your own question. Then spread the word to make sure others have the chance to help move your question to the top of the shared list.

  • 2

    votes

    Amy, how has your childhood and travel influenced your many books? What inspired you to write a memoir?

  • 2

    votes

    John., you once said “the process of attention is what makes you fall in love with the world”. Is this a teaching you apply in your personal life as well as to nature journaling?

  • 2

    votes

    How did you both get into nature journaling? Is nature journaling, for each of you, a solitary act or do you prefer company?

  • 2

    votes

    Who are some of your favorite authors, whether fiction or non-fiction, and have they influenced your writing?

  • 1

    votes

    Amy, your bird illustrations are amazing. Will you ever share your artwork in a book?

  • 0

    votes

    Amy, have any of the characters in your books been a nature journaler? How does your art of drawing influence your writing.

  • 0

    votes

    Amy, once you said “I am full of contradictions. … I am full of wavering questions”. Could you elaborate on this and how it plays out in your work?

  • 0

    votes

    I’m not sure if you are aware of the wonderful podcast “Asian Enough” but they have conversations with Asian-Americans about (among other things) experiences of feeling “Asian enough” or not. Have you ever had that experience, and if so, could you share what it was like?

Amy Tan and John Muir Laws
Sunday, July 19, 2020

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