Sleep, Creep, Leap


So your new book is a memoir about your garden.  I know from my own experience that anytime you're writing about something that's true, you have all these creative challenges to deal with–other people in your life become characters, you have to find a plot and a narrative arc , and so on.  What was it like for you to take the actual events of your life and your garden and make a compelling story from them? 

First we have to assume there is a compelling story. This is not a traditional memoir in the sense that it has a specific storyline or narrative arc with full character development. There are links along the way between the forty or so essays, but I wanted this book to work more like a poetry collection—anyone can pick up where they want to and dive right in, but if you read it straight through you can get the garden as a story over three years. Some of the essays were blog posts first, but most were just snapshots of moments dug into and cultivated a little more (pun intended).

It's a weird time to try to publish a book, what with the publishing industry in an upheaval and ebooks on the rise.  Do you want to talk about the publishing process for this book, and what it's been like to make the book available as an ebook and a paperback through Amazon?  (If you'd like to talk about the mechanics of the whole process–what services you used, how much time & effort & money, etc, I think people would be interested in that.)  Also, can independent bookstores order it through their distributor?

I’ve matured as a writer, or begun to, at the very worst time possible—or so it seems. Publishers are cutting back on books, and only accepting those they know are easier sales. Few risks are being taken, except for the smaller independent and university presses, but still, not enough going on there either.

I sent SCL to several presses and got very good comments from two places in particular. I had sent my other garden memoir to 100 presses and agents over the last two years, spoke on the phone with a few, but no cigar. That process so exhausted me I decided that after a few rejections I’d just dive in and self publish SCL through CreateSpace. I’ve heard of others going this route, who then get a following, have decent sales, then present that platform to a press—which makes publishing the book much less of a gamble. “I sold 5,000 copies, look at what I can do for you.” That’s what it seems the publishing business is going toward. I hope not. How can a writer write AND be a PR firm? Makes me feel cheap and drains my focus.

And let me be clear—on the paperback and ebook I make very little money because I priced it as low as I could to get a certain set of services. I did just raise the price of the paperback to $5.99 (from $4.99) so I could make it available to indies and libraries.

If I sell to an indie via CreateSpace Direct I make $.20 per sale on the paperback. If it’s purchased on Amazon I make $1. The ebook gets me around $.80 to $1.20 depending on the device (Nook, Apple, Kindle, Sony). At 112p it's still a good deal, right? I’m a writer and I want to be read, I want to have a conversation with you. What other option do I have after the traditional ways of publishing have failed and I’ve been told I have a decent book?

And if anyone wants to know more about the self pusblishing procees, they can contact me via my author website at


 Has writing the book changed how you think about your garden?

 Strangely enough, I now feel more distanced from it. Like it was a writing project itself, and I’m now looking forward to the next big thing—which I hope is an acreage I can convert to prairie. Pipe dreams.

 I'd love to know who your literary idols are.  What writers inspire you the most?

 Nonfiction: Terry Tempest Williams, Michael Pollan, Scott Russell Sanders, Loren Eiseley, Kathleen Norris.

Poetry: James Wright, Louise Gluck, W.S. Merwin, Ted KooserVogt2

 (This is the part where I let Benjamin write his own last interview question!) Why should anyone buy your book?

 It’s so affordable! And you'll learn how to control grasshoppers organically (ahem). And there are  pictures. One of them is of me so you can frame it and build a shrine. If you’d like to.

Okay, don't forget–comment to win!  We're giving away two paperbacks. You can also read an excerpt here, and go here to get links to all the places the book is available in paperback or as an ebook.



  1. Very interesting comments on the publishing industry and the fact that mainstream publishers focus on ‘safe’ works … being in the book buying business for the gift shop that I manage, I would have to say that his statement is very true. It is hard to find works that are outside of mainstream topic and point-of-views. Unfortunately, his book doesn’t fit our remit, but I would love to read it because it may help in planning my new garden!

  2. Excited to see a book about gardening in my home state. Now gardening in Virginia and loving every minute of it(including the spider bites). Read the Rant every day and has opened my world to so many interesting websites, blogs, ideas etc.
    Darlene Watson

  3. I am going to have to get this book – whether in the Giveaway or at the store. It sounds charming. My own book The Roses at the End of the Road is similar, as in essays and history of a garden, and so is my experience with publishers – hence my relationship with

  4. It sounds like a great book. I’m glad that he pursued self publishing so that we could read it. We need more books like this.

  5. Definately need more good writing about gardens; there is so much regurgitated material, very little new and useful. This sounds like a must, Christmas, anyone?

  6. I already bought four copies at Amazon. His PR work payed off. At $5.99 I couldn’t resist. They will make great gifts for the other garden minded folks in my life. Benjamin’s writing is always a pleasure to read and it will be interesting to read how a gardener makes a tallflower meadow from scratch while I spend my gardening time trying to organize nature’s tallflower meadow to my liking. I have a feeling my efforts will take a lot longer than three years.

    Benjamin you can come visit the mountain top anytime you want and kill all the grasshoppers your heart could desire, organically of course.

  7. I LOVE LOVE LOVE a prairie garden. I just bought the book, so no need to enter me in a giveaway. Thank you for bringing this story to us, and your recommendation!

  8. Wow. Just … wow. Even his prose reads like poetry. Why can’t I find good garden writing like this in my local bookstores ? Most everything there is of the “how to” genre – and of that it’s mostly “how to grow marijuana”. And there’s so much more to being a gardener than knowing how to do stuff. I have to special order authors I know about, but unless someone I trust makes a recommendation (thanks GR & my gardening friends) it’s difficult to find fresh names.

    Thanks for the introduction, Amy !

  9. For me, writers who garden are more helpful than gardeners who write. The ability to express both the physical and emotional content of gardening is a rare – and valuable gift.

  10. I was fortunate enough to “find” and friend Benjamin on a Gardening site. It was then I discovered a rare gem. His engaging personality, and gift with words makes him the kind of “friend”, that even without regular, personal communication, still feels like a welcoming, old friend. Give away or not, I look forward to reading his works, and blog. He is very bright spot in the lives he and his work touches. Thanks, Ben!

  11. Sounds like an interesting style of book and a novel way to express a memoir, by cataloging the events of your life in parallel with your evolving garden. Glad to hear that the author opted to go down the path of the ebook publishing rather than simply giving up after attempts at traditional publishing failed.

  12. I love the prairie (though I am far away from it now) and would really enjoy reading about the trials and tribulations of developing such a beautiful garden.

  13. I love Benjamin’s garden. Discovered his blog last year when it came up when I was googling “Tallamy.” The pictures of its development are very interesting, too. You can see that its bones are a basic suburban backyard lot (like mine!).

  14. I’ve been a fan of Benjamin’s blog for a while now and would love a chance to win his book. He is a very talented writer and gardener. I wish him every success with the book – he deserves it!

  15. this picture inspires me to just plant like crazy, stuff that will turn me on…where a mass of my Mazus reptans ‘Alba’ got torched by our blow torch summer in st. louis.

  16. I’ve been visiting his blog for a while and his writing is as much of a draw as his amazing gardening…even if I don’t win this, it’s going on my Christmas “wish-list’ 😉

  17. Love your answer to the last question! Actually, love ALL the answers! Thanks for the chance at your book. It’ll soon be time to put down the garden tools and pick up the reading material.

  18. Nice read! I love the interview questions. It didn’t feel distant like most interviews I tend to read.

    I consider myself a permanent novice gardener and dabbler of writing. So this really drew me in. I’ll def be back here to poke about more.


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