Amanda Lumry, children’s book author, answers questions
What work do you do?
I am an author and photographer for the Adventures of Riley children’s book series, which educates children about the environment and entertains them at the same time. I am also the cofounder of Eaglemont Press, based in Bellevue, Wash.
How does it relate to the environment?
The Adventures of Riley series focuses on nine-year-old Riley, who introduces elementary-age children to environmental topics through real travel photos, illustrations, and scientific fact boxes. There are 15 projected Riley books, and five of them have been released. Book sales benefit global preservation efforts.
Eaglemont Press produces photographic essays and children’s adventure books that focus on topics related to the preservation of wildlife, habitats, and cultures worldwide. We partner with major organizations such as the Smithsonian Institution, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the World Wildlife Fund to find the latest and greatest news on conservation. After looking at their current projects, I come up with a Riley topic (for example, deforestation in the Amazon rainforest).
What are you working on at the moment?
Today, I am writing another Riley story, featuring orangutans in Borneo. This fall, I will be traveling around the world to conduct research and take photographs for Riley’s next adventure.
What long and winding road led you to your current position?
I founded Eaglemont Press as a junior at Harvard University in order to publish two of my photographic art books: Mala Mala: Pathway to an African Eden and Nantucket Borders. Since then, I have passed the leadership on to Loren Wengerd, who also happens to be my husband, so I can continue to do what I love — photography and writing.
I got into photography in the second grade, when my parents gave me a camera for my birthday. The camera is what introduced me to animals and caring for them. Up until my senior thesis in college, I had been taking pictures of people, especially children. Then, on a tour of Africa in 1998, I fell in love with the Mala Mala Game Reserve in South Africa. I decided that I had to return, and wouldn’t it make an interesting place to do my senior thesis? So that’s what I did, and Mala Mala: Pathway to an African Eden (a photographic coffee-table book) resulted. That was my first thesis, and my second one was a photo essay/exhibit comparing animals in captivity to animals in the wild. I still like taking pictures of children, but I find animals are a little more cooperative.
Where were you born? Where do you live now?
I was born and raised in the Seattle area. Besides living in Boston and Connecticut for a short time, I have lived in Seattle my whole life.
What environmental offense has infuriated you the most?
I have a big pet peeve when I see old buildings in urban settings that are left to rot while new land is developed elsewhere. I took a class called “Main Street America” in college, and it made a big impression on me and opened my eyes to the expanding America. Our professor talked about revitalizing Main Streets and asked us what will happen to the strip malls once we find something greater and bigger. Trees and vegetation take a lot of time to rejuvenate. We should think twice before our cities and towns take over land that won’t grow back in our lifetime.
Who is your environmental hero?
Don E. Wilson. He works for the Smithsonian as a senior scientist. You have probably seen some of his work in various animal books. He is an authority on you name it!
For the pragmatic environmentalist, what should be the focus — political action designed to change policy, or individual action designed to change lifestyle?
Cultural change brings about overall change. Children are our future, and that’s why I do what I do. They are the next generation of individuals and policy makers, and giving them tools at an early age as well as helping them become globally aware will encourage them to become better stewards when it is their turn to decide.
How many emails are currently in your inbox?
What are you reading these days?
Salmon Forest by David Suzuki and Sarah Ellis.
What’s your favorite meal?
Pasta with cream and tomato sauce, good salad, and a piece of cheesecake.
If you could institute by fiat one environmental reform, what would it be?
Increased funding for renewable-energy research. We all know that we are eventually going to run out of fossil fuels. Let’s put our words into action and find an alternative source.
What’s your favorite TV show?
The Amazing Race, because I love to travel. In fact, I just went to Antarctica (my seventh continent!) last February.
If you could have every InterActivist reader do one thing, what would it be?
Expose your children to the love of reading, nature, and the outdoors.