Tag Archives: gmos

Zera and the Green Man Interview with Sandra Knauf

Now on sale (over 25% off!) at Amazon.com.

Now on sale (over 25% off!) at Amazon.com.


This week I decided to make a new press kit for Zera and the Green Man. GMO labeling is on the Colorado ballot this November, and, as some of you know, this book’s all about GMOs. It’s a hot topic and I’m hoping there are journalists and bloggers (and readers!) who will be interested in learning more about the book.

I’ve also put Zera and the Green Man on sale for the soon-to-be-upon-us holidays.

Let me know what you think of the interview. I’d love to hear from you!



GMOs Gone Wrong: An Interview with Sandra Knauf, Author of Zera and the Green Man

By Cheri Colburn on September 21, 2014


Sandra Knauf’s Zera and the Green Man is a sci-fi fantasy for the YA market, but I and many other adults have reveled in it. It is “right on time” with current events—plenty of GMO Franken-creatures—and it features the timeless themes of love for nature and family. I recently spent an afternoon interviewing the author, and this is what I learned.

In your young adult novel, Zera and the Green Man, biotechnology has gone awry, and nature is in jeopardy. Fifteen-year-old Zera Green is called to save the world from genetically-modified creations designed by her own uncle. How did you come up with that plot line?

The spark for the story came over a decade ago when I started reading about GMOs. At the same time, I became interested in the mythology surrounding the green man. To me, GMOs seemed like a bad idea from the start, and the more I read about them the more I was convinced that we were playing with something that had repercussions beyond our understanding. At the same time I was reading about how the green man was an ancient symbol of humankind’s oneness with nature. It seemed like two sides of the same coin, and those ideas merged into a story.

How does the green man mythology figure into the story?

The protagonist, Zera Green, discovers her family’s centuries’ old ties to this ancient god. He returns to modern times because the plant world’s in trouble. And when plants are in trouble, so are we.

A Zera and the Green Man Pinterest pin by Lisa Repka. Green Man drawing by Mike Beenenga.

A Zera and the Green Man Pinterest pin by Lisa Repka. Green man drawing by Mike Beenenga.

Can you tell me a little about the green man?

The idea of the green man, a man who is one with the plant world, is thousands of years old and takes many forms. His image is all over Europe, in centuries’ old churches, but he goes back further than that. For example, the Egyptian god Osiris is a green man. He has green skin; he’s known as the god of the underworld, yet he is also the granter of all life, including vegetation. The green man is also a symbol of resurrection. Robin Hood, fighting for the underdog and living in the forest, is said to be another incarnation, and so is the modern day Jolly Green Giant. In the story, Zera discovers this history and begins to see how her family is connected with it.

This story is a rollicking ride. It takes place in various places in Colorado, in L.A., in a secret laboratory in the desert, and even on Colorado’s famous Pikes Peak. How did you choose the settings?

I’ve spent most of my life in Colorado, and my children were born here. So I wrote about what I know. Both of my daughters went to elementary school in Manitou Springs, which appears in the book as Ute Springs. The chapter with Zera’s vision quest takes place on Pikes Peak, which is called by its Ute name in the book, Tava. The biotech firm that creates the genetic monstrosities is in L.A. because L.A.’s a big money/commercial center where people can afford to make their own realities, realities that are often contrary to nature.

Even though the book’s about GMOs and our connection with nature, the heart of the story is really Zera’s relationship with her scientist uncle and her grandmother.

That’s true. This family’s relationships, with all its problems and secrets, are at the heart of the story. As in life, regardless of what else is going on, it’s the connections with those we love that matter most and give us the most trouble.

Zera rings true as an angst-filled teen. She’s struggling with the issues of losing her parents and having to live with her uncle, but also typical teen problems about boys, fitting in, etc. How did you model Zera?

Some of Zera’s personal struggles were based on struggles I experienced as a teen, such as having other adults besides my mother and father involved in my upbringing. Writing about those feelings through a character was cathartic. As my own girls were teens during the writing process it was easy to create a strong and smart teenage protagonist—I had excellent real-life examples at home.

Why this book now?

It has taken many years for GMOs to get into the spotlight of public concern in this country. Because of GMO labeling initiatives on ballots in several states, many previously oblivious consumers are finally learning what GMOs are. Once they learn the science they have questions. While my story is a sci-fi fantasy, it accurately shows the science and some of the real concerns behind GMOs. It’s kind of like how Jurassic Park dealt with cloning. I hope my book will help readers understand the science and the dangers of GMOs and the bigger picture of nature.

What are you working on now?

I have my own publishing company, so there are several projects in the works, but I am making notes for the next Zera Green novel. It’s going to be set in the British Isles, where Zera learns about her family history and, of course, runs into more trouble. I don’t want to give too much away, but I will say that Zera’s powers increase dramatically. She is, in fact, well on her way to becoming an American superhero.

Cheri Colburn

    Author Information: Cheri Colburn is editor of Six Years in Mozambique and Fifty Shades of Green.

Cheri’s previous projects are many and varied. You can see a business- and education-skewed sample of her work at her website, TheFinishedBook.com.



P. S. For those of you who don’t know what a GMO is, I highly recommend this video by Jeffrey Smith, founder of the Institute for Responsible Technology.

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It’s like Jurassic Park and Cloning (but with Plants and GMOs)

Some of you may have heard of it by now, my new novel, ZERA AND THE GREEN MAN. Thirteen years in the making, it was inspired by our connection with the Earth—and more than a little alarm over what we are doing to that connection.

From Monday through Friday, January 27th – 31st, I will be offering FREE downloads of ZERA AND THE GREEN MAN on Amazon. Here’s the link.

I hope you’ll mark your calendar and tell ALL your friends! I really want to get this story out into the world. (Otherwise, what’s the point of writing a story you’re passionate to share? Or, at least that’s the way I look at it. I want to make that connection—to share my mad, green love.)

* * *

If you haven’t heard about it before, here’s the book jacket synopsis:

On the eve of Zera’s fifteenth birthday, she’s finding little to celebrate. Her guardian, Uncle Theodore (who she’s nicknamed “the Toad”), and his frilly girlfriend, Tiffany, are dragging her to the opening of a fast-food restaurant. The menu features genetically-modified products, including the Toad’s creation “beefy fries,” a concept that both sickens and intrigues Zera.

As if that were not enough, Zera is in trouble at school for mysterious events that she neither caused nor understands—and her classmates think she’s a freak.

The single light in Zera’s dark birthday is a gift from her grandmother that awakens Zera’s passion for plants and helps bring to light her family’s ancient connection to the natural world.

From there, the battle between those who would violate Nature in the name of greed and those who would protect it evolves—with Zera Green at its center.

* * *

If you’re a plant freak you’ll like it. (Plus, what have you got to lose? It’s a free download!)

Thanks for helping spread the word!

—Sandra Knauf

P. S. If you do decide to download and read ZERA, I would love to have your feedback via an Amazon review!


Filed under DIY, Garden Writers We Love

The (Girl Scout) Cookie Dilemma


It’s almost that time of year again, Girl Scout cookie time! I had nearly forgotten about my little rant in Garden Rant on this very subject until I saw a post on Moms Across America’s Facebook Page this week. The post was a call to action—urging us to petition the Girl Scouts to make non-GMO ookies.

I have to say, I’m down with that.

(The link for the petition, started by a Girl Scout, is at the end of the post.)

I thought I’d share my story.

* * *

To Hell with Cookies

I was a real jerk last February 13th. Maybe it was inevitable—after weeks doing financial aid paperwork for our daughter’s college applications and our taxes, I’d had no time to even think about doing anything fun, like gardening. But I was not planning to be mean when I saw the Girl Scouts on the steps of our neighborhood library. In fact, I was cheery as I
chirped to my teen daughters Zora and Lily, “We should buy your dad a box of Mint Thin Girl Scout cookies for Valentine’s Day!”

Once I got to the table, though, suddenly the desire to support this American ritual was colored by something else. These cookies were bad for you, and the temptation, the pressure, to buy them was everywhere. A friend had just said something the week before—how families who sell these cookies almost always over-indulge, both parents and children gaining empty calories and reinforcing the sugar habit. These damn cookies, I thought, out there for weeks, tempting all to buy, buy, BUY!

That’s when I made the first snarky remark. “Same price as last year, but smaller boxes.”  Everyone politely ignored that rudeness, but then, looking at the back of the box, I added, “Artificial ingredients, hydrogenated oil. Yuk.”

Truly, I do not usually behave like this. I think there was a full moon too. My daughters  cringed, the father of the girls glared at me. I ignored them. And then I bought a box!

As we walked away, Lily said, “Mom, you were such an asshole.” The evil spell lifted. Oh my God. I was! A huge one!  We got in the car. I was suddenly full of remorse. “Maybe I should go apologize.” I hesitated, started to turn around. “Don’t you dare go back!” both daughters cried, fearing more embarrassment.

Although Lily pointed out the cookies also used palm oil (palm oil!), my conscience ached for days. How could I diss the Girl Scouts? They do good work! They set good examples! The amazing women who have been in Girl Scouts include Hillary Rodham Clinton, Gloria Steinem, and Martha Stewart. Girls are taught useful skills; self-esteem is bolstered. This group is respectful of different religions and beliefs. They fully accept people with different sexual orientations . . . what was wrong with me?!?

After thinking it over, I realized the roots of my ill will ran deep. Subconsciously I’d been thinking of all those kids—mine included—coming to our doors over the years, selling things we didn’t need or want. Paraffin candles, candy, cookies, stuffed animals made in China, discount cards for buying junk food at fast food franchises. This is what we, in America, make our kids peddle. This is what they sell for their schools, for their clubs.

As I mulled it over I remembered a school fundraiser from my elementary school days.  It was small town Missouri in the mid 1970s and I was going door to door, at exactly this time of year selling . . .  seeds! I remembered it clearly, the long list of seeds to choose from: vegetables, flowers, and herbs in beautiful packages with colorful art.

And you know what? When I came to the door many were even damn glad to see me!

I remember little old ladies (who probably weren’t much older than I am now) saying, “I’ve been wondering when you’d be by! I want to get the garden going.”

Imagine—trading four dollar boxes of cookies made with palm oil, hydrogenated oil, and artificial flavorings, for something that we can actually USE. Imagine a product that’s healthy in every way. Imagine Girl Scouts selling organic non-GMO seeds, unusual seeds, maybe seeds in partnerships with other Girl Scouts around the world, seeds that can grow beautiful bouquets of flowers, vegetables to eat. Seeds that can urge people to get off their couches, drop those cookies, grab a shovel and create something fabulous! Fundraising that can be positive for everyone and every living thing.

I can see it now, and it can happen! After all, these girls can do anything—they’re Girl Scouts.

—Sandra Knauf

(First posted on September 13, 2010 in Garden Rant.)

* * *

As I mentioned before, there’s a petition. I didn’t mind signing, joining in the effort to try to convince them to switch to a healthier fundraising product. (I’m still voting for seeds—non GMO goes without saying.) When I signed on January 14 they had well over 16,000 supporters and needed over 8,000 more.


Filed under Power to the People