November 30, 2012
Its first seed was something horrifying witnessed by a young woman from an apartment window in Damascus. Later there was a conversation between that woman and a famed naturalist and author at the winter residency of Southern New Hampshire University’s MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction program. Now that dark seed is about to germinate into a very hopeful sort of children’s book.
“I had just finished a talk and slide show on the sort of work that I do,” said Sy Montgomery, an associate faculty member in that program, “when Emma LeBlanc came up to speak with me.”
Montgomery is the author of 15 animal-oriented books for adults and children, among them “The Good Good Pig,” a memoir about raising a pig (named Christopher Hogwood) that became an international bestseller. Among her many awards are the Children’s Book Guild Nonfiction Award and the Henry Bergh Award for Nonfiction (given by the ASPCA for Humane Education). She is the originator of Houghton Mifflin’s popular “Scientists in the Field” series of children’s books, and several of her books have been made into National Geographic TV documentaries that she has scripted and narrated.
The SNHU MFA program’s residencies are held at the Mountain View Grand Resort in Whitefield, NH. “We are on the cusp of either destroying this sweet, green earth,” Montgomery said during her talk there last January, “or revolutionizing the way we understand the rest of animate creation. It’s an important time to be writing about the connections we share with our fellow creatures.”
LeBlanc, meanwhile, is a student working on a novel manuscript. A graduate of Brown University with a bachelor’s in sociology—and fluent in Arabic—she is a co-founding member of the Makoto Photographic Agency, which is based in Damascus. Her journalism and photography have appeared in GQ, Le Monde, The New York Times, Slate, Syria Today, and a number of other venues. She is also a Rhodes Scholar working on a D.Phil. in social anthropology at Oxford.
LeBlanc went up to speak with Montgomery about their shared passion for animal welfare, and the conversation came around to an act of cruelty LeBlanc had recently witnessed—a group of Arab children torturing a puppy. LeBlanc rushed out to rescue the animal, but it had to be euthanized.
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