Having a strong passion for music, the environment and writing, Founder & Director of Music & the Earth International Priya Parrotta, reveals her experiences as an author along with advice for aspiring young writers. Having published The Politics of Coexistence in the Atlantic World, Priya has gone off and worked in many well established organisations such as the Red Cross.
1 | Describe what you do on a daily basis as an author and editor?
I write and edit a range of topics, from environmental sustainability to multiculturalism to interfaith dialogue. To a certain degree, the specifics of what I do vary by topic and by format—for instance, writing or editing a short article is quite a different experience from writing a book. But in all cases, I consider it my job to communicate high-quality ideas to a wide audience. I know that much of my writing is read by people outside of specific fields and areas of expertise, and that is good! The challenge of making the world’s complexity accessible to people is one of the most rewarding aspects of my work.
2 | What made you choose writing and more specifically, where did your passion for climate and global geography originate from?
I’ve always loved to write. As a kid I wrote stories all the time, and even then I loved the way in which the pen can make worlds real. Through writing, what exists in your head or your heart can become something that can touch other people, and that always felt like magic to me. My passion for global geography and the issue of climate change complements the feelings I have about writing. The world is so exhilaratingly provocative and diverse, and since I was a teenager I loved the idea of having a career which, in some way, paid respect to that diversity and helped to support it.
3 | What do you love about being an author and are there any aspects which you love the most on a daily schedule?
My favourite thing about being an author is that it’s a career that allows you to both convey what you know, and also continue to develop your knowledge in what you don’t. That dance between learning and communicating is one that can go on endlessly, especially if you’ve found subjects that you can remain with for long periods of time. On a daily basis, I enjoy both the flexibility and the space for contemplation that writing allows. I’ve always been a pretty reflective person, who enjoys living at her own rhythm. Being a professional writer allows for both.
4 | How did first approach the idea of combining music and climate together to create Musicandthearth.org?
What a great question. Musicandtheearth.org—Music & the Earth International, that is—began as an intuition and over time has turned into a concrete initiative. Music is my other lifelong passion, besides writing. I have been singing in choirs and as a soloist since I was six years old, and I spend a lot of my free time searching around for good music, from all over the world, that I have not heard before. Sometimes I listen to and perform music outdoors, and these experiences have been particularly profound. For years I’ve been intrigued by the thought that sound and landscape, music and ecology, climate action and the performing arts, are related. Last year, after my first book was released, I decided to take some time and follow my dream of pursuing those connections. After a few months of improvising, Music & the Earth turned into a richly collaborative project which has earned the support of leaders in the fields that it touches. It’s lots of fun, and it gives me a reason to remain deeply curious about the things in life that, for me, are the most profound.
5 | What is some advice you would give to aspiring students wishing to become an author/writer or take a course related to geography and climate?
I believe that young people who want to be writers, or environmentalists, should receive as much mentorship, funding and support as people who are interested in fields like business or medicine. Unfortunately, though, that is not always the case. There have been times when I’ve struggled a lot, for lack of a support network as I’ve pursued my interwoven interests in writing, music and environmental issues. The advice that I would offer to young people just starting out is to remind yourself that you are not alone in your interests, even if it sometimes feels that way. Whether online or on your school campus or in a library, look out for like-minded voices, and don’t forget their names. They may become part of your support network one day. Also, when it comes to writing, write every day, whether or not you choose to share your work with others. Writing is like any other craft—practice is the key.
6 | What are some tips for young writers going about their first book?
Find a topic you can really dive into. Be patient with yourself. My book was a collection of essays that I wrote, in supportive environments, over the course of four years. I’m as daunted by the task of writing a book as anyone else. Sometimes working on a subject piece by piece, and then weaving it all together, is the simplest way to go. But the most important thing is finding a subject you love and applying discipline to it. What would you one day like to be an expert in? Find the answer, and move forward in that direction.
7 | Do you have a reading list of books that you think would be helpful for English or Geography students?
It sounds cliché, but for English, read a combination of “the classics”—the writing that is widely deemed to be beautiful and deep and precise—and authors whose style you love. Enjoying reading is an integral part of growing as a writer. And when it comes to geography and related subjects (like ecology, environmental science, certain branches of ethnomusicology, etc.), don’t be afraid to start with the textbooks. They will give you a strong foundation of knowledge and critical thinking skills that you can build upon later.
There are many books that I love, and many of them have to do with themes that resonate personally with me, such as cross-cultural dialogue, yoga, religion and peace-making, simplicity, globalization, and the beauty of the natural world.