Press kit for This Tender Place

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This Tender Place
The Story of a Wetland Year
Laurie Lawlor
Terrace Books
Published in April 2007

LC: 2005005447 QH
190 pp. 6 x 9
20 b/w photos, 2 drawings
ISBN: 0-299-21464-8 Paper $19.95 t
ISBN-13: 978-0-299-21464-7
Memoir / Environment / Natural History / Wisconsin


"In the wetlands of southeast Wisconsin, Lawlor initiates a genuine relationship with the land. From spring peepers to sandhill cranes, there is an unyielding sense of her direct participation with nature, and through her encounters and descriptions one feels a new sense of belonging–a continuity with all life through time."–Nina Leopold Bradley


The Nature Conservancy Magazine | Booklist | Wisconsin State Journal | Isthmus Books Quarterly

"This Tender Place: The Story of a Wetland Year/The Nature Conservancy Magazine


After the deaths of her father and father-in-law, author Laurie Lawlor discovers an unlikely place for healing and transformation in a wetland in southeastern Wisconsin.

Her new book, This Tender Place, parallels Lawlor's personal growth and spiritual regeneration with that of the wetland and challenges the reader to look twice at the natural resources that surround us yet are so often taken for granted.

In her own words, Lawlor says: "This is the story of a wetland year and what I discovered about plants and animals, fire and water, humans and insects, refuge and renewal."

The particular wetland captured in Lawlor's book is Pickerel Lake Fen, a special place The Nature Conservancy has been working with local landowners to protect since 1985. The Conservancy and its conservation efforts at the fen are featured prominently in the book."—The Nature Conservancy Magazine, October 1, 2005

"Lawlor, Laurie. This Tender Place: The Story of a Wetland Year/Booklist

In search of a country home, Lawlor was dismayed by the dilapidated farmhouse she looked at in southeastern Wisconsin but felt an instant affinity for the wetland out back, a mysterious place astir with strange forces—and, sure enough, her new home proved to be a place of wonder. The author of many books for children and adults, Lawlor has a remarkably transparent style, the perfect vehicle for capturing the subtle beauty of the fen, a rare and precarious form of wetland fed by underground limestone springs. Adopting an "attitude of regard" and gamely exploring the wetland via kayak, Lawlor vividly describes cattails and water lilies and an astonishing array of wildlife, including beavers, turtles, muskrats, and swans. Lawlor is just as illuminating in her thoughtful reflections on the site's human occupants, from the mound-building Ho-Chunk to swamp-hating white settlers. Like the surprising fecundity of the unassuming fen, Lawlor's seemingly placid book teems with hidden life and significant observations, as she reveals the beauty and inestimable value of an often-maligned but truly essential natural landscape. . . . Nature lovers will be entranced by Lawlor's descriptions of animals and the history of a place."—Donna Seaman, Booklist , September 15, 2005, Chicago, IL

"At home on the wetlands/Wisconsin State Journal

In 1994 author Laurie Lawlor and her family decided to move to the country and found a "rustic" home in the wetlands of southeastern Wisconsin.

This Tender Place: The Story of a Wetland Year (Terrace Books: UW Press: $26.95) tells the story of Lawlor's love for her land and her education about what that land entails.

Lawlor's story meanders from prehistory to yesterday, mixing stories of how the Potawatomi scraped the inner bark from the black spruce to create a poultice for inflammation with tales of her own experience tromping through the marshes.

"The ground shakes and quivers and gurgles as I walk. Water seeps over the tops of my boots. Around my ankles swim back, tiny creatures not bigger than the point of a pencil. Hundreds of tadpoles! Thousands of tadpoles! Their tails flail. They crash into on another in their blind rush to get out of my way."

She speaks of the Wisconsin Glacier in one paragraph and of a hibernating snapping turtle buried beneath the winter mud in another.

"Looking deeply into the accumulated live and dead remnants of one year in the marsh is like examining the crowded attic of a reclusive pack rate. Nature is prolific and wasteful, a churning factory of biomass. And yet I can only look on the such fecundity in wonder. There's something profoundly optimistic about this towering stack of chaotic stem and seed and leaf. Something, I tell myself, must be worth living for and dying for if the same process happens again and again, season after season, year after year."

It's a charming book, one that nature lovers will read and reread as a means of keeping alert to the Wisconsin landscape that surrounds us all."
William R. Wineke, from Footnotes, Wisconsin State Journal
December 4, 2005, Madison, WI

"Book News/Isthmus Books Quarterly

This Tender Place: Story of a Wetland Year
(University of Wisconsin Press/Terrace Books) is a departure for author Laurie Lawlor. Although Lawlor has penned 33 previous books for children and adults, this one was a challenge as she tried to combine what she saw as three stories: 25,000 years of geological history, an annual cycle in the year of a wetland, and her own personal journey working though grief after her father died.

"This is my first memoir. I was trained as a journalist, so I got a little nervous going this route," Lawlor says of using herself as the "anchor" of the book. "But it did seem a natural way to tell three stories simultaneously, the land, the people and my own dealing with grief and reconciliation," Lawlor found that "getting to know a piece of land so well, and the animals and the plants, can be very cathartic."

After her father and father-in-law's deaths in 1994, Lawlor and her husband were looking for a place in the country to "reconstruct ourselves," Lawlor writes. The spot they chose, in northeaster Walworth County is on a kind of wetland called a fen, rare in the United States.

Lawlor spent 10 years hunting for information on the land in the archives of the Wisconsin Historical Society as well as kayaking through the wetlands themselves. She learned that wetlands were seen by settlers as a menace, to be destroyed by draining, because they were thought to cause or spread diseases. Native Americans, though, viewed wetlands as "a great supermarket, where you would go to get everything you need."

Unlike many nature narratives, Lawlor's story focuses more on the history of the land and its animals than on her own personal journey. She hopes the book will aid in wetland conservation and "encourage adults and children to go out and sit in the mud, or walk, or kayak, and see what a wetland is like."

Lawlor, a native of Evanston, Ill., teaches at Columbia College in Chicago but spends half of her time at the Walworth County house. "I had never really thought of owning a marsh," Lawlor muses. "It is one of the hot spots of biodiversity in Wisconsin. The Nature Conservancy has done a terrific job in southeastern Wisconsin. It's a miracle it has survived."—Isthmus Books Quarterly

Author's Bio:

Laurie Lawlor is the author of thirty-three books for children and adults, among them Addie Across the Prairie and Window on the West: The Frontier Photography of William Henry Jackson. Her books have received accolades including the Carl Sandburg Award for Children's Literature, the Golden Kite Honor Book for Nonfiction award, and the American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults award. She teaches writing at Columbia College in Chicago.

For more information, in addition to this press kit, contact our publicity manager, phone: (608) 263-0734, email:

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Cover image:
the cover of Lawlor's book is a beautiful photograph of a wetland area, looking down from a hillside

This cover image can be downloaded and used in any web-based publicity for this book. For a 300 dpi version, click here.

Author Photo
Author photo of Laurie Lawlor, for publicity of her book.

These images can be downloaded and used in any web-based publicity for this book. For a 300 dpi version, click here.

Awards and other news

was selected (June 2006) for "Outstanding Achievement recognition by the Wisconsin Library Association Literary Awards Committee."

The book was featured on the Larry Meiller Show, Wisconsin Public Radio, Madison;
on At Ten Milwaukee Public Radio Show on KPFA-FM; and on Against the Grain 94.1 FM San Francisco Public Radio

It was excerpted in national NATURE CONSERVANCY MAGAZINE, Summer 2006

Special feature in Wisconsin Wetlands quarterly publication, Wisconsin Wetland Association

Excerpted in national NATURAL HISTORY MAGAZINE, Winter 2006


The Terrace Books logo is designed in the shape of a book with a Union chair in silhouette on the cover. The words Terrace Books, Madison, Wisconsin appear also.

This logo for Terrace Books can be downloaded and used in any web-based publicity any Terrace Book. For a 300 dpi version, click here.

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