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Featured Student: Francesca Varela

Francesca_Varela_smENVS major Francesca Varela hasn’t even graduated college yet, but she has already published her first novel. Call of the Sun Child  became available March 7 through Homebound Publications—a work of young-adult fiction whose protagonist, Sempra, comes of age within a post apocalyptic society that has shut her and her community within a sealed, sustainable dome. In this world, the sun has grown so intense as to force the dome-bound humans to become nocturnal, and the most horrible punishment is to be cast out in exile. Nevertheless, Sempra begins to wonder: what is outside the dome? “When she and her childhood friend, Alden, discover a forbidden book, she begins to question the facility, and, with it, everything she has ever known.”

Call of the Sun Child draws on environmental themes, so it comes as no surprise that Varela engages with the environmental studies community here at the UO. She originally intended to be an English major, but has found that a concentration in ENVS, paired with creative writing, has allowed for broader interests: she has taken classes in geology and restoration ecology, and particularly enjoyed a two week-long class during the summer when she got on-the-ground field research experience.

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“I really like to be out in the field, but I also like writing,” Varela explains. “I don’t see the two as separate, and I think literature is important as it gets people interested in environmental issues.” What’s more, she often gets her best creative ideas while she’s outdoors. In the case of Call of the Sun Child, she thought up the first nugget that would become her story about a year before she began writing, while she was looking at the moon. She began thinking about the possibility of a nocturnal society, and the rest of her apocalyptic adventure followed. All in all the book took about six months to write, including one summer vacation.

Moving forward, Varela intends to continue her engagement with both fieldwork and literature. She already has ideas for another book, and after graduation, hopes to find a job with an environmental nonprofit, or perhaps even at a National Park. In the meantime she’s looking forward to her last year of school, her interests in figure skating and violin, and trips to Opal Creek, Mount Saint Helens, and Mount Rainier.