She is a zoologist, an ornithologist, and her newspaper column, “Coastal Bend Naturalist,” appears every other week in the Bee-Picayune.
Now, she also is an author.
She has compiled 34 of her columns into a book, Brush Country Backyard.
“Everything in there is an animal or a plant that’s in South Texas,” she says.
Benson began writing her column three years ago.
“It was on spring wildflowers,” she remembers. “It had been an amazingly long, wet, cold winter. It was a feel-good piece.”
When she submitted the column, “it sat there for a while. After a couple of weeks, it was getting kind of stale.” But then, suddenly, editor Jason Collins agreed to publish it.
Benson says that many of her columns have timely subjects: an orange-and-black spider for Hallowe’en, the first bluebonnets, birds of Christmas.
She admits that, with her scientific background, she sometimes gets carried away with the text. “I get way too focused on minute details which I think are way too cool, but it makes my husband’s eyes glaze.”
Robert Benson is her chief editor.
“My working title for the book was ‘My Brush Country Backyard,’ she says. “Robert changed it to ‘Brush Country Backyard.’”
Each column averages around 900 words accompanied by two photographs.
“Photographs help attract readers,” she says.
She chose the 34 columns based on whether she had written something interesting or funny. Or, if she had quality photographs with the piece.
“Still,” she says, holding up her self-published volume, “it’s kind of skinny. I wish it were a little thicker.
“The reviewer on Amazon said ‘it was all too soon, over.’”
Although the book first was published as a Kindle electronic book, she admits she likes holding the published softback.
“I wanted to have a hard copy,” Benson says. “A lot of people say they prefer it.”
But it comes at a cost. “Having color photographs in a hard-copy book really drives up the price,” she says.
The book is on sale at the Bee-Picayune for $15.
“I hope to make nature more visible to people who have not had a chance to see some of these things,” she says.
“Maybe I can change their views on wildlife and plants. We humans are taking over so much, and every change we make cuts down on the wildlife.
“I also hope I am making a difference in the things I love. I guess you could say my hidden agenda is to save the world, the natural world.”
She pauses, remembering that no matter how serious the subject of a column, she tries to take the light side.
“Humans, not so much.”
Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at beepic@mySouTex.com.