Fabulous event benefiting Sanctuary One

Last night, the gorgeous Jacksonville Barn Co. hosted a wonderful event to benefit Sanctuary One, the amazing Jacksonville care farm that rescues animals and promotes mutual healing through those who visit the farm and work with the animals.

The champagne flowed, fabulous items were raffled off, and the evening was filled with generosity, from the visitors who bought items to support the sanctuary to those who donate a portion of sales to Sanctuary One, including artist Dana Feagin and Kat von Cupcake.

Dana’s exhibit was in a chandelier-lit room and filled with her Sanctuary One animal paintings…and 25 percent of sales from the event were donated to the sanctuary.

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Greeting visitors at the entrance to the gallery were portraits of Cookies and Cream, pictured below, two cows who spent their lives donating blood at a California university — now retired and enjoying a lovely life at Sanctuary One.

Visit Dana online at Inspired Pet Portraits … a portion of all sales of Dana’s work supports animal rescue.

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I was absolutely thrilled to meet Kat of Kat von Cupcake, whose vegan cupcakes were so delicious I lost count of how many I enjoyed.

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Pictured above are the chocolate cupcakes; also contributing to my extreme sugar high were lemon cupcakes. Kat also prepared a gorgeous array of cookies for the event…

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For all your sweet-tooth needs, check out Kat on Facebook (and her new website will be ready soon) — Kat donates 100 percent of her proceeds to the sanctuary.

If you haven’t already, visit the Jacksonville Barn Co. for some of the most fun antique, vintage, and eclectic gifts in the valley — and while you’re in the area, take a tour of Sanctuary One (make your reservation here) and learn more about all the great work the sanctuary does.

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An interview with Among Animals contributor Rosalie Loewen

An interview with Among Animals contributor Rosalie Loewen (“The Boto’s Child”)

Q: What inspired “The Boto’s Child”?

A: I wrote this story when my first child was still very young. For me parenting is joyful and rewarding but also frightening and painful; from the birth onward, there is the wrenching process of letting your children go.  As a new parent, I felt intensely aware of how miraculous and impossible each of our lives are in so many ways.  Writing this story was an attempt to come to terms with these diverse aspects of parenting.

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Q: The story is set in the Amazon and is so vividly detailed—what sort of research did you do to write this piece?

A: I lived in Brazil for two years. It is such a fabulous welter of color and culture and beauty that no one can live in Brazil and not absorb it. While I lived there I took a trip on the Amazon which serves as the basis for the setting of this story. My family travelled frequently when I was young and my parents always immersed us in the cultural and natural history of a place. This became a habit and I still travel with a field guide and generally trade comfort for immersion.

Q: The narrator believes that “a doctor should be the first to admit how little we understand about the mysteries of life”—and this story is filled with such mysteries. What do you hope readers will think and feel after reading “The Boto’s Child”?

I hope that this story reminds readers that the limitations that we place on our perceived realities are subjective, informed by where we are in both place and time; change either of those and you could be equally convinced of some alternative truth.

Q: Why did you decide to incorporate a Brazilian myth into this story?

A: For me, everything in the natural world is fraught with wonder and fabulousness, from the smallest details: a caterpillar transforming into a butterfly, a child growing in the womb, a seed becoming a plant. Myth, religion, folktales, these are universal tools for expressing that wonder and dealing with our limitations of understanding.

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The GMO battle comes to Ashland

Rogue Valley

Ashland, Oregon, is located at a the southern end of the Rogue Valley, which is a long but narrow stretch of land. As such, small family farms dominate the region, which has resulted in vibrant farmers’ markets and plenty of truly local food (and wine).

Because this valley is so small, genetically modified crops endanger the existing organic crops because wind carries GMO pollen or seed onto neighboring organic farms.

But given that there is such limited supply of land in this region, you’d think the large agri-companies wouldn’t even bother to compete with the organic farms.

You would think.

But that hasn’t stopped the likes of Monsanto, BASF, Dupont, Syngenta, and other multinationals from spending more than $450,000 to defeat a proposal (Measure 15-119) that bans GMO crops in this small slice of the world. Monsanto alone contributed $183,294 to the cause.

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Needless to say, I’ll be voting in favor of Measure 15-119 next month.

I have no idea if GMO crops are bad for your health. But I’m quite certain that spraying Roundup on crops is horrible for our entire ecosystem. I don’t think it’s mere coincidence that bee populations are collapsing as GMO crops spread. I also don’t believe that farmers should be required to “license” seeds for one-time use.

Right now, these corporations are running ads to scare people into thinking we’ll be less safe if this measure passes — as if our police departments will somehow be overwhelmed by GMO enforcement to go after burglars. The hysterical tone of the pro-GMO ads leads me to suspect that there is real fear that this measure will pass.

I hope it does. And if you’re in Jackson County, I hope you vote YES next month.

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Congratulations to Karen Joy Fowler, winner of the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award

We are thrilled to hear the news that Karen Joy Fowler (our judge for this year’s Siskiyou Prize) is the winner of the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for her amazing novel We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves.

As the Washington Post writes, “With its disturbing portrayal of the abuse that chimps endure, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves … makes a strong argument against using these intelligent animals in academic and medical research. Fowler worked on the novel for more than a decade, but happily, just days after it was published, the federal government began the process of declaring chimpanzees an endangered species, a move that would prohibit their use in invasive medical testing.”

This novel exemplifies the type of work that inspires us most — beautiful, engaging, literary stories that flawlessly weave in issues that are vitally important. Congratulations to Karen for such well-deserved recognition!

Read more about the PEN/Faulkner Awards here.

Read a review of Karen’s novel here.

Read about the Siskiyou Prize here.

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An interview with Among Animals contributor Philip Armstrong

An interview with Among Animals contributor Philip Armstrong (“Litter”)

Q: Why did you choose a dog’s point of view for this story? In what ways was it challenging, and was there any special research you did?

A: Whenever we write about animals (or whenever we think about them or engage with them in any way, in fact), we’re unavoidably projecting onto them our own ideas about what they’re like and how they experience the world. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing—in some ways it’s the same thing we do with other humans, too—but I do think we have an obligation to try and remember how different other species are from us, and how different their worlds must be, while at the same time recognizing likely areas of common experience (senses, emotions, perceptions). Pretending to be an animal is one of the best ways of doing this: children do it, and lots of cultural activities find ways of letting adults do it, too (I’m thinking of shamanism, carnival, wildlife documentaries, even certain sports). Fiction, because it can create the impression of being inside another mind, offers amazing potential for undertaking this experiment. But it also poses massive challenges. For example, how does a writer go about representing a dog’s experience of the world through smell? What is the best narrative point of view to create the impression of a dog’s inner world? In the end, I decided to write my story in the second person (“you”) as a way of inviting the reader to try out my idea of what a canine world might be like, while at the same time—because use of the second person tends to remind us we’re engaging in something invented—remaining aware that it’s nothing but a human guess about that world.

Two items of “special research” helped shape the way I wrote the story. One was reading Alexandra Horowitz’s book Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell and Know, which is full of fascinating theories about how dogs experience the world. The second, and most important, was observing and having adventures with Lola, who was my beloved dog friend for sixteen years. She passed away in February of 2013, not long after I completed the story.

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Q: As the co-director of the New Zealand Center for Human-Animal Studies at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, what role do you think fiction has in the world of animal studies?

A: To me, the main thing that written fiction can do, better than any other form, is create the sustained and deep illusion of being inside another mind. It’s the nearest thing we have to mind-reading or telepathy. That makes it a fantastically rich way of exploring how humans think and feel about other animals, and even speculating on how other animals might think and feel about us. The second thing I’d say is that really well-written fiction has the capacity to allow the reader to experience forms of feeling and perception that are radically new and unusual, outside of the normal conventions—which means it can help expand our repertoire of feelings and perceptions about other animals, and about being animals ourselves. A novel like J.M. Coetzee’s Disgrace is a wonderful contemporary example of this.

Q: What advice might you offer to creative writers who hope to write about animals? That is, what is important to keep in mind as well as to avoid?

A: I suspect that the same things apply in writing creatively about animals as in writing about anything else. First, the golden rule: keep your reader in mind, and think all the time about how she or he will experience what you’re writing. Second, the very best way (perhaps the only way) to learn how to write well is by reading—read a lot, read many different things, and read attentively. And third, find a voice that suits the way you write, as well as the perspective you’re writing from. That last one’s the trickiest, I think, and it takes some experimentation with different styles and different tones to get it right.

Q: What else could readers turn to if they like the idea of experiencing the world from a dog’s perspective?

A: I’d strongly recommend Eva Hornung’s Dog Boy, which is about a child growing up as part of a pack of feral dogs in Russia (partly based on a true story); Paul Auster’s wonderful Timbuktu, which is written from the point of view of a dog who is the companion of a homeless man; and the poetry collection Unleashed, edited by Amy Hempel and Jim Shepherd, which contains many wonderful poems by famous writers, written from the point of view of their dogs.

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