Images of wildlife and road ecology

By Midge Raymond,


As many of us know, living among wildlife can be as dangerous as it is wonderful, due to the fact that, at some point, animals need to cross our roads. Fortunately, people like Marcel Huijser are working toward making our roads safer for all of us, with a special eye for helping out the animals.

A quick glance at Huijser’s website might seem, at first, a bit distressing — you’ll see gorgeous images of live animals, as well as those who have been killed by cars — but you’ll also see photos of mitigation measures designed to reduce the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions…and this (along with the abundance of phenomenal wildlife images), make this site and blog well worth a visit.

Huijser is both a photographer and a road ecologist; he works toward finding safe passages for wildlife among the highways and bridges among which animals live (learn more in this profile published last year in High Country News). On Huijser’s website, you’ll find a fascinating collection of photos of road ecology at work —  wildlife overpasses, wildlife fencing and “jump-outs”  to allow animals to escape from fenced areas, high-tech animal detection systems that detect large animals on the road and provide alerts, and more.

Visit Marcel Huijser’s website to learn more — perhaps you’ll find an idea perfect for your own community. We’d certainly love to see some animal detection systems to help protect the beautiful deer in Ashland.



The Resplendent Quetzal: A guest post by Jean Ryan

By Midge Raymond,

Today’s post is courtesy of Survival Skills author Jean Ryan, whose blog you can find on her website. Enjoy!

The Resplendent Quetzal

There are six kinds of quetzals in the cloud forests of Central America, and while they are all attractive birds, just one species is known as “resplendent.” Imagine being such a stunning specimen that you are classified in terms of your matchless beauty.

Definitions of resplendent include: “shining brilliantly,” “richly colorful,” “dazzling in appearance.” So why aren’t peacocks deemed resplendent, or butterflies, or poison dart frogs? What makes the quetzal so special?

This bird sports sumptuous colors, to be sure. Scarlet body, golden beak, emerald head and back, streaks of azure running down the tail feathers. The male has a wondrously long tail that floats behind him as he flies through the rain forest canopy. His head is crested and his eyes are large and glistening.

To see this legendary bird in flight must be transformative. You might think you imagined the vision, and you might be right: The quetzal is endangered, as are many exquisite things on this planet, our admiration for them causing more harm than good.

In Guatemala, the quetzal is the national symbol; even the currency is called the quetzal. The word is taken from the Aztec word ‘quetzalli,’ meaning precious or beautiful. Mayans worshipped the creature and used its tail feathers in their headdresses. While killing a quetzal was punishable by death, one could trap it, pluck its feathers and let it go. Over time the feathers grow back, but meanwhile, how does the damaged male charm a female? How does it soar through the jungle with only the memory of its glorious tail? The Mayans can be credited with many things—humanity is not one of them.

Quetzals mate for life. Solitary and quiet most of the year, they come together only in the springtime. Their nests are confined to dead or dying trees, where they use a hole made by a previous tenant or peck out one themselves. For eighteen days the parents take turns sitting on the two blue eggs, and though both care for the chicks afterward, the female departs early. In just three weeks, the young can fly. They eat a range of food, from insects to small frogs to certain fruits, particularly miniature avocadoes, which they swallow whole, spitting out the seeds.

Deforestation is limiting the quetzals’ nesting options; this and poaching are the biggest reasons for the decline of the species. Poaching is illegal, but the laws are ignored or unenforced. The birds are captured for their feathers or for display in private museums.

As these birds do not mate in captivity—most die after being caught—protecting their forests is the only means of saving them, and there are two areas in Guatemala where efforts are underway. We have put ourselves in a terrifying position, having created a world in which wild things must depend on us for their survival.

The resplendent quetzal cautions us with its name. There is no replacement, nothing quite so wonderful. Saving this bird is our only hope.

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  Category: On animals, On nature
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Halloween in Ashland

By Midge Raymond,

The City of Ashland takes its Halloween very seriously. This year, the weather was perfect for the Monster Dash and the parade … here are a few fun images from the day.

This Mona Lisa was one of our favorite costumes…



I want these shoes she has (not for Halloween, necessarily, but for everyday walking around…).



It’s tons of fun to see entire families dressing up together.





And, best of all, the pets take part in the festivities as well!



  Category: Ashland news
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Submissions for Among Animals will close December 15

By John Yunker,

I’m pleased to say that we’re on the home stretch toward choosing stories for the next edition of Among Animals.

To give you a preview of what’s to come, we’ve got stories that feature cats and dogs and chickens and fish. And a mule. A kangaroo. A sea bear. A polar bear.

And, of course, humans.

We’re still looking for a few more great stories and are setting a deadline of December 15th. So if you’ve got something you think might fit, please send it today! And please feel free to check out our first edition, which will tell you what the anthology is all about.

And thanks to everyone who shared their work with us. We appreciate the opportunity to read your submissions.


How to get published

By Midge Raymond,

That’s a nice, attention-grabbing headline, but if course it’s nearly impossible to write a post that will fulfill this promise. That’s because every agent and every editor has his or her own interests, tastes, and moods — and a writer can never in a million years predict what those might be. As published writers know, what may be rejected by one editor is another’s dream novel, and vice versa.

I have noticed, however, over the years I’ve been an editor, that there are several reasons writers get rejected that have nothing to do with the writer or the writing, and these haven’t changed in the almost two decades I’ve been in publishing. I often find that among the best ways to learn about how to get published is to learn what not to do.

So here’s a handy list of what to avoid when you’re ready to seek an agent or publisher.

1. Inappropriate submissions. This may seem all too obvious, but it happens all the time. The number-one reason writers get rejected, whether by literary magazines or literary agents, is that they submit inappropriate material, such as sending fiction to a poetry magazine or a children’s book to an agent who doesn’t represent children’s books. Always do your research — it takes time, but in the end, it saves time. Even a quick visit to the Ashland Creek Press website reveals we seek work on the themes of the environment, ecology, and wildlife. Yet we still receive submissions that have nothing to do with our niche — including children’s books and poetry, which we specifically note we don’t publish. What this means is that a writer has spent a lot of time sending us something that will never get read — and this is time much better spent researching and sending work to someone who is actually able to consider it. (For some great advice from a literary agent’s POV, check out this interview with agent Lucy Carson.)

2. Not following guidelines. As writers ourselves, we know that guidelines can be extremely frustrating…it seems that every editor wants a different format (name on the first page only, name omitted from manuscript, numbers in the upper right corner, numbers on the lower left, and on and on). But guidelines exist for a reason, not just to drive writers insane. For example, our guidelines for the Among Animals short fiction anthology are pretty simple — we ask for stories within a specific theme and word count, and we aren’t fussy about the font or where your page numbers appear — and these guidelines aren’t random. We ask for short stories featuring animal-human interactions because that’s what the anthology is about. We ask for a certain word count because that fulfills our vision of the book. Still, we get emails from writers asking if they can submit nonfiction instead (to which we must say no — not to be difficult but because it’s an anthology of fiction), or if stories can be longer or shorter than our guidelines (to which we say yes — we’re glad to read your very short story or your very long one, but we will warn you that it may not be the right fit, given what our vision is).

3. Being unprofessional. Don’t, for example, address an editor with “Yo” (yes, this has actually happened to us). We’re actually pretty easily amused, so stuff like this doesn’t bother us much — but I’m guessing this would cause a great many busy editors and agents to hit the delete button automatically (and who can blame them?). Take the extra thirty seconds to find an editor’s or agent’s name, and use it rather than “Dear Editor” or “Yo.” It shows us that you’ve taken the time to figure out who we are, and this makes us want to spend the time getting to know who you are.

4. Sloppy work. The best submissions are a writer’s best work — and this is something that’s always obvious right off the bat. It’s easy to tell when a writer has submitted a first draft; it reads like one. So be sure that your project is not only complete but edited, polished, and represents the very best you have to offer. Many editors and agents are happy to read another draft, if they’re intrigued enough by what you submit, but often you only have one chance to make a good impression, so take your time.

5. Impatience. Again, as writers ourselves, we submit to journals, agents, and editors — and then we wait. And wait. And often wait some more. It’s what writers do. Please try to understand that editors and agents often receive thousands of submissions every week, and imagine trying to stay on top of that amount of email (or regular mail). It’s overwhelming. As a very small press, we are always overwhelmed, which is why we warn writers that submissions often several months to review. So when you submit, always check to see if editors or agents indicate response times in their guidelines, and then be patient. Don’t send follow-up emails unless you’ve waited well past the normal response time, and if you do follow up, be kind and polite and understanding when you inquire about the status of your work. Publishing is, in so many ways, a business based on relationships, and as a writer you’ll want to be known as someone who’s not only professional but personable.

There are so many other factors that go in to getting published — among them great writing, the right market, a good platform, and pure luck — and writers only have control of some of these things. But one thing we all have the power to do is to respect the time of those who are reading our work … and this can take you a good part of the way.