Announcing the 2014 Siskiyou Prize winner and finalists!

We are delighted to announce that New York Times bestselling author Karen Joy Fowler has chosen Mary Heather Noble’s memoir PLUMES: ON CONTAMINATION OF HOME AND HABITAT as the winner of the 2014 Siskiyou Prize.

We are also delighted to announce the prize finalists: Amy Hassinger for her novel AFTER THE DAM and Julie Christine Johnson for her novel THE CROWS OF BEARA.

Of PLUMES, judge Karen Joy Fowler writes: “I was impressed from the first page with both the beautiful writing and careful intelligence of PLUMES. This book takes on one of our most troubling issues, the increasing toxicity of our polluted world, to create a narrative that is both personal and universal. PLUMES neither minimizes the complexities of these issues nor overstates its conclusions, but leaves the reader with much to think about. An exceptional book.”

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About the winner: Mary Heather Noble is an environmental scientist and writer whose work is inspired by environmental health issues, the natural world, family, and place. Her essays have been honored with first prize in Creative Nonfiction’s The Human Face of Sustainability Contest, and second prize in the 2012 Literal Latté Essay Awards. Her writing has also appeared or is forthcoming in About Place Journal, Fourth Genre, High Desert Journal, Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Minerva Rising, Pithead Chapel, and Utne Reader.

Noble is a graduate of the Stonecoast MFA in Creative Writing Program with the University of Southern Maine. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in geology from The Ohio State University, and a master’s degree in environmental science from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. She spent six years working in the technical environmental sector before leaving the field to pursue creative writing. Noble currently lives in Bend, Oregon, with her husband and two daughters.

We hope you join us in celebrating the environmentally themed work of these fine writers!

We’d also like to extend a very special thanks to all of the writers who entered the contest … your support makes this prize possible.

Please stay tuned for updates on next year’s Siskiyou Prize, which is open to unpublished, full-length prose manuscripts, including novels, memoirs, short story collections, and essay collections. The winner will receive a cash award of $1,000, a residency at PLAYA, and an offer of publication by Ashland Creek Press. For more information, visit the Siskiyou Prize website.

Posted in Ashland news, Eco-Fiction, Eco-literature, For authors, News from Ashland Creek Press, On nature, On publishing, On reading, On writing, Siskiyou Prize | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A vegan cheese tasting

For a long time, I’ve been waiting to get my hands on a selection of artisan vegan cheeses, and I am happy to report that based on my recent sampling of four cheeses, vegans (and anyone who loves cheese but doesn’t care for animal cruelty and high cholesterol) have a lot to look forward to.

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I began with Kite Hill‘s truffle, dill, and chive soft cheese, which has wonderful flavors (especially if you love dill) and a great texture; if not precisely cheese-like, it comes extremely close.

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Next I sampled Treeline‘s herb and garlic French-style cheese, which is far “cheesier,” i.e.,  even omnivores would find it indistinguishable from dairy cheese. It is soft, spreadable, and incredibly flavorful — absolutely spectacular. It was with great restraint that I didn’t finish the entire package at once. (After all, I had two more cheeses to sample…)

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Next up was Parmela‘s creamy black pepper cheese, which I found a little plain compared to the others — but it nonetheless had a lovely flavor and a wonderful consistency. Parmela also has other nut cheeses that I can’t wait to try — and Parmela makes what I have found to be the very best vegan parmesan cheese out there.

Finally: the brie.

Many vegetarians are slow to become vegans due to a love of cheese (and, until recently, a lack of good cheese substitutes). Now, there’s absolutely no excuse — vegans can find cheese replacements for any type of cheese they may think they’ll miss, including brie.

Kite Hill’s soft ripened cheese is the brie every vegan has been looking for.

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This almond-based cheese is soft, creamy, buttery, and has the sharp, ripened flavor of real brie — as well as the texture. I admit that, as a former brie lover, I was skeptical…but I was not disappointed. On the contrary, I was quite ecstatic.

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I hope you’re able to try out these delicious products and help support the companies that make them; you’ll be glad you did!

And, if you’re adventurous, you can also make your own artisan cheese; check out Miyoko Schinner’s Artisan Vegan Cheese, which has recipes for myriad types of cheeses and cheese dishes, of varying complexity.

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Animal rights and human rights are not mutually exclusive

Many people have a tendency to view “human rights” advocacy as distinct from “animal rights” advocacy. And many tend to prioritize human rights work over animal rights work.

Yet when we work to improve the world for animals, we also improve the world for humans.

In the article, “Changing the world, one Monday at at a time,” Jenna Wixon-Genack lists the reasons for going meatless, with animal rights being third (behind the environment and human rights). She writes, “In slaughterhouses, annual employee turnover routinely clocks in at 100 percent. The industry specifically targets vulnerable populations, such as illiterate people and illegal immigrants, and working conditions in slaughterhouses are truly some of this country’s worst.”

For some very illuminating facts and figures, check out these 7 ways factory farms are scary for humans, from the Mercy for Animals blog — and this post about 6 ways animal and human rights are connected.

For those who like to delve into good eco-literature, especially fiction, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle is a great example, via a very realistic novel, of the way animal rights and human rights are intertwined. How can we expect animals to be treated well if we don’t treat our fellow humans well?

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Listeners should tune in to this feature interview for Our Hen House’s 119th podcast, “Pete,” is the undercover investigator responsible for the undercover work that led to the film “Death on a Factory Farm,” as well as the HBO documentary, “Dealing Dogs,” as well as countless other investigations into kennels selling animals to research, puppy mills, factory farms, and slaughterhouses. Pete offers a glimpse into his eleven years of doing this unbelievably difficult work — listen to the entire (fabulous) podcast, or skip to Jasmin and Mariann’s interview with Pete 30 minutes in. While Pete may have been doing his work on behalf of the animals, what he learned about the suffering of humans should make anyone who eats meat think not only about the animals but the humans who spend their working lives in the misery of factory farms.

Finally, it’s important to remember that the world in which we humans depend on simply cannot sustain a diet centered around meat. One pound of meat requires more than 30 gallons of water and grain, which in turn requires land. Research has shown that being vegan helps combat world hunger; the UN has urged meat-free diets to ward against hunger, climate change, and the effects of overpopulation. (Check out the new documentary Cowspiracy to learn more.) Even changing the smallest things you do — like choosing cruelty-free cosmetics or opting not to buy leather — does wonders to change the lives of animals, as well as the humans who work in conditions that put them at environmental and emotional risk.

In other words: Being an advocate for animals means being an advocate for humans. Everything is connected.

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The Necessary Evolution of Environmental Writing

For those readers not familiar (yet) with EcoLit Books, check it out here. It’s a great resource, thanks to our wonderful contributors, for both readers and writers: Subscribe to get book reviews, calls for submissions, and other news in the world of environmental literature.

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And don’t miss this essay, The Necessary Evolution of Environmental Writing by John Yunker, which does a great job of summarizing what we’re all about here at Ashland Creek Press:

I believe that we—readers and writers alike—must redefine environmental writing to give it a wider scope in focus and in form, and a more pressing mandate. In other words, we need environmental writing that is less concerned with how one describes the landscape than with how one protects that landscape.

This essay takes a look at environmental writing past and present and how it needs to keep evolving…and we hope to be a part of this journey.

Posted in Books, Eco-Fiction, Eco-literature, For authors, On animals, On nature, On publishing, On reading, On writing, The writing life | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Q&A with Lithia Trilogy author Blair Richmond

A Q&A with Lithia Trilogy author Blair Richmond
How does it feel to be done with the Lithia Trilogy?
Relieved and bittersweet. You spend three years plus living with these characters and one day you have to say goodbye to them. But I’m eager to begin new projects and make some new friends (or characters).
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What was the most fun aspect of writing these novels? The most challenging?
I most enjoyed beginning a novel not entirely sure of where it was headed, yet also in having faith that it was headed somewhere important. I also really enjoyed writing about this magical region of the world. Most challenging was writing about environmental issues, in large part because these issues are all too real. But that’s one of my major reasons for writing these books — to pose solutions, and there are solutions for the problems at hand.
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Do you think you’ll return to Kat and/or Lithia again as a writer?
I won’t say never again because I’ve been known to change my mind.
What do you hope that readers enjoyed most about these books?
I hope readers come away inspired by these stories and characters. I have long been dispirited by the current spate of dystopian/depressing novels. The Lithia Trilogy doesn’t shy away from dark themes but poses a more optimistic future — and one that will be possible if our younger generation embraces it.
Do you plan to reveal your identity now that the trilogy is complete?
Not yet. But I think there will come a time when I step out of this self-imposed darkness.
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Posted in Books, Eco-Fiction, Eco-literature, News from Ashland Creek Press, On animals, On nature, On writing, The writing life, Vegan | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment