Category: On reading


An early review of Jacki Skole’s DOGLAND…

By Midge Raymond,

A review of Jacki Skole’s DOGLAND: A Journey to the Heart of America’s Dog Problem

by Kimberly Spanjol, Ph.D., BCBA-D, LMHC, Humane Education Learning Programs (H.E.L.P.)

It’s time to wake up, America.

Americans love dogs. I woke up watching Good Morning America on May 20, 2015. At the time I was about halfway into reading Jacki Skole’s seminal book, Dogland.

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The story that played out on my television screen was of two Colombian National Police Officers who performed a daring rescue of a dog who was caught in rapid waters. The dog was moving fast and bobbing and disappearing under the waves. The two brave officers, clearly risking their own lives, finally intercepted the struggling pooch and pulled him to safety. They performed CPR on the riverbank as the camera caught the dog’s limp and nearly lifeless body as it revived. The newscasters were celebrating and rightfully commended the police officers on a dangerous rescue well done. I was also incredibly grateful to witness the compassion and kindness displayed by these officers.

It left me wondering why we Americans who love dogs so much, who are so happy when we see feel-good stories like these and who spend billions of dollars yearly on our pets, continue to allow the mass euthanization of thousands of healthy, adoptable pets every day in our nation’s shelters.

Read Dogland to understand why. We will never adopt our way out of the killing. Companion animal overpopulation is a multi-faceted problem that requires multi-faceted solutions. Most of all, it requires that we all become educated and do our part to eliminate the senseless suffering and death of countless sentient beings. Suffering that extends to both animals and people. As Dogland rightfully points out, non-human animals can’t thrive if people aren’t thriving, too.

The first way out of the problem in our nation’s shelters is to know the plight of homeless pets. Thank you to Jacki Skole for taking the steps to understand this complex issue and for writing this important book to inform the rest of us. The question is what we, as a nation of animal lovers, will now do with this information. My hope is that Dogland compels us all to truly work together to stop this senseless problem. Animal protection is one of the most pressing social justice issues of our time. Once you are aware of the daily suffering animals endure, you can’t not know. Not looking at animal suffering doesn’t make it go away. Education and compassionate, informed action is what makes it go away. We all need to do our part. We all need to wake up, America.

Ms. Skole’s dog Galen was the inspiration for Dogland. I hope that, just as Galen wakes up the author’s daughters every day with licks and love, Galen will also wake up our nation through this seminal work.

 

Kimberly Spanjol, Ph.D., BCBA, LMHC, is a forensic psychologist, doctoral level Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D), and New York State Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) with more than 20 years of experience working with children. She is also a founder of Youth Animal Protectors (YAP) in New York City, an organization that teaches children and teens empathy, compassion, problem solving, and related social emotional skills through learning about animal protection issues. YAP Club empowers young people by raising awareness and developing a greater understanding of others’ perspectives – both animal and human – in exploring how choices impact local and global communities.

To learn more about DOGLAND, coming in August, click here

A Q&A with Strays author Jennifer Caloyeras

By Midge Raymond,

A Q&A with Strays author Jennifer Caloyeras

Q: How did you come up with the idea for this book?

A: I had been working as the dog columnist for the Los Feliz Ledger for about seven years. Over the course of my research, I wrote a column about K-9 connection, a program that pairs at-risk teens with shelter dogs. I absolutely loved this program and thought the premise would make a great young adult novel. I also had my own experience with a very challenging rescue pit bull. He was my inspiration for writing the character of Roman.

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Q: Tell us more about the dog who inspired Roman.

A: Roman was inspired by our own rescue pit bull, Willie. We didn’t know Willie was a pit bull when we adopted him—he was only eight weeks old, and we were told he was a “shepherd mix.” His strong personality began to come out in the following weeks. He went through almost a year of intensive training with over five Los Angeles-based trainers (including the famous Dog Whisperer.) Unlike with Roman, we weren’t able to redirect Willie’s behavior and, in a heartbreaking decision, we made a plan to relinquish the dog to Brandon Fouche, an amazing dog behavioralist in Los Angeles who rehabilitates homeless people’s dogs. Imagine my surprise a few years later when I was conducting research for my column when I came across a front page photo of Willie and an accompanying article describing how he is instrumental in helping to rehabilitate these dogs. He had a bigger calling in life, and I’m so glad he found it.

Q: Why did you choose Santa Cruz as the backdrop to this story?

A: I went to college at UC Santa Cruz, and I was so struck its dramatic cliffs, beaches, redwood forests, and gorgeous trees. There’s an inherently laid-back feel about this city that I thought would make a nice juxtaposition to all of the tension happening in Iris’s life. There’s a pervasive feeling of people striving for social justice in Santa Cruz, which supports Iris’s metamorphosis from self-centered teen to animal-rights activist.

Q: Tell us about Angela Carter and your choice to include her in the story. 

A: I first learned about British writer Angela Carter when I was in graduate school at Cal State Los Angeles, working towards my MA in literature. I struck by the ways in which she completely re-interpolated familiar fairy tales, rejecting gender stereotypes and adding a feminist edge to these stories that had been controlled by men for hundreds of years. The Bloody Chamber was published in 1979 and was just so ahead of its time.

Q: Did you have kind, supportive teachers like Iris’s teacher Perry in high school? 

A: Yes! I was very lucky to attend a progressive high school in Santa Monica. We called our teachers by their first names, and we always sat in a circle instead of in prescribed rows. The teachers there were amazing listeners, whether they were hearing our ideas about a particular concept or listening to us vent about our daily lives. I felt particularly connected with my English, theater, and music teachers, and the character of Perry is an amalgam of all of these wonderful people.

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Click here to learn more about Strays and to get your own copy. And visit Jennifer’s website for the latest news and events.

A Q&A with Earth Joy Writing author Cassie Premo Steele

By Midge Raymond,

A Q&A with Earth Joy Writing author Cassie Premo Steele

Q: What is Earth Joy Writing?

A: It is a way of interacting with the natural world that brings about empowerment, healing, and personal change. Nature has always been a source of comfort, inspiration, and wisdom for me. I wanted to be able to share that—teach that—to others.

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Q: How the book come into being?

A: I started writing Earth Joy Writing in 2008 while teaching classes in ecopoetry and ecofeminism at the University of South Carolina’s Green Quad for Sustainable Futures. I continued working on it over the next few years and presenting workshops with exercises from the book to various groups, including more than a year’s worth of monthly workshops at Saluda Shoals Park in South Carolina. The book is very much a balance of theory and practice, tested in university and community settings, and accessible to a wide audience.

One of the best experiences I had while writing the book was being in Short Hills Mall in New Jersey, and a saleswoman asked me how I liked living in South Carolina. I responded, “I like it a lot. We have nature there.” She looked around, thinking, and then said, “Oh, yes, we used to have that store here, but it closed.”

I think we are feeling an increasing anxiety about the natural world, and we’re not sure what to do about it. We listen to news reports, and we can feel helpless. I wrote this book to help with our fears. I truly believe that when we begin to see nature not as a “thing” that can be bought and sold but as a living being in relationship with us, we begin to heal not only the Earth, but ourselves.

Q: How would you describe the book to readers and aspiring writers? 

A: Earth Joy Writing is a new version of The Artist’s Way for the green generation. In the years since the hugely successful Artist’s Way hit the market, three important changes have occurred. First, our lives are much more interconnected on a daily basis through the Internet and social marketing networks. Second, we are highly aware of the grave dangers our environment faces. Third, we can sense a surge in a collective desire for community. This book addresses all these needs for readers—to live a harmonious and balanced life despite the vast changes happening around them, and to connect with others and the earth in meaningfully creative ways.

It is a hopeful book. It is practical. It has been tested. It leads to healing. It is not just for writers or naturalists. It is for the person who wants to live life more meaningfully.

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Tips for Authors: Reaching out to book bloggers

By Midge Raymond,

With traditional media cutting book editors and reviewers, “book bloggers” are becoming a popular and often very successful way for books to get noticed. While not all book bloggers are professional critics, they are all passionate readers, and if they have a good following on their blog (as well as social media), a good review could lead to great word of mouth for your book.

Because not all book bloggers read every type of book, be sure to look at their review policies before contacting them. And there are dozens and dozens of other book review bloggers out there, so while this list offers a start, it is far from comprehensive.

Also note that while most publishers reserve the majority of ARCs for major media, they do occasionally send out ARCs to book bloggers – so check with your publisher before contacting book bloggers to ensure that there’s no overlap.

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A few tips for contacting book bloggers:

  • Always check out their reviews to make sure your book is a good fit
  • Make sure the blogger has an audience—look for a large number of followers (in the hundreds, at least); look for comments that show that the blog has an active community of readers; check its Facebook page and Twitter feed to make sure it has a good number of followers
  • If the blogger does giveaways, this is a good way to get more potential readers interested; you may be able to ask the blogger to donate his/her review copy, or you may need to send two books (consider giving away e-books as well)
  • If the blog features author articles or interviews, offer to do a guest post or a Q&A; this will give you excellent additional exposure
  • Always remember to offer a bio, an author photo, and a book cover image
  • Try to coordinate posts/reviews with events you’ll be doing, for additional exposure
  • Go beyond book-review blogs to blogs on topics that relate to your book (for example, if your book involves travel, find a travel blog and pitch a guest post; the blogger may also be happy to review the book if it’s a place he/she has visited)
  • When the review/article/interview appears, share it far and wide, in emails to friends and family as well as social media—word of mouth is the single best way to find new readers!

And check out this mini Q&A with book blogger Serena Agusto-Cox of Savvy Verse & Wit, which is included in Everyday Book Marketing, for a book blogger’s point of view.

Announcing the 2014 Siskiyou Prize winner and finalists!

By Midge Raymond,

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.