Fiction for Vegans

By John Yunker,

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If you’re a vegan (like us) you might find yourself frustrated at times with the current crop of “must read” novels.

Most contemporary novels make certain assumptions about contemporary life, such as what a “normal” family meal looks like, or how a “typical” vegan character should act.

For example, vegan characters are more often than not portrayed as combative, defensive, preachy or downright dangerous.

And I get it.

I’m well aware of this period of time I live in. If you want to write for the masses you’re correct in thinking that the masses are not vegetarians, let along vegans. And that normal for the masses is not normal for me.

I do get it.

But what books are vegans supposed to curl up with at night?

That’s where Ashland Creek Press fits in.

To be honest, we want books that appeal not just to vegans but to everyone. Books that are compelling, complex, and, at times, challenging.

Here’s what we offer so far, with more to come…

Among Animals: Among Animals is a collection of short stories by 15 different authors, each of which explores the human/animal relationship. This is an amazing and challenging collection.

The Green and the Red: This is quite simply a great romantic comedy. It’s a quick read that covers an expansive terrain of issues. And because it’s set in France, it’s a fascinating view of a culture that I know very little of.

The Dragon Keeper: This novel concerns a vegetarian zookeeper and the Komodo dragon in her charge. It’s both a romance and an insightful analysis of zoos and their roles as both exploiters and protectors of endangered species.

Out of BreathThe Ghost Runner, The Last Mile: Books 1, 2, and 3 of The Lithia Trilogy, this young adult series features a vegan protagonist who in search of a place to call home. And it features no other than “vegan” vampires. Yes, even vampires have the power to evolve.

Falling into Green: An eco-thriller featuring a vegan protagonist who just happens to have a crush on a carnivore TV news reporter.

The Tourist Trail: I’m plugging my own novel here, which features vegan characters who are both mainstream and heroic (and inspired by real-world animal rights activists).

I now know many people and families who live perfectly normal — and vegan — lives. What we need now are more writers to help redefine normal, or at the very least portray contemporary life as it really is.

 

The number of book reviews matter as much as the number of stars

By John Yunker,

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I found this usability study very interesting and very relevant to writers.

According to the study:

The flipside of this is important to be mindful of: users won’t necessarily consider the product with the highest rating average the best-rated one. Indeed, during our 1:1 usability tests, the subjects often show greater disposition towards some products with 4.5-star averages than some with perfect 5-star ratings due to the number of votes these averages are based on.

For instance, most subjects would pick a sleeping bag with a 4.5-star rating average based on 50 reviews over other sleeping bags with perfect 5-star ratings that were only based on a few reviews – they simply didn’t find the latter to be trustworthy.

So, authors — don’t worry so much if you don’t receive all 5-start ratings. Focus your energy instead of getting as many reviews as you can, because the number of reviews matters as much as the  aggregate rating itself, if not more so.

How to get reviews? Simply ask anyone who tells you they loved your book to “go public” with their admiration, whether on Amazon, Goodreads, B&N, etc. Most non-writers don’t realize how helpful it is to have good reviews on online retail sites, and most are happy to help!

Among Animals: An anthology that’s just getting started

By John Yunker,

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When we put out a call for submissions for our first planned anthology, Among Animals, we didn’t know what to expect. We had a vision for the types of stories we wanted, but we weren’t sure if there were enough writers out there who shared this vision.

Fortunately, we found many writers interested in exploring the human-animal connection. And we are very proud of the finished product.

We then wondered if there was an audience of readers who shared this vision? After all, we weren’t trying to sell a cute little collection of animal stories. This is, for many, a challenging collection to read. The stories deal with uncomfortable and, at times, very painful topics.

But now, a year later, I’m happy to say that Among Animals has indeed resonated with readers. The reviews alone have been very gratifying, and they continue to appear, in major publications such as Booklist to literary journals like The Chattahoochee Review.

Among the most recent reviews is this one from The Goose: A Journal of Arts, Environment, and Culture in Canada:

Among Animals is as provocative as it is urgent, and as accessible as it is emotional. This collection will be useful to animal studies specialists, posthumanist scholars, and ecocritics alike, as it attests to the multifarious systems within which humans co-exist with non-human others. The collection will serve readers with professed interests in the identity and subject formation of any social “other,” who is systematically and institutionally overlooked and undervalued, for the discourse that surrounds “the question of the animal” is by no means limited to the effects of a humanistic hierarchy on animals alone. And finally, beyond Among Animals’ tremendous theoretical and philosophical promise, the stories herein will leave an indelible impression on a compassionate readership that questions and challenges humans’ particularly privileged subject position in order to engender a more ethical framework for living not as entities separated from the world, but as sensitive and reciprocal elements of an inherently valuable, shared environment.”

And this from Sabotage Reviews:

“All of the stories were written with the laudable goal of legitimizing the need for recognition (and application) of the rights of animals in our interactions with them…This anthology reiterates [the human-animal] connection over and over again, in a myriad of ways, expanding that connection from the realm of pets, through domesticated livestock, until it encompasses all of the things that we call ‘nature,’ revealing (in a way that is wholly free from the saccharine flavor of sentiment) that we are and always have been part of the web of the world.”

And The Chattahoochee Review wrote:

“The sixteen talented writers who have produced Among Animals have produced more artistic possibilities than limitations in the tone and mood … very fine literary fiction.”

So, what next?

It’s time to begin looking forward to the next edition.

We recently opened the submission window and we welcome your stories.

But, before you do submit, please take a look the current anthology to get a feel for what we’re looking for. Click here to see where you can find the book — or, ask your local library to purchase a copy.

 

Environmentalism and fishing: Strange bedfellows

By John Yunker,

I’m struck by the number of books that equate fishing (particularly fly fishing) with “being one with the environment.”

Personally, I find this idea to be a total crock.

Yes, I’ve fished.  And fishing was a great excuse to get out into nature.

But I vividly remember as a child when I caught a rock bass and was then expected to cut it up for dinner. I wanted to put that fish back in the water. But that wasn’t how it worked.

You fish. You catch the fish. You eat the fish.

And because I so hated killing that rock bass, that became the last time I did fish.

I understand the whole “man vs. fish” dynamic. It is exciting on some level.

But it’s not exactly a fair fight. And it’s not environmental.

If you needed fish to survive, then it makes sense.

But if you use fishing as your excuse to leave home to go out into the great outdoors, perhaps you should pack some food instead. Go for a hike. Go birdwatching. Or just stand at the shore and identify the fish that swim past.

Why do human activities so often get benchmarked against what we take from nature?

Is nature a theme park? Or is nature something else? Something better?

If you’re a writer and you want to write about fishing, perhaps you can consider some of these issues? As a press, we want to see writing that pushes the envelope on what environmental should be and can be. That’s a major reason why we founded The Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature.

Meet the Sequoia: Ashland Tree of the Year 1994

By John Yunker,

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If you happen to find yourself at the SOU Hannon Library (a beautiful library, by the way) you might have noticed the massive sequoia overlooking the building.

Little did I know that this is an Ashland tree of the year.

Visit this giant sequoia next time you’re on the Southern Oregon University campus; until then, you can read more about it here.

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