Category: Eco-Fiction


An interview with Among Animals contributor Patrick Hicks

By Midge Raymond,

An interview with Among Animals contributor Patrick Hicks (“Aren’t You Pretty?”)
by Jennifer Hartsock

Q: Patrick, in “Aren’t You Pretty?” Christmas brings great destruction the night of the house fire, yet, our narrator later imagines Sara “opening box after box of healthy skin”—a vision of renewal and restoration. Can you expand on the dualism between Christmas’s reputation and its burden upon this family?

A: When I was crafting the essence of this story, I immediately thought of setting the house fire against the peaceful calm of snow fluttering down through the night. I suppose this naturally led me to think of Christmas and, from there, what the season means to families. In the passage you mention—about Sara opening box after box of healthy skin—I was thinking of longing and materialism, and how Andi wanted to give her niece the one thing she couldn’t possibly give her: restored health. Having the action set against Christmas was almost accidental, but it opened up these interesting possibilities of selfishness and selflessness, as well as family responsibility.

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Q: Your characters are often compared to non-human entities. Is there an overall correlation between fire “[eating the house] alive as if by a wild animal,” comparing Sara to “images of hurt animals,” and the narrator’s initial opinion that humans are incapable of kindness? Does this play into our narrator’s transformation when revisiting the wreckage and discovering a neighbor bestowed “…a wonderful act of kindness”?

A: I can understand Andi’s feelings about humanity and cruelty, especially when I consider her job at an animal shelter. I was intentional when I described the fire as a type of wild animal because, to Andi, that’s how she would see it. And when she returns to the house—when she sees all the destruction—I was surprised to find that a neighbor had used his snowblower to clear the sidewalk. That sentence just flowed out of me and I remember pausing after I had written it. It’s such a Minnesotan thing to do—to help your neighbors during winter like that. Maybe it’s not so much an “act of kindness” that is highlighted in that particular scene, but an act of typical Minnesotan-ness? Either way, Andi is touched by it, and that’s the important thing. It rejuvenates her a little, I think. It makes her realize that not everything is lost.

Q: Our narrator prefers a life comprised of “just [her] and [her] little zoo.” Yet she attempts to convince her brother to return to her—and her niece’s—life. Can you explain her struggle between her ideal living conditions and her drive to bring the family back together?

A: I’m still fascinated by Andi because on the one hand she is incredibly generous, but on the other hand she is also incredibly selfish. She is so loving towards animals and she throws open her house to the most damaged among them. And yet, she likes her independence and free time, too. She enjoys going home and being single. It’s as if she opens the borders of her heart at work, but she then closes them down again when she returns home and shuts herself off with a smaller group of animals. Her drive to bring the family back together again is initially very selfish, at least for me. If Steve doesn’t come home, it means that she has to take care of Sara. And she doesn’t want to do that. She doesn’t want to become an instant mother and have her little slice of selfish paradise taken away. That’s why she wants Steve to come back. If he comes back, her life is easier. Most people would act this way, I think.

Q: It appears that “aren’t you pretty?” represents our narrator’s goal to find beauty in what is clearly damaged. What can you tell us about developing this connection?

A: It’s human nature to find goodness amid evil, and beauty amid ugliness. I’m not sure this is necessarily healthy because it can turn our attention away from evil and make us focus, instead, on something else. Take the Holocaust, for instance. By focusing on acts of goodness and clemency, we turn away from the overpowering and punishing evil that swallowed up Europe. We look for the candle in the darkness when, really, the darkness is the story. So, I’m not sure that Andi is searching for beauty amid what is damaged. I’d like to think that she is offering love in spite of this damage. That is, she is offering love to the loveless and rejected. For me, she sees these animals that have been hurt in horrible ways and she loves them because she knows no one else will. That’s beautiful. It’s one of her traits I’m most drawn to.

Q: When researching your latest novel, The Commandant of Lubizec, you traveled to Warsaw and Krakow to visit Operation Reinhard death camps. Did you conduct similar research when writing “Aren’t You Pretty?”

A: I did. It all started when I realized there weren’t many stories set in a burn unit. And I was interested to tell a story set in such a place. But first, I had to figure out how a character would end up in a burn unit. So I interviewed the fire chief here in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He’s a wonderful and quietly heroic man named Jim Sedaris, and he told me about fighting house fires in winter. He explained the technical aspects of firefighting but, more importantly, he helped me see how families react when a loved one is caught inside an inferno. I couldn’t have written the first half of the story without the information and insight that he gave me. Likewise, the second half of the story was made exponentially stronger when I visited the burn unit at Avera McKennan Hospital, also in Sioux Falls. The nurses there are just amazing. They suited me up in hospital garb and showed me around. All the medical aspects in the story are accurate, and everything I mention is lifted directly from my long day with them. They told me about burn victims, about debriding, about recovery stages, and much, much more. I even had the opportunity to interview a middle-aged woman who was in the burn unit. She had been working at a fast food restaurant when a drunk driver plowed through the side of the building. All the hot oil from the deep fat fryer was splashed onto her legs—she had third-degree burns on her thighs, her knees, her shins, everywhere—and she tried to explain the pain. I had on a hospital gown, and a mask, and rubber gloves, and I just listened to her. She groaned in excruciating pain. She said it felt like her legs were still burning. And when she talked about being debrided twice a day … well, I’ve never forgotten that. Thanks to her, and the nurses, and Jim Sedaris, the story came alive in ways I never could have imagined otherwise. I’m a big believer in research. I’m just a conduit for a story, and that means I have to understand the language and background the story is speaking. That means interviewing people. It means stepping out of my office and going places I’ve never gone before.

Q: You are also the writer-in-residence at Augustana College. Will you paint a picture of what you refer to as your “lab”? What purpose do each of your two desks serve?

A: I’ve got two desks in my office. They are at a ninety-degree angles to each other, and I have one chair that allows me to swivel between them. I use one desk for writing fiction (that’s where my computer is located) and the other desk is for poetry (that’s where my pencils and erasers and spare paper is located). It helps me to focus my thoughts and creativity if I can say, “Right, okay, you’re at the poetry desk now, so write some stanzas.” Or I can spin my chair to the left and work on fiction. I call my office a “lab” because I want my students to understand that being creative means trying out new things. What happens if x and y and z are added together? I don’t know. Let’s find out. Most people understand that hard work and experiments happen in laboratories, but for those of us involved in the creative arts, I think people are a bit flummoxed about what we do. How does creativity happen? How does that work? I teach at a small liberal arts college, and it’s helpful for my students who do biology and chemistry to understand that writing requires lab time, too. I may not have Bunsen burners or centrifuges in my office, but it’s a lab all the same.

Q: You’ve referred to writing as a “hypnotic magic trick”—what do you mean by this?

A: When we’re carried away by an amazing piece of writing, our brains are under the control of someone else. That’s hypnosis. When a writer does her or his job exceedingly well, we forget that we’re reading and we surrender our imaginations to a world beyond our bodies. That’s what reading is: It’s essentially an out-of-body experience. As a writer, I’m drawn to this magic trick. I’m just so in love with how literature can mesmerize us and connect us across time, across continents, across religion and culture, across even the grave. With a little splash of ink on a page, we can see beyond ourselves and live for a moment in the world of someone else. That’s astonishing, and I believe it makes us better human beings.

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An interview with Among Animals contributor Charlotte Malerich

By Midge Raymond,

An interview with Among Animals contributor C.S. Malerich (“Meat”)

by Jennifer Hartsock

 Q: Charlotte, your works integrate many social classifications and positions—such as gender, race, class, and species. Do you have a topic or theme in mind before you begin writing, or do you recognize one while/after completing the work?

A: The idea for the story is first and foremost. Since I write speculative fiction, it’s all about “what if X, Y, or Z premise was true?” But that inspiration usually comes alongside a political question. While I can get story ideas from just about anywhere—like a dream I had or a co-worker’s offhand comment—most often I get inspired in a self-consciously political way. I’ll hear a story, fictional or not, think about the politics of it (by politics I mean the power dynamics that are working in the story), and then I’ll rearrange that story and transform it into something that offers a different perspective—or problematizes the ideology behind it, as a literary critic might say. In the case of “Meat,” I was reading Betty Fussell’s book Raising Steaks, about the beef industry; she includes an anecdote about this family that runs their own Mom-and-Pop slaughterhouse in rural Vermont. They had a couple cattle of their own that they were raising to be dinner. The kids, on the one hand, treated them like pets, but on the other hand, they gave them names like “T-Bone” and “Brisket.” I took that little anecdote and used it to explore a major contradiction in the concept of humane meat: on the one hand, professing to care about someone—that’s why it has to be humane—and at the same time planning that someone’s death—otherwise there’s no meat.

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Q: When you were a teenager, one of your fondest pastimes was listening to poets read their work. Do you prefer an artist’s inflection, whether through audio books or live readings, as opposed to your unique interpretation of their work?

A: Honestly, I think I went to poetry readings more to impress my high school English teacher than because I enjoyed the poetry. But I love performing, and those readings were another outlet for me. I’m pretty introverted, so having a whole group of people listening to me at once takes some of the pressure off. It saves me many smaller one-on-one conversations later, and in most performance settings, the audience isn’t going to interrupt or answer back. If I do talk to someone from the audience later, they already have a good feel for who I am and what I’m about, so we bypass the awkward “getting-to-know-you” phase of the conversation. Plus, we already have something to talk about.

I do have a great respect for other performers—whether they are doing their own work or someone else’s. It’s nice to hear how an author reads their own work, but hearing another person’s interpretation can show you other registers and nuances of meaning. I think that’s why I like seeing multiple productions of the same play, and hearing how different actors say the same lines.  Most authors can’t perform their work the way it sounds in their heads anyway; even something as basic as a character’s accent or pitch is beyond what a lot of authors can do. I know that’s been my experience reading my own prose.

Have you ever heard a song that grabbed you, and then later you read the lyrics?  It’s inevitably disappointing. The same is true of a lot of poetry and even a lot of prose: It’s just better to hear it.  The human voice, with inflection and pitch and rhythm, adds so much depth that is all but impossible to convey on the page. Obviously, I don’t dislike the written word, or I wouldn’t do all the reading and writing that I do. But there is something great about hearing literature out loud, period.

Q: Your character Meat is adopted by a family that mutually accepts her as kin and keeps her at a safe distance. Because Meat bestows human qualities—and it is never disclosed if Meat is a non-human animal—does the family’s conflict between compassion and superiority reflect ethnocentrism?

A: The whole story depends on that tension between affectionate acceptance and the idea that this person is inferior and therefore her need—in fact, her very life—are less valid. It’s difficult for the characters in the story to see that contradiction because they know what Meat is, and so the dominant ideology is working on them: Meat is classified in their society as a lesser being, as meant for food, which makes it impossible for them to fully accept her as a member of the family. I was very deliberate, though, in hiding Meat’s full identity from the reader, so whatever ideology the reader brings to the story about non-humans and humans, they can’t easily apply it to Meat’s character. So what the reader gets is just the tension between the affection and the superiority, without being able to reconcile it.

I am assuming that readers’ knowledge of other forms of oppression, like ethnocentrism, helps them see this contradiction clearly, even though the characters can’t. Though the oppression of a particular group always has its unique features, I don’t think it’s wrong to see commonalities. To get very Marxian for a minute, oppression works on a material basis, creates an ideology of superiority/inferiority, and that ideology affects people’s actions. So for instance, one group might be classified as property: in many times and places, women were legally the property of their fathers or husbands; in North America, African people were legally the property of slavers; and domestic animals are still the property of their owners. This didn’t mean historically that men never felt affection for their daughters, or slave-owning families never felt affection toward their slaves. Or that today farmers can’t feel affection and concern for the animals they raise.  But those emotions, where they exist, butt up against a wall of ideology, not to mention social pressure and material interests in maintaining the status quo. The affection actually becomes a justification: a lot of people genuinely believed it was in women’s best interest to remain in the custody of men; that it was in African Americans’ best interest to stay on plantations working for masters who would take care of them. So they didn’t challenge the system; they didn’t struggle for equality.

I think today people at least realize that that kind of paternalistic, “white-man’s-burden” affection is at odds with itself, even if racism and sexism haven’t gone away. With respect to animals, because we have so much farther to go in terms of seeing their lives as equally valid, Meat’s exact species had to be left ambiguous, or the ideology that she’s “just an animal” would kick in, and the reader’s reaction to the story would change. It’s my hope that, because you can read her as any species or no species, as a human from another ethnicity or as an extraterrestrial, not only will the contradiction between loving her and eating her will be sharper, but that the classification of some creatures as “meat” and some as “not-meat” becomes harder to support.

Q: Since the family is described as progressive, does their budding compassion reflect the abolition of human slavery or other liberating movements?

A: In a lot of ways, the story is about the failure of compassion. What the family feels for her, and whatever progressive aspirations they have, really doesn’t do Meat any good. If some members of the family, through their experience with Meat, become aware of the contradiction between their feelings and their actions, they could choose a more radical path in the future. To be realistic, though, there’s an equally good chance that they’ll ignore that contradiction, and even suppress their compassion, in order to continue living as a meat-eating family that thinks well of themselves.

That’s the limitation of “Meat,” that it’s all about the family. We never see Meat’s point of view, or see much outside of the family’s social world, so change has to come from within them. From where I sit, the prognosis isn’t good.

But when we talk about abolition in the real world, whether of human slavery or animal exploitation, the really revolutionary influences come from people who are consciously rejecting the norms of society, and from the oppressed themselves. Without the slave revolts in the Caribbean and in the U.S., without the Harriet Tubmans and the John Browns and the Frederick Douglasses, and without the many, many people who spread abolitionist ideas, who were part of the Underground Railroad, and fought in the Civil War for the North, chattel slavery could not have been abolished in the U.S. It came at a very high price for those folks, physically, economically, socially. Slavery didn’t end because slave-owners and -traders became humane and compassionate and voluntarily gave up their way of life.

Animal liberation won’t happen in an identical way, but it definitely depends on people who are willing to take a position that puts them at odds with the people around them and the society they live in. It also depends on the animals themselves: They can’t organize an armed uprising or write an autobiography, but they do communicate with us. They fight, kick, bite, balk, scream, and run away when they are threatened; they sunbathe, frolic, lick, nuzzle, and smile when they’re allowed to live safe and free. Humans have to learn to interpret this communication under a new paradigm; it can’t happen between owner and property.

If I wrote a sequel to “Meat” in a more hopeful light, the narrator’s older sister would probably ally herself with Filet and some of the protestors from the opening. They’d rescue Filet, replace all the meat in the grocery store with tofu, and burn down the butcher’s kill room.

Q: When Meat is killed, the narrator’s father praises a “humane” slaughter, while her mother shows kindness to the carcass. Does the gender of her parents have an influence over their reactions to the same action?

A: The parents’ reactions to Meat’s killing aren’t meant to suggest that women are fundamentally more sensitive and compassionate to animals, though I see how it could be read that way. Given the way the two characters have interacted with Meat to this point, those felt like the right reactions for them to have: Dad’s main concern all along has been “humane” treatment, not seeing Meat suffer, and he’s relieved at the end that he’s achieved that goal. He’s got a utilitarian, Peter-Singer-style ethics to him; for him, his obligation to Meat is the prevention of her suffering. Of course, Meat’s now beyond the possibility of suffering, and he gets to have that dinner he’s been waiting for. So it’s like having his cake and eating it, too, guilt-free. Mom is more in tune with the emotional loss that comes with Meat’s death. She has been caring for Meat just like she cares for the other members of the family, so to some degree, she sees Meat like another one of her kids.

The reactions are indeed related to gender, but that’s because their interactions with Meat have been shaped by the roles they play in the family, and those roles in turn were largely determined by gender expectations. I knew as I was drafting the story that I needed one parent who was the driving force behind raising Meat, the parent with the social conscience, who could be influenced by exposés of factory farming, etc. I needed the other parent to be the practical one who had reservations about the whole thing because of the work involved as well as the effect on the kids.  I could have easily reversed the mother and father, or had same-sex parents, without changing their personalities or their role in the story. But I think I ended up with Social-Conscience Dad and Practical Mom because I decided the family would basically conform to traditional division of labor: Mom cooks and cleans and takes care of the kids. Some of what I’m doing in “Meat” is satirizing progressives, or people who think of themselves as progressive; I’m sure the father consciously believes men and women should share household responsibilities, yet somehow his wife is still the one feeding the family, bathing the kids, etc. It’s not meant to be a slap at men especially but really a measure of how difficult it is to break entrenched ideologies, even just in your personal life. So much of the story is about the gap between the values people claim to hold and how they actually live. Gender roles are one aspect of that.

 Q: One reason you write fiction is to consider how the world might be different. Do you write with the intention of perceiving the world differently, or to escape from it for a while?

A: I definitely write for myself to escape the world for a while, and to manage my frustrations with it in a more constructive way than punching walls or tearing apart my fingernails. If I can give that to my readers also, then I’ve done well. What’s interesting is that my stories, even though they are fantasy, usually don’t end up feeling very escapist. “Dark” and “melancholy” are two adjectives I’ve heard. (“Moralistic,” is a another.) So at the end of the day, I think I’m just trying to describe the real world and how it works in a new way. It’s that Picasso quote: “Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.” I’m trying to get my readers to understand something about the real world, usually an ugly something.

I’ve flirted with the idea of writing a story set in a society that I’d actually want to live in, but that’s a much harder task. For example, I really admire what Ursula Le Guin did in The Dispossessed because the novel gives a comprehensive vision of how an anarchist society could run, but there’s also a suspenseful narrative and characters with problems, and that’s what keeps you turning the pages. The trouble with writing fiction is that there has to be conflict, or you can’t hold a reader’s attention. The bigger the conflict, the higher the stakes, the better. So, like a lot of writers, I head for the dystopian. I write about class societies, racist societies, societies that slaughter other creatures without a thought. If there’s escape in these stories, it’s that some of the characters are resistant, and some of them have mutually affectionate relationships with one another, even in the midst of all the awful. If there isn’t triumph, there’s dignity.

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An interview with Among Animals contributor Mary Akers

By Midge Raymond,

An interview with Among Animals contributor Mary Akers (“Beyond the Strandline”)
by Jennifer Hartsock

Q: Mary, many of your works portray personal transformations reflected by the ocean. Does your advocacy for the ocean inspire most of your creative writing?

A: Thanks for this interview, Jennifer. I appreciate the chance to talk about my work. For my most recent book, Bones of an Inland Sea, all of the stories were inspired by the ocean. They were inspired equally by my great love of the ocean and by my great fear of it. And anyone who knows Mother Ocean well enough to love her, live near her, or make a living off her, also has a healthy respect for her capricious and brutal indifference to the whole of humankind. I do have another as-yet-unpublished book—a novel—that also has a great deal of ocean-advocacy at its core, but over the whole of my career, I would have to say I have mostly just written about the things that haunt me. Things that stay with me and won’t leave me alone. Writing is my way of processing and bringing order to the chaos in my mind. The big picture things, the things I just can’t seem to wrap my head around? Writing helps me find a calm place to stand in the middle of the thorniest moral debates.

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Q: Do you have a formula for developing characters or themes, or do they develop themselves as you write?

A: I would have to say that I most often start with a voice. Even if I have a rough idea of how I want a story to unfold, of what events I want to occur and what emotions I want to explore, I still don’t really feel like I’m writing until I find a voice to tell the story. In “Beyond the Strandline” I knew early on that I wanted a cranky narrator—prickly enough that readers might not like him at first. I also wanted to explore some of the motivations behind animal stewardship and the various ways we interact with the natural world. Walt didn’t start out rescuing dolphins. He started out capturing them and training them. Only with time was he able to work his way around to understanding their needs and seeing them as individuals worthy of saving and of freedom.

Q: “Beyond the Strandline” exercises many themes; for example, control verses helplessness. Walt wavers between finding control in sexual relations and yearning to return to a time—prompted by the ocean—when he was with his wife. Can you explain his struggle between his animalistic needs and acting humane?

A: Actually, I spent the whole of this story trying to show Walt’s (and by extension OUR) struggles in an intrinsic, subtle way, so rather than answer your question directly, I’ll explain by way of a detour. I like for readers to come to their own conclusions about what they read in my work. When it comes to interpretation, I believe that what the reader brings to the table is just as important as what the writer brings and as a reader myself, I’m fairly put off by didactic writing in fiction. But…if I can use a story to slowly reshape a reader’s thoughts, to educate him and make him look at the world in a slightly different way, then I feel like I’ve succeeded at my job.

I’ve always admired the story as a subversive, subliminal, teaching tool. Parables, fairy tales, even neighborhood gossip—they are all just stories that teach us something about life and about living, without being too didactic. Stories are an organic way to explore the morals of various difficult situations and thereby influence thought. Storytelling has even helped us evolve as a species. “Don’t eat that!” “Be a good Samaritan.” “Fly too close to the sun and your feathers catch on fire.” What is Little Red Riding Hood, after all, but an admonition against talking to strangers? Or the Three Little Pigs but a story to tell us to be careful where and with whom we take shelter?

Q: Another theme suggests dolphin herders in Japan are comparable to human slavers. Can you give a little background on how you developed this connection?

A: Sure. The more I learned about the practice of capturing dolphins for swim-with programs, aquariums, educational purposes, and even therapeutic uses, the more appalled I became. The parallels came quite quickly, actually. Dolphins are extremely social, highly intelligent, playful mammals who live in tight-knit family groups. And we humans intrude into their world, violently rip them from their home and family, sell them (for great sums of money) into unpaid service against their will, keep them in appalling conditions (a tiny liquid box where they are fed dead fish) which reduce both their quality of life and life expectancy. This is done simply to serve, entertain, and (most of all) make money for us. Sure sounds like slavery to me.

Q: “Beyond the Strandline” also deals with end of life rights for both humans and non-humans. What can you tell us about Walt’s inner struggle with his wife’s condition and his dolphin counterparts?

A: The emotional turning point for me comes when Walt learns that the other two dolphins (who had been staying with Lulu, the younger dolphin) decide to swim away. Many times apparently healthy dolphins beach themselves and die and we don’t know why. Often they are staying with a more obviously sick or injured dolphin and the healthy appear to become casualties simply because they don’t want to leave their fellow pod members. In this case, when Walt sees those two still-healthy dolphins choosing life over death, it flips a switch in his brain and gives him permission not only to say good-bye to his wife, but to say hello to what will be the rest of his life without her in it.

Q: Your new collection, Bones of an Inland Sea, is comprised of many short stories close to your heart and professional work. Do you find it helpful to establish a certain distance from your stories—perhaps when writing from a male perspective or a devastating tsunami in Thailand?

A: A degree of distance is always good for me, and I suspect it is for most authors. If we’re too close to something we want to write about, it runs the risk of becoming preachy, or overly sentimental, or a cranky rant, or just simply boring. I enjoy doing research about a place I’ve never been or writing from a male point-of-view. It forces me to look at the world in a different way—to “Tell all the Truth but tell it slant” if I am allowed to quote Emily Dickinson. It’s good to get out of one’s own head, and for me, writing from a very different point-of-view is rather like the excitement I feel when hanging around with toddlers. Everything in their world is new and if I look at it through their eyes, I get a fresh, exciting perspective on, say, a purple-striped lizard threading his way through the ivy on a cinderblock wall. Everything is magical to a child…and what a gift if we can soak up a little bit of that magic just by entering their world for a spell.

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Join us at AWP in Seattle!

By Midge Raymond,

We look forward to seeing many of you at the AWP Conference & Bookfair — February 27 to March 1.

We’ll be hosting a booth for Ashland Creek Press, EcoLit Books, and Literary Provisions. Please join us (we’ll be in booth #1207 in the North Hall) to check out new books and fun stuff for writers.

And don’t miss these other events…

Thursday, February 27
Julian Hoffman, contributor to Among Animals and author of The Small Heart of Things: Being at Home in a Beckoning World, winner of the 2012 AWP Award Series for creative nonfiction, will be signing books from 11 a.m. to 12 noon. (ACP booth #1207)

Jean Ryan, author of the “captivating” (Publishers Weekly) short story collection Survival Skills and contributor to Among Animals, will be signing books at the booth from 1 to 2 p.m. (ACP booth #1207)

Friday, February 28
Mindy Mejia, author of the “beautiful” (Twin Cities Pioneer Press) novel The Dragon Keeper will be signing books from 9 to 11 a.m. (ACP booth #1207)

JoeAnn Hart, author of the eco-novel Float (“a stellar model of eco-literature”—Cape Ann Beacon) will be signing books from 4 to 5 p.m. (ACP booth #1207)

And at 4:30 p.m., I’ll be leading a panel on Book Marketing — From Finding Your Muse to Finding Your Readers: Book promotion in the twenty-first century, with Kelli Russell Agodon, Wendy Call, Janna Cawrse Esarey, and Susan Rich. Panelists from a variety of genres—poetry, fiction, narrative nonfiction, and memoir—will discuss the unique challenges and opportunities of transitioning from writer to published book author. Through specific experiences and using real-world examples, panelists will offer tips for finding one’s natural niche and audience, and how to reach out to readers authentically and generously. Topics include book promotion through conferences, book clubs, social media, awards, blogs, events, and salons. (Room 608, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6)

Saturday, March 1
On Saturday, the Bookfair is free and open to the public!

At 12 noon, join John Yunker for a panel on The Greening of Literature: Eco-Fiction and Poetry to Enlighten and Inspire, with authors JoeAnn Hart, Mindy Mejia, Ann Pancake, and Gretchen Primack. From mountaintop removal to ocean plastic to endangered species, ecological issues are increasingly on writers’ minds. Authors on this panel discuss how their ecologically themed fiction and poetry engages readers in powerful ways that nonfiction can’t. Panelists discuss writing in these emerging sub-genres as well as their readers’ responses and offer tips for writing about the environment in ways that are galvanizing and instructive without sacrificing creativity to polemics. (Aspen Room, Sheraton Seattle, 2nd Floor)

And for anyone heading south after AWP, please join me and Gretchen Primack for an afternoon of eco-fiction and poetry at Portland’s Central Library on Sunday, March 2, at 2 p.m. — click here for details.

Among Animals featured in Vegetarian Times Magazine

By John Yunker,

Midge was interviewed by Vegetarian Times regarding Among Animals.

Learn more about the anthology, her story “The Ecstatic Cry,” and environmental fiction is all about.

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We hope you’ll run out and get the March issue of Vegetarian Times to check out the article.