Ashland is a company town, as in theater company. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival stages about 11 different shows a year and brings in tourists from the around the world.
So the announcement of next year’s plays is kind of a big deal around here. It’s a show onto itself.
If you want to see what’s coming a year from now, watch the artistic director Bill Rauch announce the titles:
I’m really excited about The Tempest.
Speaking of drama, we’re now seeking full-length plays ourselves here at Ashland Creek Press — not to produce but to publish as books. (Reading plays, we think, can be as amazing as seeing them performed on stage.) We are looking for plays that explore the human/animal relationship, particularly in regard to animal protection. For full details, check out our submissions page.
The ALDF is an amazing organization that has been fighting since 1979 to protect the lives and advance the interests of animals through the legal system — and in addition to all its great work, the ALDF is encouraging readers to engage with these important issues through literature.
In its review, the Animal Book Club calls The Tourist Trail a “brave novel” that “demonstrates the importance of fighting for justice for animals within the bounds of the law in a moving show of compassion for all those who advocate for animals.”
Click here to read more — and don’t miss this Q&A with John in which he discusses penguins, activism, veganism, and animal advocacy in literature. You’ll also learn about the inspiration for the penguin character Diesel, whose identity has long been fiercely protected. (Kidding: Turbo actually has his own Facebook page.)
The Animal Book Club is also giving away three copies of The Tourist Trail to lucky readers — and you can qualify to win in two easy steps: visit the website and leave a comment, and join ALDF’s Animal Book Club by signing up here (it’s free, of course!). If you love animals, it’s well worth joining — the book club will features fiction, nonfiction, short stories, and films, not to mention author interviews and fantastic giveaways.
Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher by Timothy Egan (HMH)
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain (HarperCollins)
The Presidents Club by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy (Simon & Schuster)
Devil in the Grove by Gilbert King (HarperCollins)
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (HarperCollins)
The Chautauqua Prize is a national award that celebrates a book of fiction or literary nonfiction that provides a richly rewarding reading experience and honors the author for a significant contribution to the literary arts. In 2013, 125 books from 67 publishers were nominated for consideration. Ashland Creek Press is the only small press among the finalists.
In The Names of Things, an anthropologist left with many questions following the death of his wife returns to Africa to retrace steps he took with her years ago while living with camel-herding nomads. Chautauqua award readers called the book “compelling,” “marvelous” and “extremely satisfying.”
For Earth Day, Ashland Creek Press is offering an eco-fiction sampler and book giveaway.
Simply email Ashland Creek Press at editors [at] ashlandcreekpress [dot] com, on or before April 22, using the subject line EARTH DAY, and you’ll receive a copy of our Eco-Fiction Sampler, which features excerpts of six works of environmental fiction.
You’ll also be entered to win a copy of one of the six eco-fiction titles from the sampler — we’re giving away one environmentally friendly e-book and one paperback (printed on paper from Sustainable Forestry Initiative certified sourcing), so please mention your preference in your email.
When you enter the giveaway, you’ll be added to our mailing list, from which you can unsubscribe at any time (and your info will never be shared).
For more about Ashland Creek Press, click here. For more about our environmental literature, click here.
Q&A with Jean Ryan, author of SURVIVAL SKILLS: STORIES
Q: How did you come up with the idea for this book, and how long did it take you to write it?
A: These stories were written over a period of several years. As they began to gel into a collection, I was able to understand what interests me most as a writer: the natural world and the vulnerability and interdependency of all living things. I enjoy exploring the connections, the synchronicities, the quiet miracles underlying the world we see. Fear and the relative fragility of the human mind fascinate me in particular.
Most of the stories were inspired by something I had read or a show I had seen. “Migration” issued from the real story of a Toulouse goose that lived in a park in Los Angeles and became smitten with one of the visitors. “Looks for Life” also came from real events—a co-worker told me about a friend of his whose life changed after a plastic surgeon rebuilt his face. “Waiting for Annie” followed a special I had seen on coma, the “silent epidemic.” Improved emergency response techniques and sophisticated life support machines are keeping more and more lives in this eerie state of suspension. Especially intriguing to me is the mind’s ability to make connections by itself, to persist without the complement of consciousness. “Paradise” emerged from a program I had watched about intelligence in birds, parrots in particular. One bird had acquired a prodigious vocabulary and this stirred my imagination. I thought it would be fun to work this creature into a story, to use him in fact as a main character. In order to create conflict, the parrot in this tale is malicious as well as brilliant. The extravagance of Palm Springs, its artificial overlay, seemed an apt parallel to the various indulgences that Max enjoyed in his man-made abode.
Q: Do you have a special routine or place in which you write?
A: I write in the mornings, in my living room, using a laptop computer. However, I think about my stories anywhere and everywhere, so you might say that I am always in the process of writing—either mulling over scenes in a particular story or absorbing ideas for future stories.
I usually start making notes for a story in longhand. After I have a few paragraphs down, I switch to the computer. I love the ease with which text can be manipulated, and paper saved, using a computer. I edit as a I write. Manuals on writing will invariably instruct you otherwise, but my method is more like a stone mason’s: A sentence must be as strong as I can make it before layering on another. I am obsessive about finding the right word. Occasionally a word that perfectly defines an idea is not a word that fits rhythmically, so I will use a slightly different word in order to achieve the right sound. The rhythm of a sentence is very important to me, and I hear phrases as I write them.
Q: Do you prefer writing short stories over novels?
A: Yes. I love the immediacy of the short form, the way it pulls the reader into a situation quickly. I think the quality of writing in literary short fiction is superior to the writing in most novels. Novels often carry too much exposition and padding. Short pieces must get to the point quickly. This urgency requires distillation, a challenge I revel in—delivering a scene or idea as clearly as I can.
Q: What was the most difficult aspect of your book’s journey?
A: Finding a publisher. Despite shrinking attentions spans in this information age, people are still inclined to buy a novel over a book of short stories. Publishers know this, so few of them will consider buying short story collections. I would like to think that as more people embrace the various digital platforms available now, with single stories more widely available, the short form will have a revival.
Q: Do you have a favorite story?
A: “Paradise” and “The Side Bar” are probably my favorites. I had fun with the humor in “Paradise,” and I enjoyed creating a parrot with an agenda—I love Max! “The Side Bar” is a more serious story, which actually began as a novel. As the story expanded, I saw that it was headed in a direction that didn’t ring true, so I focused back in on the bar itself and the troubled characters it contained. The desert is a compelling backdrop for human experience, and I admire those who can withstand its haunting openness.
Q: Which story did you feel was most challenging to write? And were there any that came so naturally they seemed to write themselves?
A: “Remediation” was probably my most challenging story, inspired by a woman I knew and respected. Writing about her was difficult at times; I miss her very much. The story that came most easily—and this is so rare—is “Survival Skills.” The tone of this piece presented itself to me, and the juxtaposition of plant and human felt natural. Having worked at a nursery for several years, I’ve had ample time to witness, and envy, the grace inherent in the plant world. While we blunder through our human lives, plagued with questions, stalled by indecision, plants steadily assert themselves, taking just what they need and giving more than they take. For even a moment or two, I would like to possess that certainty.
Q: Who are your own literary muses?
A: My own literary muses are writers whose talent takes my breath away: Virginia Woolf, Jean Thompson, Lorrie Moore, Antonya Nelson, Amy Hempel, Marisa Silver, Annie Proulx, Joan Didion, Stuart Dybek, James Lasdun, Rick Bass. In the genre of poetry, I am in constant awe of Mary Oliver. Reading the exceptional work of others gives me hope that I can achieve something close. I can at least try, can put forth my own ideas. There are countless writers in the world, and there is room for every one of us. No one can write your story but you.
Learn more about Jean (as well as ACP authors Mindy Mejia and Olivia Chadha) in the Book Divas Ask a New Author column, which began in January and runs until June. Find answers to such questions as how to keep the faith in your work, revision tips, and more. You can also ask your own questions by sending them to email@example.com.