An interview with Among Animals 2 contributor JoeAnn Hart

By Midge Raymond,

Many thanks to JoeAnn Hart for sharing her insights on the writing of “It Won’t Be Long Now,” included in Among Animals 2

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Q: What inspired you to write this story?

A: I was driving along a highway and saw a black plastic trash bag in the middle of the road that must have blown out of a truck. Before I realized it was just more trash in the wrong place, my first thought was, What is a seal doing so far from shore? So the story that came out of this moment was “It Won’t Be Long Now,” where a seal is washed onshore in an estuary, far from where it should be.

Q: What was your writing/research process?

A: I started with the image of the washed up seal, and a woman seeing it from a window in her house, thinking at first it was a black plastic bag. While originally I thought I might write the story as magical realism, where the seal was found hundreds of miles from water, it evolved into a piece of realism. I wanted the reader to understand the problems that real-life sea mammals have with plastic debris in the oceans, since the seal is where it is because it is all wrapped up in fishing line, dying. At that point, I had to do a little research on harbor seals. Even though it is fiction, you can’t play fast and loose with science. To seem real on the page, it has to be real with the facts.

Q: Which writers inspire you?

A: For non-fiction, I’d like to write as beautifully as Annie Dillard and as smart as Rebecca Solnit, both of whom do a better job with the natural world than almost anybody else. For fictional inspiration I return to Melville’s Moby-Dick.

Q: The story involves a sick child who must limit her access to the outdoors. How does this need to distance herself from nature affect her?

A: We are all so distanced from nature these days, to our detriment if not our lives. Children, especially, need to have hands-on experience with the outdoors or they won’t know what there is to lose. The child in the story yearns for animals, but she knows them only through stuffed toys. When the seal arrives in her backyard her mom won’t even let her stay to observe it for fear of an asthma attack. She is literally allergic to the outdoors. She’s sent to the mall with her grandparents, but that comes with its own health risks. There’s no escaping what we do to the environment.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from your story?

A: I want people to think before they throw anything away, since it all goes downstream and into the oceans, where even something as thin as filament becomes a lethal weapon to sea mammals. Any damage to the ocean is damage to us.

Q: What are you writing now?

A: I’ve been working on a full-length play about hoarding with strong environmental themes.

Q: How familiar are you with harbor seals?

A: In the winter, all sorts of seals hang out in Gloucester’s harbor (they summer in Maine). I see them on my walk and call to them as they sun themselves on the rocks. They always look. They probably think I’m crazy.

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Announcing AMONG ANIMALS 2

By Midge Raymond,

We are thrilled to announce the publication of Among Animals 2, the second edition of our popular anthology of short fiction that explores the relationships among animals and humans.

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Last week, we celebrated the book’s publication in Australia with a seminar on writing about animals at the University of Sydney.

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We are grateful to Peter John Chen, Dinesh Wadiwel, and Sascha Morrell for making this event possible; we enjoyed a lively discussion about animals and society as well as the depiction of animals in literature. It was also a great pleasure to hear Sascha Morrell read from her beautiful story, “Roo,” which appears in the anthology.

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And stay tuned for more Among Animals events here in the U.S.!

On Thursday, October 13, at 7 p.m., contributors Rachel King and Catherine Evleshin will read from their stories at Annie Bloom’s in Portland, Oregon. Click here for details.

On Friday, October 14, at 7 p.m. Charlotte Malerich will read from her story at The Potter’s House in  Washington, D.C. The reading will be followed by a discussion about animals as part of the larger social justice movement. Click here for details.

For more information on the anthology, please feel free to subscribe to our mailing list. And do keep an eye on the blog: We will be posting interviews with our contributors in the coming weeks, in which you can learn more about these talented authors and the inspiration behind their stories. Here is our list of contributors and their stories:

 

Roo Sascha Morrell
It Won’t Be Long Now JoeAnn Hart
Bight, Tomcat, and the Moon Carmen Marcus
Phoenix Cross C.S. Malerich
Shooting a Mule J. Bowers
Lost Pets Laura Maylene Walter
Exotic Animal Alert: Please Post Widely Ramola D
Vivarium Claire Ibarra
Julia and the Sea Bear Nels Hanson
A Normal Rabbit Rachel King
A Sterile Place Catherine Evleshin
How to Identify Birds in the Wild Robyn Ryle
Strays Anne Elliott
Captivity Anthony Sorge
The Truth of Ten Thousand Things Hunter Liguore

 

To order your own copy of Among Animals 2, click here.

Announcing the 2016 Siskiyou Prize

By Midge Raymond,

We are thrilled to announce that the third annual Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature is now open for submissions!

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It’s been wonderful to see so many fine writers tackling the issues of the environment and animal protection through great stories, novels, memoirs, and essays — and we are pleased to be offering this prize for a third year. This year, we have one exciting change to announce: In addition to unpublished work (all of which will be considered for publication by Ashland Creek Press), we are also accepting published book submissions for the Siskiyou Prize. Please click here for full details.

This year, we’re delighted to have JoeAnn Hart as our final judge. JoeAnn is the author of two novels, Addled (Little Brown, 2007) and Float (Ashland Creek Press, 2013). JoeAnn’s essays, articles, and short fiction have appeared in a wide variety of literary journals and national publications, including Orion, NewfoundTerrain.org, and the Boston Globe Magazine. Her work has won a number of awards, including the PEN New England Discovery Award in Fiction. To learn more about JoeAnn, click here.

The 2016 prize winner will receive $1,000 and a four-week residency at PLAYA. All Siskiyou Prize submissions will be considered for publication from Ashland Creek Press. Visit the Siskiyou Prize website for complete details and to submit.

The deadline for submissions is December 31, 2016. Also, please note that we will be closed to regular book submissions until further notice in order to focus on prize submissions.

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We look forward to reading your work!

Ashland Creek Press is coming to Australia (updated)

By John Yunker,

 

Ashland Creek Press Australia

Calling all Aussies!

We are headed to Australia during the first two weeks in September and would love to connect.

We’ll be participating in several events in various cities, including:

Adelaide: September 4

We will be teaching a full-day class on author book promotion at the SA Writers Centre.

Every participant will walk away with a custom book marketing plan — along with a free copy of Everyday Book Marketing. You can learn more and register here.

Melbourne: September 6-7

We don’t have anything scheduled just yet, except for hoping to see the little penguins.

Brisbane Writer’s Festival: September 8-11

Midge Raymond will be speaking and teaching throughout the festival. You can learn more and register here.

Sydney: September 12-14

Join us for a free seminar titled Writing about Animals: Literature’s evolving relationship with the animal kingdom. We’ll be joined by Among Animals 2 contributor Sascha Morrell. The event will be held at the University of Sydney (New Law Building, Seminar Room 028) on September 13th from Noon to 2pm.

If you’re in one of these cities and would like to meet, let us know!

We can also hand-delivery any of our books — Amazon can’t beat that!

 

An interview with publicist and media specialist Jen Coburn

By Midge Raymond,

A book launch can be a daunting process, and many authors wonder how hiring a publicist can help the process. Learn more in this interview with author, publicist, and media specialist Jen Coburn — and see below for Jen’s contact info.

 

Q: What value can a publicist bring to an author and his/her book?

A: A good publicist lets authors get back to doing what they love — writing. There are very few authors who enjoy developing media pitches and social media strategies to promote their books, and yet they know it is critical to their success. The equation is very simple: The more people know about a book, the more will read it. A publicist helps get a book in front of as many prospective readers as possible through social media, traditional media, and events.

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Q: How much can an author expect to spend when working with a publicist?

A: It really depends on how much of the heavy lifting a writer wants to take on. I’ve had authors do a simple two-hour consultation for $250, where we discuss good traditional media angles and social media strategies that they develop and execute. I also work with authors who have me manage their social media for them on a daily basis, which is a more substantial investment. When I do a prepublication media campaign, it typically runs $2,500 to $3,500.

 
Q: Ideally, when should an author approach a publicist for help with his/her book?

A: Ideally six months prior, though that rarely happens. I’ve had authors contact me three months prior to publication, which is good. One called me two weeks before her book came out. It was a mad rush, but we made it work and got her on TV and in several newspapers.

 
Q: How can publicists help authors when their books have been out for a year or more?

A: Great question. There are still many ways an author can promote his or her book after it’s been out on the market for a while. Writing op-eds and essays that include the name of their book in the byline is one way. Another way to boost sales is by offering a special price break then promoting like crazy on social media.

 
Q: What is the author’s role when working with a publicist?

A: Authors need to be open to new approaches while also remaining true to their own style. I’m very flexible to work with, but my one hard and fast rule is that I never let an author go on TV without my doing a media training with me beforehand. I’ve been working with producers for more than 20 years, and I can blow those relationships in a moment if I put someone on camera who hasn’t been adequately prepped.

 
Q: What questions should an author ask a publicist he/she is considering working with?

A: What type of coverage they believe they can realistically get for an author. I once had an author ask me if I’ve ever declined to work with anyone, which I thought was an interesting question that led to a great conversation. I have turned down authors because I don’t feel we’d be a good match. If I don’t love their book, or I honestly don’t think there’s a good news angle to be developed, I will pass on a project. Basically, I’d recommend choosing a publicist the same way you’d hire anyone — share your priorities, listen to their approach, and keep your BS radar on. There are lots of great publicists to work with. Choose the one who seems genuinely excited about the success of his or her clients.

 

Q: Do you have any success stories you’d like to share?

A: Just last week, an author I work with jumped to the #1 spot on the Amazon bestseller list for historical fiction 10 months after initial publication. She called me a few weeks earlier to brainstorm ideas on promotion and we developed a social media campaign around a price reduction. She is a great client — always willing to try new things and good about pushing back when a suggestion doesn’t feel right to her. I adore working with this author and couldn’t be happier for her success.

 

Jennifer Coburn has been a media relations specialist for more than 20 years and recently started working with authors to help them promote their work on social media and through traditional media. She has partnered with authors who publish with Random House, Simon & Schuster, Sonoma Press, and independently. Jennifer enjoys developing media pitches and crafting strategies to heighten awareness of books and authors. She got her start working with authors after her own books generated press attention that got colleagues asking for advice. Jennifer says she never asks authors to adopt a strategy she has not (or would not) do herself.

Check out Jen’s author website here, and for inquiries about her publicity and media work, you can reach out to her via LinkedIn.