An interview with John Yunker, author of WHERE OCEANS HIDE THEIR DEAD

Finally, the long-awaited sequel to The Tourist Trail is here. Where Oceans Hide Their Dead, which can be read as a stand-alone novel as well, picks up where The Tourist Trail left off (which is all we can say here, in case you haven’t yet read The Tourist Trail). Hailed as “an epic, gripping, charming novel” by Jasmin Singer of VegNews and Our Hen House, this passionate, adventurous novel about living on the edge of society and love in all its myriad forms is available now from Ashland Creek Press.

Q: What made you decide to write a sequel to The Tourist Trail?

A: My millions of readers demanded it. (Kidding.) Actually, readers of The Tourist Trail will know that this first novel ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. And I was just as curious to know what happened next. So here we are, eight years later, following Robert as he travels to another country.

Q: What inspired the characters you chose for Where Oceans Hide Their Dead?

A: I’m continually inspired by animal-rights activists. The work they do is heroic. But unlike those who risk their lives for their fellow humans, those who risk their lives for animals are treated as criminals and terrorists. I want to show what they’re up against, as well as the emotional toll of what they deal with. It’s not easy living on the fringes of society.

Q: Was the process of writing different this time around?

A: The second book was more difficult than the first. Partly because the issues hit closer to home, literally and figuratively. And partly because the characters themselves face difficult journeys.

Q: Who are some of your favorite environmental writers?

A: My favorite environmental writers aren’t often referred to as “environmental,” but they very much are. I greatly admire writers such as Annie Proulx (Barkskins) and Carol Adams (The Sexual Politics of Meat). Lately I’ve been reading quite a bit of Tim Winton; there is an environmental streak in much of his writing as well, such as in Eyrie. Other writers that are as relevant now as they were when they first published are Rachel Carson, Brigid Brophy, Upton Sinclair. And I have to call out Midge Raymond’s novel My Last Continent, as well as the writers we’ve published at Ashland Creek Press. There are many amazing short story authors featured in our two Among Animals anthologies that are deserving of huge audiences. I’m most attracted to writing that places human and non-human animals on equal footing, or dares to place non-human animals on higher footing.

Q: What do you hope readers will take with them after reading Oceans?

A: I hope they are energized to help take up the fight for animals and the planet — a fight that concerns us all now more than ever.

Q: Is there another book featuring FBI agent Robert Porter in the works?

A: I’m afraid so. But, like Oceans, it might take some time.

Author John Yunker

Learn more about The Tourist Trail here; check out Where Oceans Hide Their Dead here. Both are available at the Ashland Creek Press bookstore, at an indie bookstore near you, and via online retailers.

Q&A with WRITING FOR ANIMALS contributor Alex Lockwood

Alex Lockwood’s article “With a Hope to Change Things: An Exploration of the Craft of Writing about Animals with the Founders of Zoomorphic Magazine” appears in Writing for Animals.

Q: In what ways has your writing changed as your knowledge and awareness of animals has evolved?

A: Most fundamentally, I have chosen (as far as a writer can) to only take on new projects that foreground the nonhuman and their relations with humans, as much as possible to work towards texts, narratives, and stories that help bring our relationships to light, and to contribute towards a more equal and just sharing of this world across species. Although sometimes as writers we don’t know quite what compels us to write the next story or book or poem, there are conscious decisions we can make responding to the state of the world, and the disastrous state of our hierarchical and dominant current relations with nonhumans. As I come to know more about animals and the nonhuman world, the more I recognize my spiritual and practical responsibilities to attempt to redress through my practice the worst forms of these exploitative relations and hopefully envision new and more equal, kind, and loving relationships.

In particular, I have spent a lot more time working in the second person, and writing works that give serious credence to the voices and agencies of nonhuman others, to the existing and complicated relations between beings across species (in cross-species encounter) and the truly relational nature of who we are, in that without these relations we do not know ourselves and, when you get down to the biota level, we wouldn’t even be alive.

Q: What is the most important thing you feel writers should keep in mind as they write about animals?

A: Compassion. Do not repeat or reinforce dominant speciesist practices in your writing. Question why it is okay to depict or represent particular animals in particular ways. Enrich your writing through learning in the three Es — ethology, ecofeminism, ecocriticism — to continue to forge new visions for ways of interrelating based on kinship and not dominance. Change your own name to that of an animal’s and see where that takes you. Don’t get bogged down by questions of whether or not animals can be fully represented in human language, because your audience is human, generally. But do nurture an understanding of nonrepresentational theories, politics, and practices that shift you and your ego out of the way. If you’re a white, Western male, as I am, do everything that you can to mobilize your white, Western, male privileges and give your writing over to the practice of centering the lives and leadership and needs of all previously marginalised groups, human and nonhuman.

Q: Which authors/books do you feel do a good job of realistically and compassionately portraying the lives of animals?

A: Donna Haraway’s Camille stories are must-reads for how we are now thinking about our multi-species encounters. Cynan Jones has done plenty of good work around animals and viscerality. The animal poet Susan Richardson, whom I interviewed for my chapter, is an incredible writer, perhaps one of the leading animal poets of our day, following in and beyond the footsteps of Les Murray. Sara Baume, Melissa Harrison, Robin Lamont, pattrice jones, Barbara King, Carol J. Adams, Ceridwen Dovey, Lydia Millet are all women working in different genres and forms to respectfully and compassionately help us reach the lives of animals.

Q: Your Q&A with the editors of Zoomorphic magazine highlights the role of literature in a changing world. What other media do you recommend for those who care about animals and wish to write about them with authenticity and compassion?

A: Literature remains for me the art form that can transform our relationship with the world most fully, but of course many would suggest film is the same or better at doing so, and films such as Okja have had a recent huge impact on the ways in which people have changed their relations to animals. Short films and exposes such as Dominion and Land of Hope and Glory have recently, from the documentary perspective, really changed people’s visions of how to relate in cross-species encounters and spaces. I think children’s books are vitally important in beginning that journey of love and compassion, or exploitation and abuse, depending on the forms in which they are written and the ways in which parents and teachers communicate them, and of course how writers write them, so I cannot recommend people such as Ruby Roth enough.

Alex Lockwood is the author of The Pig in Thin Air (Lantern Books), an exploration of the place of the body in animal advocacy, as well as senior lecturer in journalism at the Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies, Sunderland University, UK. He has published widely on human-animal relations and is currently working on a series of novels concerned with human-animal conflict.

The Siskiyou Prize closes on December 31

If you’re planning to submit to our fourth annual Siskiyou Prize for New Environmental Literature, the window is closing fast … submissions close on December 31, 2017.

Our 2017 judge is New York Times bestselling author Jonathan Balcombe. Jonathan’s most recent book is What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of our Underwater Cousins, an extraordinary journey underwater that reveals the vast capabilities of fishes. He is also the author of the books The Exultant Ark, Second Nature, Pleasurable Kingdom, and The Use of Animals in Higher Education. Jonathan has three biology degrees, including a PhD in ethology (the study of animal behavior) from the University of Tennessee, and has published more than 50 scientific papers on animal behavior and animal protection. Learn more at jonathan-balcombe.com.

The 2017 prize is open to unpublished manuscripts and books published within the last five years. The winner will receive $1,000 and a four-week residency at PLAYAAll 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, 2017.

Please feel free to share this announcement with fellow writers! We look forward to reading your work.

New environmental literature refers to literary works that focus on the environment, animal protection, ecology, and wildlife. The prize seeks work that redefines our notions of environmentalism and sustainability, particularly when it comes to animal protection. The award isn’t for books about hunting, fishing, or eating animals — unless they are analogous to a good anti-war novel being all about war. Under these basic guidelines, however, the prize will be open to a wide range of fiction and nonfiction with environmental and animal themes.

For more information, visit the Siskiyou Prize website, and if you have any questions that aren’t covered in the guidelines or FAQ, feel free to contact us.

 

Announcing our 2016 Siskiyou Prize judge!

We are delighted to announce our 2016 Siskiyou Prize judge: JoeAnn Hart.

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JoeAnn Hart is the author of two novels, Addled (Little Brown, 2007) and Float (Ashland Creek Press, 2013). Her 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. JoeAnn’s work has won a number of awards, including the PEN New England Discovery Award in Fiction.

JoeAnn’s work has been praised as “witty, profound, and beautifully observed” (Margot Livesey), “joyful and troubling, hilarious and somber, evocative, and introspective” (Necessary Fiction), and “very funny and very moving” (Booklist). Her novel Float, writes the Cape Ann Beacon, is “a stellar model of eco-literature.” JoeAnn is currently working on a play with strong environmental themes, and she is a contributor to EcoLit Books.

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The Siskiyou Prize will open on September 1, 2016, and will close on December 31. Please visit the Siskiyou Prize website for complete details.

The Necessary Evolution of Environmental Writing

For those readers not familiar (yet) with EcoLit Books, check it out here. It’s a great resource, thanks to our wonderful contributors, for both readers and writers: Subscribe to get book reviews, calls for submissions, and other news in the world of environmental literature.

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And don’t miss this essay, The Necessary Evolution of Environmental Writing by John Yunker, which does a great job of summarizing what we’re all about here at Ashland Creek Press:

I believe that we—readers and writers alike—must redefine environmental writing to give it a wider scope in focus and in form, and a more pressing mandate. In other words, we need environmental writing that is less concerned with how one describes the landscape than with how one protects that landscape.

This essay takes a look at environmental writing past and present and how it needs to keep evolving…and we hope to be a part of this journey.