Category: On Writing


Ann Pancake’s Eye-Opening and Poetic Environmental Novel

By Midge Raymond,

I am thrilled to see this review of Ann Pancake’s wonderful novel Strange As This Weather Has Been on Off the Shelf today.

As a writer who is passionate about the environment (and often impatient about the lack of progress when it comes to tackling climate change), I know all too well how challenging it is to write about environmental issues without sacrificing story. And Ann Pancake is one of those authors who does it brilliantly, not only by creating unforgettable characters but by evoking a sense of place so beautifully that readers will come away wanting to protect it as much as her characters do.

Check out the review here, and find the book at Counterpoint, IndieBound, Amazon, or B&N.

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Can birds love?

By Midge Raymond,

I loved this article about pigeons, in which author Brandon Keim writes about an avian romance blooming in his Brooklyn neighborhood. This excellent essay reminded me of a pair of pigeons that attempted to roost and raise babies in the eaves of my own back porch a few years ago (which inspired a short story, “Nesting”). My husband and I loved watching them build their nest, and we shooed away the neighborhood cats who kept harassing them, hoping the birds would stay —yet their attempt to start a family was unsuccessful, and they left us.

It never occurred to us not to see these two pigeons as a pair in love—but then, we’re strange that way, at least according to some people. This is among the reasons I so enjoyed Keim’s essay, in which he writes, “Perhaps love is not what defines us as human but is something we happen to share with other species, including the humble pigeon.”

I’m a writer, not a scientist, so it’s not unpardonable for me to anthropomorphize in my fiction—but what’s remarkable is how many scientists are now talking and writing about animal consciousness in such books as Animal Wise, How Animals Grieve, and Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel.

As both a writer and small-press publisher, I love hearing from animals in well-written fiction, too. Among our Ashland Creek Press titles is Gwyn Hyman Rubio’s Love and Ordinary Creatures; steeped in extensive research, this novel tells the haunting story of a parrot who, stuck in captivity without a mate, bonds with his human caregiver—a beautiful and heart-rending story of unrequited love.

Sometimes, as Keim’s article points out, “love’s ultimate measure is the presence of its converse, grief.” Keim offers several examples from the world of birds, and many of us have likely seen it ourselves among other animals—for example, when one of our pets loses a sibling. I felt as though I witnessed penguin love firsthand, while in Patagonia for a Magellanic penguin census, when I saw paired-up birds lying together in the sun or huddled together in their burrows.

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It’s easy to say that we humans are simply projecting, that our own capacity for love makes us believe we’re seeing this in other creatures. But even if this is true, is it such a bad thing? Keim writes, “Ubiquitous and unappreciated, typically ignored or regarded as dirty, annoying pests, pigeons mean something else to me now…Each one is a reminder that love is all around us.”

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And the more of us who can see love in the creatures around us, the better we’ll all become at protecting them and the habitats they live in.

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Cat Editors: Mollie Hunt and Tinkerbelle, Little, and Big Red

By Midge Raymond,

Mollie Hunt has three cat editors, all of whom have very distinctive roles in her writing life. Here are their stories, with their photos below:

Tinkerbelle, the 14-year-old lady, who up until recently worked as a therapy cat, is my prime editor. From her bed behind my monitor, she guides me with her vast kitty wisdom. Her eyes track inspiration, or is it a bird flitting by outside the window?

Tinkerbelle, Prime Editor

Little, 9, is more of an hands-on editor. If I become complacent, she brushes her velvet fur across my touchscreen, causing digital havoc. She insists herself into my lap where she purrs encouragement, no matter what I type.

Little Hands-on Editor

Then there is Big Red. He does not help one bit with the writing, instead drawing me away from my work with sly cat distraction. “Wouldn’t you rather sit with me on the couch?” he mrrows. “Or better yet, fix a little snack for us?” Looking up at me with huge gold-green eyes, I am too easily tempted.

Red, the Distractor

Mollie Hunt has always had an affinity for cats, so it was a short step for her to become a cat writer. She has published two of her Crazy Cat Lady mysteries, Cats’ Eyes and Copy Cats, and the third, Cat’s Paw,  will be out in early 2016. She has also written a non-cat mystery, Placid River Runs Deep, which delves into the challenge of Hepatitis C before the “cure. Mollie lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and a varying number of cats. Like her character, Lynley Cannon, she is a grateful shelter volunteer. Click here to learn more on Mollie’s blog.

 

If you’re a writer with a cat editor in your life and you’d like to share the joy, send me a note.

 



Cat Editors: Diane Lefer and Desi, Junie & Mildred

By Midge Raymond,

Diane Lefer has had many cat editors to collaborate with.

Desi and books

Desi, pictured above, was Diane’s muse from a very early age:

Desi was abandoned way too young, only 3 weeks old, and she thought I was her mother. Or maybe the other way around: Like a mother, she was constantly reminding me to get serious and send my work out. When a manuscript came out of the printer, she’d wait for the last page to emerge and then she’d tap the paper for luck.

Later, after Desi passed away at 16 years of age, Diane fostered Junie.

Junie

The photos I took of Junie unfortunately also reveal a sloppy work space, something she never held against me. Instead, clutter and books that didn’t stand upright amused her. She was old school, reminding me that sometimes a pen works better than a computer.

Now Diane lives and writes with Mildred.

Mildred on computer

She’s very literate. Loves books and fortunately doesn’t literally devour them but she did chew up last year’s tax return. She doesn’t so much edit as perch on the computer and supervise.

Diane Lefer is the author of several books, and her work includes fiction, plays, poetry, and essays. Visit Diane’s website to learn more.

If you’re a writer with a cat editor in your life and you’d like to share the joy, send me a note.

 

 

 



Cat Editors: Jean Ryan and Tango

By Midge Raymond,

Author Jean Ryan writes with Tango, who obviously does a great job of keeping her author in the chair.

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Of working with Tango, Jean says:

Tango does not want me to get too comfortable with my writing. She urges me to stay on the edge, to persevere through difficulty, to remember that the deepest truths are found outside my comfort zone.

Jean Ryan is the author of Survival Skills: Stories (Ashland Creek Press, 2013) and a novel, Lost Sister. Visit Jean’s website to learn more, and check out her newest stories: “Lovers and Loners” appears in Four Ties Lit Review, and “Odds and Ends” appears in Crack the Spine.

If you’re a writer with a cat editor in your life and you’d like to share the joy, send me a note.



Cat Editors: Suzanne Kamata and Sumi

By Midge Raymond,

Suzanne Kamata writes with her cat Sumi (which means “ink” in Japanese).

Sumi

Sumi is pictured above with the first draft of Suzanne’s novel-in-progress, a sequel to Gadget Girl: The Art of Being Invisible.

Sumi usually sleeps in a chair next to mine as I work at the computer. Here he is, I think, expressing that mix of exhaustion, relief, and joy that comes from reaching the end of a manuscript.

Suzanne Kamata’s short stories, essays, articles, and book reviews have appeared in over 100 publications, including Real Simple; Brain, Child; Cicada; and The Japan Times. Her poem “He’s More of a Dog Person” appears in Purrfect Poetry, an international anthology of  poems that explore the quirkiness of our relationship with cats. Visit Suzanne’s website to learn more.



Cat Editors: Lori Ostlund and Prakash & Oscar

By Midge Raymond,

Lori Ostlund‘s two feline boys are watchful and helpful editors.

The boys came to us from the Goathouse Refuge, a cat shelter located in the forest outside of Chapel Hill, NC, where we were living for two years while I was the visiting writer at UNC. Prakash, the white boy with pink ears, has kept a careful distance when we work. In the photo below, he can be seen doing what he does: observing as I type. He isn’t supposed to be on the table, but he cuts a fine figure perched there on the corner nonetheless.

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Oscar, the black-and-white boy, is far more assertive. He walks back and forth across the keys until I pick him up and cuddle him (exhibit 2). He has an amazing ability to step on the keys in such a way that a computer function that I previously had no knowledge of is suddenly revealed to me. Perhaps his greatest contribution occurred as I was reading through the first-pass edits for my novel, which were in PDF. Not knowing that I could make notes on the PDF, I was writing on a pad of paper when Oscar, rushing to attack the pen, stepped on the keyboard in such a way that a PDF Post-it popped onto the screen, thus cutting my editing time in half.

 

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Lori Ostlund is the author of the story collection The Bigness of the World (to be reissued by Scribner in 2016), which won the 2008 Flannery O’Connor Award, the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award, and the 2009 California Book Award for First Fiction. Her novel, After the Parade, was released by Scribner in September of 2015 and is on the shortlist for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and is a Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers pick.

 

 

 



Cat Editors: Melissa Clark and Percy

By Midge Raymond,

Melissa Clark writes with her fourteen-year-old rescue cat, Percy.

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Percy (Persephone) has been with me through three and a half novels, and even inspired novel number two, Imperfect, about a girl who purrs like a cat. She likes to get her paws all over my manuscripts, as you can see. She is a Siamese mix and always has a lot to say, as if my inner-critic isn’t loud enough.

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Melissa Clark is an author, television writer, and college instructor whose novels include Bear Witness, Swimming Upstream, Slowly, and Imperfect. She is the creator of the animated television series Braceface, starring the voice of Alicia Silverstone, and has written scripts for Rolie Polie Olie, Totally Spies, Sweet Valley High, and others. Learn more by visiting Melissa’s website.

If you’re a writer with a cat editor in your life and you’d like to share the joy, send me a note.







Cat Editors: Julie Christine Johnson and Camille

By Midge Raymond,

Author Julie Christine Johnson writes of her feline muse:

True to her calico nature, Camille is a one-person cat. She gets along perfectly well with my husband, but she clings to me. When I write at my standing desk, she’s draped over my feet; if the Mac is propped up in my lap, Camille competes for space on my legs or wends herself around my shoulders to chew on my hair. My 13-pound muse.

Julie's cat

 

Julie Christine Johnson is the author of In Another Life, forthcoming from Sourcebooks in February of 2016, and The Crows of Beara, coming from Ashland Creek Press in 2017. Click here to visit Julie’s website and to stay up-to-date on her forthcoming books!

Are you a writer with a cat editor in your life? If you’d like to share your story, send me a note.





Cat Editors: Julia Park Tracey and Ophelia

By Midge Raymond,

Julia Park Tracey‘s Ophelia (also known as Fifi, Stinky, Princess, and Pooper) is very hands-on.

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Lady Ophelia is my Mews. She’s black and white like a newspaper, so her coloring reminds me of my writing work every day. She is chief office assistant, sitting on top of whatever is most important for me right that instant. She also enjoys my lap and the left-hand side of my desk where the to-do list is sitting. Unfortunately, she’s a drooler and occasional biter. She enjoys a bird or cat video, but dog videos annoy her. Open windows are the best kind. A different flavor of cat food every day means I must meet deadlines to make her happy.

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Julia Park Tracey is the poet laureate of Alameda, California. She is also a journalist and fiction writer. She has written two biographies, I’ve Got Some Lovin’ to Do: The Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen and Reaching for the Moon: More Diaries of a Roaring Twenties Teen; a novel, Tongues of Angels; two mysteries, Veronika Layne Gets the Scoop and Veronika Layne Has a Nose for News; and a collection of poetry, Amaryllis. Visit Julia’s website to learn more and to sign up for her newsletter.

Are you a writer with a cat editor in your life? If you’d like to share your story, send me a note.



Cat Editors: Mindy Mejia and Dusty

By Midge Raymond,

Author Mindy Mejia lives and writes with a cat named Dusty.

Mindy's cat

On working with Dusty, Mindy says:

Dusty’s main editorial talents lie in encouragement and prioritization. He usually lounges on the table or in my lap, purring his approval at whatever scene I’m working on, and if I start daydreaming he’ll jump directly on top of the computer or manuscript (see picture) as if to say, “Oh, you’ve got better things to do than write? I guess I’ll just make this my new bed.” It never fails to refocus my energy, which I’m sure is his intent.

Mindy Mejia is the author of The Dragon Keeper (Ashland Creek Press, 2012) and the novel EVERYTHING YOU WANT ME TO BE, forthcoming from Emily Bestler Books in 2016. Visit Mindy’s website and stay tuned for more news on the release of her new book!

Are you a writer with a cat editor in your life? If you’d like to share your story, send me a note.

 



Cat Editors: Judy Reeves and Rumi

By Midge Raymond,

Today I’m delighted to introduce you to Judy Reeves and the late, great Rumi.

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Here’s what Judy has to say about her lovely Rumi:

I’ve been told by other editors that I need to get more conflict and tension in my stories, but Rumi really does a “show, don’t tell” by falling asleep on my pages. Here’s what he did for me as a writer: reminded me to get up and move away from the computer sometimes. I believe he was telling me that I could get a different perspective if I’d have a little snack, or take just a tiny nap. He also reminded me not to take myself too seriously, and mostly, I think, helped me keep an open heart.

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Judy Reeves is the author, most recently of Wild Women, Wild Voices: Writing from Your Authentic Wildness. She is also the author of A Writer’s Book of Days; Writing Alone, Writing Together: A Guide for Writers and Writing Groups; and A Creative Writer’s Kit, a fabulous writing kit that includes a 144-page book and a 25-card deck. Visit Judy online, and don’t miss the chance to catch one of her classes or Wild Women events!

 Are you a writer with a cat editor in your life? If you’d like to share your story, send me a note.