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.

 

 

 



Chasing Penguins

By Midge Raymond,

As soon as I met my first penguins (chinstraps, Adélies, and gentoos) in Antarctica more than twelve years ago, I fell in love with these incredible animals. Two years later, when I had the opportunity to help the University of Washington’s Dee Boersma with a Magellanic penguin census in Patagonia two years later, I (along with my husband) pounced on the opportunity — not only to help with the amazing research Dee is doing but to learn about, and spend time with, another species of penguin; Dee has been studying the Magellanic penguins since 1982.

And when, a decade after our Patagonia penguin adventure, we learned that Dee would be a naturalist on board an expedition to the Galápagos Islands — home of the rare and endangered Galápagos penguin —  we jumped again at the chance to meet yet another species with the world’s leading penguin expert.

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Even Darwin didn’t see penguins on his visit to the Galápagos Islands, and to this day no one knows how many penguins now exist there (the estimate is between 1,500 and 4,700 — about half the numbers that existed when Dee began studying these birds in the 1970s).

When we arrived in the Galápagos, Dee advised us that we would have one chance to see Galápagos penguins on this journey, around the waters of Floreana Island. At first we were discouraged by the crystal clear (albeit gorgeous) waters, which are not ideal for the penguins’ fishing. We didn’t see a single penguin during an hour-long panga ride — but then, as we swam and snorkeled off Post Office Bay, a penguin popped its head above water to take a breath before diving back under to continue hunting.

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At first, as I was snorkeling, I saw only one penguin, diving for fish, swimming under and all around me (while they are comically slow and awkward on land, penguins are utterly graceful underwater), and then I saw another, about twenty feet below me, trying to snatch food from the other’s beak. Every time a school of fish changed direction and sped away, one of these two penguins was in close pursuit.

A short time later, back in our panga, we saw several more penguins, this time fishing in a group of four. Galápagos penguins look similar to Magellanic penguins, with the dark band around their white chests, but they are much smaller (though their beaks are roughly the same size, making this species look a bit big-nosed).

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As we watched the penguins, they began to fish with blue-footed boobies. In the photo below, you’ll see the boobies in the background; they dive for fish from high in the air, while the penguins work underwater.

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We observed this animated feeding frenzy for about forty-five minutes before the birds began to disperse, looking quite well fed. While we’d have been thrilled to get merely a glimpse of the Galápagos penguins, it was an extraordinary experience to see so many of them (about five or six, the naturalists believe, in all) swimming and porpoising and diving all around us.

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Our expedition group left Dee in Ecuador, where she was next headed to Isabela and Fernandina Islands to check on the nests she and other researchers have built to help the penguins’ breeding efforts.

And, shortly after we returned home, the University of Washington, where Dee holds the Wadsworth Endowed Chair in Conservation Science, announced that Dee is one of six finalists for the prestigious Indianapolis Prize for conservation — the highest honor for animal conservationists, which has been awarded every other year since 2006. The winner will be announced in the spring of this year; click here to learn more about the work that has earned Dee this honor.

I’m looking forward to news from Dee’s time on the other Galápagos islands. To learn more about Dee’s work, visit Penguin Sentinels — and to see more of the elusive Galápagos penguins, visit www.iGalápagos.org.

 

 



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.



Penguin Awareness Day

By Midge Raymond,

January 20 is Penguin Awareness Day. Why celebrate a day of penguin awareness, you may be wondering — and how?

Penguin Awareness Day

There are 17 species of penguins throughout the world, and penguin awareness is important because these incredible birds face increasing threats every day, worldwide, from pollution to overfishing to climate change. Click here to learn about the most pressing threats to penguins and how you can help.

Another way to help penguins is through citizen science — visit Penguin Watch, and you can take part in ongoing Antarctic penguin research. You can help researchers by annotating images, without ever leaving your desk (though these amazing photos will make you feel as though you’ve traveled around the world).

Check out the Penguin Sentinels organization, a collaboration between the University of Washington, Global Penguin Society, Province of Chubut, and the La Regina family of Punta Tombo, Argentina, and is dedicated to research, conservation, and education. In addition to working at the Punta Tombo colony for more than 30 years, this group also does great work in the Galápagos Islands.

Learn about another penguin program at The Penguin Counters, which follows researchers on their Antarctic penguin-counting journeys.

And, if you’re crazy about penguins, check out the book Penguins: Natural History and Conservation, which offers an in-depth look at all 17 species of penguins and the challenges they face…and help ensure they’re around for generations to come.

And, a million thanks to Scribner for this delightful image of an Adelie penguin with MY LAST CONTINENT (which is about two penguin researchers working in Antarctica).

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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.





Hope for Antarctica’s ice sheets

By Midge Raymond,

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A new study from University of Pennsylvania researchers has found that Antarctic lake deposits have remained frozen for at least the last 14 million years — which suggests that the East Antarctic Ice Sheet has also remained intact.

If the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, or  EAIS, didn’t experience significant melting during the Pliocene (a period from 3 to 5 million years ago, when carbon dioxide concentrations were similar to what they are today), this offers new hope that perhaps the continent won’t melt away, as many fear it eventually could.

Current climate change projections indicate that the marine portion of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is “a goner,” [Jane] Willenbring said. Studies from the past few years suggest that sea level will likely rise a few meters as that ice melts. But the East Antarctic Ice Sheet is 20 times more massive. If it melted, the ensuing sea level rise would be even more catastrophic than the western peninsula’s dissolution.

However, while this study offers hope that a massive collapse of the ice sheet, and the subsequent sea level rise, may not be imminent, the differences between the Pliocene and the rapid warming of today’s climate are great enough that it’s impossible to draw any definitive conclusions. As Willenbring says,”we’ve probably never experienced such a fast transition to warm temperatures as we’re seeing right now.”





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.



Adélie penguins are “iconic symbol of climate change”

By Midge Raymond,

This video, with gorgeous images of Adélie penguins and their chicks on the Antarctic peninsula, is one of the best calls to action I’ve seen for a planet in peril due to climate change.

 

 

Excerpted from James McClintock’s Lost Antarctica and narrated by Harrison Ford (member of the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation (EOWBF) Board of Advisors), this brief video shows how the amazing Adélie penguin is being threatened by real-time environmental changes.

 

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Over the last six decades, scientists have observed an average increase of 2 degrees Fahrenheit per decade in the Antarctic peninsula. These warming temperatures lead to increasing humidity, which leads to unseasonable snow. This video shows Adélies trying to keep their eggs incubated despite being buried in snow.

What sort of a world will future generations of Antarctic scientists find when they come to this remarkable place? When they gaze over this landscape, will they be reminded how this place, this peninsula, these ecosystems, served as a wake-up call…?

Climate change isn’t an abstract, faraway notion. It’s happening before our eyes, chick by chick.

Learn more, and help, by visiting such organizations as Oceanites and the Center for Penguins as Ocean Sentinels, which look at our changing planet through the animals that are showing us the effects of climate change.

 

 





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.