1 November 2009

Rose. In the mind of a dog

  There are lots of people who claim to know what a dog is thinking, but I do not know. Rose and I have been together on this farm since 2003, and the sheep left several months ago. We have had a lot of experiences and adventures together, from herding sheep to fending off wild pigs. I remember the puppy who tore off in a blizzard to bring back the sheep and donkeys who had run off. And the dog who nearly lost an eye battling two rabid feral cats by the barn. And the dog who nipped my ears when I fell down until I got up.
  She has been a big part of several books, and inspired two novels, one done, one underway. She is a remarkable animal.
  Rose leads a quieter life right now, as do I.
  She spends her days on walks, chasing balls, playing with Lenore, sitting near me when I write, riding alongside the ATV. She is busy, and seems healthy and happy, less frantic, more affectionate. She is the only dog I have (well, Frieda) who could not abide public appearances, and has little interested in being cute or cuddle. She has gotten quite attached to Maria, but generally stays clear of visitors. Sometimes I think I see things in her eyes – a seriousness of purpose, I suppose, a sense of maturity, of having seen a lot, and I suspect this is a projection of what I would imagine her to be thinking. Sometimes I think I see a sadness. More than any of my dogs, there is a part of her that is beyond me.
  And that is the mystery of dogs.

Posted in General

Autumn Shadows

Posted in General

The Path to Progress. Or at least, change

When I am on the farm, eight eyes are often up on me

  Some publishers are worried that e-books and the growing belief in business that the Internet has created a culture in which few people will actually pay for creative works like music or books will endanger current models of books and publishing. I am not so sure. Stories are different from songs, books are different than CD's.
  I can understdand the concern. On my book tour, a woman asked me to sign her new Kindle. I said I would happily sign it, but I asked if she understood that if all books were sold that way, there would not be bookstores or writers to sign books in them on book tours. She did not understand, she said.
  We tend to fear new technologies, and they are unpredictable. They rarely do what we expect.  E-books make a lot of sense for some people – commuters, business travelers, people who buy books they don't necessarily want to lug around and keep and pass to friends and family (romance, porn). There are lots of different trends in publishing.
  Children's book sales are up, a curious statistic for a form that is about to perish. Some genres of animal book sales are up, as well as mystery and fantasy, not surprising given the bad news people have had to contend with. Stupid political books seem to be selling.
  Publishers are rethinking how they buy, market and distribute books.
  One of the most interesting things to watch in complex times is who responds to change and who doesn't. And how. I go to a restaurant that offered all of its entrees for $12 once the Great Recession began, and its business is up 40 per cent at a time when many restaurants are closing. I need to change, too, if I want to stay a writer. And I am changing. I am writing children's books and novels. I am working hard to maintain and upgrade this website. I am listening to readers. I am on Facebook and Twitter, and taking photos.
  I am planning a cross-country, interactive book tour.
   It seems to me, between bookstores, e-books, online booksellers, chain and independent books, that more people than ever want and need stories, and are buying and consuming them in all sorts of ways, from books to e-books to blogs to self-publishing.
  I do not personally believe that bookstores will evaporate. I spent too much time in them, and see too many people there to believe that. If you want to study change in publishing, go a Barnes & Noble that has a new Barnes & Noble at School department, and see how a bookstore can respond creatively to the marketplace. Or go to Red Fox books in Glens Falls, N.Y., and see the highly personal one-on-one relationship the store is building with a struggling city in upstate New York. Or consider the children's department at Northshire Books in Manchester, Vt.
  Technology is overwhelming sometimes, and so is the panic that always surrounds it.  The music industry did not respond well to change. I think publishers are changing, and radically.
  But I can only manage my own part. I believe I will stand or fall on the hard work I do, on the strength of the stories I tell, and their relevance to people. If I do my job, my stories will find their place, and their audience. That is my own faith. And I believe in it quite strongly.

Coping with progress

 November 1, 2009 – Sunny, cool. Fierce wind yesterday, more rain. Lenore is fascinated with herself. And with the wet leaves rotting in the water.

 Note: The ASA 2010 Calendar, with photos by Corinna Aldrich and me can now be seen and purchased online at the association's website. The calenders are beautiful and inexpensive gifts, or just useful to have.

   Friday was a significant day at the farm. Friday evening, we disconnected from cell phones, the Internet and other work technologies and read, talked and walked. It was a powerful experience, and I am chagrined to say I haven't done that in a year or so. We were both startled at the idea of it, and of how important it is. There is a sort of tsanimi feel to new technolgies. We all find some of them useful – this blog, for one – and feel we need to keep up to be relevant. That's true. But the thing with technology is that there is a choice – you manage it, or it manages you. Social media has brought a whole new tidal wave of messaging to our lives, and I appreciate Facebook as a valuable writing and marketing tool for my work. Twitter, too.
  But we are drowning in messaging and communications, and just keeping up is another form of work and stress. And most of the messages are not exactly urgent. The boundaries between work and the rest of our lives are blurring. Companies, always desperate to save some money, are happy to push us online, and deal with us only through e-mail if they can.
  Personal connections are spreading online, but disappearing from the real world. If you let them. I read two books Friday and Saturday, cooked two meals, talked for hours with Maria, sat on the porch and watched the wind and got to know myself a bit better. It strengthens a relationship as well, to just talk and not be interrupted or distracted. I left my Blackberry plugged in.
  We are seeking to incorporate this time into our daily lives with more discipline. We were calmer, more peaceful. It was nice.
  We are in a true Information Revolution, and many are drowning in it. Separating the good stuff from the other stuff takes thought and work. It sometimes feel as if we are dogs chasing rabbits down a track.