Monday, September 17, 2012

Connecting Conversation and Kids

I am always looking for great ways to connect kids to the urgency of conservation.

I think Dan Brubaker did a great job on the Think Elephants International blog - What Is Dr. Seuss Teaching Our Kids About Elephants? Revisiting the classic children’s book: Horton Hears a Who! at:

Fran listens to Am
I hope everyone hears the call of the elephant.  But more importantly, I hope everyone acts as well!


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Writing Dreams

Every once in a while I will dream the perfect story.  Have you ever done that? You know in your dream that it is a gem, sure to be a hit, so perfect it will write itself.  But then you wake up and jot down what you remember and see cavernous holes in your plot - like nothing happens, or there is no antagonist.  Still I love those dreams, because like the NY lottery commercials say, "Hey, you never know."

Last night my dream took on a new and disturbing twist. Yes, I did have the perfect story.  In my dream I became the main character.  I was yellow -- not afraid -- but head to toe a golden hue. And I could fly.

But as the writer, I could not write it down. I felt the lift of air beneath my glowing body, and remembered a few heroic deeds, but I could not capture words on paper. To save the flimsy wisp of storyline before it evaporated I tried to give it life by speaking it out loud.  "What if a genie...." (I know it sounds as lame as Tiny Tim, but that's what it was, and let me tell you it would have been a best seller!)

More words would not come. I had to solidify this flimsy form on paper.  Clutching a ragged scrap of paper and a pen, I hurried from room to room in a mansion with white floors, white walls, and white furniture looking for a quiet place where my fading fiction would show itself. But this girl kept interrupting. "What are you doing?" It was no one I know and no one I ever want to meet, because she popped up everywhere. I locked myself in the bedroom and she opened the door. I hid in a corner of the bathroom and she appeared instantly. She even found me perched on the highest shelf doubled over near the ceiling.

In the nanoseconds that I had to myself before the girl would appear, I'd scrawl a word or two, but my useless hand gripped the pen like a 6-month-old trying to hold a spoon.  My illegible letters dribbled away and dissolved with each attempt.

Then miraculously my husband appeared.  Surely he could write the story down if I dictated it to him. So I began.  "What if a genie...." But he wasn't writing.  Instead he was checking out something on his giant poster board computer.  "Why aren't you writing this down?" I cried. "I am," he said and held up the poster board.  On it was a list of random words. Cabbage. Doorstop. Porous.

I awoke depressed and exhausted. Never in my 20 years had I had a writer's block writing dream. It disturbed me. I don't have writer's block.  I'm writing this blog and this morning I worked on my elephant book.  Then I thought about my fictional story that I've been working on for several years.  I hadn't worked on it all summer.  I was blocked on that.  I haven't nailed down my character yet.

But nothing in my dream was helpful. I know that my character is not and cannot be a genie.  And I know he shouldn't be yellow.  I also know that I don't want to linger within those white walls.  I guess the dream gave me a nudge.  No answers, but a nudge to keep going.  And one more thing that popped into my brain a few times today and made me smile -- I love that flying feeling!

Follow your dreams!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Too Quick to Propose

I have been working on a proposal for a book on Asian elephants, and made a newbie mistake.  I proposed my project too early.  In my eagerness to share all the amazing things that I learned while working with Thai elephants, I sent off an email proposal without a key bit of information.

I may have made more than one mistake, but the one that I noticed today was that I neglected to mention the existence of a book that could be considered competition to mine.  I don't think it is, but that really is the judgement call of the editor and whether or not a sales department feels that it could sell a book about elephants when two other books were published last year.  So, how do you judge those books and how to report that information to your would-be editor?

Well, the book that I forgot to mention in my proposal is all about one aspect of elephant life -- communication.  Although it does touch on intelligence, it is not a book about the intelligence of elephants.  Plus, the book focuses on African elephants, and only occasionally mentions Asian elephants.  Another mistake I made was not making the case strong enough in my proposal that Asian elephants are significantly more endangered than their African cousins, even though they are the species that inhabit almost every zoo in the World.  Asian elephants have a long history entwined with humans and that history is exactly why Asian elephants are often thought of as large domestic cattle.  But they are not.  Even today, most elephants that end up in captivity were caught from the dwindling wild population.  Once healthy adults were captured to work as logging elephants, but today, the most sought after are the babies to fuel the tourist trade.  And for every baby caught in the wild, there is a good chance that the mother, and several aunts were killed in the process.

Sorry for that rant -- but the point is, in my proposal I needed to make the point that a book about African elephants should not be looked at as competition to one on Asian elephants.  I shouldn't assume an editor would know that.  And neither should you.  So, next time you are proposing a new book, take your time and evaluate your competition.  Even though it may seem like you are giving an editor a reason to reject the project, you job is to present the market such as it is and then explain how your book is so different that they have no choice but to buy yours.
Carved tree trunk at Mae Fah Luang Garden