Animal Book Club discussion

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FOR AUTHORS > What's the hardest part about writing animal books, whether fiction or nonfiction?

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message 1: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Molidor (jennifermolidor) | 35 comments Mod
What's the hardest thing about writing books about animals, animal law, or animal protection?


message 2: by Marta (new)

Marta Zaraska | 3 comments Not getting sued by the meat industry ;)


message 3: by Cate (new)

Cate Folsom It depends on the nature of the book.

"Smoke The Donkey: A Marine's Unlikely Friend" is narrative nonfiction account of a small donkey Marines in Iraq adopted in 2008. Smoke was brought to the United States, but only after a protracted diplomatic battle with Turkish bureaucrats. That took up about 100 pages.

Yet a few readers criticized the book because there was not enough cute donkey stories.

So, it would seem that readers want cute animal stories, not the back and forth of State Department personnel with their Turkish counterparts.


message 4: by WaferBiscuits (new)

WaferBiscuits | 2 comments For fiction I think the hardest for me is the constant desire to just use blatant anthropomorphism in characters. You want to have your audience to emotionally engage with your characters, but you have to retain just the right amount of that animal's natural mindset so that they don't just seem like a person in a dog suit.

Richard Adams struck that perfect balance in "Watership Down", and that's why it's usually the benchmark for animal writers to aim for.


message 5: by Sue (new)

Sue | 15 comments Marta wrote: "Not getting sued by the meat industry ;)"

Like Oprah did, in Texas, over 20 years ago.


message 6: by Sue (new)

Sue | 15 comments HourglassOrca wrote: "For fiction I think the hardest for me is the constant desire to just use blatant anthropomorphism in characters. You want to have your audience to emotionally engage with your characters, but you ..."

Adams' book, "Traveller" about Robert E. Lee's horse, is also excellent.


message 7: by Marta (new)

Marta Zaraska | 3 comments Sue wrote: "Marta wrote: "Not getting sued by the meat industry ;)"

Like Oprah did, in Texas, over 20 years ago."


Yup, and ended up with about 1 million in legal fees, even though she won...


message 8: by Michael (new)

Michael Slusher (michaelslusher) | 1 comments Fear of being sued by the pharmaceutical industry. :(

They All Had Eyes: Confessions of a Vivisectionist


message 9: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Fain | 7 comments After writing my first book (true stories about animals/nature/emotional healing) I hoped that I had conveyed the depth of what each animal went through in his or her life journey. I also had to decide whether or not to temper some of the more difficult/painful experiences the animals went through. I did not want to turn readers off, but I also did not want to seem too somber. I think telling the truthful accounts of things is of utmost importance. I guess I have to risk that we can't write to please everyone.


message 10: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen Cremonesi | 3 comments Cynthia wrote: "After writing my first book (true stories about animals/nature/emotional healing) I hoped that I had conveyed the depth of what each animal went through in his or her life journey. I also had to de..."

Hi Cynthia, I definitely get what you're talking about. My memoir, Love in the Elephant Tent: How Running Away with the Circus Brought Me Home, deals with similar issues. I knew I couldn't gloss over the horrendous life circus animals are subject to. Fortunately, I never saw animals actively beaten during my 2-year stint, but keeping a 4000-pound elephant chained to a 6' x 10' wooden deck for over 23 hours a day is in itself abuse, and I didn't hesitate to give those scenes to readers, or explain how the tigers ate their young, presumably to save them from the same fate.

In a nutshell, it would have been disingenuous to tell only the sparkly side of circus life and how magnificent it was to have a daily relationship with 7 elephants. Or how incredible it was to befriend a giraffe and earn enough of his trust that he'd let me into his pen when sitting down (their most vulnerable state), lay his head over my shoulder, and allow me to massage that hard to reach area between his ossicones.

If animals in these conditions have any chance of being released from such a prison, then the truth has to be told. When I do longer readings, I risk turning readers off by making a point to include some of the harsh realities the animals face - though I do try to start and end with some of the more farcical stories.

Please share the name of your book -- I'm interested in looking it up!


message 11: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Fain | 7 comments HI Kathleen,
The name of my book is Mystical Animals of Ancient Oak. It is currently out on Kindle on Amazon and on Barnes and Noble. And it is soon to be published in paperback on Amazon.com. And thank you for sharing your story with me. I'd love to read your book. And people get mad when they don't want to hear the sad stories behind those circus animals. Breaking through to people about things like animals in entertainment isn't easy. And my second book of true stories - which is in progress - does have some difficult stories - but for a good point. This first book is not a difficult read. If you do read my book - I'd love to know what you think of it. Thanks for contacting me!


message 12: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen Cremonesi | 3 comments Cynthia wrote: "HI Kathleen,
The name of my book is Mystical Animals of Ancient Oak. It is currently out on Kindle on Amazon and on Barnes and Noble. And it is soon to be published in paperback on Amazon.com. And ..."


Thanks, Cynthia, and you're welcome. Looking forward to checking out your book. I agree that breaking though is the hard part, and I've experienced some harsh feedback when voicing my opinions online. Not so much with the book yet. Although the message in the book is strong, the reader comes along for the ride as a young woman discovers the reality of imprisoned animals and matures into an animal advocate. Perhaps it's a gentler approach -- but hopefully no less enlightening!


message 13: by Peggy (new)

Peggy A. | 5 comments Kathleen wrote: "Cynthia wrote: "After writing my first book (true stories about animals/nature/emotional healing) I hoped that I had conveyed the depth of what each animal went through in his or her life journey. ..."

Thank you for advocating for God's creatures. We all have to work together to help them. We have a Facebook page for our pet loss book, Taking Care of Little Snoogie. I manage the page. I try to post a variety of stories. Warm, encouraging, funny, informative, advocacy for legislation, and also to expose some of the terrible events and conditions that they experience in an attempt to educate people and improve to their lives and to rescue them. I am going to look up your book and add it to my shelf.


message 14: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Fain | 7 comments Peggy wrote: "Kathleen wrote: "Cynthia wrote: "After writing my first book (true stories about animals/nature/emotional healing) I hoped that I had conveyed the depth of what each animal went through in his or h..."Hi Peggy - thanks for contacting me. If you want to - please email the link to your Facebook page about your book. Do you invite people to send you stories to post on your FB page? And my writing is aimed at getting the word out about "that all animals should be treated humanely."
hi


message 15: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Fain | 7 comments Peggy wrote: "Kathleen wrote: "Cynthia wrote: "After writing my first book (true stories about animals/nature/emotional healing) I hoped that I had conveyed the depth of what each animal went through in his or h..."Hi Peggy - thanks for contacting me. If you want to - please email the link to your Facebook page about your book. Do you invite people to send you stories to post on your FB page? And my writing is aimed at getting the word out about "that all animals should be treated humanely."
hi


message 16: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Fain | 7 comments Peggy wrote: "Kathleen wrote: "Cynthia wrote: "After writing my first book (true stories about animals/nature/emotional healing) I hoped that I had conveyed the depth of what each animal went through in his or h..."Hi Peggy - thanks for contacting me. If you want to - please email the link to your Facebook page about your book. Do you invite people to send you stories to post on your FB page? And my writing is aimed at getting the word out about "that all animals should be treated humanely."
hi


message 17: by Peggy (new)

Peggy A. | 5 comments Cynthia wrote: "Peggy wrote: "Kathleen wrote: "Cynthia wrote: "After writing my first book (true stories about animals/nature/emotional healing) I hoped that I had conveyed the depth of what each animal went throu..."

Hi. Thanks for your inquiry. Our Facebook page is Taking Care of Little Snoogie. We will be able to include stories from other people soon. Would love to see yours. Please email me. The email address is under "About". If you have trouble finding it, please let me know, as that problem that will need to be corrected. Thanks again and I hope to talk with you more. Do you have a Facebook page?


message 18: by Peggy (new)

Peggy A. | 5 comments Cynthia wrote: "Peggy wrote: "Kathleen wrote: "Cynthia wrote: "After writing my first book (true stories about animals/nature/emotional healing) I hoped that I had conveyed the depth of what each animal went throu..."

P.S. Right now our Facebook page posts stories to entertain, endear, educate, advocate, and rant about injustices to God's creatures. As soon as we make book production expenses, we can start donating sales proceeds to animal causes and organizations.



message 19: by Robert (new)

Robert D. Calkins (robertdcalkins) | 3 comments The hard part for me was knowing what to leave out. I'm a dog junkie writing about a really technical aspect of the K9 world, search and rescue.

I had to put in enough detail to make the story work, and people tend to be interested in "how dogs find people." But I had to not get carried away with myself.


message 20: by G.G. (new)

G.G. Marshall (grace_marshall) | 3 comments The hardest part is probably writing about abuse. I have some neglected animals rescued in my stories and it's hard for me to sometimes think about what animals go through at the hands of the owners who are supposed to care for them.


message 21: by Sue (new)

Sue | 15 comments For anyone who loves dogs, I highly recommend the well researched book, "Pit Bulls" by Bronwin Dickey. The history of the bully breeds is covered and exactly why, recently, they have received negative press.


message 22: by Sue (new)

Sue | 15 comments Actually, she rationalizes how to KILL animals "humanely" according to her perspective. Why do humans think they are above other living creatures, enabling us to EAT them?


message 23: by Krista (new)

Krista Behymer Agreed. Grandin is horrible. For someone who has made a name for herself based upon some so-called special insight into animals, she profits from their cruel deaths.


message 24: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Zorn | 5 comments I think people like Temple Grandin and the humane-washing movement are a terrible disservice to animals. We don't need to eat animals or their secretions to thrive, but the idea that we can treat them nicely despite taking the one thing from them they value most - their lives - provides people with a comfortable lie enabling them not to take action to make changes that would end violence towards animals. :(


message 25: by Sue (new)

Sue | 15 comments Lisa wrote: "I think people like Temple Grandin and the humane-washing movement are a terrible disservice to animals. We don't need to eat animals or their secretions to thrive, but the idea that we can treat t..."

AGREE!!


message 26: by Amy (new)

Amy Hueston | 4 comments I'm very interested in reading and hearing everyone's perspectives. On behalf of animals, I'm so grateful to all of you for your love and passion for their well-being.
I read the words "comfortable lie" and it makes sense. I also understand the position of not believing animals are not ours to do with as we please. And I know that real change in anything can only come with enough people taking a stand.
In my mind, there's a world where humans don't use animals at all, for anything. Where they are treated with respect and appreciation. Where their feelings are taken into consideration, where in fact, all people recognize that animals do in fact HAVE feelings. (And where, by the way, people all treat each other, no matter what they look like or where they're from, with this same respect and appreciation.) And maybe that world is reachable one day if enough people do something to make that happen.
The thing is, I don't see humans stopping the "use" of animals any time soon. Do any of you? If you do see a clear road for this, please speak up because that's why I'm writing, I'm truly interested. Maybe step by small step it can happen? I suppose anything imaginable is possible. At the moment, people raise animals to kill them for food, that's a fact, and not likely to change anytime soon. So if there's a way that an animal's fear and/or pain can be lessened, is that not better? Now, I can't wrap my head around making it okay to force-feed geese for pate, or making calves live in a box to fatten them up for veal, but that's part of my point - we all have our limits on what is outright inhumane, and this is where everyone's different opinions muddies the waters, creating confusion, and slowing down change. I understand the position that making a faster, more efficient way of killing the poor cows on farms can be seen as humane-washing but I also see it as something concrete that was done, as opposed to a vague "I love animals, let's nobody hurt them" that doesn't really accomplish anything except polarity between people (and I'm not insinuating anyone on this board is "only" doing this, please don't misinterpret).
So, I'm curious for reasonable answers, not emotional ones, from anyone interested in participating...I think there are some of you who don't think animals should be used for anything at all, and to you I ask, how do you navigate our world? Do you receive the listing from the Humane Society of all the companies that test cosmetics, etc. on animals and then not use any of them (this includes shaving cream and other things aside from the mascara and other tests we've all heard about)? Do you not touch food from animals, including milk or eggs, b/c you don't believe they should be used in any way? Do you not wear a handbag or shoes with any animals parts including leather? Also, does anyone do anything to help make real change? If so, how? Work for PETA? Call the local animal shelter when your neighbor's dog is left outside with no shelter? Make steps in the infrastructure of the legal world for things like stricter punishment for those who harm animals? Get involved in politics in ways from researching candidates who support animal rights, to visiting Washington, to anything in between?
I'm not looking for an argument or people to write back from their emotions, I'm looking for reasonable perspectives. I'm truly interested in making real, uplifting change for animals and that begins with a respectful conversation. Thanks again, everybody.


message 27: by Lisa (last edited Aug 16, 2016 01:20PM) (new)

Lisa Zorn | 5 comments Hi Amy! I can answer for myself.

I do think that we can end animal use and achieve animal liberation. I don't think it'll be easy, but I think it will happen for a few reasons.

I think people don't really want to hurt animals and we have a strong sense of empathy. That's why almost nobody can watch violent footage without feeling terrible. But getting society to change is of course another matter.

I think animal liberation is a social justice movement, similar to others but different in that the oppressed beings don't really get to lead it. But I think that even so, following the leads of other successful social justice movements will get us there. I think those tactics consist primarily of disrupting the social norms by speaking up against violence against animals, whenever and wherever we can. In other words, not being a silent vegan.

In my daily life, I'm vegan (of course). I don't purchase anything that involves animal exploitation as far as I am able. I spend my weekends doing rabbit rescue with SaveABunny and doing protests, disruptions and demonstrations with Direct Action Everywhere (http://directactioneverywhere.com), a grass roots network that studies social justice movements, does open rescue, and organizes demos to tell the stories of those rescued beings. (Anyone should feel free to let me know if you want to know more about getting involved with a chapter.)

I have also taken the Liberation Pledge (http://www.liberationpledge.com/), so I don't sit down to meals with people who are eating animals, any more than I'd sit with people who are watching a dog fight or people that are engaged in oppressing humans. It's not easy but there are ways of lovingly doing this; it's not about making people wrong but rather about standing up for animals.

My view is to dream big because that's the only way big things will happen, and finding others who act on this principle has been empowering. I'm just not inspired in any way by making the short, miserable lives of animals slightly less miserable, and I think many actions in this regard end up (possibly inadvertently) promoting exploitation and violence towards animals. Of course, I would never stand in the way of better treatment. But personally, I think it's a better use of my time to work on ending the violence, not making it a little nicer.


message 28: by Sue (new)

Sue | 15 comments Amy J. wrote: "I'm very interested in reading and hearing everyone's perspectives. On behalf of animals, I'm so grateful to all of you for your love and passion for their well-being.
I read the words "comfortab..."


An individual, like yourself, CAN take action, albeit a small one. Personally, I do not eat beef or pork (figuring there are other countries/individuals in the world who do not). I also do not like how ranchers in the US West treat other wildlife, figuring they have a "right" to nearly free grazing.

I don't think the way animals are killed is in any way "humane." However, I DO eat fish and occasionally chicken. If I was rich enough to have a personal chef, I would go totally vegan, like Oprah has! I also love ice cream far too much to give it up.

Each person has to make individual choices and decide what feels right to them.

I also have rescued two dogs from certain death as well as two senior horses, who were scheduled to go to slaughter. I am happy with my decisions and fairly content with my decisions, after debating, like, you, for many years.


message 29: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Zorn | 5 comments Sue, have you tried So Delicious cashew milk ice cream? It's amazing. The Ben and Jerry's dairy-free ice cream is good too.


message 30: by Sue (new)

Sue | 15 comments Lisa wrote: "Hi Amy! I can answer for myself.

I do think that we can end animal use and achieve animal liberation. I don't think it'll be easy, but I think it will happen for a few reasons.

I think people don..."


I like you....you think BIG! I'm a retired woman who should have been a vet, but was discouraged from doing so because "women aren't vets."

I live in a rural area where people don't think of animals as having feelings. (There's lots of stories I could share....) I'm considered "crazy" and "unusual" because I have two "worthless" horses in my backyard.


message 31: by Amy (new)

Amy Hueston | 4 comments Thanks, all. I appreciate it.

And Lisa, the problem I have with So Delicious ice cream is I can knock off the entire container in one sitting. ;)


message 32: by Sue (new)

Sue | 15 comments Lisa wrote: "Sue, have you tried So Delicious cashew milk ice cream? It's amazing. The Ben and Jerry's dairy-free ice cream is good too."

I DO love B&J, its a great company. I have tried Tofruitti, but don't care much for it.


message 33: by Lisa (new)

Lisa Zorn | 5 comments Amy J. wrote: "Thanks, all. I appreciate it.

And Lisa, the problem I have with So Delicious ice cream is I can knock off the entire container in one sitting. ;)"


That's a problem? ;)


message 34: by Lisa (last edited Aug 16, 2016 04:06PM) (new)

Lisa Zorn | 5 comments Sue wrote: "Lisa wrote: "Sue, have you tried So Delicious cashew milk ice cream? It's amazing. The Ben and Jerry's dairy-free ice cream is good too."

I DO love B&J, its a great company. I have tried Tofruitti..."


So Delicious is much better than Tofutti, IMO.

I wouldn't go so far as to say B&J is a great company. They make the majority of their money off dairy products, which directly supports sexually violating cows to impregnate them, taking their babies away (and killing the males or similarly enslaving the females) so they can profit from the milk they make for their babies. Dairy comes from a mother's grief, including Ben & Jerry's dairy products. :(

One of the most heart-breaking (non graphic!) videos I've seen is from the bucolic and lovely-looking French dairy farm shown in the first video here: http://freefromharm.org/dairyfacts/ No dairy farm could be "nicer" than this but you can plainly see the grief this mother and baby feel about being separated, as all dairy farms do.


message 35: by John (new)

John Yunker (johnyunker) | 3 comments Amy J. wrote: "I'm very interested in reading and hearing everyone's perspectives. On behalf of animals, I'm so grateful to all of you for your love and passion for their well-being.
I read the words "comfortab..."


Hi Amy -- While I'm not optimistic that we'll see the end of animal abuse in my lifetime I'm optimistic that we'll see significant progress -- and already are. And literature (fiction and nonfiction) has a key role to play. That's a major reason why Midge and I co-founded Ashland Creek Press five years ago. We're focused heavily on publishing stories that share a vegan worldview. There is simply not enough of these books out yet. But they're coming...


message 36: by Amy (new)

Amy Hueston | 4 comments Thanks, John.


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