*Please read Serious Non-Fiction Development: Part 1 of a Semester’s Reflections for an explanation of this series. This week’s post is a response to a reading from an insightful book on successfully publishing serious non-fiction. Chapter 1 was the assigned reading for the week, and in it, Rabiner emphasized the importance of audience, audience, audience. Below is the question prompt followed by my response.
In your blog post for this week, I want you to take a stab at telling the story of how you became interested in the topic, as well as how you came upon the question that now drives you. Ask yourself the questions that Rabiner asks on the top of page 78. This material might make it into your proposal rough draft; it might become a building block with which you address questions 1 & 2 (and maybe 3), setting the stage to transition into material that addresses the other “big five” questions. In any case, you’ll be pushing your thoughts in the direction that Rabiner insists they need to go for the proposal. Remember, the proposal is not the place where you need to defend your argument or outline all its steps in detail. Editors really want to get a sense of the big picture: the scope, the guiding question, the basic thesis, the audience, how your mind works, and what your voice sounds like. You’ll need some details to animate and substantiate the proposal, but you certainly can’t acknowledge everything that the book will cover — indeed, too many details at this stage may cloud your project’s appeal.
I suppose most children are drawn to animals at one point or another, especially due to the non-human main characters that cover the DVD cases of most animated movies. Little girls especially, I am told, are often drawn to horses, puppies, and kittens. Now, I love all of the above and will be the first to tell you I’d chose an animal’s company over a human’s most of the time (they are the best conversational partners), but something in me was drawn to the wilder nature of forest creatures. Wild horses, tigers, mountain lions, and foxes were some of my favorites, but wolves inspired a feeling in me unlike any other. They were more like cats than dogs, it seemed, fearless and self-aware. I knew they were dangerous, but every time I gazed into the eyes of one (through a screen or page, of course) I never saw savagery. Rather, they seemed to have respect for the natural order of things and a cunning that was outmatched. Often shown as the antagonist in media, I cherished the film Balto and books like Jack London’s White Fang because they showed a pure and loving side of wolves. They were still fierce, but beautiful. Dangerous, but just. Protective, but loving.
My interests with wolves and nature never faded, but it was raised to a new level when I began taking courses at my local community college a persuasive speech class followed by an environmental science class led me to uncover the atrocities of our food system, the guinea pig testing of human with harsh chemicals, and the detrimental impact industry-hungry humans have had on the environment. The more I unearthed, the angrier I became. My anger turned to passion, which turned to further research. I have been blessed with teachers who have strived to show me the truth and encouraged me to examine more on my own. When it became evident to me that the forests and animals I loved were in grave danger, my tree-hugging Oregonian spirit awoke in me a desire to speak out for the voiceless.
I have been told that I’m a leader. An inspirer. But what I want to do is build a wall of protection around my sacred place and make the government and industry pay for it. The trees cannot cry out. The birds cannot protest. The rivers cannot relocate. The mountain lions cannot defend themselves. They need guardians. I want to emphasize that plural because one guardian just simply isn’t enough. If I evoke such inspiration in people and can coerce them into following my bidding, then I implore people to stand up for their earthly home. Regardless of what you believe, we are responsible and tied to this world and we do serve a purpose in it.
Wolves became symbolic of my environmental passions this past year because they are how I see the natural world. Dangerous, beautiful, meaningful, and worthy of protecting. Even if you aren’t the outdoorsy type and you prefer penthouses to cabins and skyscrapers to mountains, they environment places an intricate role in your survival and well-being. Be it a selfish motivation or not, people need to realize that they are in a symbiont relationship with the natural world. Still, the environment is too broad an organism to be the face of this call, so in an attempt to preserve it all, I deem the wolves worthy representatives of nature in America. They are intricately woven into its purpose and their story is the perfect poster child for raising awareness. The wolf symbolizes everything America once stood for: independence, strong family/friend bonds with those in your community; a fresh start in new territory; establishment and sustainability with respect to the surrounding world; a natural and cooperative order of leadership established by the pack. But like the decline of American values, the wolves and their habitat are ever diminishing.
Coming back to the prompt for this week, I believe there are two overarching questions driving my interest in this book concept:
- Wolves, and much of the American environment as we know it, were nearly eradicated until the environmental awakening in the sixties and seventies. Despite the progress and new laws, we are now—forty years later—nearly back to where we started. What changed to make Americans so careless and selfish again? What happened to the environmental protests of our parents and grandparents? What happened to the fight against the industry in favor of our land, animals, and well-being? Why has progress been little to none on the Homefront, the New World?
- Following question one, question two beckons the answer as to what the solution is. What is necessary to snap people out of their cyberspace (I acknowledge I write this hypocritically from a laptop and post it on my blog—the internet can be used for good, it just often is not) comfort zones and act? Is it the responsibility of the people to make the small day to day changes to protect the wolves, or does it simply require protesting and petitions, making it ultimately the responsibility of the lawmakers and industry leaders?
These are the questions that surface in my mind multiple times a day, and I hope I can uncover the answers as I work through this book proposal. If nothing else, maybe I can awake the questions in your mind. The goal, as my environmental political science professor likes to say, is to raise more questions, not find the answers and rest content.