Apifera Farm - where art, story, animals & woman merge. Home to artist Katherine Dunn

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©Katherine Dunn.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

A new book...White Dog as conduit...and not falling into the trap of the blog writer

White Dog sits alone in the morning
before the animals have been let out to the fields.
Back in 2015, before we decided to relocate the farm from Oregon to Maine, I had a pile of stories I was working on, and I kept going back and forth on working on them, not finishing any of them. When I look back now, it is clear there was a reason for that. All of those stories, as I wrote the words, and the images were in my head as I wrote, had the Oregon farm as backdrops. I couldn't finish them because they were stories that had not formed yet, had no where to go really, because my subconscious knew we weren't going to be there.

But I have kept going back to the story of White Dog, the creature that mysteriously appeared out of thin air, breaching our fences-the first animal to do that. Oddly, he was a Maremma, the same breed as the dog we had brought home six months earlier, Marcella. Maremma's are not a breed you see walking around everywhere, they are expensive if you want good breeding, and they are a dog that requires a job, as they are innately programmed to guard livestock, or whatever is in their domain that needs guarding. The fact he showed up out of nowhere, in bad condition–thin, curled toenails-made us surmise someone might have been following the blog, and dumped him there. The idea he would find our farm in a rural area, out of all the farms he could have gone, but this one also had a White Dog...it was a mystery, and it was magic. Nobody will ever really know, I guess. But the book will explore a them, that I won't share just yet, but it is a theme that I had scribble down some years ago, and when I saw it as I started reworking the White Dog story, I thought,

Man, he knew all along, I think, that this idea was important to me, and he somehow was part of that-a conduit for the story.

For the past couple months, since "Little Tulip" is finished [it will be arriving here Monday, and will be shipped out to all who have pre-ordered by mid month], I immediately began pondering my next book. I had the idea of doing three little books, that would slip inside a case, much like the Nutshell Library stories we had as children, I still have mine-Lyle the Crocodile, Pierre, and others. I got a bid on printing and the slip case is so expensive, and I worked on some ideas, but then White Dog just kept appearing in my head. I like to lay in bed in the morning-Martyn gets up at 5:30 and I usually linger for a good hour and a half-but I get a lot of creative things done in that time. So in the last month, I've been working on the White Dog book in bed, in my head.

And this week, I revisited the story I wrote, the beginning chapters, and I was spellbound. Okay, maybe that is egotistical, but I really felt drawn into it.

One thing I've started realizing-when you write a blog, and you are also sharing art, photos, brief snippets of pondering on social media, your best writing can get...taken over. I've seen this happen to some semi known blog writers with mid sized followings online who also have books-the writing becomes repetitive, and if they do have a book out, it feels more like a poorly edited [or not edited] blog. Don't get me wrong, blog writing is a craft, it is worthy and a wonderful medium for many, including myself, but there is a huge difference in writing a daily blog, and creating a book. A book has a rhythm, a flow from beginning to end. A blog is caught up in the immediate topic at hand, in 500+ words, with a catchy headline. Anyone who writes a regular blog knows, just like CNN or or any online magazine, that people respond to certain headlines and topics. I myself know I can pour my heart out into a well written piece on something that garners few comments online, but if I post about an animal dying the hits go way up. People seem to be attracted to stories of despair, shock, death...and baby donkey pictures. So blog writers can fall into the trap of unconsciously [or not] writing for the reaction, versus honing the writing.

I think I'm also entering a time of my life where, after 10+ years of writing, my goals as an online presence are shifting. My audience that is still following me has shifted too-in age and things they respond to. There is no better time for me to work on this book. A blog is sort of like a cocktail party, a book is much more like an intimate weekend at the sea.

White Dog knows this too. He is my main conduit right now, to the higher ideas in my head and heart.