Friday, December 30, 2016

The end is always the beginning of something new

The morning I heard the howling.
This morning I typed "The End" to the Yellowstone Howling story.

It was just like in the movies … except for the iconic sound of the typewriter keys clicking those last six letters and the kinesthetic feel of pulling that last white sheet from the rollers.

So, I guess it wasn’t much like the movies at all except for the slight blip of adrenaline that signaled “done,” the story told. I'm sitting here now surrounded by friends I've lived with for the past year, friends who have taught me many things and taken me to new places.
Janey: when compassion pulled her away from her ordinary life, she discovered a deep well of courage that carries her into a new one where adventure awaits.
Stella: pain opened a doorway to her past and a pathway to her future.
Jesse: struck by heart-breaking tragedy, he makes a choice that sets this story in motion, a choice that changes everything.

There is one character in the story that did not need fiction. She already was a hero, already a leader, already a rock-star in the eyes of her world. We gave her a name, because that's what we do. Wolf 06f we called her and she became a legend in the world of wolf-watchers. Rick Lamplugh in his tribute to her gives us a glimpse of her life.
I think, of all the characters in the book, I may miss her the most. I already know the others will show up in future books (Jesse is already staring in Mobius Dreamtime which should be out summer of 2017 and Janey is off to Mexico where I know she will find an adventure). 
But, while the legend of Wolf 06f lives on and her genes still roam the woods and valleys of Yellowstone, her story has been told and I know there is little chance that I will spend time with her again. And, that time spent discovering her story has been a gift.
Knowing my time with her is over makes me sad. My only consolation is the hope that my small telling of her story touches people and helps them understand the incredible beauty of the wild world we all came from and lost when we traded it in for safety and the security of full bellies.
I know this ending will lead to new beginnings, but for the moment, I'm just sad.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Beta-Readers needed for Yellowstone Howling

Finally, the story is told … it’s not a long story … about 70,000 words at present count. (Most novels run 90 - 120,000 words.)

Bear Cubs at Play - May, 2016
The important questions … does it make sense? does it have impact? do you understand what the characters are trying to do and what’s driving them to do what they must do? … are questions only readers can answer.

You are invited to become a beta-reader. At this point, I’m not looking for word-smithing or copy-editing; simply your reaction to the story and the characters. You will receive a suggested list of questions and the beta-reading needs to be done by February 28, 2017
Beta-readers will be acknowledged in the book and receive a free, signed copy when it is released. Limited to the first 20 readers who volunteer. If you are interested in reading this story, send me an email at jwycoff at me dot com.

Story description:

It began as an act of compassion, something of a “why not?” lark: simply two ordinary women trying to help a broken-hearted, guilt-ridden teenage boy. The journey took them to Yellowstone National Park where they discovered wolves, grizzlies, bison, as well as unexpected pieces of themselves. In a land that speaks with many tongues, they discover a secret that changes everything.

Some say the wolves changed the rivers of Yellowstone. Some say life can turn on a dime. They seldom tell you that you probably won’t notice the dime when your life steps on it. And, they almost never tell you that there is a wolf just waiting to change the river of your own life.
Believe it, though. It's true!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Tiny Horrors

Handcuffs for a child. (Background)
There are some things we just almost can’t comprehend.

One of the joys of the writing journey I’m on is discovering new things about the world. Seeing wolf puppies for the first time, watching black bear cubs romping through the woods, seeing first-hand the thermal power of the earth displayed in a kaleidoscope of color and forms throughout Yellowstone.

With that beauty and wonder, however, sometimes comes reminders of a past that rips apart my fairy tale about being human. I believe in the goodness of the human heart, but researching this book has forced me to pay equal attention to the dark shadow that follows every step we take.

Today’s reminder came in the form of handcuffs, tiny handcuffs, made to control small children as they were taken away from reservations to boarding schools where they were taught to “assimilate” (translation: look, act and talk like white people.) (Too much more.)

This story I’m writing is FICTION. Meant to be an adventurous journey taken by two, sixtyish women and a teenage boy. I wanted it to be realistic enough to include life and death, pain and joy, love and hate. But, it keeps pulling me into places I had no idea existed and definitely didn’t plan on visiting. 

This morning’s discovery almost knocked me out. I knew enough history to know about the attempts to assimilate Indian children and about the boarding schools. But, I didn’t know enough to think about them as anything more than misguided. Fortunately, there are people thinking about these things on much deeper levels.

Somewhat offsetting the heartbreaking handcuffs shown above, I discovered Upstander Project dedicated to helping "bystanders become upstanders through compelling documentary films and learning resources.” 
One of the documentaries they will release later this year is Dawnland, the remarkable story of a unique project of truth and reconciliation around a centuries-old practice of taking Native children away from their families.

When most people hear about children ripped from their families, they think of faraway places or of centuries past. The reality is it's been happening in the U.S. for centuries—and is still happening today. Native American children are more than twice as likely as non-Native children to be taken from their families and put into foster care, according to a 2013 study.

In Maine, a group of Native and non-Native leaders came together to acknowledge and address the abuses suffered by Native children in the hands of the child welfare system. Thanks to their commitment, the Maine Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was formed in 2012 to seek the truth and bring healing to those affected.

Dawnland is the only feature-length documentary to tell the inside story of this historic, first of its kind commission and the individuals—both Native and non-Native—who boldly and publicly came forward to share their stories of survival, guilt and loss, in order to illuminate the ongoing crisis of indigenous child removal.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The video that started it all: How Wolves Change Rivers

Click here to watch video.
This video burrowed its way into my imagination and just stayed there waiting for me to do something with it ... like write a novel.

Seemed simple enough. I already wanted to write about an ordinary, mature woman who goes on an adventure. So, she could go to Yellowstone and see the wolves.

Before long, her friend and co-worker wanted to be part of the story. Then a broken-hearted teenage boy said, "I want to go, too." Suddenly this unlikely trio is on their way to see the wolves. Only what they find when they get there changes everything.

The video is remarkable and beautifully done.