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I can't read without crying. I really loved that little green bird and was sorry to see her go, although I know that she will be happy at parrot sanctuary. The funny thing is that, as sad as I am, I'm having a pretty happy day. I think that's because I'm letting myself feel and express the sadness when it comes. Then I go outside and work in the garden or visit with the chickens. The chickens. " will break your heart, " president told me back in the spring of 2000, when I called her for advice about the young rooster and hen who had just joined the bird who was the first resident of what would become the . "I'm sure you're right, " I said blithely, not understanding the warning implicit in her words. By the end of that summer, when that hen and another hen who I loved without reservation died within days of each other, I felt that I might actually aciphex 20mg pills $123.00 die from grief, the birds having touched and torn the most primordial part of my heart. This summer, I've got to go back to that place. I've got to retrace the journey that began when I accidentally landed in poultry country and has taken me to Rome, Islamabad, Salt Lake City and scores of other places, always returning home to the birds here in rural Maryland. I've got to put their stories into a book that people who don't yet take chickens seriously will want to read. To do that, I've got to tell my story. "I'm not the same person. " That's what I said in that same spring of 2000, after my first foray into a local factory farm. "I'm not the same person. " That's what I realized three years later at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, when a vivacious community organizer reminded me of who I used to be and how deadened I had become in response to grief. "I'm the same person. " That's what I finally came to understand in 2005, when I showed up to give an anti-vivisection speech to dogs and their human companions at a neighborhood "bow wow pow wow" in Baltimore and realized that I was standing in the same park [aciphex 20mg pills $123.00] to which I used to flee as an unnaturally solemn six year old in the 1960s. Sitting under a tree to revise my speech, I reached back in time to tell that child, "Look! It all turns out okay. You grow up to be somebody who gives speeches for dogs. " I've known that I needed to write the story of the sanctuary from its earliest days, when I realized that I was learning things that people who don't live with chickens have no way of knowing. All of the things I've been saying in speeches and writing in articles these past few years are rooted in the lessons I've learned from and about the birds. The (ab)use of animals in the social construction of gender? I figured that out by observing my own reactions to roosters as well as their departures from the stereotypes people have of them. Hope as something you do rather than something you have? I learned that from the battery hens. Telling people about the birds in those first few years, I learned something else: People love chicken stories. People who won't stand still for a lecture on factory farming will listen raptly to true stories about battery hens, into which the facts about their abuse can judiciously be dropped. I know the birds' stories. I owe it to them to tell them. So, I set out to learn how to write creative nonfiction, which is not my usual genre. Then I gave it a go. Aciphex 20mg pills $123.00 disaster! i wrote the first half, got expert feedback, revised the first half, wrote the second half, got expert feedback again. It still sucked. I knew what was wrong, in that I understood the words that the animal-friendly literary agent who had been helping me out was saying, but I didn't have a clue how to fix it. So, I set it aside to write , which turns out to be the best thing that I could have done, and not just because I'm happy with how that book turned out. Even as I was writing Aftershock, I was realizing what was wrong with the sanctuary memoir:

  1. I was throwing in everything I ever wanted to say, as if this was my one chance to write a book.
  2. There wasn't enough of me in the book.
The agent had told me that second point, when she read the first half and again when she read the complete first draft. I knew she was right, in theory, but I resisted putting that knowledge into practice. Even though I often use personal stories to illustrate points in my speeches and essays, I don't really like talking or writing about myself. And I really wanted the book to be about the birds, not about me. I knew that people needed to see the birds through my eyes but I tried to keep myself out of it unless my feelings were directly relevant to the point I was trying to make. But a memoir isn't a series of points made by means of stories. It's one long story that has to have a consistent narrative thread. For the story of the sanctuary through my eyes, that narrative thread is me, my life, the ways that these particular birds have changed this particular person. Finally understanding that, I knew what I needed to do. But then I got stuck again aciphex 20mg pills $123.00, and not just because (as evidenced by my posts of recent weeks) I would rather think and write about torture, pornography, and massacre than engage the live grief and deadening depression that sanctuary work have brought me. While I balk at that work, I also welcome it because remembering is the opposite of dismembering. I know that, in doing that work for the birds, I'll also be helping myself. No, the real problem was that I couldn't find the voice, the emotional tone, the part of me who could tell the whole true story. I didn't even know the whole story! I knew what happened, of course, but I didn't know what it all added up to. And then I found it. Walking with dwaddling dog Dandelion one evening, I passed a cornfield filled with the too-sharp leaves of genetically modified plants and remembered what I had written in the first draft of the memoir about walking past those plants to care for an abandoned dog up the road. Looking up the road, I saw on a map in my mind's eye all of the routes I have travelled while rescuing or advocating for animals. I felt my reluctant mammalian body hurtling above the clouds encased in an airplane, flying somewhere or another on behalf of birds who never have the opportunity to open their wings. A watchful, steady feeling came over me. A phrase came to mind (no, I'm not going to share it) that might or might not be the new title of the book but will certainly be my touchstone as I write it. Staying within that feeling and phrase, I found the story. I promised to report if any of the books I've been reading about writing proved useful. The one that I thought might be helpful turned out to be. It's by Vivian Gornick. In effective personal narrative, Gornick writes, "the situation is the context or circumstance, sometimes the plot; the story is the emotional experience that preoccupies the writer: the insight, the wisdom, the thing one has come to say. " Lucky for me, I read that after my insight with Dandy (who's barking for her dinner right now), so I could feel validated rather than frustrated. I've also been reading memoirs in the hope of finding models of what I want to do, which is use my unique voice to tell an uncommon story in a way that will resonate with regular people. So far, I've read quite a few models of what not to do (e. g. , activist memoirs where the author is the hero of every story) and a couple of books that are so brilliant that I could never hope to emulate their achievement (Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek comes immediately to mind in that category). What about you? What memoirs have you liked (or not liked) and why?


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