Horse Rescue: Where did the stories come from?

Structural editing: pages from the book -- 'cut and paste' old school!

Structural editing: pages from the book — ‘cut and paste’ old school!

Where did Horse Rescue stories come from?

My publisher, Andrea McNamara from Penguin Australia, approached me to see if I was interested in writing this book. Of course I said yes!

Right from the start, Andrea and I agreed that we wanted to create a book of inspirational stories rather than focusing on the stressful issues that lead to horses being neglected, abused or sent to slaughter. As I say in my introduction to the book, you can easily go and find that information if you want to, but what brings me joy are the inspiring, goose-bumping, enlightening stories of exhilarating triumph, quiet meditative wisdom, life-changing moments and powerful self-healing. Most importantly, we wanted to highlight the relationship between the rescue horse and the person or people whose life had been changed because of it. And Andrea invited me to weave my own personal stories into the book as well. Then we worked out a structure and I set about filling the chapters.

The keys to the successful stories were that (1) this was not a book about horse slaughter specifically (and though a number of the horses were rescued this way, many were not); (2) it was not a book about horse rescue organisations (though one of the stories came via one in Victoria), and nor was it a book about equine therapy organisations specifically… a broad mix of stories was needed; and (3) the focus was on the relationship between the rescued horse and the rescuer, so the interviewee needed to be able to clearly articulate the way in which that horse had changed her or his life, and be willing to have that shared with the whole country!

The book opens with the story of me and my rescue horse, Lincoln (a gelding I ‘accidentally’ bought at a dogger sale on a blistering hot day in September 2009), who changed my life, not least of which was by inspiring me to start a horse rescue charity.

For other chapters, I approached a few people directly, such as Jill Strachan and Elf, because I knew their story well and found it so moving. My dad texted me one night and told me to turn on the TV to ABC’s Compass, where I found a story on Colin Emonson and the Horses for Hope program in Victoria. And through Colin, I found Michael Williams, in and out of prison for seven years before finding hope through horses. My stepmother found a story in the Women’s Weekly on Sue Spence and the Horse Whispering Youth Program. I contacted Sue and asked her if she happened to have a rescue horse in her therapy team. As luck had it, she had little Larry, a rescued miniature pony who not only helped her through the healing stages of breast cancer but who went on to change literally hundreds of children’s lives.

For other stories, I cast a wide net. I emailed scores of organisations (pony clubs and equestrian and RDA groups), explaining my agenda for the book and inviting people to contact me if they thought they had a powerful story to share, and I listed my request many times over on various Facebook sites too. From one of those posts, someone emailed me and told me to contact Australian Olympian, Rebel Morrow, who had rescued her horse, Groover, from slaughter and taken him all the way to the Athens Olympics. I had been looking for exactly that type of story but had been running into dead ends until I received that person’s email—another piece of luck that popped up at the right time to help shape the book’s development.

Slowly, the rest of the stories began to come to my inbox. To be honest, I was worried I would be inundated and I’d have to say no to people and disappoint them, something I really dreaded. Although a few stories came in that were great in themselves, for one reason or another they didn’t suit the book or show enough variation in story type to be included. But mostly, the ones that came in were the ones that stayed. I was truly blessed with quality not quantity and I was thrilled with the great variety.

I did try hard to include some male perspectives in the book because men’s voices are generally under-represented when talking about horse rescuers; and I did try hard to find content from places in Australia outside of the eastern states, but as it turned out none came through. 

I didn’t contact horse rescue groups specifically because I know there are lots of them around the country and I didn’t want to appear to be favouring any one organisation over another. But none were excluded as anyone from anywhere in Australia could have emailed through a story. It was just the way the cards fell. (The only exception to that was that I think I might have sent information about the book to one organisation in WA and that was towards the end when I hadn’t received any contributions from outside eastern Australia. But that didn’t pan out either.)

Of the Skype interviews that I conducted, there was only one I didn’t take further and that was because that particular story (though wonderful) was just not quite right for the mix of stories already in the book by that time.

It was a lengthy process, and the very final chapter’s subject only came in a short time before the final submission deadline. I’m so very grateful for everyone who shared their stories. The honour was truly mine.

Advertisements

Horse Rescue Book Coming Soon

I’m very excited to announce that my first non-fiction book for Penguin Australia is Horse Rescue: inspiring stories of second chance horses and the lives they changed has been officially signed off and sent to print!

The book is due for release on 27 August 2014. I wish I could show you the cover but I don’t have a final version yet, but the draft version is GORGEOUS and I can’t wait to share it with you. In the meantime, here’s a few pics to keep you going.

1975189_1432176977021000_1053359461_n

1959792_1432337163671648_145932617_n

1926699_1433653003540064_44867388_n

 

10303450_1450160078556023_7649818519167025292_n

Publishing with Penguin Books Australia

Publishing with Penguin Books Australia

I am proud to announce that I have a contract with Penguin Books Australia for a non-fiction book, Horse Rescue Stories.

I have been working on the book for most of this year and have been travelling around the country and interviewing, photographing and meeting some wonderful people who have rescued a horse. The focus of the book, a topic close to my heart, is the way in which a rescued horse changes the person’s life, just as much as the person changes the horse’s life.

I am so very proud to be working on this book, a project I didn’t go looking for but that came to me in one of those fantastically serendipitous ways, and am really looking forward to bringing these stories to you. Stay tuned for updates!

Making contact with other writers

Since moving to the country, I particularly miss the opportunities that are so easily accessed in Brisbane. I love my property. Sitting at my computer right now, I can look outside across my twin rose gardens, across the paddocks and keep going for an uninterrupted view all the way to the horizon. I can see two houses way off in the distance and some smoke on the horizon. And that’s it. What can I hear? Right now, birds chirping (oh yes, and the clothes dryer).

All this peace and quiet is delightful for ‘setting the mood’ for writing. But I do struggle with the isolation. There are no cinemas to distract me with movies that serve as fodder for the mind. There are no cafes at write at. There are no shops to shop in and no friends to chat to. It’s just me and the furry kids.

So what am I doing about it? Firstly, since attending Kate Eltham’s workshop in online savvy for writers, I have been embracing the opportunities to make contact via the web. And I have to say that it’s been more satisfying than I first thought it would be. Secondly, I have organised a small DIY writers’ retreat for four days in Maleny (starting this Friday) with four other writers. Thirdly, I have just submitted an application to Varuna (The Writer’s House) in the hope that I might be selected to attend their annual LongLines live-in retreat program for regional writers.

Country living, like city living, offers advantages and disadvantages. The trick, I think, is working my way around the disadvantages. It is SO important for writers to make contact with other writers. I can honestly say that there is no way I would be where I am on my journey right now if I hadn’t had the support and friendship of QWC and other writers (that I have met there).

I have come to believe that “success” (a slippery notion) in writing is a strong mixture of craft and contacts. I encourage all writers to reach out and make contact. Your local/regional writers centre will probably be your first and best start.