Saturday, November 17, 2012

What have I done?

After I finished writing Snoopy's book, I did my best to edit it, meaning I looked for all my normal over-used words (apparently I use apparently a lot), I read it aloud, and I read it into my digital voice recorder and played it back.

And I still didn't know what I had written. On the plus side, I had somehow organically managed to make his injury the exact middle of the book, so the arc was right where I wanted it. On the minus side, there was so much I wasn't sure of. Was it too detailed? Not detailed enough? Would non-horsey people understand it? Would horsey people be bored? Did the pacing work? Was Snoopy someone you learned to care about?

With my fiction, this is where I turn it over to beta readers, but this is kind of non-fiction fiction, and it's close to my heart, closer than I suspected when I started writing it.

Enter a friend of mine who is also an editor, Jennifer Silva Redmond. Last February, I was in her workshop (co-taught by the fabulous Marla Miller) when I pitched my idea for Snoopy's memoir -- "A young horse tells his story of becoming a champion, breaking his leg, then fighting to return to the show arena to prove he's the same horse, only different." Jennifer sounded intrigued by the premise, so much so that it encouraged me to actually write it.

Jenny and I are friends on Facebook and talk about various things. One of these various things led to another and before I knew it, I hired her to look at what I had and tell me whether it worked.

According to her very professional opinion, it does. She had suggestions, of course, which were all marvelous and I was happy to implement (who hires an editor and doesn't take their advice?) and today I feel like I've got something people will want to read.

There's still much to do, like arrange for the cover photo and figure out where to place the interior photos, marketing plan, etc, but I'm loving this particular journey.

Here's another excerpt:

* * * * *

When I was young, I spent every day in a big pen with Mom. It was on a hill and made of thick metal poles that kept us from going anywhere else. The ground was hard. Across the path from our pen was a pasture. It wasn’t very big, but there were trees and some green stuff on the ground that looked like it might be good to eat.

There were horses over there. Mostly, they wandered around the pasture. When it was hot out, I could see them on the hill, under the trees. Sometimes I watched them paw at the ground, then bite something.

At the bottom of the hill I could see four white barns and three arenas, a round wood pen, and two human barns. When I pointed them out, Mom corrected me.

“Those are houses. Humans live in houses. Horses live in barns, in stalls.”

Mom taught me a lot. For example, she taught me it wasn’t nice to chew half her tail hair off. I didn’t mean to do it, but once I started nibbling, I couldn’t stop. Afterward, she chewed some of my tail hair and half of my mane, then told me, “See? Not very nice, is it?”

I already looked kind of weird, according to Mom. From what she described, my hair had started out black, then changed to brownish-gray, then it started rubbing off in patches. And my bottom was growing bigger than my front end.

Of course, I didn’t care. I couldn’t see me.

When I was a few months old, Hilde the groom came to our pen. He put a halter on Mom and led her out. I waited for her forever, but she didn’t come back. I decided to call for her.

“Mom—where are you?”

I heard her call back to me right away. It sounded like she was down in one of the white barns. “I’m over in one of the stalls. Don’t worry, we’ll still see each other. And Hilde is going to bring a friend to keep you company.”

She was right. Soon Hilde came back with one of the horses from the pasture. He was a grey horse, and not very tall, not even as tall as me. Hilde walked this horse into my pen, took off his halter, and left him there.

I greeted him right away. “I’m Snoopy.”

“I have no doubt,” he said. “You will call me Uncle Snowy.”

The way he said it sounded like there was no choice. “Okay, Uncle Snowy. You are a very short horse. Why are you so short?”

“Because I’m not a horse, I’m a pony.”

I thought about this. I knew I was a horse, because Mom told me. She said I looked like her. I had four legs with hooves, a mane and tail, a long neck, and two pointed ears on top of a long face. I trotted around Uncle Snowy, checking him out. He had the same thing.

“So you’ll never grow bigger?” I asked.

“Pfft, you know nothing, do you? I’ve got my work cut out for me.”

“What work? And how do you cut it?” I reached forward to run my teeth across his hip—just for fun—but he kicked at me and trotted off.

“I am the teacher. I am put into pens with young horses to teach them how to behave.”

“Oh. Mom said I was getting a friend to keep me company.”

“Not exactly.” He looked at me and laughed. “You look moth-eaten.”

I didn’t know what that meant. “What?”

“Like you’ve been chewed on by a flock of moths.”

“No, just Mom.”

Uncle Snowy rolled his eyes. “Well, at least you aren’t raising a fuss. Some of the young ones I teach are such babies when they’re taken from their moms. You only called after her once.”

“Well, sure. I asked her where she was and she said she was in a stall and would see me soon.”

“And you’re built downhill,” he added. “Your butt is enormous.”

I looked at my behind. It was true, my butt was pretty big. “So what?”

“Well, I suppose it’s a big enough engine that you could jump, but I don’t know how anyone’s going to ride you, and I hope your hind legs can carry all that extra weight.”

I didn’t know what he was talking about. “Ride me? What’s that?”

“It’s when humans get on our backs and tell us to go here and do that. When I was a young pony, they told me to gallop to a fence and jump over it. It was fun and I won a lot of ribbons. Now that I am older, I teach children how to ride.” He turned and trotted away from me. “But it’s something you don’t need to worry about now. Built like that, you might never need to worry about it.” I followed him and pushed at him with my nose, but he kicked me again.

Uncle Snowy taught me a lot of manners. I couldn’t bump into him or nip at his butt like I did Mom.

“Get away from me,” he’d say. “You can’t just run over everyone all the time. I’ll tell you when you can come scratch my back.”

I’d have to back away or he’d kick or bite me. His feet and teeth weren’t big but they hurt. Sometimes he’d nod and I could scratch him, but I had to stand very still and scratch gently. If I bit or started chewing hair, I got a bite on my own bottom and a kick in my chest. Uncle Snowy was strict, but that was okay. I liked living with him.

* * * * *
And here's one of the pictures that will be included.

Oh, and the book's title is From the Horse's Mouth: The Memoir of One Lucky Horse. 

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