Friday, May 11, 2012
The township where I live just passed an ordinance against the raising of chickens in residential areas. This is in a community of about 8,000 people, of whom perhaps a dozen still have chickens. When I was a boy (and, no, that wasn’t in the dark ages) nearly every household in this village and throughout the township had a vegetable garden and many, many had chickens. At various times, my father had chickens and ducks and, at one time, turkeys. Nearly every family had at least one dog or cat. One neighbor raised goats. The son of the family next to us had a penchant for wild animals and was always bringing home raccoon, opossum, turtles, snakes and assorted other critters. There was a slaughterhouse up the road and we’d often hear the squeal or bellow of a hapless animal being led to its fate. Occasionally, a hog or a steer would break out and make a dash for freedom. There may have been, but I don’t remember complaints about sounds or odors. If you raise animals—no matter how careful or clean you may be—there are going to be associated noises and scents to deal with. It’s a natural derivative and cost for the rewards. That’s why it always amused me when people started building houses in the country and complained because they smelled manure. I’m not writing this because I approve or disapprove of raising chickens in a residential area. I’m simply stating a fact—things change. As my character Flora Vastine put it in Being Someone Else, “Nothing ever stays the same. For good or bad, life deals us changes and it’s up to us to accept the challenge or consequences.” So what does this have to do with writing, you might ask? We’re witnessing a revolution right now in the world of publishing. Those changes in the way things are done, in how writing is produced and distributed are going to impact all of us, whether we like it or not. So what do we do? We’ve got to study how we can make those changes work for us rather than against us. We’ve got to stop complaining about the odor and seek out the rewards. Instead of fighting just for a place in the market we should be looking to exploit it by creating new markets. I’m not sure exactly how to accomplish this. But I think we begin by studying, being open to new ideas, working with other people and not fearing change. Let’s raise some new chickens.