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.


  1. John,
    I'm with you. We need to raise some new chickens! The problem is: how do we do that? I've been wracking my brain trying to come up with new ideas to promote my novel, "Mixed Messages." You've given me some great tips and I appreciate it. I'll take all the help I can get. There's no manual (at least not one I've discovered) for how to "raise new chickens."
    By the way, I finished reading "The Limping Dog" last night and it was great!

    1. Thanks, Pat. You're right--there is no manual. That's exactly why we need to help one another.

  2. Agree about the 'revolution' taking place right now. Predicting just what course it will take in the long run is not easy though!

  3. John, I think one of the unfortunate byproducts of getting a bit older (I'm now in my 70s) is hardening of the attitudes, and believing things are worse now than they were when we were younger. It has happened to me, and navigating in the new world of writing and publishing is, I find, exhausting and irksome. But here it is, and it will only get...more so.
    But I do long for simpler times, when people didn't object to the smell of chickens, and when it was okay to dry your laundry in the back yard.

    1. We're in the same age group, John. Which does make it harder to deal with change.

  4. I've got a whole chicken coop.

    If you want to eat (or make money with your writing), you have to create some stink of your own.

    And build a better hen house than the neighbor down the road.

    1. So right, Sunny. You've been leading the way on this.

  5. Terrific blog and good comments, too. One of these days The Posse is going to wild and come up with some unique and killer ideas.

    1. Thanks, Marja. I think the Posse is already circulating a lot of good ideas.

  6. I agree with you, John, that we are in an amazing time right now--if we take advantage of it. To do that we have to be willing to gain the new skills required.

    The Posse is helpful but it is too easy to become inbred and not reach out to the huge amount of people out in the Twitterverse and Facebook world. To do that we must learn new skills of effective blogging, tweeting and facebook chit-chat whether we want to or not.

    I read a comment today on Kristen Lamb's blog:
    "Digital books are not the first technological advance that has left artists feeling threatened. I’m sure the dude who was in charge of recording all the stories and history on the cave walls felt threatened by the smarty pants who invented papyrus paper. Then there were all those monks who got downsized when the printing press came along.
    Great, thanks to that Gutenberg jerk, everyone can be published."

    I agree with you that we have to stop complaining and embrace the new technology and social media outlets if we want to sell books. There aren't many other choices.

  7. You are so right, Cora. Couldn't agree more.

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