In the Bluff
January 28, 2011 Leave a comment
Welcome to the newest addition to Fulcrum Publishing’s blogs. Each week, I’ll share thoughts on the world of ideas, books, and publishing from the perspective of a publisher. I’ve been at this gig for more than 15 years and have a wide array of experiences that I’ll be bringing to the table. I hope you find these musings provocative, entertaining, and (maybe, if I’m lucky) perhaps a tiny bit enlightening. Enjoy!
Right before Thanksgiving last year, I had the wonderful honor and pleasure of sharing four days on the road with Walter R. Echo-Hawk, author of In the Courts of the Conqueror. For those in the industry who consign these duties to freelancers or others, I would highly recommend doing something like this with an author at least once a year. It not only gives you a chance to spend time with someone smarter than you in many areas (learning is, after all, a good thing!), but also reconnects you with readers and store owners.
While the whole trip with Walter was wonderful, two events will remain with me for a long time. First, while driving along the Mississippi, we spotted an eagle flying over the river. Without hesitation, Walter launched into an honor song for the eagle in his native tongue. Needless to say, I got a bit misty and had to clear the lump in my throat. In his song, which he translated for me, Walter spoke of the eagle as his “brother” and how it is so good to see him soaring after such a hard life. I always knew Walter to be a man of intellect and, when necessary, great wit, but this experience showed me a side of this great man that I had never seen before. Little wonder that he’s working so hard to define a new land ethic for the twenty-first century. He recognizes the importance that Native peoples—who learned to live in harmony with the land long before the arrival of Europeans—have in defining this ethic. I think most of us forget the interconnectedness we have with the natural world around us. I am so blessed to be able to spend time with people like Walter, who constantly remind me that we are not only creatures on this planet, but of this planet as well, and we are intimately related to all of the other creatures and objects surrounding us.
Later that same day, Walter did an event at Birchbark Books in Minneapolis. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of visiting Birchbark, it is in my opinion one of the great indie bookstores operating today—right at the top of the list. Led by Louise Erdrich, Susan White, and the always pleasant and knowledgeable staff, the store is well stocked with both the most comprehensive selection of Native American writings available and an excellent selection of general adult and children’s titles. It is everything an independent bookstore should be—eclectic, full of surprises, filled with shelves of titles showing the well-read staff’s love of literature, cozy reading nooks, and a warm and welcoming vibe. In an age when bookstores look more and more cookie-cutter, Birchbark Books shines in its individuality.
Louise Erdrich came to the store prior to the event to meet with Walter (you can check out her thoughts about the book at http://birchbarkbooks.com/_blog/Birchbark_Blog/post/Unconquered), and I got a chance to sit in on their conversation. Talk about lucky! Here I was, sitting down with one of Indian Country’s great activists and legal thinkers, and one of our country’s most prominent and talented novelists. The two discussed Walter’s book, along with Native American literature (which appears to be undergoing a renaissance of sorts). Louise is a lovely person, and when she speaks, you hang on her every word. We in the publishing industry really do have the greatest jobs in the world; we get to learn something new every day, from some of the most insightful, intelligent, and kind-hearted people out there.