Time to refine 
Okay, so I sent the wolf text to the Howling Acres folks. Then I traveled down there to talk with them and get their feedback. They really liked the text, but had some suggestions, too. Thank goodness...I want the text better so I really want suggestions. One of the suggestions I got was to add information about the sounds wolves make. Not only do wolves howl, growl, and bark, but they also whine, woof, yelp, moan, squeal, squeak, and even scream. I sure didn't know that, and I bet most others don't either. So, I will add those details to the text. After adding them, my next step will be to go back and start smoothing over the text. That means reading it aloud then changing words to make it more clear and sound better.

As far as the illustrations go, I'm planning to use photographs. I take some every time I go to Howling Acres, and they have provided me with a lot too. I'll have to find the best ones then match them with the text. But, that will come later. I need to find a publisher interested in the book first. To do that, I send our letters, called queries, to tell publishers about the book. If they have an interest, I'll send them the text to read. If they're still interested, then then send me a contract and we work together to make a book. It's an exciting process, but lots of work too, and no guarantee that a publisher will want it.

The truth is, the chances are slim that a publisher will take it, but the way I look at it is that a slim chance is a whole lot better than no chance. And being that this book has important information that I really feel needs to be shared, I'm willing to try - and keep trying - to find a publishing home for it.

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Working draft 
A good day today. I finished the draft for the wolf book. It's about 20 pages long, including the resource section. Does this mean I'm done? Hahahahahaha. No way! It's just a step beyond start. Basically, it's the information I want to share in an organized format. I'll need to do lots more refining, and probably some adding. I'm sending the text to the folks at Howling Acres today. They are going to look at it and give me their feedback. Are they going to make suggestions? I hope so; that will make the book better. When I show my writing to someone and ask for feedback, I love it when they tell me how great it is, especially the specific parts they like. But what's even better (and more helpful) is when people tell me what the writing needs in order to be better.

When I work with young writers, many tell me they don't like it when others make suggestions about their work. They take comments about their writing personally, get defensive, and sometimes even stop listening. It's too bad when this happens because the writer loses out on a great opportunity to improve. And, believe me, we can all stand to improve!

So, off goes the text to Howling Acres. I'll meet with them sometime soon to go over their comments. And, I will do my best to hear all their suggestions. Stay tuned...

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Writin' On 

I am working hard on the draft for the wolf book. Each day, before I write anything new, I reread what I've written already and make changes. Then I proceed with new parts. This works pretty well for me. I polish the old and add the new. Came across another great source, a book by David Mech, so I'm adding information I'm getting from it. More writing tomorrow. Can't wait!

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Thanks for the questions! Here are some answers:

Each of the wolves at Howling Acres gets five pounds of meat a day. This comes in the form of raw hamburger, steaks, or other cuts of beef. All the meat is donated. Each of the wolf compounds has a 50 gallon feeder that is filled with dry dog food. This food is also donated. The facility uses 350 pounds of dry dog food every week. The wolves also drink lots and lots of water - each animal drinks about 10 gallons a day!

No, wolves do not howl at the moon. That is a myth. Wolves also do not climb down chimneys after little pigs nor dress up like little old ladies to feed upon young girls. Through the ages, wolves have gotten a really bad rap.

Yes, wolves can be kept as pets but they must be licensed. Each state has its own licensing requirements for "exotic" animals. The folks at Howling Acres do not advise owning wolves as pets. Wolves are generally untrainable and unpredictable.

The wolves at Howling Acres are there because they were abused or abandoned. They cannot be returned to the wild. These animals have not learned to hunt, so they would likely starve. Or, since people have fed them, the wolves would seek out people. This would not be a good thing.

Check out the sanctuary's website at www.howlingacres.org. They would appreciate any support you could provide.

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Here's a bit more about Beasely: at sixteen, he was one of the oldest wolves in captivity. He was taken to the sanctuary in 1999 by the California/Oregon Border Patrol after they had confiscated him from his owner, who had no license or permit for the wolf. Beasely was blind; both eyes had been gouged out by his owner. Beasely was able to live out his life at Howling Acres safely and in peace. There is no better example of the need for sanctuaries than this wolf.
I will be heading back to Howling Acres later this week. If you have any questions about wolves, feel free to e-mail me at realwriting@comcast.net and I will try to get them answered.

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A Pause 
Sad news from Howling Acres: two of their wolves recently died. Shy, a seven-year-old Arctic Timber wolf was found one morning dead in her pen. Her mate, Beasely, lay next to her, his head resting on her body. The next day, he passed too. The vet said that Shy's death was caused by a bleeding heart. And Beasely? No doubt a broken heart. The more I learn about these animals the more fascinated I become. They are very special beings that have been much maligned. I am glad to be working on this project now, and I'll be headed back to the sanctuary soon.

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Wolf Fever! 
The wolf book idea has been swirling around me, despite all the other things I've been doing: working, sailing, sleeping. I think it's a good basic topic that could be developed into something really good. So, I've been reading about wolves and thinking of questions that I want answered. I recently made another trip to Howling Acres to tape record an interview with the owners. It's a interesting story about a couple who are devoting their lives to helping abused, injured, and abandoned wolves. After the interview I got to spend some time with the wolves, up close and personal. What a thrill!
Since I got back home, I've been reading about wolves as well as going over my notes and the tape I made. Soon, I'll brainstorm everything I would like included in a book about wolves. After that, I'll carefully consider the list, select the most important things, then put them in an order that makes sense. Next comes more research, additional interviews, and lots of reading. Finally, it's time to write. I find the more planning and organizing I do, the easier the writing is.

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Okay, so now I have about a month off from my job as a language arts specialist. I'm going to use this time to work on my writing projects. And, to sail! Summer in the northwest is spectacular, and the winds are ripe. As far as the writing goes, I will be working on the White House book as well as the wolf sanctuary book. I'll be heading back down to Howling Acres in Williams, Oregon to interview the founder of the organization. I want to know how she came to create the organization. I want to know the stories of the wolves there. I also want to find out what it takes to operate such a facility. What do the wolves eat? How much? Have they ever bitten any of the workers? Do they fight among themselves? As you can see, I'm filled with questions. I'll be taking my tape recorder to make sure to get all the answers straight. Then I'll listen to the tapes and take notes. Can't wait to get started!

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Answers to Questions 
Earlier this year I had the good fortune of working with Mrs. Trujillo's class at Dorena, a unique rural school south of Cottage Grove, Oregon. We talked about writing, and how to help each other make our writing better. I left a copy of my Mesa Verde book, and Mrs. Trujillo read it to the class. The students responded with comments and questions. I really appreciated the kind comments about the style, format, and the content of the book. The questions were good, too, and here are some answers to questions posed by the Dorena (and other) students about this book:
This book took about a year to write. This included visiting the place, researching, writing, and lots of rewriting.
The illustrations are a combination of drawings and photographs, both color as well as black and white. The publisher of the book was responsible for the visual part of the book. I think they did a very good job. This is not always the case, and I unfortunately have no control over how my books look.
The entrance to the cliff dwelling known as Balcony House is a narrow tunnel. We are not sure why it was designed this way, but it was likely to help the people defend themselves.
The people of Mesa Verde lived from 32-34 years, a short life by today's standards. Both men and women were small. Men were 5'4" to 5'5". Women were 5'0" to 5'1".
All the people left Mesa Verde around the year 1300. No one knows why. Was it to find food? Was it to escape attacking groups? I hope some of you will become scientists, find out the answer, and share it with the world!

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Ideas, ideas, ideas! 
The trouble with traveling is that you get new ideas for projects. Recently, I had the pleasure of traveling to southern Oregon and visiting a wolf sanctuary called Howling Acres. It's a place where they care for abused and misplaced wolves. Every wolf there has a story, and they are fascinating. As is the story of the folks who have devoted their lives to helping these wonderful creature. So, of course, I'm thinking about doing a book on the subject. I have contacted the founders and they are supportive of the idea. Does this mean I drop my White House idea to pursue this? Not at this point; I just do a little of each. Summer break is coming so I will have more time to devote to my writing projects. Stay tuned...

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