Wednesday
Nov232011

NYU Panel on Environmental Implications of Factory Farming

Last month I was pleased to attend a panel hosted by NYU Student Animal Leagal Defense Fund & the Environmental Law Society on Ocotber 25th. Panelists included Jonathan Lovvorn of The Humane Society of the United States, Animal Rights lawyer David Wolfson, Kevin Fulton of Fulton Farms, Jennifer Soreson of the National Resources Defense Fund and arguably the star of the night New York Times writer Mark Bittman.

 

Pigs in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO)

Mark Bittman has become a bit of a celeb with many vegans due to his many opinion pieces sensitive to issues of factory farming, and food politics with an awareness of animal issues. The two things Bittman argues as being the most important to addressing factory farming is the outlawing of CAFOs and the taxing of junk food

Shocking to imagine, Sorenson reminded the audience that over 81% of antibiotics are used in feed in the factory farming industry, including pennicillan/tetracyclin which the NRDC has brought a lawsuit against the FDA for approving for commercial use in animal feed.

As a representative of animal slaughter, as "humane" as it may be, it's hard to draw much sympathy for Fulton's viewpoint, though he did argue for the need for transparency on farms. This point was highlighted by Lovvorn of HSUS who spoke of the challenge in even seeing factory farms, let alone legislating factory farming. As a lawyer for the Humane Society of the United States Lovvorn spoke of the lack of ability to legislate factory farms and the only aspect in which CAFOs can really be tackled legally is with nuisance cases

While the event didn't bring any revelations, it was refreshing to hear of all the work both the NRDC and HSUS are doing in addressing the issue. Delicious food for the event was provided by Gobo. 

Saturday
Oct292011

I Attended the 2011 BlogHer Writers Conference!

Why I went

As someone new to the freelance writing world, I'm digging my hands into any new material shedding light on how to freelance and how to publish.  The BlogHer Writers '11 conference is the first conference hosted by BlogHer specific to addressing the question of how to turn blog writing into a book and though I've never been to any of their conferences this one seemed geared towards many of my questions as a new blogger who has considered publishing short stories.

Though most of the writing I currently do is for blogs or of the article format, I do have an interest in writing non-fiction stories.  Should I try to publish the non-fiction stories as tranditional story collection book? Should I just blog these stories?  Should I self-publish? 

All questions I hoped Blogher would help address!

What I Learned

Over the course of the day I attended the Welcome session, the General Session: Blogs to Books,  Publishing 101, Alternative Publishing Models: It's Not Only about the Printed Hardback and finally the Closing Session with three successful authors. And look at this lovely photo I took of Lisa Stone, Co-Founder and CEO of BlogHer speaking at the Welcome Session!

In the Blogs to Books general session the conference jumped right into addressing the blog to book publishing phenomenon. One of the panelists Patrick Mulligan of Gotham Books represented some of the more pop culture types books which have made it into the mainstream such as LOLcats and the Chuck Norris books. As you can imagine, the advice of much of the panelists was that these types of pop culture driven books are hit or miss, expensive to produce and have begun to over saturate the market. 

I was surprised to learn that editors do sincerely surf the internet reading blogs looking for well articulated material that might lead to some form of published material in traditional material.  Neeti Madan of Sterling Lord spoke about the question, "Should a book have a blog?" encouraged authors to only do so if they really plan to commit to the blog and to possibly keep blog posts in que to publish while on tour rather than taking time away from other valuable marketing work. Much credit was given to the amount of market research that can be developed based on comments on blog posts, number of readers and the degree to which you learn your audience by devloping a following as was explained by Marian Lizzi, Editor-in-Chief of Perigree Books.

In the Publishing 101 session I learned much about the agent, editor, publishing house steps to publishing. Judging by what I learned at the panel, self publishing has the benefit of being print on demand, but can cost a fair amont up front. I was pleased to hear that publishers are now looking to all sorts of formats to publish writing rather than simply the traditional book including e-books, podcasts, aps, and small short story collections to be printed on demand.

The Alternative Publishing Models panel (Katherine McCahill Digital Product Manager and Peter Harris of the Penguin Development Group prepare for the panel in this photo) was incredibly informative, including panelist Kamy Wicoff, the Editor and Founder/Publish SheWrites which is sure to be a priceless resource as a blogger. (Vote for her or Lisa Stone or any of your other favorites for the Women's Media Center 2011 Social Media Award.) Wicoff spoke of what an exciting time this is to publish because of all the new ways adventurous and creative writers can expand on traditional print models including the use of behind the scenes of making a book or even a radio show.

 

Who I Met

My day at the conference was hectic to say the least! After the morning sessions I rushed off to complete my day job (dog walking) leaving just enough time to make it back for the afternoon and closing sessions.

Because of my busy schedule I missed the lunch session and the small group mentoring session which was a real bummer! But nevertheless, I did make one connection during the conference Suzanna Raga who is a blogger, published author and lives in New York.  Addtionally I've met new writers via the #BlogHerWriters twitter hashtag.

So now what?

I'm glad to have learned the different layers to the book publishing process, something I new nearly nothing about before the conference.  Should I choose to publish, it won't likely be in a traditional book format and I'd likely go through a small press (I wish small presses were better represented at the conference!) rather than try to self-publish or reach out to the big publishers. After hearing the long journey's the three sucessful authors (pictured below are authors Ann Napolitano and Jean Kwok speaking with Jory Des Jardins of BlogHer) shared, I'm reminded of how much passion writing requires.  I'm comforted to know that others have many ups and downs in terms of being motivated to write and the publishing process, and that often you have to be your own biggest fan driving the project you're so determined to share.

For now I'll continue to blog and pitch to some magazine for possible print publication.  I'll explore the resources and contacts I've made through the conference. And I'm starting to become more comfortable calling myself a writer.

 

Wednesday
Oct192011

Vegucated Premiere in NYC

I was pleased to attend the Vegucated Premiere in NYC and see the writer, editor and director Marisa Miller Wolfson. The film follows three very different people on a six week journey to learn about and try veganism. Watch the trailer here:

The tour is sponsored by So Delicious which means we were given a vegan ice cream sandwich on the way into the screening and chocolate soy milk on the way out. Yum!

Vegucated was an interesting perspective on the journey to veganism and should prove to be a useful organizing tool.

Tuesday
Oct182011

Thoughts on Anita Hill, 20 Years Later

This Saturday's conference at Hunter College Sex, Power and Speaking Truth: Anita Hills 20 Years later was incredibly moving. Listening to women such as Professor Patricia J. Williams, Gloria Steinem and the President of Hunter College Jennifer J. Raab speak about where they were when Professor Anita Hill took the stand really drove home to those of us in the audience the degree to which her trial has influenced feminism and the fight against sexual harassment.

Anita Hill Then

When introducing Professor Anita Hill,  Patricia J. Williams asks, "What does crediblity look like?" Several speakers spoke about what it's like to be a woman and have to tred the line a "appropriate" attire to be considered credible. Professor Anita Hill's decision to wear a blue dress during her testimony was noted as both bold and remarkable.

Polls show that during the time of testimony 70% of people believed Professor Anita Hill to be commiting perjury. Hill spoke of how everyday she was aware that 7 out of 10 people believed her to be a liar and how this affected her ability to complete such simple tasks as grocery shopping in the public eye.  Much emphasis was made by Hill that her support system is the reason she has accomplished so much and moved on to become who she is now.

Many people speaking at the conference and in the Q & A stressed their desire to support Hill in anyway possible when they heard she was heading to trial in the 90's.  Though it's clear that much of the African American community turned their back on Hill, one of the more remarkable stories of support is reported in this story by the Nation:

In the days following the hearings, the New York Times printed an op-ed by Orlando Patterson that speculated that Thomas may well have said the things Hill described but nonetheless justified Thomas’s denial, arguing that Hill’s complaints came out of the “white, upper-middle-class work world,” whereas Thomas’s behavior was really just courtship, if you looked at it from a “Southern working-class” and especially black perspective. Frustrated, three black feminists—Elsa Barkley Brown, Deborah King and Barbara Ransby—gave birth to a manifesto that captured the rage of thousands of black women. In less than six weeks, nearly 1,600 women joined an effort to buy their way into the discourse, contributing nearly $50,000 to pay for a Times ad, published November 17, 1991, called “African American Women in Defense of Ourselves” (AAWIDO).

 

"it's an event, it's not me.."

Anita Hill Now

Speaking about her life after the trial Professor Anita Hill shares the stress, frustration and personal struggle she faced in moving foward.  Her words of advice for moving through fear included the pointing out the need to be vulnerable, and she encourages women to let go of the desire to apppear strong and instead reach out for support.

 Professor Hill now teaches at Brandeis and her book "Speaking Truth to Power" is heralded by Professor Williams as a beautifully written work which everyone at the conference should read. Her new book "Reimagining Equality: Stories of Gender, Race and Finding Home"  considers home. One way in which Professor Hill views home is "a lens through which one can safely view the world". Her books considers how the housing market collapse has impacted woman - a demographic often left out of analysis of the crisis. In her view, many women have been set back significantly after having made advances in their choice to own property and establish a home for themselves prior to the collapse of the housing market and her book considers the crisis with an awareness of gender.

 

Closing Thoughts

When asked about the phone call from Clarence Thomas's wife where she was asked to apologize for the trial and how that impacted her life a year ago, Hill described the call as "bizaree" but yet the catalyst to this and other conferences. Professor Anita Hill encouraged all those at the conference to consider, "How to make sure those who don't have a voice are heard?"

In a packed auditorium it was awe inspiring to be gathered with fellow feminists  20 years later offering Professor Anita Hill a standing ovation. I'm proud to have been witness to Hill continuing to speak out strongly on sexual harassment  in the halls of Hunter College. Watch C-Span covergage of the conference here.

 

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