Entries Tagged 'RANCHO VILASA: Fine Peruvian Horses' ↓

My Favorite Illustrated Book –– Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

RedRoom, the site for readers and authors, had a contest this week. We were to blog about our favorite illustrated book. My choice is a highly personal one. Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could is a book I wrote about a remarkable horse. Tecolote was born prematurely on a freezing night. There was no reason for him to survive–but he did. The book tells and shows what happened as Teco (as we called him) grew into a strong, mature horse.

Tecolote and his Mother, Rosie–
This was taken when he got on his feet.

Although the book is illustrated with photographs that show Teco from his birth all the way to an adult riding horse, the story focuses on his tricky first year. We didn’t know if he would live five days. People from our neighborhood gathered outside the corral where he and his mother lived, praying for him and crying. He looked beyond terrible. Even so, he brought people together from the very start.

Later, when Teco was out of the woods, his mother died. She was an older mare with health problems. Teco faced life as a preemie, then a young horse without a mother. The book centers around how we as his caretakers used the other horses of the ranch and its facilities to give the youngster a secure and normal start. It’s about how he found his place in the herd and made dear friends in the horse and human worlds.

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could is a beautiful tale for children, especially those with disabilities or facing loss. Teco’s story shows people––kids and adults–that those with problems can make it and have good lives. It’s is a kids’ book, 44 pages long.

Why did I stop writing at the end of Teco’s first year? We ran out of photos. Once Teco got his feet under him, he took off. The rest of his life was so normal that there wasn’t anything to photograph. He went under saddle so easily it was laughable, and then just headed down the road.

I cover Teco’s early days in the book, but I’ve never written about what follows here, the final part of Teco’s life.

Sandy & Tecolote–My author picture shows
just my face and a bit of Teco’s cheek.
This is the REAL photo. Teco’s giving me a hug.

Tecolote ended up being my horse. I’m an older rider with so many things wrong with me that I don’t know if I should be riding. Actually, I didn’t ride for several years. Due to an improperly set broken leg from a skiing accident, I developed severe arthritis in my knee and ankle. I had to have my knee replaced and my ankle fused. I also have a bad back. Plus I’m a cancer survivor and pretty chopped up because of that. After all that pain and surgery, I lost my nerve. After a lifetime with horses, I became afraid to ride even the calmest horse.

But my husband wanted me to ride with him again. He cajoled me into trying Teco, who had turned out to be the mellowest horse in the world. My husband’s coaxing worked.

Teco took care of me. I needed a special horse like him––gentle and kind and unspookable––to keep me safe. We became a pair as he took me on many safe, smooth rides up the trail.

One of the things that people who don’t ride don’t know about is the bond between horse and rider. Teco and I became as bonded as an equine/human pair can be.

I loved him. And he loved me back. He did a special thing that no other horse has done with me. I’d approach him, scratching his shoulder and neck the way another horse would if grooming him. He’d wrap his head and neck around me, encircling my body. It was the only way a horse could give a hug. (They don’t have arms, afterall.) He gave me a hug every time I approached him.

The book Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could came out and I entered it in a few contests. Life went on. When my grand kids came to visit, Teco amazed me. He’d never seen kids before, yet he packed them around like a trooper. They fell in love.

Sandy & Tecolote –– He’s my boy,
the horse that got me back into riding

After the kids went home, I got back to writing. I was working on manuscripts for two books. I didn’t go down to the barn for about a week. Finally my husband called and said, “I’ve got Teco saddled. Come and ride.”

I was high as a kite, euphoric. The book contests I’d entered were announcing their winners. I’d found out the night before that Teco’s book had won 2011 Silver Nautilus Award for Children’s Nonfiction (Gr. 1-6).  The Nautilus Award recognizes books that promote spiritual growth, conscious living and positive social change. Previous winners include Thich Nhat Hanh and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I was overjoyed–Teco’s book belonged in that company.

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could
Won the Silver Nautilus Award

My joy lasted less than 24 hours. I went down to the barn. My husband had Teco saddled and ready. There he was, resplendent in his golden coat with its black trim. I found it impossible to look at Teco without feeling happy. He was a buckskin; his body was golden palomino color. His mane, tail, and legs were black. I could run my eyes over him and appreciate his straight legs and how his shoulder angled back the way that a gaited horse’s should. He had a short back and long hip, an adorable face. All of Tecolote was beautiful.

But not that day. He stood in the barn, head down, mucous pouring from his nostrils. He coughed. I didn’t like the look of him at all.

On the other hand, he was saddled. Show me a horse person who can resist getting on a saddled horse and I’ll show you someone who isn’t really a horse person.

I decided to ride him to the arena and see how he did. He walked slowly, head almost touching the ground. He coughed and had no energy. In fact, he acted as though he might fall down.

“This horse is sick,” I said to myself, heading slowly back to the barn. When I got off of Teco, he lowered his head. Liquid poured from his nostrils, splattering on the barn floor.

He had pneumonia. It didn’t respond to the massive doses of antibiotics the vet gave him. I was mystified; I’ve had horses for 55 years and have never seen one with pneumonia. Our part of California is too mild.

Teco kept getting sicker. We took him to the hospital. We have one of the best equine hospitals in the country in our valley. Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center is a wonderful resource. They’ve saved the lives of many of our horses.

They’d save Tecolote, too. When he unloaded the horse from our trailer, my husband said a  half dozen bright young vets swarmed around him.

“They climbed all over him for hours, discussing what might be wrong and doing tests,” my husband told me. They’d fix our horse.

Tecolote: Always Elegant

A day later, we went in for a conference. The vet who was coordinating Teco’s case said, “If we can stabilize him well enough to go home, he can hang out in pasture with his buddies the rest of his life. But you can never ride him again.”

We sat there, stunned. “What do you mean?”

“He’s too dangerous to ride,” the vet explained.

“What’s wrong with him?”

“He’s in heart failure.” He drew a diagram of Teco’s heart, showing how part was greatly enlarged. Their ultrasounds had given them a clear picture.

“But how did this happen?” I couldn’t believe it. “Is it because he was premature?”

“It has nothing to do with his prematurity. It’s been happening over the last two or three years.”

In shock, I realized that no one had ridden him during those years. My husband likes rip-roaring horses with tons of spirit. I wasn’t riding, being too traumatized by all my surgery. Teco stood in pasture, apparently fine, enjoying life with his friends.

And dying. We brought him home and gave him all the zillions of meds the clinic prescribed. Twice a day, my husband ground maybe thirty human pills with a mortar and pestle. He mixed their dust with molasses and water, and loaded the mess into a syringe with the end cut off, which allowed him to squirt the meds into Teco’s mouth. The horse raised his head as high as he could; he did not make it easy.

When the heart begins to fail, it enlarges, trying to make up for it’s decreased strength. It can’t pump enough blood to the animal’s body, and it can’t recirculate fluids. They begin to build up. On a horse, fluids collect along the animal’s belly––the lowest point on his body. Fluid gathers between his front and back legs as well. Teco looked he had a blanket of gigantic kitchen sponges stuffed under his skin from his the front of his chest through his hind legs. The meds did nothing.

Teco’s book kept winning awards. Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could was a finalist in two categories of the 2011 National Indie Excellence Contest:  Animals/Pets General and Juvenile Non-fiction.

I was in this crazy world where the awards kept coming in and Teco got worse. I’d go down to see him in his pasture. He’d be standing there, head down, in a corner by himself. He was leaving this world. He was leaving me.

Tecolote–– Making a Full Circle

The vet said he had only a day or two to live when we put him down. If we hadn’t, the end would have been horrible. Just before I left the field so the vet could do his job, I scratched Teco’s neck the way I always did. Sick as he was, he turned his head and neck around and embraced me. A final hug, and he was gone.

I ended up in the hospital in the midst of all this. I started getting chest pains as Teco deteriorated. If you call up your doctor––and my internist was pretty far away––and say, “I’m having chest pains,” that doctor will say, “Go to the Emergency Room right away.”

If you walk into an Emergency Room, a haggard-looking lady in your mid-sixties, those medicos will JUMP. They did every test you can imagine. I was scared stiff, not knowing what was happening with my body.

It boiled down to: My heart was breaking. Tecolote was being ripped from my soul.

* * * * *

Tecolote died May 1, 2011, four days before his tenth birthday. He was a miracle when he was born and a joy all his life. He brought horses and riding back when I thought that part of my life was over. I loved him for the obstacles he overcame in his life, and what he helped me overcome.

Here’s Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could’s Amazon page. You can loook inside the book and see Teco. I put up some photos of him and our other horses on the page, too. At the end of 2011, the book garnered two more prizes. It was a winner in Children’s Nonfiction and a finalist in Children’s Picture Book Softcover Non-fiction of the USA BOOK NEWS “USA BEST BOOKS OF 2011” AWARD.

* * * * *

That’s why Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could is my favorite illustrated book. It’s all I’ve got left of him. I’m glad I’ve got the awards and the book.

I’d rather have the horse.

Tecolote –– He’s free now.

 

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Tecolote, The Little Horse That Could, Faces His Gravest Challenge

2011 Silver Nautilus Award

Life is a trip. Two days ago, I was notified that my book, Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could, had won the 2011 Silver Nautilus Award for Children’s Nonfiction (grades 1 – 6). I was ecstatic. Winning is always fun, but this was more than that. Teco and I have bonded; he’s my boy and my personal riding horse. His lovely essence is entwined with mine.

The day after receiving the award, my vet told me that Tecolote would never be ridden again, in fact, he might die. I’m reeling. I can’t make sense of it.

Teco got pneumonia a week or so ago. Out of the blue. I think the very strange weather we’ve been having––rainy and cold one day, 88 degrees the next, back to rainy and cold––triggered it. He was a very sick horse. I’ve not seen a sicker horse. I won’t describe it, because it was awful.

We had the vet out. He gave him a strong course of antibiotics. (The drugs they have available now are wonderful.)

But Teco didn’t get better, or all the way better. The vet gave him another course of antibiotics and did an ultrasound of his lungs. Definitely pneumonia. Not all gone. It should have been gone.

He stopped eating, even fresh grass. Weight was falling off of him.

Barry went down to feed one morning found him down on the ground. Teco wouldn’t get up. He called me, but the horse had gotten up by the time I reached the pasture. The same pasture in which he was born that cold night ten years before. “He’s OK,” Barry said. The horse was nibbling on pasture grass. He was OK.

Later, I found him in the corner of his pasture, head down, lipping at dirt (despite grass all around). Looking so dejected. Kicking at his belly now and again like he was colicky.

He’s in the hospital now––Alamo Pintado Equine Medical Center––which I consider the best equine hospital anywhere. I thought for sure they’d be able to fix him. They’re so great; they can do anything.

Barry spent three or four hours over there the first day with very skilled vets swarming around the horse, doing high powered ultra sounds and who knows what else. Teco’s illness didn’t add up. There were so many parts to it. It must have been brewing for a while. The vets did say that it wasn’t because he was premature. If it was that, it would have shown up years ago.

Tecolote

Tecolote is resting comfortably in the hospital now, undergoing treatment. The pneumonia triggered a bunch of things. I can’t write them all down. The vet said so many things; my mind’s a blur. And I’m crying.

It’s his heart. It’s beating at twice a normal speed; it’s enlarged. Fluid is accumulating. He still has pneumonia, but they can’t give him more antibiotics now because his digestive tract is messed up.

If they can stabilize his heart so that he’s well enough to come home, no one will ever ride him again. Riding a horse with a bad heart isn’t a good idea. If they can’t stabilize him . . .

Horses are heartbreakers. Animals are heartbreakers. People are heartbreakers.

If you engage in the world, if you fall in love and love, you open yourself to all the pain the the universe. We’re mortal. Those we love are mortal. They die. We’ll lose them, and we will feel pain.

Tecolote’s fighting the battle of his life now, doing it in his calm, gentle way. Even the vets are exclaiming about what a kind, patient horse he is.

I want to share this video with you. It shows some photos of me riding Tecolote. I didn’t realize when we took the photos that that ride would be one one my last with my boy. The absolute last ride was when I got on him  and rode him slowly down to our arena a few days ago. He coughed almost every step and didn’t want to move. He did though, in his plucky way. I got him to the end of the arena and thought, This horse is sick. I’m taking him in.

When I got back to the barn, Teco put his head down and fluid poured from his nostrils. That was our last ride together.

Please think of him as he fights to live. Tecolote, the little horse that could.

(Here’s a link if the video doesn’t show up on this post.)

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Numenon wins the 2009 Nautilus Silver Award––now it competes for the Gold!

Numenon, by Sandy Nathan, is a Nautilus Book Awards Silver Winner!

Numenon, by Sandy Nathan, is a Nautilus Book Awards Silver Winner!

By winning a Nautilus Silver Award with her book, Numenon,  author Sandy Nathan joins the ranks of  Deepak Chopra, M.D., Barbara Kingsolver, Thich Nnat Hanh, Jean Houston, PhD., Eckhart Tolle, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. All are Nautilus Award winners. “Joining the company of these people moves me to tears,” says Sandy.

As a Silver Award Winner, Numenon will pass to the highest level of judging for the Nautilus Awards, the Gold Award level. If Numenon wins at this level, it will be featured at the Book Expo America and win many other honors.

“As wonderful as it would be to win the Gold Award, what thrills me is what the Nautilus Awards are about,” says Sandy. “My writing and life are directed toward making this planet a better place. I feel like I’ve found a spiritual home with the Nautilus contest and the people behind it.”

The Nautilus Award was established to find and reward distinguished literary contributions to spiritual growth, conscious living, high-level wellness, green values, responsible leadership and positive social change as well as to the worlds of art, creativity and inspirational reading for children, teens and young adults.

The Nautilus Awards are dedicated to “changing the world one book at a time.”  Books are judged in a three-tier system using a carefully prepared list of notable characteristics. The judging process is laborious and long, carried out by three teams of highly qualified reviewers. They have successful careers in the book industry as well as the vision to pick out books that offer new options for a better world.  Each book is evaluated by at least two judges. Silver winners are selected from each category by the readers in Team #2, and these winning titles are then passed along to the third team where the Gold winners are chosen.  Two judges must agree on each Silver winner – and consensus is required for the Gold Winners.

Sandy Nathan, "one happy author!"

Sandy Nathan, "one happy author!"

“This blog is one way that I connect with my fellow writers and authors, as well as my readers,” says Sandy Nathan. “I have a request. I would appreciate your prayers, blessings, good wishes, positive thoughts, or whatever fits your personal beliefs for Numenon as it winds its way through the Nautilus judging process and the judging of the other contests in which it’s entered. It’s entered in four or five more. I believe in the power of prayer, and I always pray reciprocate. Actually, I just pray for everyone all the time. If you could cast a positive vibe in Numenon’s direction, I’d be very grateful.”

Please consult the Nautilus Book Awards web site for more information.

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Numenon Kindle Is .99 on Amazon!

The Kindle version of Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Mystery is available and priced at an unbelievable 99 cents!

Here’s a link to Numenon on the Amazon Kindle Store!

Am I crazy? Like a fox! When I last looked, Numenon was #8 in Religious Fiction (closing on The Shack), and #1 in Mysticism in two categories of Religion & Spirituality. JOIN THE STAMPEDE!

Buy the Kindle version of Numenon, and you can enter the world of Will Duane, the richest man on earth, and Grandfather, a great Native shaman, in less then a 60 seconds. Numenon won two national awards as an Advance Reading Copy. It’s entered in more contests. We’re waiting for results.

Here it is on my web site: Numenon on SandyNathan.com

Here it is as a print book on Amazon. Look at those Five Star Reviews.

Check out this video:

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I’m Healed! Let the fun begin! And a poem, “An Old Lady on Horseback.”

Sandy Nathan’s First Ride after SurgerySandy Nathan rides again!
Shakti and I on our first spin around the arena after my ankle surgery.

I originally posted this blog in March 2009. It’s got a funny poem at the end I’d like to share. SN

Last Tuesday, I visited Dr. Rick Ferkel, the surgeon who fused my arthritic ankle last September. He pronounced me healed. Yep, my ankle is officially better. I am cleared to walk, swim––and ride my horse! Which I did, minutes ago.

Here’s pictorial evidence. Any problems? Not while I was riding. I’m sore all over now, and I expect my mare is as well. Horses are just like people; they get flabby and out of shape. I suspect that Shakti and I both need an exercise class.

In honor of the historic and successful healing of my  ankle, I’m sharing a REALLY BAD POEM that I wrote in 1995, when I was much younger, but had not been rebuilt. That is, my knee had not been replaced nor my ankle fused. This little ditty is also an ode to the Peruvian Paso Horse, the smoothest riding horse in the world. Our Peruvians have kept me in the saddle for many years.

AN OLD LADY ON HORSEBACK
Sandy Nathan  6/95

Got bad hips, shoulders, knees, and more.
A back that’s degenerated, herniated
And sore.

The –itis family––
arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis––
has moved in on me.

I’m an old lady on horseback!

When I was young, I rode ’em all:
Quarter horses, Arabs, Appies and Paints.
Loped with a drill team and through many a show.
I trained and rode with the best,
Competed hard and won my share.

I had a glorious time–
Until the –itis  got me.

I’m an old lady on horseback!

Now, I get on a horse that trots,
My back talks back and I see spots.
I saw the light and changed my tune,
Traded my Quarter Horse
For a sports model, made in Peru.

You may laugh when you see him move,
Sliding along in a four beat groove.
But his funny-looking paddle
Keeps me in the saddle.

When we cruise by, don’t you cry.
I’m having the time of my life.
My little fellow is smooth as Jell-O,
And my –itis   likes him, too!

Though I might have to ride in spurts,
When I do, nothing hurts!
And while I can’t always show him,
At least I get to know him.

I’m grateful to my little gaited horse.
‘Cuz of his easy going ways, I get to stay–

An old lady on horseback!

And that’s what’s important, in my book.
For as long as I can ride,
I know I’m alive!
(And I’ve gotten to like that Peruvian look.)

I’m an old lady on horseback!

Eeee—haah!!!

sandyshaktiankle4.jpg Happy trails, everyone

Sandy Nathan
Winner of seventeen national awards

Sandy’s  books are: (Click link for more information. All links below go to Kindle editions.)
The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy
Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

Tecolote: The Little Horse That Could

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice

Two sequels to The Angel & the Brown-eyed Boy are in production with an early 2012 release date planned. If you liked  The Angel you’ll love Lady Grace and Sam & Emily.

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AMAZON BESTSELLER BEST SELLER DAY EXTENDED THROUGH DEC. 10TH

SANDY NATHAN’S AMAZON BESTSELLER DAY!

***My BESTSELLER BEST SELLER DAY came and went.
Jump over to my writers’ blog YourShelfLife.com and find out what I really won––and how it can benefit you.***

The article below was my invitation––and you can still check out the prizes and see the slide show.   Enjoy, Sandy Nathan

Want a taste of what’s we’ve got for you?
Here’s a gift from the HOLSTON CONFERENCE GATHERING,
the Native American spiritual retreat that inspired Sandy Nathan’s book,
STEPPING OFF THE EDGE:
Click and see the slide show!

This is the first of the gifts available to you at Sandy Nathan’s Amazon party.

Things just got rolling at my Amazon e-party when it was time to quit. We’re extending it another day to give more people a chance to participate. You have another chance to buy a great book and get amazing free gifts.

This Amazon party is my holiday gift to you. My book, Stepping Off the Edge, is a mind-bending, spiritual adventure–and the gifts you can get today are a treasure trove. I invite you to come with me and step off the edge.

What is an Amazon E-Party?
If you buy my book through the link below, you will be able to receive terrific gifts from a number of very talented people. I’ll list some here, you can see the whole list through this link: SANDY’S E-PARTY GIFTS!

  • 30% discount on the custom interior and cover of a book from Creative Publishing & Design!
  • An hour’s phone consultation on your book’s title and subtitle from Grammy nominated screenwriter Laren Bright.
  • Tecolote Finds a Friend: A Baby Horse Finds His Place in the World An e book by Sandy Nathan. A lifelong horsewoman, Sandy wrote this true photo story from her ranch for this event. It is available nowhere else.
  • A spectacular slide show from the Holston Conference Gathering, the Native American retreat in Stepping Off the Edge and a personal invitation to attend.
  • Special gifts from (in alphabetical order): Lewis Agrell who does pretty near anything with graphic design, Ilene Dillon the Emotional Pro, country real estate experts Linda Boston Franke & Clark Franke, Mary Patrick Kavanaugh very funny would-be author, self-publishing guru Dan Poynter, super editor Melanie Rigney, Brent Sampson CEO of Outskirts Press, Author Marketing Expert Penny Sansevieri, Jeniffer Thompson the Website Wow woman, ReaderView’s Irene Watson. Who else? Why cowboy and horse trainer Jack Vance, who you really want to know if you have a problem animal. And–sizzling romance and more from Santa Ynez Valley’s Sarah Robbie.

You need to see this bonanza for yourself.  For all the details, visit:
SANDY’S E-PARTY GIFTS!

What is Stepping Off the Edge?

Are you looking for a book that’s a good holiday gift as well as an engaging read? Join me as I tackle some of the major problems of our day: How do you handle an eBay addiction? Wondering about your roots? As in, do you have any? What is spirituality and where do you get it?

In Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice, Sandy Nathan loads her readers in a figurative RV and takes off on a spiritual adventure across the United States. She travels to Missouri’s Ozarks to find her roots and takes you to a Native American retreat in Tennessee’s Cherokee National Forest.

This is part memoir, part how-to–lots of easy exercises to try throughout this book–and part amazing. Stepping Off the Edge has won six national awards and garnered rave reviews.

“A fantastic spiritual narrative that is alive with hope and possibility. Sandy Nathan’s journey will inspire you create your own spiritual practice. A highly recommended book for all spiritual seekers.”
USA BOOK NEWS


If you buy my book from Amazon by midnight Wednesday, December 10th 2008, you can get a great book and LOTS more: CHECK OUT THESE GIFTS!

Why Are You Doing All This?

“Your book sounds like a must-read, why are you going to all this trouble to get people to buy it?” an acquaintance asked me, somewhat huffily.

That’s a good question. People don’t buy things automatically, you know. Many of my friends are people who would do almost anything to get a book published. All I can say is, that’s the easy part. People can’t read what they don’t know about. Most people have never heard of Stepping Off the Edge and any number of really excellent books. I want to introduce you to my book and myself.

Stepping Off the Edge
is a book I had no intention of writing. I was busy working on my novels; I had plenty to do. But force I could not resist reached out and grabbed me, hauling me all the way across the United States from California to green Tennessee. I went to a Native American spiritual retreat called the Gathering. Bill Miller, the multi-Grammy winning Native musician, artist & speaker is its spiritual leader. That retreat was such a profound experience that inspired me to write Stepping Off the Edge –which is about lots of things.

I finished the first draft of Stepping Off the Edge on December 22nd. The birth of the holy in this flawed world was very present in my soul. What happened to me that day as I sat at my computer BLEW MY MIND! It’s all there, at the end of Stepping Off the Edge

I invite you to join me in pursuit of the sacred, and the delightful. This book and this party is my gift to you.

Sandy Nathan

“Sandy’s book has got to be one of the most fun to read books about spirituality ever written. She takes the reader along on her adventures with a down to earth approach and style that keeps the reader in touch–with both reality and spirituality. Informative, entertaining, and enlightening.”
Natural Horse Magazine Volume 8 Issue 5

Remember, you need to buy the book from Amazon on by midnight December 10th to get the goodies.
CHECK OUT THE GIFTS! AND THE BOOK!



If you buy my book, Stepping Off the Edge, by midnight December 10th, you can receive some truly wonderful gifts–in addition to a great book.

 

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WHAT DOES WINNING MEAN? Life lessons from horse shows for writers, readers, authors, horse people and other human beings

Sandy Nathan
Sandy Nathan, National Award Winning Author

A friend and I were catching up. She had been through some dramatic personal trials. I was surprised when she said, “I kept thinking about that horse show you wrote about where you worked really hard preparing, and you kept losing and losing and losing …”

That could be almost any of them, I thought.

“And then finally, at the end––you won the prize for the best barn in the show!”

Oh, yeah. That one.

I wrote about the show on my Rancho Vilasa web site and forgot about it.

A revisit to the article revealed that I wrote it ten years ago. My ten year old write-up gave her strength in facing the hurdles before her. Hmm.

This realization prompted musing about shelf life. What is the shelf life of our work? Our lives? Does shelf life matter? Those questions led to contemplation, and sparked an insight leading to a great surprise, which is coming …

I’m going to talk about winning in this article; in a coming article, I’ll talk about shelf life and the surprise. What’s below is not your standard 900word blog-blast of wisdom. It’s more like a chapter of a book. The book my agent wanted me to write. (Our first wisdom nugget: If you’ve got an agent do what she/he wants. Nuff said.)

Gabriela de Amanecer aka “Twiggy”        Rey de Corazones BSN “King of Hearts” known as Eddie around the barn.
Gabriela de Amanecer (Twiggy) & Rey de Corazones (Eddie)
Magnificent Peruvian Paso Horses. Can you tell that Twiggy is Eddie’s mom? We bred Eddie at Rancho Vilasa. Twiggy was a rescue horse. She came to us half starved. Part of her story appears in my book, Stepping Off the Edge.

We humans come here, into existence––”Hi, I’m here!”––to win. Which means to master the trials before us and turn into human beings that resemble our essential selves. We either do this, crack up, or end up bitter people we wouldn’t go on a second date with.

The larger kind of winning, becoming people we’d like to know can only come from having mastered trials and followed the good road. There’s a smaller kind of winning defined by prizes. This is a story about both.

You writers and associated book folk may read and say, “That’s very interesting, but what does it have to do with me? I’d never ride a horse in a show.” (Good for you, you’re growing already.) What you read here shows up in writers as beyond verging-on-the-insane, addicted behavior  clustered around a single word: publication.

“When I get published …” The eyes of perfectly intelligent scribblers go glassy as they say those words. “By a real publisher …” (What are  Dan Poynter and his self-publishing empire if not real?) I want those of you in the book trade to use some of your vaunted smarts and figure out: How does this apply to me?

In the service of human development, I present the following epic of angst and horseflesh. Many of my blog readers don’t know anything about the horsey part of me. They don’t know anything other than the carefully homogenized bio that got past my publicist.

WE LIVE ON A RANCH! YES, A REAL HORSE RANCH WITH HORSES AND LIFE AND DEATH AND SNAKES AND SKUNKS AND OTHER FEROCIOUS CREATURES!

GROUND SQUIRREL IN ATTACK MODE
We Live Among Them!
Ground squirrel in attack mode.

LOSE UNTIL YOU WIN: WHAT YOU REALLY WIN AT HORSE SHOWS

This is the story my friend remembered:

We loved the annual show put on by the La Bahia Peruvian Horse Club at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds at Watsonville. In 1998, it was a show crammed with surprises and learning experiences.

Sandy Nathan & Vistoso at Rancho Vilasa
Vistoso & I in Front of our Barn, Getting Ready to Go to the Show
This photo shows how we used to treat our ribbons: Hang ’em in front of the tack room to rot. They did.

As the show date approached, my husband and our horse trainer were eager to get to the show and compete. They had schooled and conditioned their horses to perfection and spent hours discussing which horse to put in which class.

I was my usual ambivalent self. I’d been writing rather than riding, so my favored horse and I were … I won’t say flabby. That’s so judgmental. We were not completely fit. Nevertheless, I figured that we’d hold together for a class or two.

My show demon returned: Maybe I’d break the Championship barrier this time. I’ve been eligible for the Championship round of classes by getting first or second in my qualifying class many times. I always fluffed in the more intense Championship competition.

I’ve won a Reserve Championship or two, but never a Championship title. I’ve never gotten to ride around the arena carrying a hefty trophy, much less continue on to the Champion of Champions class, where I could ride out with a small monument.

Maybe this would be the show. My horse was certainly good enough.

 BARRY & SANDY NATHAN RIDE IN A MATCHED PAIRS CLASS
Barry & I in a Matched Pairs Class, Watsonville, 1997
He’s riding Vistoso, the horse I ride in the story below. I’m riding Azteca, Vistoso’s full brother (same mom and pop). Vistoso is in an earlier stage of his training here: Note that he doesn’t have a bit in his mouth. He’s in bosal. White jeans and shirts are the traditional garb worn by riders of bosal horses.
We won this class.

We drove up Highway 101 in our crew cab dually. Someone once asked me, “What’s a dually?” I couldn’t imagine such cultural deprivation. A dually is a truck that has double wheels on the back axle, for a total of six wheels, two in front, four in back. The extra wheels add stability. A crew cab dually has a passenger compartment, making it a sedan in front of a truck bed.

We knew we were close to the show grounds when we saw the trees. Dark cypresses with craggy branches thrust themselves into the soft air of the coastal community. Rows of huge eucalyptus trees stood along the roadsides, an attempt at taming sea breezes planted a half a century before.

Watsonville has one of the most beautiful fairgrounds I’ve seen, not so much for the facilities, which are a little down in the heels, let’s be honest. Rather, the grounds themselves draw attention. They are exquisitely carpeted with brilliant green lawns and shaded by massive cypresses.

Slightly rundown or not, everything’s nice at Watsonville. The stalls, the wash racks, the warm up arenas. The main show arena. Even the concrete bleachers rimmed by grass are nice. The people are nice. Those who lose in the show’s classes don’t howl too loudly and I’ve never seen a fistfight or screaming match. In fact, I’ve only seen one person drunk out of his/her mind.

Excitement filled the truck as we neared the show. We bounced along the access road, turned into the fairgrounds and jolted to the show office. (Having dual rear wheels does not make a truck any less a truck.)

Peruvian Paso Angel   Peruvian Paso Biker   Peruvian Paso Scarecrow   Peruvian Paso Elephant
Scenes from a Peruvian Paso Horse Show
This is not official garb: These photos are from a costume class in Santa Rosa years ago. The horse on the right in the elephant costume is a National Champion ridden by the very well known trainer, Shawna Valenzuela. Do enlarge these photos––they’re hysterical.

When I think of Peruvian horse shows, I think, “Medieval pageantry.” The bigger barns have wildly colorful stall decorations: banners, swags, pennants. Tables of their trophies mark the ends of the stall rows. These also sport video set ups continuously playing reruns of other shows and wins. They’re stacked with shiny brochures and advertising stuff.

Horses are all over the place. Being ridden, led, washed, caught. In every show, at least one horse will get loose and run wildly through the showgrounds. People run and jump out of the way most of the time.  Someone always gets bucked off. Trainers and helpers are longeing (See The Training Series) horses to warm them up.

The whole thing moves, the riders, horses, banners, videos, show staff, trucks with and without trailers. The big barns have semis and small utility vehicles, all painted to match the barns’ logos and colors. People of every shade wander around, including real Peruvians! Yes, they are very much a presence. (You must go to a Peruvian show. Here’s the NAPHA, the breed’s organization, web site. Find a show near you and go. Buy a horse!)

The tack (saddle and so on) is similar to what the conquistadores used in 16th century Peru. The correct riding attire is not the classic and tasteful hunt seat kit, which looks (to this rider’s eyes) like what you would wear to a job interview.

Azteca de Oro BSN Ridden by Patti Sexton at Reno
Azteca de Oro BSN Ridden by Patti Sexton in Reno NV
This is the same Azteca mentioned earlier. Horses have fancy registered names and not so fancy barn names. (Rey de Corazones BSN to “Eddie.”) Patti is a figure in our story, as you will see below. The photo shows the magnificence of Peruvian show gear.

Back to Watsonville: The friendly show management told us where our stalls were, and we proceeded to the next phase of horse show participation. Getting ready. That means bedding the stalls with the straw provided, setting up the tack room and storing our stuff. Also putting up nylon strap barriers over the top halves of stalls inhabited by horses likely to jump out. That’s right, jump out.

They do that––yes, indeed. Not all of those that try to escape clear the lower half of the stall door. They “hang up with their rear ends,” which is one of the reasons that shows have a veterinarian on the grounds.

After setting up, the savvy exhibitor rides his or her horse in the arena and around the fairgrounds. This is to make sure that the horse has its nervous breakdown before the show, instead of in front of the judge the next day.

Participating in a show is like running a marathon without the aerobic benefits.

When your horse is calmed down, washed off, put away and fed, you can take care of yourself. This means finding the official hotel, typically the local Motel 6, having a sumptuous meal of fast food and retiring to listen to your neighbors fight. (The glamor of the horse show world is greatly overstated.)

This phase of the horse show is equivalent to setting up a military campaign while inside a pressure cooker. The horses are not the only ones to suffer from horse show nerves. I have the worst horse show nerves of anyone I know, despite having showed horses since I was fifteen years old. One of the great things about horse shows is the fact that all my friends are there. I’ve found that talking nonstop reduces my tension. I often talk to everyone for three days straight.

SANDY NATHAN RIDING AZTECA AT THE MONTEREY SHOW
I’m Riding Azteca at the Monterey Show
Don’t have a photo of me on Vistoso. This is close enough: They’re full brothers.

Let’s jump to the show results. In my first class, I finished last. Okay? Do you have a problem with that? I might be the slightest bit testy about it, so don’t say anything.

I don’t come in last.

Okay, I did once before, but that was a fluke. I really thought I had that class nailed. I thought I was going to win it. It was at Reno, in that enormous concrete indoor arena with the air conditioning. After finishing last, I rode out of the arena into the 105-degree heat so shocked that I couldn’t scream or pass out.

I don’t come in last. I always win something––third or fifth. Anything. I learned how to win when I was a teenager. I win. I don’t come in last.

Except that time in Reno. Fortunately for me in that instance, a bunch of my friends poured out of the grandstand and said, “Sandy! We can’t believe what happened! We thought you were going to win the class! You were perfect!”

With their support, I realized the truth of the yogic maxim prohibiting attachment to results. It can be paraphrased as, “Easy come, easy go.” I got over it.

But it happened again in Watsonville! I rode  my stunningly beautiful gelding, Vistoso (which means gorgeous in Spanish), in a pleasure horse class. We maneuvered around the arena under the milky blue sky with cypresses poking up all around and tasteful Spanish music being broadcast over the arena and stands. The announcer’s voice was modulated and classy. The fifteen or so of us in the class were groomed and tacked up exactly as the rules would have us. The horses moved out with their four beat Spanish gait.

“Circle your horses, please. Two circles to the left.” The announcer and her helpers sat above the arena in a raised booth. The judge and ring steward were in the arena, better able to see the action. “Stop your horses, please. And stand.”

A pleasure horse class is for animals that are a pleasure to ride. A pleasure horse is one that you would take out for a lovely afternoon ride, assuming you would ever venture from a show arena in your full Peruvian regalia.

In a pleasure horse class, the rider and horse are required to do whatever the judge thinks up to kick out a horse’s true pleasurable nature.

The announcer said, “Two circles to the right, please, at your best gait.” The problem was that Vistoso was under-ridden and not well-schooled. He bucked every time I asked him to do anything.

Generally, bucking is frowned upon in a pleasure horse, especially in a horse show.

The judge finished and told us to hang out at the far end of the arena until the announcer told us who won. I had to keep Vistoso moving lest he buck me off right there.

Still, I thought we had a chance. Maybe the judge didn’t notice.

That is the beauty of denial.

In Peruvian Paso shows under most judges, the first person excused from the class is the last place horse and rider. That was me; the announcer called my number before anyone else’s. I rode out of the arena burning.

Where did my yogic, “Be content no matter what happens” stuff go? I was not content. I’ve had a bug about winning my whole life and coming in last was not part of it.

This outcome prompted hours of intense introspection moving toward anguish. My angst ratcheted up immediately after the class when I asked my friend, farrier, and sometime horse trainer, Patti Sexton to get on Vistoso and see why he was being such a jerk.

Patti rode him in the warm-up arena, a smaller arena close to the main show arena. She skillfully piloted the horse, giving a show-stopping performance. He was flawless. Watching her ride, my jaw dropped. I’d never seen Vistoso look so good. He could have won anything.

I knew exactly what the matter was: me. The horse was scared and acting out. Patti’s riding ability and fearlessness absorbed his distress. Plus, she could ride him no matter what he did. He knew it with that magic equine intuition, so he didn’t bother to try anything.

As she flashed past, Patti shook her head and said, “Oh, yeah. He really is being a jerk.” Oh? I couldn’t see it. Nothing showed with her expert riding.

The lesson sank in: The problem was me, not the horse. Boy, did I feel rotten. I was about to feel worse.

Charlotte Dicke, an old hand in the Peruvian world (now Charlotte Dicke Becerra, wife of Ramon Becerra and owner of Conquistador Magazine and the Peruvian Horse Quarterly––check out the links. They’ll knock your eyeballs out.), wanted to try out a sidesaddle Patti had for sale.

Charlotte plopped the saddle on Vistoso, who had never been ridden sidesaddle. Accepting a sidesaddle is something that requires training. The rider’s balance is different than astride; the saddle sits differently on the horse’s back. Then there’s that missing leg on the right side, and the unexpected foot sticking out at the horse’s eye level on the left. Some horses object to this.

Charlotte piled on Vistoso and rode him sidesaddle all over the fairgrounds, neck-reining and dodging traffic and baby carriages and people opening umbrellas and other things that make horses crazy. He never flinched.

This was hard to take. Fortunately, I’d had a personal breakthrough earlier when I saw Patti slide Vistoso to a stop and back him across the arena by wiggling a finger.

In that breakthrough moment, I realized that I am old––and he is not. He is bursting with life and muscle and youth. He does not worry about knee replacements and arthritis. Or herniated discs. Nor does he use a cane. I do.

I realized that I need a more sedate horse. Or a sedated horse. Maybe a dead horse.

Everything was made worse by the fact that my husband could not lose. He was having the sort of show that horse people dream about that never happens. But it was happening.

BARRY NATHAN & REY DE CORAZONES BSN
Barry & Eddie “Do the Cones” in Santa Barbara.
They won there, too. Look at how close those cones are.

We took our newly finished gelding, Rey de Corazones BSN, (“Eddie”––after my cousin, Ed Shomber) to the show as a schooling exercise. We didn’t expect him to win anything; he’d just completed his training and had been ridden in a bit for maybe a month. He won his two classes, Novice Horse and Performance Gelding, 4–6! That was just for starters, and we still had the Championship classes the next day.

I will not talk about the interpersonal dynamics of highly competitive people who happen to be married. I didn’t talk about it then, and I won’t now.

I thrashed half the night in an orgy of self-recrimination. Finally falling asleep, I had nightmares in which I came in last again and again.

Exhausted and almost insane when I returned to the show the next morning, I sat in the stands and watched the two remaining classes that I could have entered to redeem myself. Ladies to Ride and Amateur Owner to Ride came and went.

I felt only one thing––relief. The last place I wanted to be was in that ring on that bucking maniac, Vistoso. I had finally accepted my placement of the day before. At last, I was content. My suffering evaporated.

Then it happened: The show committee asked Barry and I to stand by the gate after lunch. We did, with no clue as to what was going on.

A few minutes later, they called us into the arena and gave us the Benni Barto Memorial Trophy. The trophy was awarded to the ranch which best epitomized the spirit of the show. This included the quality of their horses, their presentation and the effort put into showing. It was also based on improvement, sportsmanship, and conduct.

SANDY & BARRY NATHAN WIN THE BENNI BARTO MEMORIAL TROPHY
Barry & Sandy Nathan win the Benni Barto Trophy
I are in the center, flanked by the La Bahia Club Show Committee.
The award is given in memory of a dear friend, Benni Barto. I remember Benni so vividly. Doing horse business with her. All the barbecues at her place. The horse camp she ran for children.

I burst into tears as we accepted the trophy. The minute I truly accepted losing, our ranch won the award that meant most to us.

Gabriela de Amanecer Wins Mares Gait with Benni Barto Riding, Monterey CA, 1992
Benni Barto Winning Mares Gait on our Twiggy
An amazing show when the foundling mare beat the best the big barns could produce. Monterey 1992

This is the learning that can come from horse shows. It has everything to do with moving through the impasses in front of you. It’s not really about winning and losing, except when it is.

CAPOEIRA BSN “GOING THROUGH THE CONES”, WATSONVILLE ‘97
Barry’s Riding Cappy “Through the Cones,” Making a Serpintine through Closely Spaced Cones.
They won Champion of Champions Performance Stallion at
Watsonville in 1997 & 1998.

After that, Barry went on to ride our stallion, Capoeira BSN, to his second Champion of Champions Performance Stallion title. Watching Cappy serpentine through the close-set poles to win was a stirring sight. He looked like a snake with a mane and tail.

I didn’t mind being out of the limelight. I didn’t mind that I lost. I felt absolutely content.

Though I did talk to the judge after the show, asking her if she remembered me and why I’d come in last in my class.

She looked at me, perplexed. “You didn’t come in last. I only give the ring steward my placings of first through fifth.”

The announcer called people out of the ring randomly; the fact that she called me before anyone else simply meant that I hadn’t placed.

My mind spun. I didn’t come in last … My previous two days of semi-hysterical internal ranting, angst, suffering, and general insanity were over nothing. Nothing, nothing, nothing.

At many shows, the announcers call the last-place person first, but it’s not a rule. I’d jumped from a convention to an absolute reality.

The truth dawned: The sleepless night, the emotional pain––I did it to myself.

But don’t we always do it to ourselves?

That’s it: Lose until you win.

SADDLE & RIBBONS
At the end of the day, what does winning mean?

What was the real value of my experience to the Peruvian Paso show world? Nothing.  The show folded, I don’t think the club exists any more. We got no photos in national magazines, very little recognition beyond the people there that year. The award wasn’t a national championship, not even a regional or Watsonville-wide event. We got a cool big trophy for a year, a loaner which we had to turn in the next year for a mini-size.

Where’s the winning? It lives in my soul, in the personal, intangible movement I made over that weekend. Everyone there, if they were awake at the wheel of life, had their own experience. Whether it joined the other examples of “I’ve been screwed,” or “I’m the best because I won Champion of Champions,” depends on the brain of the person having it.

We stopped showing horses years ago. Does anyone in the horse world remember how much we won? It’s piled all over the house. Useless baubles with memories.

I stopped showing because my body fell apart. I can’t do it any more––though if I could, I’d be riding reined stock horses at the Cow Palace the way I did as a kid.

But about the long term impact?  After I stopped showing a few years, I’d go to a show and very few people recognized me. Some old friends, yes. But the currency in the horse show world is winning.

Do we need to win in the small way? The ribbons way? The “I’m a published author” way? Yes, to get to where we’re meant to be. Awake at the wheel, asking, “What am I winning? What is the shelf life of those wins? How deep are the relationships? Do I even like the people my glorious career brings to me?”

I encourage you to set your sights higher, to win gloriously in fields that have a shelf life greater than horse show ribbons or pulp fiction.

My very best wishes,

Sandy Nathan

 THE GODDESS BATHES US
See the light.

THE RANCHO VILASA HORSE SHOW CREDO: (This is from out ranch website, developed over years of showing horses. We’ve done all the objectionable things ourselves, so we speak with authority. How does this relate to your life?)

A long time ago, Barry and I realized that showing horses is really fun– if you win. If you don’t, it’s expensive, hot, dirty and painful. Our goal at Rancho Vilasa is to be content whatever we do, win or lose. It’s a goal we’re still working on.

Consider our point of view: First, after showing Peruvian Paso horses for over ten years, we’ve realized that character is what you really win. Class placements and Championship titles have little to do with the value of mastering personal and horsey phobias, and everything else that goes on in the show world. Mastery in horse shows involves personal learning and enlightenment. Those are as important as ribbons.

Second, we like games where everyone playing has a good time. This lets out activities like duck hunting, where the duck does not have a good time. Regarding horse shows, has your horse ever banged on your bedroom door at five in the morning begging to be hauled eight hours so he can work his buns off in a strange and scary place? What’s in it for him?

Most important of all– what does showing horses prove? If you won every class in every horse show in the universe, would it cure cancer? Would it feed starving children? Would your winning do anything that anyone would remember in one hundred years? Ten years? One?

And which is the better horse? A National Champion that is so hot that only his trainer can ride him? Who’s so valuable you can’t take him on the trails? Or a good old boy with a veterinary problem who can only pack handicapped kids around– and give them a reason to live?

Until we figure the show thing out, we’ve set up a few rules.

  • “Don’t haul your horse any longer than you’d haul yourself.”
  • “Don’t show horses that don’t want to be there.”
  • “Don’t go if you’re broke and exhausted or have more important things to do.

You will NEVER, NEVER hear us advertising ourselves as the best show barn or the biggest winners, but we do show our horses. We love horse shows. We love the beauty of the animals, the energy of competition. The music. The people. And we love to win––as long as it’s fair and square. No cheating. Cheating puts you back on square one.

copyright 1998 Sandy Nathan All rights reserved.

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AN ECONOMIST’S LETTER TO YOUNG LITERARY AGENTS: HOW TO SURVIVE IN TODAY’S PUBLISHING INDUSTRY

NEWS FLASH! THE ECONOMIST’S LETTER IS BELOW, BUT I HAD TO TELL YOU ABOUT THIS:
I’m having an Amazon Bestseller Party on
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 9TH!
THAT’S RIGHT: NEXT TUESDAY!

If you buy my book, STEPPING OFF THE EDGE, from Amazon on that day,
you will qualify for some fabulous prizes––CLICK HERE FOR A LIST!
These are some AWESOME PRIZES: 30% OFF the interior and cover design of your book by a real pro, talk to a Hollywood screen writer about your book’s title …
and so many more I’m having trouble keeping up withe them. Check it out!

Stepping Off the Edge: Learning & Living Spiritual Practice has won 6 national awards. It tells the story of a few years in my life when everything went wrong and how it turned out right.
It is a suitable holiday gift for people of all faiths––or none.

TO GET AN AUTOMATIC INVITATION, SIGN UP FOR MY EMAIL LIST WITH THIS LINK: SANDY’S EMAIL LIST SIGN UP!
THE PARTY IS INVITATION ONLY. YOU MUST SIGN UP TO PARTICIPATE.

 

 HERE’S THE ECONOMIST’S LETTER:

Sandy Nathan
SANDY NATHAN Award Winning Author

Greetings! I recently read a blog post by Nathan Bransford, a San Francisco based literary agent.  It “rang my chimes,” as they used to say on Laugh-In in the olden days. Mr. Lansford’s post quoted articles from the NY Observer, an interview with George Jones, CEO of Border’s Group, Inc. on HarpersStudio Blog,  and a video response to the NY Observer article from young literary agent, Jeff Moores. 

The post presented different takes on the future of the publishing industry by a number of industry insiders. I am not an industry insider, I am a retired economist. I wrote this and thought of putting it on the comments form of Mr. Bransford’s blog, but realized it’s a bit long for that. So here it is. I’ll put a link to this page on Mr. B’s Blog.

Dear Mr. Bransford:

Your 10/17/08 blog concerning the state of the publishing industry caught my attention. My first career was in economics––I hold a couple of degrees in the subject and was Economic Analyst for Santa Clara County until the Planning Department was eliminated. (That’s downsizing!)  I also worked in Silicon Valley for twenty years, coaching negotiations at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, among other things.

What wisdom do I have to add to the articles you cite? An adage from economic forecasting applies: The best predictor of the future is the past. Just throw a line on past data (do a regression analysis) and there you have it––the future. The only problem with this approach is that you miss the turning points. This is a very large problem.

We are in a turning point, or major melt down, now.

No one knows what’s going to happen except that what happened in the past won’t apply. The article from the NY Observer was well worth reading, and I loved the Interview with George Jones, CEO of Borders Group. He gets the problem: It’s”not the book business itself that is lacking, but it is the business model that has been in place for decades and is broken.”

The business model no longer fits reality. To address this, Jones says Borders intends to “know our customers and select those titles that resonate with our unique shopper.” And, “speaking directly to an engaged population of customers is absolutely the way to go and we’re leading the way on it … the sky’s the limit!”

This is a new way of doing business. It’s personally engaged business, its smart business, and it points to niche buying, with suppliers listening harder to customers––in the case of Borders, anyway. I also liked what he said about their doing “very little if any traditional advertising.” I’ve never seen it pay in any business in which I’ve been involved.

What’s going to happen in the publishing industry? I have no clue. No one else does, either. I do know publishers that made a lot of money in the 60s & 70s are groaning and have been for a long time.

How to address this? On the supply side, looking at large publishers, I would expect cut backs and increased conservatism. The financial people and investment advisers I’ve talked to recently are in lock-down mode. They’re traumatized and very tight. Turtled up, you might say.

That speaks to less innovation in buying by publishers and a tendency to hang onto what’s proven, which is what the NY Observer article pointed to. I can’t speculate as to what change in overall share in the GDP publishing the coming years will bring.

Many small publishers will fold, which is sad, because they tend to be the innovators. But many more will rise, including micro-presses. These businesses are fluid and can find and fill niche markets. With distribution open to them (and it is) and companies like Borders open to buying from really small publishers if they prove they can sell, the small and micro companies could flourish.

Such micro-publishers might be built around a single author who uses his/her books as large business cards, creating a platform for some other endeavors: consulting, coaching, or speaking. This includes the “out of the bookstore sales” that don’t get counted in bestseller lists.

What young agents and everyone else need to remember is that what is happening now has never happened before. I’m 63 years old. My dad was a major developer in Silicon Valley before it had that moniker. I’ve imbibed business since birth and studied business and economics academically. I’ve seen many economic cycles, with their “Whee!” and expectation of endless growth on the upside, and their black gloom after the inevitable bust.

The current situation is new and massively ominous.

Within recent weeks, a half dozen of the largest banks in the country have been bought out by other banks under duress or government orders and/or have disappeared. This includes both of the largest investment banks. Hundreds more, less prominent banks have closed, with many more to follow. The collapse of the housing industry is well documented and the national debt is beyond anything I could have imagined. China as been buying US government paper for years, financing our spending binge on Chinese goods. Read the financial pages, literati.

Are we heading for another Great Depression of the 30s? No. That will never happen again. We’re heading for What Happened in the 2000s and Beyond. Unknown territory. Hope our leaders are up to it.

Speaking to the young New York literary agents shown by video on Mr. Bransford’s blog––if I were a young literary agent what would I do? I’d keep my eyes open, read the Wall Street Journal as much as Publishers’ Weekly, watch my back, and learn new skills.

A friend of mine, an English major from one of the prestigious eastern colleges, is now taking a 16-week course allowing him to become an ambulance driver. Smart guy.

The more tools in one’s belt, the more likely one is to survive. Changes in job description are good; they provide material for a more interesting memoir. If one has been fortunate and deserving enough to attain a prestigious job title early on, that’s great. But it’s not who you are. Life can be brutal in ripping away illusion.

If I were a young literary agent shopping for new clients, I would look at the demand side of the book market, and markets generally. What are recession/depression proof products? Drugs, booze, and psychotherapy. Things that make people feel good and hopeful sell in bad times.

Find their literary forms. Look for books with titles like: “You can make it through the next five years …” Though I wonder if the spate of “You can get rich like me, activate your inner entrepreneur” books aren’t part of the problems we face.

Political extremism and agitation flourish in hard or changing times. Look at the 30s and 60s. One side blames the other for the history of humanity and plots revenge. This is a fertile, though repulsive, area to mine for top selling books. Hate books. Blame books. Incendiary books.

Still another and very important area of demand are books that offer people meaning and hope in a shifting universe. A philosophy professor emphasized how hungry people are for meaning. He said that his wife (then an undergraduate at UC Berkeley) spoke of the subjects we discussed in our philosophy classes. After her classes, people followed her around the UC campus, wanting to talk about meaning, existence, values, anything that feed their souls. In an age of sophistication and materialism, our spiritual (sorry to use the word) needs remain.

We can’t help it. The search for meaning is hardwired into our brains. We are purposive creatures that seek meaning almost as soon as we seek air. See the writing of Andrew Newberg MD on brain science and religious experience. The need for meaning isn’t an add-on.

People seek meaning harder when they feel shaken. Feed that need, and you’ve got a hit.

Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love” is a brilliant example of this. It combines all the most basic human needs in a beautifully written package that let’s people vicariously go on her search for MEANING. (Everything I’ve seen from Elizabeth on this subject says, “Find your own meaning, don’t use mine.” That’s the idea.) “The Life of Pi” is another brilliant example: existential anxiety in a rowboat. Author Yann Martel was a philosophy major.

The upside of demand in bad times is that readers exist; some people will always like to read. Some people like to read interesting stuff, and will buy it. We’ve got new technology to help us get it. (But really, how can holding a Kindle compare with experiencing the elegance of a high quality book?)

If I were a young agent wanting to survive, I would notice that the model is broken. I would notice that profitable sales are and will be what allows the large publishers to survive and that as a literary agent, I need go where those who provide my income go. Publishing is sales driven and so am I. (Which you already know.)

I would also notice, by the long hours I work if nothing else, that the query system doesn’t work. It’s a cumbersome, labor-intensive process for you which doesn’t pop out likely prospects reliably enough for this market.

If I were an agent, I would scrap the query system. It’s too much work and misses books or products that might be very profitable. “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” for one. The Kiyosaki’s self-published to get their start. [Oh, my God! Don’t use those words!] The NY publishing establishment shunned the entire Chicken Soup Series. Big mistakes, which were later rectified. The querying system doesn’t pick up the most important point in today’s publishing industry: Can this author sell?

I’d scrap queries entirely and have anyone wanting me to represent them send me a: (1) resume and a (2) position statement: why I am the person to write this book. I’d sift through those and get the candidates that might be able to succeed in the marketplace.

I’d interview them. You can do interviews by video, but most people look lousy on video unless they’ve been coached. So they can come and see you in your office. If prospective clients want your representation enough, they’ll come to you. Don’t pay for it either.

“The author’s persona is most important element in the success of a book,” Victor di Suvero told me. Victor is a poet who used to hang around City Lights Bookstore with the great San Francisco poets in the 50s and 60s. It’s charisma and ability to transmit it that makes people plunk down their bucks.

Get your prospective client in your office and talk to him or her, silently asking yourself the questions: “Would I buy a pair of socks from this person? A used car?”

The possible answers are, “Yes,” “No,” and “Maybe, with coaching.” (Make them pay for it.) When you have those answers, you’ll have trimmed the seekers to a manageable herd. Then talk books.

Remember: You can hire someone to fix a book, but you can’t make a platform or a selling personality.

With my method, your client candidates will have proven they can sell before books are mentioned. Many really good writers will probably get screened out, as well as those who can’t afford to come to you, but literary fiction doesn’t pay the corporate debt.

Sound radical? Sound crass? Yes to both. Would you rather drive an ambulance?

Just a suggestion,

Sandy Nathan …

Cutting this post here would be mean. I have a story for you to round this out. My daughter, Zoe Nathan,  recently won her black belt in karate at a competition in Seattle. (If you click the link you’ll see after pictures. I understand she was mostly airborne in the “during competition” phase.)

Like you young literary agents, Zoe is an under thirty, gorgeous, multi-talented, sensitive and really smart, liberal arts graduate of a very good east coast school, Sarah Lawrence. She had to miss the Santa Barbara opening of an art show featuring one of her paintings because she was in Seattle winning her black belt. You relate? She’s like you.

She’s studied karate religiously for many years. combining it with her ballet to be the most beautiful and graceful karate woman in the world. Winning this belt meant a lot to her. The process was “extremely intense.” This is what she said of the process of winning (via text message):

I’M NO MORE BRUISED UP THAN USUAL!

She spoke of all the drills and other things aspirants had to do to get the belt. (I didn’t know what she was talking about.)  Then she told me about a difficult part, sparring with an opponent in front of a small mob of judges. I’m paraphrasing:

“The woman I sparred with was the daughter of a tournament orientated black belt in our school. In his dojo, they train to compete in international tournaments. His daughter has been competing in and winning such tournaments for years. She’s a phenomenon.

“When she was throwing me, I kept thinking, ‘Why am I still in the air?’ And then I realized that she was placing me so that when I landed, I wouldn’t get hurt.

“Both of us advanced to the belts we were testing for. When they gave us the belts, the judges complimented her on her control.  I.e., for not beating up a less experienced contender while illustrating that she could ––and easily!

“They complimented me on my spirit in keeping going through it all, and the fact that I was still standing at the end.”

That’s my message: The goal is to keep going and be standing at the end, no matter what. Everyone has to find out what that means and do it.

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WHO IS SANDY NATHAN? A Q & A SESSION SPELLS IT OUT

Sandy NathanSandy Nathan, National Award Winning Author

I’ve always hated the “Who is Sandy Nathan?” question. Ditto: Who is anyone? This is a philosophical inquiry. Answering that question is why we’re on earth. You can’t answer it in thirty seconds.

However, someone sent me these crazy questions. The little blurb at the top says the basics about me, and the Q & A session gives you a sense of the whole creature––me.

Enjoy!
Sandy

Sandy Nathan knows the worlds she describes in her writing. She draws on her personal studies in meditation, spirituality, and mysticism as well as her experiences in Silicon Valley corporate culture, breathing life into her characters and giving them depth and dimension. Sandy has won multiple national awards for her books. The mother of three grown children, Sandy and her husband live on their California horse ranch.

This gives an adequate view, but you may get a livelier one from this question and answer session:

 Q & A WITH SANDY NATHAN:

Where did you get the idea of a series of thrillers about the richest man in the world and a great shaman?

From God. Also from the strands of my life. Most of what’s in the Bloodsong Series comes from the threads of my life, as interpreted by my unconscious mind and shaped by my editors.

The series exploded in my brain after a cataclysmic and healing meditation retreat and thirty years of personal work. Heal that trauma! Clean up that mess!

I started writing the Bloodsong Series in 1995. I was fifty years old: It took me fifty years to have something worth saying. It’s taken me thirteen more to write it properly.

Are Will Duane and Grandfather based on real people?

No. They grew up inside of me as characters. They bear similarities to people I’ve known or read about, but they have their own life inside me. I wish they were real. I’d love to do dinner at Will’s.

Are you real?

Yeah. It says so on the label attached to the back of my neck.

Actually, this is a good question. BECOMING AND BEING REAL are the main things I write about. Becoming my Self is my goal in life.

Why did you call it The Bloodsong Series?

My surgeon asked me that as he wheeled me into the operating room. I said that, “It almost killed me to write it, so why not?” (The surgery went fine.)

The actual reason is that my blood sang, danced, and did cartwheels during the years I’ve worked on the series. I hope yours does the same. This is visceral, bloody spirituality.

Why are books about vampires so popular these days?

Beats me. I think people should read about bloody, heart-singing, mind-searing spirituality. The vampire deal does nada for me. Books about spiritual growth and recovery from addiction are compatible with action, violence, sex and sensuality. Read my stuff and find out. Better: Try it and find out.

Live your heart’s song, not its drippings.

Why all the sex in Numenon?

There’s only one explicit scene, and that’s a flashback. The undercurrent of sexuality in Numenon is due to the undercurrent of sexuality in all things human.

And besides, I have my mother’s permission to write what I wrote. I started this book in 1995. About 1997, I announced to my mom that I was writing a novel.

She said, “I want the first copy!” My mom was elderly at this time. And always had been a lady.

After two years of writing, I knew the lay of the book, so to speak. I gasped and said, “Well, mom, some of it’s kind of … raunchy.”

She smiled her adorable smile and said, “Why, Sandy, honey, you have to have sex in it, or no one will buy it.”

She died in the year 2000 and didn’t receive that first copy. I like to think that in the Bloodsong Series and my other fiction, I have embodied my mother’s advice to the fullest. I’m sure she’d be proud.

Do you have any advice for your readers?

Lead the life that’s yours instead of faking someone else’s.

What kind of music do you listen to while writing?

None. The song of my soul, the music of the spheres, and the chugging of my computer sound automatically when I write. That’s enough. I get hostile if anyone comes into the room making any noise. Since I write in the family room most of the time, I have become a problem, like our dog who bites anyone near his dish. We’re working on it.

What do you wear when you write?

I usually wear complete Peruvian Paso horse show regalia suitable for the highest levels of competition. This includes a white shirt and jeans, poncho, wide brimmed Peruvian hat, belt, spurs, fancy neck scarf, jewelry and a harmonica.

If that’s in the wash, I wear a tutu and pointe shoes.

Who’s feeding me these questions? What difference does it make?

I write round the clock and wear whatever I’m wearing.

You can ask Sandy Nathan a question! Before submitting, ask yourself, “Is this a good question? Would I ask my mom this? Or, would I ask my minister, rabbi, guru or dog trainer? Am I scammer or seriously disturbed person that Sandy doesn’t want to hear from? Am I trying to hawk my book rather than reaching out and buying Sandy’s?”

If you’re on the level, ask away. You can comment here or do it through our contact page. Sandy answers sporadically. She can be pretty fast, if it’s a really good questions and relates to her work.

STEPPING OFF THE EDGE coverStepping Off the Edge, winner of six national awards

NUMENON Numenon: A Tale of Mysticism & Money

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BORIS BOGART’S TRUCK––A BIT OF HISTORY FROM THE SF BAY

Sandy NathanSandy Nathan, national award winning author.
A while back I wrote about how my dad sold a house to the Russians back in the coldest part of the Cold War, during the 1950s. It was posted in July 2008.

While I thought it a fascinating story, no one else seemed to. I got no feedback or comments on it––until today. David Ilsley of England sent me the following email:

Hi Sandy,

I’ve recently purchased this truck and I believe it to be the one owned by the decorating contractor you mention in your article, “How my Dad Sold a House to the Russians in 1955”. As you can see, it needs some work! I think that it was last used in 1979 … and has stood since then, in the Bay Area until it was shipped to England earlier this month. Its a bit of a long shot, but I was wondering if you had any pictures of the truck or Boris or could shed any light on the history of his business activities. It would be fascinating to learn anything about the past of my truck … I’m not planning to restore the truck to “as new” condition, but rather to halt the deterioration and preserve it in its used and aged state.

I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Kind regards.
David Illsley.

 

BORIS BOGART’S TRUCK!
Boris Bogart’s Truck!

 

BORIS BOGART’S LOGO FROM HIS TRUCK!
Boris Bogart’s Truck # 2
The door with that great old logo.

 

 

OK, Bay Area history buffs––anyone remember Boris Bogart? Bogart family members? Any photos of this truck? Let’s help David find out about his truck while we remember the old days. What happened to Boris?

And does anyone know about that house that Oddstad Homes shipped to Russia in the mid 50s? Where is it?!!!

Sandy Nathan

 

NUMENON, NUOMENON, NOUMENON: KANT’S THING-IN-ITSELFAnd remember, support your local artists and authors. They’re amazingly good.

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