Newsletter No. 28: November 2007
© Chris Harris. All rights reserved.
Upper Grasslands at Becher’s Prairie
© Chris Harris
During the past six weeks, Rita and I have been on this amazing journey – the "Spirit in the Grass" book tour around much of B.C. and Alberta. Although there is still one presentation to go, I wanted to say a special thank you to all the organizations, their representatives and venues, and to all those who attended these presentations. I would also like to deeply thank all those who supported this project by purchasing a copy (copies) of the book. It’s been an honour, not only to have shared in the creation of such a worthwhile project with all the main contributors – Mike Duffy, Kristi Iverson, Ordell Steen, Harold Rhenisch, Bill Horne & Rita Giesbrecht – but then to have shared the book and grassland story with so many hundreds of people around the province via the slide presentation.
I have received dozens of calls, e-mails and cards from people around the world who have expressed their love and appreciation for the book. I have also heard from dozens of others who so enjoyed the slide presentations. The limited edition hard cover book sold out quickly and the soft cover version is selling like a "best seller". Never have I had so many people comment that they just sat down and read the book from cover to cover.
Coyote Travelling Through the Grasslands
© Chris Harris
The goal of this book was AWARENESS of the grasslands here in British Columbia, and I really feel that as a result of this book project, and the book tour, there has been a HUGE new awareness of the grasslands and the importance of this ecosystem. There has been a "shift". The fact that there is now actually a concentrated effort, a new movement, spearheaded by the Grasslands Conservation Council of B.C., to conserve what might be the world’s largest intact temperate grasslands, the ones here in the Cariboo-Chilcotin. This makes all of us involved in this project exceedingly proud.
To become more aware of the conservation efforts of the Grasslands Conservation Council, become a member or visit their web site.
So many of you contributed to this book project in so many ways. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the media for their coverage on this book and the tour. Especially I would like to thank CBC Radio, CFJC TV, Canadian Geographic, British Columbia Magazine, BC Bookworld, and all the newspapers of 100 Mile House, Williams Lake, Kamloops and Quesnel. I thank you all so very much.
Middle Grasslands at Junction Sheep Range Park
© Chris Harris
During a question-and-answer period at one of the book slide presentations, I found myself answering the question about self-publishing. My answer drew such a response that I quickly realized how little is known about the publishing industry and how important it was that this book "Spirit in the Grass" was self-published. I consider it to be the most important aspect in the success of this publication.
Speaking now as the publisher, there were to be four important parts to this book: the photography, the written word, the book design, and that fact that the book was to have a specific goal or message – grasslands awareness.
From the photographic perspective, the book was to use the power of photography to evoke a response, to provoke thought, to ignite a new consciousness about a relatively unknown landscape; even to ignite a movement to conserve the Cariboo-Chilcotin grasslands. To do this I felt the images needed to be more than purely representational; to sometimes border on the abstract, and to give grasslands that sense of beauty that only art can provide. We wanted to capture the Spirit in the grass.
From the narrative perspective, the book was to provide a clearly-written and informative scientific overview of the grasslands so that readers could learn about the grasslands and be better informed about the threats facing the grasslands. This text was to be written lyrically so as to complement the imagery and take the reader on a joyful journey of learning and discovery.
From the layout and design perspective, the book was not to portray itself as either a text book or a picture book. Instead it was to provide a sense of wholeness and harmony. We wanted the reader to be captivated and engaged.
To accomplish this, a group of us, all from the Cariboo, worked exceeding hard over four years to pull all of these aspects together. We all understood each of the other contributors’ perspectives. We did not capitulate to producing a book that we felt the marketplace would accept. Rather, we would publish a book that spoke powerfully about and for the grasslands, and we would have faith that the public would fully embrace its creation.
© Chris Harris
The alternative to self-publishing would be to take all our images and thoughts for the book to an outside publisher. Firstly, one would have to find a publisher who thought the subject had enough interest to generate a profit or be eligible for a publishing subsidy or grant. Secondly, in all probability, the publisher and in-house designer would not have an understanding of the grasslands, would not have an understanding of the photographer or the writers, and would not have an understanding for the goal of the book. Instead, the publisher would choose all the images, edit all the text, decide on the books title, and design the book – all based on what it felt the general marketplace would accept. The entire book would be created for the market and not the grasslands. The spirit of the photographer and the spirit of the writers would be lost. The spirit in the grass would be lost and the grasslands themselves would no longer be the beneficiary.
Throughout this four-year journey, all of the contributors played a vital role. But in the end, it was all brought together into the beautiful book that it is, by editor Harold Rhenisch, and book designer Bill Horne, who understood the grasslands, who understood the goal of the book, and who understood the spirit of both the artist and the scientists.
There are drawbacks, of course, to being a small independent publisher and not having a mainstream distributor. You will not, for example, find this book in all bookstores. Much of the sales are brought about by personal networking and person-to-person contact. This does not interpret into huge volume sales but does result in extraordinarily powerful results. Radio, television and the print media have all responded to and highly endorsed this book. I also feel that all those who attended the book tour presentations were deeply moved and now truly appreciate the grasslands ecosystem. This has meant that word of the book has spread like, well, a grass fire!
This personal contact is of course highly rewarding for both Rita and myself. We have met so many extraordinary people during this book tour. I wish that all the contributors had been able to share in this amazing energy exchange. The bottom line is, of course, that the grasslands and all the birds, plants and animals that are supported by the grasslands are the main beneficiary. I think they will be, and for that I once again express my deep appreciation to all the supporters of this amazing grasslands book awareness project.
Upper Grasslands near Junction Sheep Range Park
© Chris Harris
I will resume my regular Newsletter format with more information about photography and the creative process as soon as the Book Promotional Tour is over. Thank you