1. How did you come up with the title?
The title PART WILD comes directly from the text and reflects the nature
of Inyo, my wolfdog. Inyo was a wolf and a dog, both and neither. She
could not fit in anywhere. She could not live in the wild and she
struggled desperately to deal with living among people. Wolfdogs live in
limboland. In the United States, for example, there is no rabies vaccine
approved for use in wolves or wolfdogs, and laws are a tangled mess.
2. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Dogs are a miracle. If I told this to most people, they would just shrug
and say, "Yeah, sure, whatever." But the fact is, you cannot truly
appreciate the miracle of domestication that dogs represent unless you
know what life is like a with a part-wild canine. I wrote Part Wild so
people would know. I wrote Part Wild so that people would better
appreciate the complex set of skills domestic dogs have that allows them
to live with people so well. They love us more than they love
themselves. The know us better than we know ourselves. I wanted readers
to not take their dogs for granted. I wanted readers to thank their dogs
for not leaping through plate glass windows, for not climbing 13-foot
fences to hunt the neighbor's pets, for not eating through walls and
front doors (literally). Thank dogs for letting us hug them. I also
wanted readers to appreciate wolves for the being those top predators
that keep our ecosystems healthy. They keep large ungulates on the move,
reducing overbrowsing of native vegetation. Healthier vegetation means
cooler water, higher oxygen levels, and healthier fish populations. All
of this in turn benefits, beavers, other small mammals, birds, insects,
and fishermen. Wolves are gorgeous and graceful creatures.
3. How much of the book is realistic?
All of it.
4. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your book?
I wouldn't change anything about the book. Writing and research took
five years. I had ample time to wrestle with structure, to reflect and
consider my approach to the material.
5. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
The hardest part of writing this book was putting my personal life out
there for readers to judge. I'm honest in this book. I made many
mistakes raising Inyo, and I put them out there for readers to see. That
is very scary. But I wanted to tell my story so that others could avoid
my errors. I don't sugarcoat.
Weaving personal narrative with the scientific information was also
challenging. Part Wild is a memoir at its heart, but the scientific
research informs the memoir. I wanted to tell my story about life with
Inyo and the investigative journey I made to understand the mysteries I
lived with in her, particularly the similarities and differences between
wolves and dogs.
6. Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that you must be brave when writing about your personal life.
That was a big lesson. Writing this book was often painful. I also
learned that humor goes a long way. There are humorous moments in the
book, and I think they're vital.
Writing this book has also confirmed my conviction that Memoir, although
about the Self, should be about the Self in connection with the rest of
the world, not an isolated Self. While not always overtly, Memoir should
explore the larger social currents we all live inside. Our stories are
representative of larger themes and issues that deserve attention.
7. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
Every night when I was little my mother read poems and stories to me.
A.A. Milne, Maurice Sendak, and poems by Edward Lear were some of my
favorites. When I was a little kid my mother also took me to poetry
readings just about every weekend. Though I spent most of the time
nibbling cookies and spying on people from beneath the snack tables,
those poets' voices got inside me and made me want to write.
My mother also hosted parties at our house for many poets, including
W.S. Merwin and Richard Hugo, and I got to run around in my nightgown
and spy on all of them before she sent me off to bed. It was a magical
experience to be around them as an impressionable kid.
8. Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
One of my favorite authors is Maya Angelou. Her writing is so precise,
so gorgeous. Her imagery leaps off the page and cracks open the world
9. Tell us your latest news.
I'm currently at work on a new memoir about the way in which political
currents, national and international, can have tragic impacts on
individual families. In the 1950s, nuclear and chemical waste from
Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State was dumped with impunity
into unlined pits and into the Columbia River. Little thought was given
to potential consequences as Hanford managers sought to meet Cold-War
demands for plutonium. My father grew up in the shadow of Hanford
Nuclear Reservation where his father worked as a pipefitter at the
height of plutonium production. My father later died from a rare form of
cancer. Like other residents of the Hanford area, his siblings and their
offspring have all suffered illnesses potentially associated with
exposure to radioactive isotopes and chemicals used in plutonium
10. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
In my research I have met people with varying reasons for keeping wolves
and wolfdogs in captivity. Some want them for power--these are
aggressive types using an icon of the wilderness as a weapon. Some want
them for prestige. People like to own an animal that gains them
attention. Others want them for aesthetic reasons: Michael Jackson had 5
arctic wolves he enjoyed as "lawn ornaments" until he got bored with
them and sent them to live in a sanctuary. (That is no kind of life).
You cannot steal an animal's soul to save your own.
Many people have dumped wolfdogs in the wilderness, thinking that by
setting the animal free they were doing the best thing for it--that
those animals would find a wolf pack and join it. Most of those animals
die of starvation, prey on livestock or pets (and wild wolves get blamed
for it) or those wolfdogs get killed by wild wolves as intruders. The
sanctuaries in the United States are full. It's a desperate and sad
situation. The fact is, most people are totally ill-equipped to meet the
mental and physical needs of these animals, despite good intentions and
love. Even regular trekking in the wilderness and daily runs (even at 3
a.m. to avoid running into other people and their pets) wasn't enough to
satisfy Inyo's needs.
The other point I would add is that domestication has not made dogs
dumb, much as many wolfdog owners and breeders claim. Domestication has
created an animal exceptionally well suited to life with people. We have
companions, hunters, herders, guards, disability assistants...Dogs are
truly a miracle, and I will never take them for granted again.
About the Book
Part Wild is the unforgettable story of Ceiridwen Terrill’s journey with a creature whose heart is divided between her bond to one woman and her need to roam free. When Terrill adopts a wolfdog— part husky, part gray wolf—named Inyo to be her protector and fellow traveler, she is drawn to Inyo’s spark of wildness; compelled by the great responsibility, even danger, that accompanies the allure of the wild; and transformed by the extraordinary love she shares with Inyo, who teaches Terrill how to carve out a place for herself in the world.
Over almost four years, Terrill and Inyo’s adventures veer between hilarious and heartbreaking. There are peaceful weekends spent hiking in snowy foothills, mirthful romps through dirty laundry, joyful adoptions of dog companions, and clashes brought on by the stress of caring for Inyo, insatiable without the stimulation of a life lived outdoors. Forced to move and accommodate the complaints of fearful neighbors and the desires of her space-craving wolfdog, Terrill must confront the reality of what she has done by trying to tame a part-wild animal.
Driven to understand the differences between dogs and wolves, Terrill spent five years interviewing genetics experts, wolf biologists, dog trainers, and wolf rescuers in the United States, Germany, Hungary, Sweden, and Russia. The fascinating results of her investigation make Part Wild as informative as it is moving.
A gifted writer able to capture the grace and power of the natural world, the complexity of scientific ideas, and the pulse of the human experience, Terrill has written a bittersweet memoir of the beauty and tragedy that come from living with a measure of wildness.
Prices/Formats: $15.00 paperback, $9.99 ebook
Release Date: November 13, 2012
Buy Links: Amazon, Kindle
About the Author
Ceiridwen Terrill (pronounced care-ah-dwen) is an associate professor of science writing and environmental journalism at Concordia University in Portland, Oregon. Her essays have appeared in Oxford American and Isotope, as well as the anthology What Wildness is This: Women Write about the Southwest published by the University of Texas Press in 2007. Her first book Unnatural Landscapes: Tracking Invasive Species was published by the University of Arizona Press in 2007.
Links to connect with Ceiridwen:
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