Heifer International: Part One - A Charity for People Who Love Baby Ducks.
Earlier this year, I held what I thought was going to be a little photo contest. The response surprised me; hundreds of people sent in almost a thousand photos. People dressed up, stripped naked, and climbed onto rooftops. It was an eye opener for me. I realized that there were a lot of folks out there who *really* liked the book.
Ever since, I've been thinking about what sort of contest I'd like to run next. Fanart contest? Video contest? Something for the writers out there? What sort of prizes would people be interested in? Posters? Signed books? Sneak peeks of books to come?
But then I had a better idea.
Eventually, I will run the contests I mentioned above. There will be good times. We will revel in our shared geekery. Blogs will be writ. Prizes will be had.
But first, I'm hoping to direct some of this energy in a slightly different direction. If I'm going to hand out prizes, I'd like it to be for a good cause. Something I believe we all have in common....
I believe that deep down, people are good. I believe that most of us would go out of our way to take care of baby ducks.
My favorite charity is called Heifer International. They are a great force for good in the world, and I'd like to help them raise some money.
There are a lot of worthwhile charities out there. Important causes. Things I feel strongly about. But Heifer is my favorite. Here's why.
Let's say by some miracle I raised ten thousand dollars to help fight cancer, or Parkinson's, or Alzheimer's. While it would help the cause, it would just be a tiny drop in the bucket. Enough to help fund some lab's research for a couple weeks.
But we don't need to research a cure for hunger or poverty. We know how that works. Heifer doesn't just hand out bags of rice, Heifer gives a family a goat and teaches them how to take care of it. Then that family has a continual source of milk for their children. They can sell the extra milk to make money. When the goat has babies, they give those babies to other members of their community, sharing the gift.
Heifer helps people become self-reliant. As someone who has just recently become self-reliant, I know what a nice feeling that is.
My Mom loved Heifer. Every Christmas I would donate enough money for a goat, then give it to her as a present. I remember the first year I did it. She opened the envelope where I had drawn a crude picture of a goat and a happy stick-figure child.
She knew what it meant right off the bat. "Oh! I love it!" she said. And she got a little weepy, because she loved nothing better than helping people who needed it. She had a heart as big as the sky.
This is why I love Heifer. If we raise a couple thousand dollars for them, it will make peoples' lives better. A couple thousand dollars means little kids get milk to drink. It means families get sheep, which means wool for warm blankets and clothes. It means better wells, so moms with babies can have clean water to drink.
I think this is something we can all get behind, can't we?
So here's my plan, the bare bones version.
1. You will help by spreading the word, and making donations.
2. I will match all of the donations, dollar for dollar.
3. We both have a big warm fuzzy feeling in our chests that lets us know we've helped make the world a better place.
4. Finally, as a gesture of my appreciation, I will supply gifts for the people who participated: Signed books, maps, sneak peaks of book two, stuff like that.
This blog is to explain *why* I'm doing this. The details about *how* are over here on THIS BLOG. There are links to my Heifer Team page and details about the prizes. So hop on over there and check it out.
I'm in Vancouver right now, working at a computer in the hotel lobby. I'm going to blame any sloppiness in this post on that. Fair?
As promised, here are a few quotes from fanmail that's been sent in over the last year. It's by no means comprehensive or scientific list. Just a random sampling of quotes that happened to strike me as funny, flattering, or odd.
As you'd probably suspect, a lot of these are good old fashioned compliments. How can I tell? Well, sometimes because they actually make a point of telling me:
Your book is gonna be bigger than any fantasy book that has ever been made. If I was Rowling I would kill you now. That is a compliment.
This is surprisingly helpful, because sometimes I can't tell the messages are supposed to be flattering or not....
If Noam Chomsky can provide his email address and invite questions on his website why can't you? After all, Prof. Chomsky probably receives more email than you do and obviously does more important work than you.
You're a good writer though.
Some people explain how the book has effected their lives:
I am a closet geek. I suspect no one would ever think of me as a fantasy reader. Yet I have recommended your books to colleagues, my wife and friends. Effectively, you outed my geekiness.
Some folks tell me about the nature of their obsessive relationship with my book:
We left the house the other day, and I made a mental note of the page I was on in your book. While we were out, we stopped at a book store for a couple of hours. So I found a copy of the book and read it until we left.
If Name of The wind was a woman, I'd find out her address and move next door to her with the hope of making her mine.
When my home was threatened by fire 2 weeks ago your book was one of the few things I packed in my handbag on my way out the door.
Here's one that struck me as being very sweet in its honesty:
I love "The Name of the Wind" like I love my picture in the mirror.
More than a few have contained various flavors of delicious blasphemy:
You are something very similar to God, with The Name Of The Wind being the Bible me and my close friend worship on a daily basis.
For the first time in a long time: a class Fantasy novel. Burn everything else you own, roll in the ashes, read this book and make it your new god.
Some have been.... surreal:
I'm almost done with your book. Its fantastic. I LOVE it.
I also like the cover. Its really fun to feel. When I touch it I get these weird spit thing in the back of my throat. But its a good spit thing. When I swallow it it makes this nice noise.
Some have been flabbergasting:
So, my daughter, who's twelve and has read NOTW twice now, lists you as one of her very favorite authors (she's got great taste--Buffy's her favorite show ever too.)
Anywho, she had an assignment in class--part of a "Who am I?" sort of assignment. One of the questions that she was asked to answer was, "If I had 24 hours to live, I would..."
Her answer: "I would donate all my saved money to Perfect Pals [a cat shelter hereabouts] and then read Name of the Wind one more time."
Wow. Warm Fuzzies don't get any warmer and fuzzier than that.....
Lastly, I seem to be showing up in people's dreams. A lot.
I dreamed that I was walking through a mall or whatever in Kansas City and I saw you working in a cell phone kiosk. I was like "Holy shit, you're Patrick Rothfuss! I loved The Name of the Wind!" to which you replied "Thanks man, always great to hear. So....you wanna buy a phone?" Then I woke up.
Very random, and a little strange. Not sure why you were trying to sell me a cell phone.
I had a dream last night that we watched TV together. No Joke. At one point I went to the fridge to find you a drink and found that everything was moldy and old. Then you told me we have to watch a certain movie next time we meet. Then you gave me your telephone number, but told me that it wouldn't work in a week or so because you had to keep on changing it since so many fans would find it out and call you.
So I just wanted to stop by and thank you for being so kind as to drink the crusty old Snapple I had lying around. Thanks for also not kicking my dog as some people tend to do in my dreams.
Pat, I dreamed about you last night. You came to Austin, I was so happy. Then you turned into a girl....
Please note that those final ellipses at the end are from the guy that wrote the e-mail, not me.
Personally, I'd like to know a few more details. Was I pretty? Did I still have my beard? How can I not be curious?
Soon we'll have part three of the fanmail series: Some gentle advice on what you might want to consider including (or avoiding) in your fanmail.
When I first had the idea for the photo contest, it was completely off-the-cuff. I was making a facebook event for the paperback release date, and I thought, "What the hell. I'll offer prizes if people want to take pictures of themselves with the new book."
In my secret heart of hearts, I was thinking that it would be cool if I got maybe eight or ten pictures. Enough so that I could post them up in a blog, have some fun, and give prizes to everyone who played along.
I even had a secret backup plan. If not enough people participated, I would take some photos on my own to pad things out so I wouldn't look like a big loser.
Suffice to say that I am officially stunned by the response. We ended with over five hundred pictures, so many pictures that it's taken me hours and hours to download, label, and organize them. I'm sorry that not everyone can get prizes, and that I can't even display all of them. There were just so many....
Anyway, today we're going to start with just one category: Best Shrine.
Nice genuflection, you really stuck the dismount.
I like the fact that each of my books seems to have access to its own sword here.
Wait... is.... is that a frikkin gunblade? Yes. Yes it is.
While it would seem like this picture would be a shoe-in for the win, the mastermind behind it, Captain Joe, can't win this category. You'll learn why in more detail during the next blog, but rest assured, this level of awesome will not go unrewarded.
Here's the runner-up. The Name of the Wind in paperback, playing king of the hill. If you look closely, there's also a little plush draccus there.
The Winner. At first I thought this might be a very surreal candlelit dinner for a college student, but then I realized that the flowers, food, and drink were being offered up in tribute to the book. Also, the composition of the photo is really nice, though I'll admit that the lighting makes me wonder if there might not also be a black goat and a knife just off frame.
Remember kids, blood sacrifices won't get you book two any faster.
The clincher? The person who built the shrine got not only my favorite brand of ramen, but my favorite flavor too. Mmmmm.... Chicken.
Next blog we'll get more photos, along with a discussion of what the winners actually win, and the revelation of Captain Joe's tragic secret.
So I just found out The Name of the Wind won a new award....
YALSA announces 2008 Alex Awards
PHILADELPHIA - The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), the fastest growing division of the American Library Association (ALA), has selected 10 adult books that will appeal to teen readers to receive the 2008 Alex Awards.
I can see the headlines now: "Patrick Rothfuss appeals to teens." My friends are going to have a field day with this...
Seriously though, I'm terribly flattered. When the American Library Association likes your book, you know you must be doing something right. Librarians kick ass, and the more of them you get together in one place, the more powerful they become. Like Voltron.
This will also help me feel more comfortable answering a question that I've been getting asked on and off for the last several months. Namely, "Is your book for kids?"
Up until now, the only answer I've had for this has sounded extremely dodgy. I say, "Well, it kinda depends on what you mean by "kids," and it kinda depends on what you mean by 'for.'"
Do you see what I'm getting at? I read the Lord of the Rings when I was 11 or so. I don't know if it was *for* me, but I certainly enjoyed it....
Up until now, when someone asked me this question try to pin down the specific age of the kid they're asking about. Sixteen? Sure. Fourteen? Yeah, probably. Twelve? Hmmm.... I'm not sure...
I even know some families that have read my book to their kids who were 5-6 years old. Apparently, the young-uns dug it. I wouldn't have anticipated that in a hundred years. Those kids must have some kick-ass vocabulary....
Now, however, I don't have to feel strange about answering this question. The professionals have weighed in on the subject. Huzzah.
For more information, and to see the other Alex award winners, you can check out the press release HERE.
That's all for today. I've been putting together the announcement-type newspost I've hinted at a couple times, but it won't be ready until tomorrow. I've got AFK busyness all today....
Hello folks. I've been elsewhere lately. Things have been busy with writing and getting ready for my trip out to New York for the Quill Awards.
But just yesterday I got the following message from someone asking me to help her settle a debate between her and a friend:
[...] Anyway, her stance is that Literature (her cap) is about enlightenment and improving the human condition, while fantasy is just escapist crap. I know she's wrong, but I'm not a good debater. I'm not good with words. Can you help me out?
Sami, your question reminded me of a forum I got drawn into a while back. Normally I resist being pulled into online discussions, but this one struck home with me. The person who started the thread was asking, effectively, if fantasy really mattered in any sort of profound way.
This is the from-the-hip response I made on that forum a while back. If you're looking for some argumentative ammo, there might be a few things in here. At any rate, it does a pretty good job of summing up how I feel about the issue.
"Can a Fantasy book/author really change anything?" [First post: July 10th 5:15 AM]
Years ago I was watching a documentary on the Beatles. There was a video clip where a journalist was interviewing John Lennon. He was protesting the war, doing ridiculous things to get press attention so that he could spread the word about his message. He spent his honeymoon in bed with his wife and invited the press. When the press showed up hoping for something racy, John and Yoko used the opportunity to spread their message about peace.
One of the journalists got exasperated with him at one point and said, "You dear boy, you don't think that you've saved a single life with this nonsense, have you?"
I remember watching that and thinking that I couldn't decide which one of them was being foolish. Lennon for thinking he could change things, or the reporter for being so cynical.
Ultimately, I want to believe Lennon. I want to think that a person can make a change in the way people think.
I think that can be done with a protest. Or a song. Or an interview. Or a fantasy novel.
Hah! I actually found the video clip on youtube. If you watch it for about 40 seconds you'll get to the part where the reporter says her line....
However, I don't think that political activism is the only type of change a novel can create. I think a novel can change they way you think about the world. It can expose you to new thoughts or make you reconsider old ones.
Hell, a fantasy novel can teach you things. Any time you learn something it changes your life.
Lastly, but not leastly, we shouldn't overlook pure entertainment. Back when I was in Grad school my life was a hell. It sucked really, really bad and I was stressed out beyond belief. That's when I read the Harry Potter books. They were great. They helped me relax and not freak out. They didn't heal my crippled limbs or stop me from being racist or fix global warming, but they improved the quality of my life. In doing so they hey changed my life in a little way. A good way.
[Second post: July 12th 11:18 AM]
I like what you said about escapism being productive. I think Robert Frost made a point along those lines in Birches.
"It's when I'm weary of considerations, And life is too much like a pathless wood Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs Broken across it, and one eye is weeping From a twig's having lashed across it open. I'd like to get away from earth awhile And then come back to it and begin over."
That is one of the things that fantasy does best.
And laughter is not to be underestimated either. I write a satirical humor column for the local school paper. I write it because I like to make people laugh and it gives me a vent for my humor when my other writing needs to be serious.
After the most recent presidential election I was... distraught. Profoundly distraught and depressed. But my deadline was still there. I had to go in and be funny when I was in no mood. So I wrote about the elections. I made fun of the American populace, and the president, and both parties and myself most of all.
And the column pissed people off. They started a media event about it, got people riled up, and in the end, I almost lost my job because of it.
I remember thinking to myself, "Why do I do this? Why do I work 4-6 hours every week to write a column I don't get paid for? A column that offends people (as all good satire must) and costs me what small shred of respect I have among the other faculty at the university. A column that at best, gives people a cheap laugh?"
Weeks later I was grousing about the whole experience to someone in the University Center. A student walking past overheard and stopped.
"You're that guy that writes the College Survival Guide?" he asked.
"Yeah," I said. Inwardly I was cringing against another attack. The media coverage had not been kind to me, satirical humor quoted out of context looks really, really damning, and as a result I'd been having I got a lot of unpleasant attention. Everything pales in comparison to a death threat, or the promise of a beating, but even tongue-lashings get you down after a while.... "Yeah." I said. "That's me."
"I read it all the time," he said. "After the election I wanted to kill myself. But when I read your column I laughed. I really needed a laugh right then. A lot of us really needed a laugh right then."
It was like a great weight got lifted off me when I heard that. I remember thinking. Oh yeah. *this* is why I write. If we don't laugh sometimes we'll cry. I want to help out with that.
This conversation made me think of a piece of fan mail I got a couple days ago. I'm going to contact the person who wrote it and see if she's okay with me re-printing it here. If she agrees I think it will be a nice addition to this thread...
[The final post: July 12th 12:12 PM]
She said I could share her letter so long as I removed her full last name. I wanted to share this because when this e-mail came in just a couple nights ago, I thought about this thread.
Even if I never get another e-mail like this again I'll feel like I've done something worthwhile with my life....
I read a lot of books. That's not to brag, it's just a fact. I read a lot of books, sometimes once, sometimes twenty times, and I'm glad that there's a lot of books out there because I'm more a little afraid that I'm going to run out one day. But I'm getting ahead of myself. This is really a thank you letter, so I should start there.
I want to thank you for your book, but I want to do it right. I read a lot of books, and it's been a long, long time since I've felt as passionately about a book as I do about yours. I don't know how to describe this feeling, really - I hope you know what I mean so I don't sound like a complete babbling idiot. It's like what I felt when I finished the Tolkien trilogy for the first time. It's the same thing I felt when I read my first LeGuin, it's the first time I read Ender's Game. It's being eight and fascinated by orcs and elves, and fifteen and shocked by the names of shadows that move inside of you, even if the shadow's name is your own name. It's finding love and pain and hope and a piece of yourself in the words on a page that were written far away by someone you have never met.
For the first time in a long time, I had a book that I couldn't bear to leave: your book. I bought it on a whim at five minutes to closing in a bookstore that I had never been to before, on a street that I have been on a hundred times. I started it at 11:45 on Monday night with a cup of grapefruit juice and a little seed of hope. I think you may know this hope, I think everyone has had it in one form or another. It's more than the, "gee I hope this is going to be a good trip" kind of hope.
Let me elaborate. (This is, by the way, kind of a personal letter. I hope you don't mind. You don't have to write back, it's okay, since this is really just a thank you.) I'm 19, just finished my first year of college, and living alone for the first time. I'm scared out of my wits, but not about finding a job or making it through school. I'm afraid that now that I'm an adult, there's no such thing as magic anymore. I don't want to be jaded any cynical and worldly. I like the crisp newness that varnishes the world. If I have to start paying bills and finding an apartment and paying rent, will I lose that shock, that joy, that awe that I felt when I saw things for the first time? (I had my first snowfall this winter. My first winter up north. It was everything I had dreamed it would be and it was utterly miserable. Who knew cold could be so, well, cold?) I am arrogant, I know, but I have to say it: have I read every good book? I wish I hadn't squandered so many good first reads in my childhood, when everything was new, when I didn't know how precious that first read is. That first bite of a taut red apple.
I started reading your book at 11:45pm and stopped at 8:30am when I realized that I probably still needed to show up for work. The first thing I did when I came home was pick it up again, and when I stopped I sat and stared at the wall and cried. Just because some things are over doesn't mean everything is. There are still people out there who can make magic, who know magic, there is still magic, I can still see magic. Closing the back cover was defeating; everything ends, and really there's nothing you can do about it. But it was exciting too. I was excited for another read, excited for the sequels, excited for the future.
I am going to go read it again now, and even though it won't be the first time, it will still be exciting. Thank you for your book. It is beautiful, and bright, and full of magic. Thank you for letting me write you this letter, even if you never read it. Thank you for the hope.
Hope that answers your question Sami. Everyone else, hope you weren't bored by the horribly long post.