“Griselda made dragons out of words. No one knew how. One moment she’d be hunched over her desk, scribbling furiously, only stopping occasionally to dip her quill or suck on it thoughtfully, her chin lifted and her eyes somewhere else. And the next moment...“
“The place you are right now God circled on a map for you.” ~Hafiz
Hi! I know it’s been a while, but I have big news. I’ve started graduate school and moved to Israel, where I am living and working in Ein Gedi Nature Reserve. Here’s the view from our balcony, of the Dead Sea and the mountains of Jordan:
I am working in the lab of Dr. Lee Koren (https://leekoren.wixsite.com/korenlab), studying honesty in communication using rock hyraxes (Procavia capensis) as a model. Hyraxes abound at the field school where we live, and I’ve already fallen in love with these unique, fascinating mammals. Here’s a picture of my second Ein Gedi hyrax sighting, taken from our apartment’s kitchen window (the hyrax is lying on a ledge, toward the middle of the left side of the picture):
A closer look at a hyrax:
We see many other animals here, such as ibexes:
We’ve also seen foxes, and a pack of FOUR wolves! I didn’t get pictures, so have some dead ones instead (yes, there are hyenas here too, but I have yet to see one):
In short, Ein Gedi is breathtaking, and getting to live and work here is a blessing. I am grateful to be part of this incredible research project, and excited to parse the signals of nature to figure out what we can learn from them.
This opportunity means so much to me, and I’m infinitely thrilled and thankful that my life has led me here. It truly feels like a dream come true.
I know there will be hard work and challenges along the way, but I will meet them with joy and confidence, and every day I’ll remember to say… Thank You.
I’ve been working on this game since 2018. It’s been a wild ride, but a fun one, and the process has taught me so much as a writer and a human. I’m thrilled that Fox Spirit is out in the world at last. The glowing feedback I’ve already received from kind players around the world has warmed my heart and spurred me on to an even greater desire to create fantastic stories and share them with you.
This day happened thanks to a lot of great people, so I want to give them a shout-out here. A special thank-you is due to my lead editor Rebecca Slitt, for her encouragement, suggestions, and support throughout the development process, as well as the rest of the fabulous Choice of Games team. Paola Tuazon made the truly dazzling cover art, which I adore from the bottom of my heart; you can find more of Paola’s work here: https://paolatuazon.format.com/
Thank you to the creators of the gorgeous trailer (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XdBLnlslP4) and the lovely chapter headings. Thank you to copyeditor Kate Lascoutx, my many beta testers, and the wonderful sensitivity reader Sachiko Burton from Salt & Sage Books. Thank you to all the players who’ve reached out to share their excitement and praise, especially Valentina Wottke from Germany who streamed the game live for four and a half hours today (and will be streaming the last chapters tomorrow starting between 9 and 10 am PST; follow Valentina’s channel here to join us then: https://www.twitch.tv/lucario162). And thank you, of course, to my family, especially my mother Beverly and my aunt Becky. Your love for my work (and me!) has kept me grounded and on track and inspired me to keep writing.
Hiya, friends! Today marks the release date of my newest free Twine game on itch.io, titled Nowhere to Go.
Nowhere to Go is an interactive fiction game about being stuck in quarantine. Find healthy ways to cope with reality or engage in avoidance behaviors. Will you uncover hope amidst your sorrow or sink deeper into grief?
You can play Nowhere to Go for free at the following link: https://fontainepen.itch.io/nowhere-to-go Please read the CONTENT WARNINGS before deciding whether to play. I hope this game will bring you some small measure of light in the darkness. Stay strong, my friends. ✨
Hiya, folks! Today marks the release date for the first book of my friend and fellow researcher, Dr. Arik Kershenbaum: The Zoologist’s Guide to the Galaxy! This nonfiction book discusses how life evolved on Earth and how what we’ve learned about organisms on our own planet might apply to life elsewhere in the galaxy. It’s sure to be an interesting read for animal lovers, science fiction fans, and every curious human who’s ever looked up at the stars at night and wondered what’s out there!
Hello, friends! I just wanted to let you all know that there’s a cool talk coming up tomorrow in the Long-Term Animal Research Seminar Series! My advisor for my upcoming MSc at Bar-Ilan University, Dr. Lee Koren, and Dr. Amiyaal Ilany will be discussing the rock hyrax project in Ein Gedi Nature Reserve that I will be joining this fall, and the many findings they have gathered from monitoring the same populations of animals over twenty-two years. The link to the talk can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOwv_iVOyF8 It will be streaming live on Zoom at 9 am PST, but you can also watch it on YouTube anytime afterwards. It’s going to be a great presentation, so I hope you will all tune in!
Hey friends! Check it out! The Furry Writers’ Guild is hosting a free online convention called Oxfurred Comma on October 17 and 18! My graduate school classes start on October 18, but depending on the timing I may still get to swing by. Maybe I’ll even apply for the Author’s Corner or submit a panel if I can. In any case, I hope you’ll attend this if you’re able! Best wishes, Amy
You’ve been hearing about Oxfurred Comma, but now we have all the details! Oxfurred Comma, an online anthropomorphic literature convention, will be taking place on October 17th-18th. We’ll be talking a bit about the convention here, and full details can be found on the Oxfurred Comma Website.
Convention panels will be streamed live on the officialFWG Twitch account. We will also be hosting special chats and dealer’s den rooms on theFWG Discord. We have several features, panels, and events to consider submitting to including:
The game releases on October 15. You can add it to your Steam wishlist now or order it later through the Choice of Games website or app. This has been a true labor of love and I can’t wait to share it with all of you!
My first kiss happened when I was ten years old. It was wet. It was soft. It was tender. It was from a beluga whale.
All my life, I’ve loved animals. As a kid, I doted on our family dogs and cat, and I also cared for a hamster, mice, fish, and a succession of pet snails. I was a budding entomologist, collecting caterpillars and roly polies in little plastic terrariums and supplying them with leaves and soil and water. I was never afraid to get my hands dirty, and when I wasn’t reading, writing, drawing, or playing video games, I spent most of my time outside, playing games of make-believe with my friends as we explored the world around us and the creatures we shared it with.
I was blessed to have loving, supportive parents who were able to encourage and nurture my interests. They gave me books about animals that captivated me, including nonfiction and works by Jean Craighead George, Jack London, and Gary Paulsen that left me with a deep and abiding love for wolves and Arctic landscapes, though we lived in the Mojave Desert in southern California. They signed me up for summer camps, including the wonderful SeaWorld Camp in San Diego (site of the aforementioned kiss). My mom and I swam with dolphins, a humbling experience I will never forget. We visited and volunteered at Wolf Mountain Sanctuary in Lucerne Valley, where I had the incredible privilege of meeting and getting to know real-life wolves.
While still in elementary school, I had a fateful encounter on a field trip to a college fair in Los Angeles. (Perhaps it sounds presumptuous, taking elementary kids to a college fair, but I was part of the GATE program at my school so this was par for the course). I met two friendly women tabling for a school in northern California called Humboldt State University. They told me all about HSU’s programs in wildlife and marine biology. Long story short, I fell madly in love.
I was determined to one day study biology at this mystical place, drawn by swirling daydreams of massive redwood forests, rugged coastlines, and myriad opportunities for learning and adventure. And then, in a stroke of miraculous good luck, my family moved to Humboldt County when I was thirteen years old, when my mom accepted a job offer in Arcata: home of Humboldt State University, my dream school. My Hogwarts!
I entered Humboldt State University as an undergraduate in 2011. College was a marvelous adventure, everything I had dreamed it would be but even MORE and BETTER. I took a graduate-level marine mammalogy course. I chased peacocks around a monastery with a parabolic dish, attempting to record their grating squawks. In the summers I did internships all over the States, studying fishers (handsome tree weasels), wolves, and even honey bees.
I also traveled with our Wildlife Conclave Team, attending research conferences in other states. I did my honors thesis on mesocarnivore foraging activity on our university’s campus relative to human activity levels, which involved putting out boxes baited with cat food and getting raccoons to leave sooty tracks in them. In short, I was in heaven, and I loved every minute of it.
I received my Bachelor of Science in Wildlife (Conservation Biology/Applied Vertebrate Ecology) with a minor in English Writing in 2015. Later that year, I became a field crew leader for a professor at Montana State University, studying wolf and coyote vocalizations in Yellowstone National Park. Through that project, I grew even more enamored of animal communication research, which has long been a field that fascinates me. And I met wonderful people who are still my good friends today. I worked with some of those people again in 2019, on a project studying wolf, coyote, and dog vocalizations in Wisconsin.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Between Yellowstone and Wisconsin, I went other places. First and foremost was Kenya.
I studied spotted hyenas for eight months in the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya with the Michigan State University Mara Hyena Project. Hyenas get a bad rap, but they are absolutely AMAZING animals, with complex societies and communication and unique adaptations to help them survive. They are intelligent, playful, nurturing, adaptable. I fell MADLY in love with them. I highly recommend Sy Montgomery’s book, The Hyena Scientist, which includes gorgeous photos and accessible scientific information that dispels the toxic myths that these creatures are ugly, stupid, evil, or boring (they are ANYTHING BUT those things!). Sy wrote the book while visiting us in Talek Camp, so I happen to be featured in it too. There’s even a two-page spread about me, actually. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073XCQ3YP
Anyway, enough about my past adventures. The real, important question is WHAT ARE YOU DOING NEXT?
And I have exciting news about that. I am absolutely THRILLED to announce that I’ve been offered a MSc position in Behavioral Ecology! Pending a few regulatory steps involving the admissions process of the university and my admittance to the country, I will soon be studying the vocalizations and behavior of wild rock hyraxes with Dr. Lee Koren at Bar-Ilan University in Israel!
For me, this is the natural culmination of a lifelong passion for animal communication studies that began when I was a kid, reading books by Temple Grandin (motivated in part by my desire to connect with my mostly nonverbal autistic sister, Kristy), John Cunningham Lilly (who was admittedly kind of a crackpot, but had some interesting ideas), and others, fantasizing about becoming Dr. Dolittle in the flesh and cracking the code of animal languages. I’ve learned a lot since then, namely that “language” is a loaded term and that animal communication is too complex and heterogeneous to be neatly deciphered into words à la Google Translate, but everything I’ve learned has sparked still more questions in my mind and strengthened my enthusiasm for these topics. In short, I am completely OVER THE MOON about my acceptance to Dr. Koren’s lab, and I can’t wait to start! I look forward to delving even deeper into my chosen area of research and experiencing the culture and sights of Israel along the way!
And if you don’t know what a hyrax is, go look it up right now. They are freaking adorable.