Long-Term Animal Research Seminar Series: Hyrax Talk

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!

Oxfurred Comma: An Anthropomorphic Literature Convention (October 17th-18th)

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

Furry Writers’ Guild

Oxfurred Comma Is Comming Soon!

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:

We hope to see many signups for our events, panels, and features. Please be sure to share this with all of your friends, fans of…

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Announcement! Fox Spirit: A Two-Tailed Adventure Now Listed on Steam!

Heeey, friends! I have exciting news! Remember that interactive novel about magical foxes that I’ve been working on for the past two years? It’s now listed on Steam! https://store.steampowered.com/app/1324420/Fox_Spirit_A_TwoTailed_Adventure/

Cover art by Paola Tuazon

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!

Walking on the Wild Side

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.

Her name was Ruby.

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.

Me and one of my wolf friends, investigating each other. Heck yes, that’s a wolf shirt.

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.

Yep, I did research on honey bees. Look up their waggle dance!

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.

Me on an HSU Wildlife Conclave trip to Wyoming. The coyote was sedated, not dead. Don’t worry.

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.

A lion I saw in the Mara.

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

Obligatory cute hyena picture.

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.

My first audio story, read by The Voice of Dog!

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Greetings, friends! Today, my short story “Of a Hawk and a Lighthouse” has been released on the podcast The Voice of Dog by Khaki!

In this story, an abandoned lighthouse on a lonely cliff receives an unexpected visitor. Her new friend helps the lighthouse shine again. But will it last?

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You can listen to Khaki’s lovely reading of my story here: https://anchor.fm/the-voice-of-dog/episodes/Of-a-Hawk-and-a-Lighthouse-by-Amy-Clare-Fontaine-egeflv/a-a2l6r9b I hope it adds some light to your day!

Remembering Daddy

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On Father’s Day in 2018, we buried Daddy’s ashes, on a hill overlooking the sea. It was a sunny day, and Daddy loved the sun. Even on overcast days, he would hone in on the smallest patch of blue sky. And if he couldn’t find it, he would still express cheerful certainty that the sun would show its face again soon.

As a writer, I am painfully aware of the limits of words. How little they can hope to capture of a relationship that spanned a lifetime. My father’s gentle warmth, the wordless melodies he sang while doing the dishes or gliding about the house…these are not things I can share with you in words. Not really.

I miss my dad more than words could ever say. His love for God and his family, his compassion for the world’s people and creatures, his quiet strength and wise humility continue to inspire and drive me. I take courage in knowing that his love is still with us, like the sun on a rainy day. Though I no longer see him, I feel his embrace, carrying me through the storms of life.

My father’s love made me who I am today. When I wrote new stories, he had me print them out and put them in a binder so he could read and reflect on them. When I got accepted for wildlife jobs, sent to Kenya and Yellowstone and other far-flung places, he was always so happy and proud, delighted to see me chasing my dreams. He showed unending support for my efforts and great interest in my work. His intellectual curiosity, openness to adventure, and his zest for life, along with his patient trust in God and the goodness of the universe, are part of the rich legacy he’s gifted me.

If you are lucky enough to have a loving father figure in your life today, I encourage you to show that person how much they mean to you. If you are grieving today, whether from the death of a loved one or the pain caused by a broken or hurtful relationship, then I send you my deepest condolences and pray that you’ll find healing and consolation. In any case, I hope you’ll reach out today to the people in your life, father figures or otherwise, who’ve shown you support and encouragement and brightened your path. Life is too short to wallow in darkness. Do your best to find the sun.

The beautiful obituary my mother wrote about my father is here: https://lostcoastoutpost.com/2018/jun/24/obituary-norman-richard-fontaine-1924-2018/

Animal Sighting Simulator: A New, Free Twine Game!

Ahoy, friends! Tonight I submitted to my first ever game jam, an itch.io jam hosted by NarraScope 2020. My submission is a short text-based game titled Animal Sighting Simulator.

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As a disillusioned urbanite in a world where most animals are extinct,  your only consolation is a gaming system that simulates nature.  But thanks to your artistic vision, that’s about to change. Pick your creatures and your creative medium and make your dreams come true.

You can play Animal Sighting Simulator for free on itch.io here: https://fontainepen.itch.io/animal-sighting-simulator

I hope you will enjoy it!

My essay “Animal Attributes in Furry Writing” has been published!

“Animal Attributes in Furry Writing” has been published in From Paw to Print by Thurston Howl Publications! This essay I wrote discusses zoological topics writers might consider when crafting anthropomorphic animal characters. As both a wildlife biologist and an author, I’m thrilled to share my thoughts about this subject with you! Proceeds for the anthology go to the Furry Writers’ Guild.

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Amazon Paperbacks: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1945247762/
Publisher Paperbacks: https://boundtales.storenvy.com/products/30392965-from-paw-to-print-essays-about-writing-in-the-furry-fandom
Ebooks: TBA

FWG Monthly Newsletter: May 2020

Hey, friends! Take a look at the Furry Writers’ Guild’s latest news via their monthly update, including open markets, new releases, and more! And definitely check out the recent interview with awesome author Allison Thai for Asian Pacific Heritage Month!

Best wishes,

Amy Clare Fontaine

Furry Writers’ Guild

Hello there FWG members! For those of you that have been with us for a long time, you will be excited to hear that we are bringing back the monthly newsletters! For those newer to the guild, we once produced monthly newsletters to tell people about things like new open markets and guild news. We’re hoping to bring this back to give all our members information to help them thrive while writing anthropomorphic fiction!

First it’s been a very busy month for the guild. We updated our website, got a new logo, opened up a new Discord channel, updated our membership listings, and voted on new by-laws and a new code of conduct. With all of our listing updates, we are showing 114 active members! We’ll keep accepting any updates as they come in, but we’re happy so many of you got the form filled out fast.

The vote to…

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My Twine Game Break Stuff is Now on itch.io!

Hi, friends! Last year, I entered the Interactive Fiction Competition with a Twine game titled Break Stuff. My game took 29th place, which earned me a cash prize, part of which I donated to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and RAINN, as well as a Steam key for a lovely game called Heaven’s Vault.

It was recently brought to my attention that Break Stuff is no longer playable on the IFComp website, so I have uploaded it to itch.io: https://fontainepen.itch.io/break-stuff

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In Break Stuff, you make decisions for a troubled young woman who just broke up with her boyfriend. When your old friend from high school comes over, she invites you to vent your negative feelings by breaking stuff. Who could resist?

Break Stuff is an exploration of depression, lost love, feminism, growing up, and the brokenness that makes us human. Please read the CONTENT WARNINGS on itch.io before deciding whether to play it.

I am grateful to all the people who reached out to tell me this game made a positive difference to them. You’re the reason I create things, even when it’s hard. Thank you.