After The Girl Who Sang With The Buffalo: writing, the next steps

I said in my last post that I’d write something about what is going on in my writing life.

For me, there is a natural inhalation and exhalation in the act of creating that must be honored. Each artist deals with this differently. Some live in short breaths, keeping multiple projects going at the same time. Others, like me, have a natural creative arc that invests deeply in one project, brings it to fruition, then needs a time of regathering and regeneration before moving on to the next project. That’s the phase I am in right now.

The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo was a long and difficult project — I began it in October of 2009 — and it took a lot out of me. It also had a resolution about it, in that I allowed myself to be a significant and equal player in the narrative, and found that, as a result, the story contained an unexpected richness. By letting myself be a full participant in the narrative, the other characters were able to reveal themselves more fully. Rather than being an obtrusive presence, I, as the narrator, was an enabling presence who got Jumbo and Grover, and, to a lesser extent, Dan and Benais and Wenonah, to tell their stories. Because I was a fully formed presence, they became more fully formed presences. It is a strange dynamic, and not one I had expected. But it is true, and it made The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo into what may be my richest and most textured work. It certainly has drawn a new audience to my work.

What I am trying to do right now is get this book to a wider readership.

Working for a West Coast publisher with a focus on spirituality rather than fiction or literature, I have a difficult time getting the eye and ear of East Coast literary folk. The response of the reading public to The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo tells me that this work is the one that would catch their attention if they knew it existed.

So I am currently trying to fumble my way through the new world of social media and cyber reality in an attempt to place this book before a wider audience.

I’m somewhat self-conscious about this, as I am not given to self promotion.  In general, I feel that my job is to create, and to let the works find their own way.  But there is a larger, less personal purpose to my writing.  We as a nation need to correct our historical narrative regarding the Native peoples, and we need to learn the lessons they have to teach about living on this land.   From what I have heard so far, The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo does this with surprising effectiveness.

So, my current task, while filling my creative lungs with new air and new possibilities, is to bring this new literary child forth into the world in the best way I know how, so that new readers find and hear the stories and teaching that it has to offer.  To do anything less is to  treat it with disrespect.

I have a few ideas percolating about what my next project might be, and I’ll share those in a future post.  But, for now, I am still in the exhalation phase from The Girl who Sang to the Buffalo.  Until I feel I have done all I can to help it make its way in the world, that is my primary literary task.

Right now, I am simply taking great pleasure in watching this new literary child take its first steps.

For more, a new interview is available on this site, click here to view.

10 comments

  1. Marion Johnson (85+ years) says:

    Will your new book be available in an audio version? I I have low vision and reading a book is difficult, even with my reading machine. I have many of your books and treasure every one. I have appreciated many of your books the last 5 years. Chief Joseph was a great history story from the viewp0oint of Native Americans.
    And I love “Make me an Instrument”. I often give as a gift. That one is a treasure for me.
    I just wanted you to know how much your writing has meant to me through the years.

  2. knerburn says:

    Hi Marion,

    Thank you for your kind note. Unfortunately, my publisher shows no indication of willingness to put my books out in audio versions. We do have a CD of Small Graces that I made personally. It can be ordered from my sisters at http://www.wolfnordog.com. I can sympathize with your situation. My mother, who loved to read, suffered from macular degeneration and eventually found reading very difficult, if not impossible. It was a great sadness to her and a great sadness to me to see a lively intellect have to struggle so hard to get the intellectual nourishment her reading provided. I wish you well and will think fondly on your note.

  3. Debby Speaker says:

    Just wanted to say I am an East Coast fan! I have been for many years! I look forward to reading The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo!
    Neither Wolf Nor Dog is an amzinfg book that I recommend to ALL my friends erevy “American” needs to read it! I have several others also!

    Rest assured Mr. Nerburn, yo have one HUGE East Coast fan! Bravo!

    Best Regards,
    Debby

  4. After reading “The Girl who sang to the Buffalo” — which often brought my grief and shame to consciousness — I quickly recommended it to friends on the East Coast where I live. I also sought out “Neither Wolf Nor Dog” which I just completed and it, too, taught me so much. I agree that this is the higher purpose of your work, Kent. You have a gift in conveying your own humility and respect for Dan and The People, and it has strengthened my own thirst for the lessons I need to continue to learn. Indeed, our so-called culture in the US has left me empty and unhappy. Thank you for your work. I will spread the word!
    I also enjoyed “A Haunting Reverence” which I bought several years ago. Bless you.
    Marsha

  5. Sheri K says:

    Just finished The Girl Who Sang to the Buffalo and you have a new follower. Excellent in so many ways. Can’t wait to hear what my book club members say about it next week. Thank you.

  6. Claudia Black says:

    When the story is told by a writer who is so committed to the people in his story, I find myself carrying the emotions and thoughts of those characters
    for a long time. This small girl and her family and her people have touched me deeply. Thank you for sharing these people with me.

  7. Marvin Shanley says:

    The girl who sang to the Buffalo,another treasure. A continued reminder of the life
    of the Native American who values Mother Earth which gave them their spirituality and
    strength. Jumbo came into his own, a nice added touch. Dan came alive; the results
    of Nerburn’s dreams. Enjoyed the emphasis on the importance of animals. Fetus an
    added treat. The nursing home and Edith, a true touch of reality. The Wolf at
    Twilight – A rabbit runs across the grave; Donnie’s sculpted stone Zintkala (not
    Sarah) for Dan’s sake. In a ceremonial manner Dan blesses little Shantel and names
    Zintkala Z after his sister Yellow Bird. Dan and Benais the last of the old ways
    so respected.

  8. Tatian Greenleaf says:

    I just finished reading “The Girl Who Sang with the Buffalo” amid smiles, tears, and a feeling of spiritual awakening that I’ve noticed in all three of your books about this journey. What a powerful, beautiful, and humbling story you’ve written and I thank you for it. I find myself looking at — and listening to — the world a little differently today.

    It may be mostly insignificant but I posted an invitation to my Facebook friends to read “Neither Wolf nor Dog” to begin their own journey among your stories.

  9. knerburn says:

    Thank you, Tatian. I have moved past my discomfort at feeling like I’m promoting my own books and taken to heart what a Native man told me: “This isn’t about you; it’s about us.” With that in mind I am humbly grateful for readers like you who pass the stories along. Hard as it is for me to say this, the world needs to hear these things. Together we can all make it happen.

  10. pauline says:

    I have truly enjoyed your books including “Neither Wolf nor Dog” which I gave to my sister and it was then used as their book club selection. I also read and enjoyed “The Girl who sang to the Buffalo”

    My son is a truck driver and reads many audio books while driving. We are looking forward to your books becoming available in audio soon

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