An Interview with Journey Author Beckie Elgin
The story of Oregon's most famous wolf OR-7 (aka Journey) continues to be one of the most inspiring wildlife stories in Oregon's history. To capture this incredible tale, Southern Oregon author Beckie Elgin recently published a book with Oregon Wild business supporter Inkwater Press entitled Journey: The Amazing Story of OR-7, the Oregon Wolf that Made History.
Traveling over 4,000 miles in search of a mate and capturing the excitement of wildlife lovers across the globe, Journey's story is certainly one that's worth capturing. Beckie does it beautifully in her new book and shared some of her thoughts on the book in a recent interview.
What was your motivation to write Journey: The Amazing Story of OR-7, the Oregon Wolf that Made History?
I have great respect for the natural world and believe wolves are an essential part of it. Throughout history wolves have been a scapegoat for some people’s fears and resentments, and this has resulted in an unreasonable stereotype and treatment of these animals. In writing about Journey I wanted to add my part to the legacy of literature that strives to dispel myths and present facts about wolves, with the hope that this might help forge a healthier relationship between humans and wolves.
What's your background with wolves? Have you had any personal experiences?
I had the good fortunate of growing up in a zoo and working with wolves there. While I understand the controversy surrounding zoos, by spending years in one I was able to see the great effort made by zoo people to provide the best facilities and care for their animals. And I appreciate the tremendous progress these places have made over the years, including their success in preserving rare species. When I was young I was given the job of taming a pair of three month-old wolf pups that had never been handled before. That summer I spent all of my time with them until finally, the pups accepted me and allowed me to handle them and take them on walks. By becoming comfortable around humans the wolves lived with much less fear in the captive setting.
Your book is geared towards kids but it's quite accessible for adults - that's not an easy line to balance. What went into that thought process?
My thoughts were that if I wrote a book for a middle-grade audience I would reach people both younger and older. This has proven to be the case. I’ve had tons of feedback from adults who say they are enjoying the book and learning from it. And I have heard from people who are reading Journey to their younger kids so they can enjoy the book together. Besides, it’s fun to write for a youthful audience. I felt a greater sense of freedom and this created the sections through the point of view of Journey, which many readers say are their favorite parts.
What do you see as the educational value of your book? How do you think teachers can use it?
The book teaches not only about Journey and his travels, but also about wolves in general. Readers learn of the history of wolves in our country, what they eat and how they interact with each other, how biologists study wolves and of the issues with livestock. I’ve presented the information in an objective manner, hoping the book will garner classroom discussions about our role in the environment. For example, how much should we intervene in the lives of wild wolves? And what are the solutions to the livestock-predator issues? The book is richly illustrated with photos and maps, which is nice for visual learners. There are in-depth source notes, a bibliography and glossary. We are completing a Teacher’s Guide for Journey that will supplement the educational value of the book. Watch for it on http://journeyor7.com and on my website http://wolvesandwriting.com. Another benefit of writing for the middle-grade audience is that it gets me around kids. I’m doing school and library talks and enjoying every minute of it!
What do you see as Journey's impact on the future of wolf recovery in Oregon?
OR-7 began a veritable procession of wolves to Southern Oregon and Northern California. Of course, another wolf would have eventually done the same thing, but he was the first one that we know of so his impact will never be surpassed. Journey and those that followed him are doing their part to recreate a truly natural wilderness in this area, one that has not existed for over sixty years.
How has your view of wolves and wolf recovery changed during the process of writing this book?
Along with this book I also write articles on wolves for magazines and newspapers and keep a blog that highlights news on wolves. In doing this I’ve come to realize the deep dedication of people involved in wolf recovery, including those at Oregon Wild. Despite the challenges we face, I believe that the strength and wisdom of these groups and individuals will succeed in the long run in the effort to preserve wolves. In a large sense, we already have. My view of wolves hasn’t changed much. I still consider them enthralling and intelligent animals, struggling to exist in a world that is all too inhabited by people and their ways. Yet, they carry on and are returning to native habitats not only in Oregon and California, but in areas across the globe where they haven’t lived for many, many years. They’re survivors and deserve what help we can give them, not only for their sake, but also for the essential role they play in a healthy environment
Beckie will be reading her book on April 3rd at 7:00pm at:
Annie Bloom's Bookstore
7834 SW Capitol Highway
Portland, OR 97219
*A portion of the proceeds of Beckie's book will support Oregon Wild's wolf recovery efforts!