Home > memoir, non-fiction > Straight From The Horse’s Heart: R T Fitch

Straight From The Horse’s Heart: R T Fitch

March 24, 2009

Horses can’t talk, but they can speak if you listen. And in Straight from the Horse’s Heart: A Spiritual Ride through Love, Loss, and Hope, R. T. Fitch translates what he has learned while listening to horses. In fact, the author is not so much a horse whisperer as he is a horse listener. From the horse’s mouth to our ears, he beautifully captures the essence of the language of horses and the special relationship between horse and human. As dramatic as it is inspiring, his insights on life, love, and survival are echoes of the windswept mane and beating hooves of a wild mare and the calm stillness of a foal. Together these melodic, often poetic stories find blessings in the eye of the storm and celebrate the quietude of reflection and inner peace.

When I started to read this book I expected to dislike it: I don’t do well with sentimentality, nor with those “tragic-about-brave” tabloid-fodder stories that so often form around animals and those who rescue them.

Instead, I found a book which is, at its start at least, heart-warming and full of a very particular charm. It is simply written and very accessible: but the text needs a stiff edit as it’s let down by a good few careless mistakes in punctuation and structure which could easily have been addressed, which prevented me from reading past page twenty-five.

What worries me more, though, is the direction that the book eventually takes. It is episodic, built from thirty-five short standalone pieces: but while the early chapters discuss the author’s work with horses with great simplicity and charm the later pieces are rather more surreal, and take the form of conversations with horses in turmoil, several of which are written from the horse’s points of view. I did not find these pieces convincing or credible: and they let down the rest of the writing, I’m afraid.

I suspect that the author would have had a good chance of finding a mainstream publisher if he had only written a different book: despite the errors that I spotted he writes well, seems to have a natural sense of pacing, and I’ll bet he has plenty of stories to tell. I’d strongly advise him to consider writing a book which describes all the various horses he had helped over the years, and discusses the many challenges that each horse presented, and trying for a mainstream deal next time.

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  1. April 1, 2009 at 8:38 am

    There r so may writers who say it’s good to publish with the small publishers or self-publish. Except in a few cases, I don’t see ANY reason why it would ever be a good idea- unless you had sent a book to like every agent out there and it was rejected. They just won’t make money or have the connections OR credibility to make any money or create any buzz. It’s like a lone soldier trying to fight a war.Too many talented authors don’t send their stuff to the major publishers and I think it’s a mistake!

  2. April 1, 2009 at 8:03 pm

    Pen Pen: many talented authors DO send their work to agents (publishers won’t see work not submitted by an agent in most cases), and agents don’t take it. If the work is good, it’s not being picked up a) because the agent isn’t personally attracted to it, orb) as both an agent and a publisher told me recently, fiction is simply hard to sell these days, particularly if it’s by a new author.They want to sell what they already know is selling.Self-publishing allows the author to get her or his work to an audience. It may be a limited audience, but writers write to be read, as well as to (in lala-dreamland future)make money from it.Even those who get a book published by a real publisher don’t necessarily end up being able to quit a regular day job. If you wrote something you knew was good, and that agents repeatedly rejected, would you rather that work sit in your drawer, or would you rather do the work it takes to get it to readers?

  3. April 1, 2009 at 8:51 pm

    Pen Pen, there’s a difference between small publishers and self-publishing, but I get your point.Kristen wrote, If you wrote something you knew was good, and that agents repeatedly rejected, would you rather that work sit in your drawer, or would you rather do the work it takes to get it to readers?Actually, Kristen, I’d rather write a better book.If I were to self-publish my work then I’d have to spend all my time marketing and promoting it in order to make anything like the sales that my mainstream-published books achieve. If I write a proposal for a book that doesn’t sell then I don’t self-pub it, and work on selling it: I work on improving the proposal so that I have a better book for my agent to sell. Or on writing a better book, as I’ve already said.Now, I know it’s hard to get an agent and a publisher: but with most self-publishing books selling fewer than 200 copies each, compared to mainstream sales of 2,000 or more, I know which side I’d rather be on.

  4. April 2, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    “Actually, Kristen, I’d rather write a better book…I work on improving the proposal so that I have a better book for my agent to sell. Or on writing a better book, as I’ve already said.”This ignores the reality that is the marketplace, capitalism, and commercialism, and assumes the book isn’t “good enough.”Writing a book can be compared (as an artistic endeavor) to creating a painting, and both creators have a certain amount of artistic integrity and belief in their work.If asked to make their product “better” by a gatekeeper like an agent or editor, does that not mean the artist is often being asked to cater to the subjective tastes of that gatekeeper? Or even to the current tastes of the buying majority?I would argue that some self-publishers are less concerned with writing what others want them to write, and are more interested in producing the absolute best work they can in the style and genre they enjoy, and for the audience they know will also enjoy it. If this means not appealing to the genre-readers (chick-lit, mystery, sci-fi, or nonfiction) and, therefore, also not appealing to publishers wanting a guaranteed bestseller, so be it – self-publishing will do, and agents or small publishers who will recognize the value can be sought in the meantime (while the book is being read without the help of an agent or editor).

  5. April 2, 2009 at 3:35 pm

    Kristen, you’re right, of course: what defines “good enough”? I’ve discussed this before with Emma Darwin and others, over on my main blog: and I can feel another blog post coming on, thanks to your articulate post.But for me, “good enough” depends not only whether I’m happy with my work, but also on whether or not I can expect to get a decent level of readership for my books–and that means whether or not I can sell them to a mainstream publisher because for me, self-publication doesn’t do it: I want to spend my time writing and let my agent sell my books to publishers, and let those publishers sell them onto readers. If I were to self-publish, then I’d have to market and sell the books myself and then when would I write? I wouldn’t be a writer any more.You wrote, I would argue that some self-publishers are less concerned with writing what others want them to write, and are more interested in producing the absolute best work they can in the style and genre they enjoy, and for the audience they know will also enjoy it. Yes, absolutely, and I applaud them: I wish they’d submit their work to me! Sadly, I’m convinced that there are self-publishers out there who assume they’re going to enjoy major success with their poorly-written book; and that they outnumber your thoughtful, well-informed self-publishers to a great degree. And although their intentions are good, they do the thoughtful, talented self-publishers a great disservice by publishing dreadful books, and not even realising how bad they are.

  6. April 4, 2009 at 12:33 am

    I want to spend my time writing and let my agent sell my books to publishers, and let those publishers sell them onto readers. If I were to self-publish, then I’d have to market and sell the books myself and then when would I write? I wouldn’t be a writer any more.That’s true. I’ve done more marketing in the last year than writing, and every time I get started writing, I get sidetracked by marketing my first book.On the up side, I’ve learned a lot and have enjoyed being this involved.Still…my second book is taking a lot longer as a result.

  7. April 5, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Kristen wrote, “…self-publishing will do, and agents or small publishers who will recognize the value can be sought in the meantime (while the book is being read without the help of an agent or editor).”This caught my eye because it seems to be a reversal of the usual procedure. But it’s an idea I’ve seen raised lately on several blogs. Are many authors these days choosing to self-publish their work first and seek an agent or a traditional publisher later? I can understand the attraction of having your book at least read and reviewed by certain receptive audiences while trying the near-hopeless traditional route. But are agents and publishers likely to be the least bit receptive to this? Jane, can you comment?Linda

  8. April 5, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    Linda, it depends where you are and which publishers you’re trying to attract.It’s common in America for agents and editors to refuse outright to even consider a self-pubished book: they’re interested in bringing new books to the market, not old ones; and in publishing first editions, not second editions. If you want to read more about that, then have a look at the Behler Publishing blog (there’s a link on the front page of my blog about publishing), as I know that Lynn Price of Behler has blogged about this a few times.In the UK the division isn’t quite so stringently observed: a good book is a good book. But in both places, there’s a problem in that so many self-published writers think that the act of paying to get their book published (or not paying, for the ones who use Lulu etc) automatically raises their book’s potential above that of everyone else who hasn’t self-published; these writers tend to be (lots of sweeping generalisations here, I’m afraid–forgive me, but I’m trying for the big picture) the less talented; and their books are usually no good. So editors begin to equate self-published with dreadful. Here’s the thing. I’ll agree that publishing is changing: it’s ALWAYS changed. I don’t think we’ll reach a point where self-publishing becomes the “way in” any time soon. And so for now, the best way to get your books noticed, signed and published by a mainstream publishing house remains the usual route of writing a blisteringly good book and finding an agent to sell it for you.Meanwhile, consider this: the quality of most submitted work is dreadful; the volume of submissions continues to rise; and yet, despite the proliferation of blogs, message boards, workshops, writing courses editorial advice, the volume of good-enough work remains about the same. Writers really should spend more time improving their craft, and less time worrying about how to get it published. Harsh words? Not for those who are good enough to succeed; and for the others–well. I can only apologise: but at least I don’t provide false encouragement, and raise hope where there is none.

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