Review by Ardy Hart
If you’ve ever wanted a conglomeration of great writing advice from established writers and publishers in the furry fandom, “From Paw to Print” is your book. It’s like a mini-anthology with the theme being writing, but now the authors are free to talk candidly about their experiences for the sole purpose of educating aspiring writers about the good, the bad, and the unspoken aspects one will probably find in their journey to put a published piece in someone else’s hands. Or paws. I thoroughly enjoyed all eleven essays in this book, and I believe I will be coming back to them several times as I try to wade through the (less) daunting waters of publishing.
“From Paw to Print” is a book about the process of taking a piece of writing and turning it into a published work. Each essay inside was written by a different writer or publisher, with topics ranging from the differences of sex, erotica, and porn to the importance of having a writer’s platform. Most of the essays serve as a place to start for beginning writers while others serve as food for thought. “Furry Erotica and Pornography: Art, Yiff, and the Self” by Katav, for example, was a particularly compelling essay about harmful preconceptions we may have about writing and reading sexual stories. “Small Press vs. Self Publishing” by Weasel, on the other hand, served as a helpful guide about what to expect, as well as what to avoid, when using small press to publish your work. So if you’re curious about where to start or what to expect in the writing world, try reading this book. It’ll give you a lot to think about.
A daring, but much needed, essay about the differences between romance, erotica, and porn starts off the book. Tarl “Voice” Hoch explains that, on a basic level, the difference is how much eroticism goes into them. A helpful tip for deciding which to write is to think about what your audience is there for. Overall, I found this essay extremely helpful in deciding which of the three I’d personally like to write about, and I’m sure the same will happen for you. If you want to, that is.
Next is an essay about worldbuilding by J.F.R. Coates. He separates his essay into four parts, with each one being an important starting point to creating your own world. Knowing what to leave out, Coates states, is just as important as what to put in. He also gives a few pointers on how to not be racist when creating your world, which can be tricky if you’re considering putting stereotypes from the real world into your fictional world. I would have liked a bit more from Coates into how he goes about worldbuilding in his own stories. I think a few examples from his own work would have been nice to read about.
Amy Claire Fontaine details a very helpful guide about animal behavior in her essay titled “Animal Attributes in Furry Writing.” Using her experience as a wildlife biologist, Fontaine writes about topics like sensory perception, cognition, and communication—aspects of animal behavior that differ greatly from our own. I really liked this essay; there was a lot to learn, and a lot I would like to implement in my own writing. I especially liked how she talked about the “spectrum of zoological realism” we find in furry media, and how differing levels of anthropomorphism can achieve different kinds of effects in furry writing.
Where Hoch talked about the overarching differences between romance, erotica, and porn, Katav’s essay talks more about how our views of such topics say a lot about ourselves. Not only that, but there are pitfalls we may stumble into if we don’t think critically about these topics. Even as I’m writing this, I’m trying to treat this with the importance I’ve learned since reading Katav’s essay. Our preconceived notions about each type of writing—romance, erotica, and porn—do affect us. I thoroughly enjoyed this essay and plan on coming back to it whenever I think about these genres.
“Small Press vs. Self Publishing” by Weasel kicks off the Publishing portion of the book. Weasel’s essay is filled with tips and pointers for those considering either method of publication. He breaks down the task of publishing into specific points to consider, and then gives monetary examples of each to give you a real world example of the cost of publishing. In addition to financial things, he also warns us about the possibility of being taken advantage of. I really enjoyed the tips Weasel gave, but not as much as his voice. It was a fun essay to read.
Rayah’s essay about submitting work is a good read for anyone who is vaguely considering writing to submit or publish their work. It’s a shorter essay, but, nonetheless, it’s helpful to think about the proper practices any writer should incorporate into their creative flow. I think Rayah’s essay could have also benefited from a few examples of their own experiences, just to let me and the readers know what to do if we get stuck somewhere along the way.
Andrew Rabbit gives us a brief look into how the publishing world has changed in the twenty years Rabbit Valley Comics has been around. The pictures and descriptions were a nice touch, but overall I think this essay could be expanded into a full story. It was hard for me to grasp what some of the terms meant in the few pages this essay crossed. There’s history here, and where there’s history, there’s a story. It was a nice break from some of the more critical essays though.
The next two essays are by Madison “Makyo” Scott-Clary. The first one is about layout and design, a super important part in all publishing journeys. She mentions how things you may not notice, like margin length and odd lines that stick out at the bottoms and tops of pages, are actually huge factors in how the reader, well, reads. (I took a book arts class in college where I had to learn about margin length, text size, font, kerning… Let me tell you, it’s not easy.) There’s a ton that goes into the way a page looks. The point, she says, is to not let it be distracting. I would have liked to know so much more about the designing process, but I also know it’s very technical, so I really appreciate the way she broke it down into easily digestible words.
In her next essay, she talks about problems you may run into if you plan on running an anthology. The process is not easy and takes a lot of time, but with careful time management and communication, you can make a masterpiece. Like her previous essay, I really enjoyed this one. Again, it serves as a simple introduction to the process of creating an anthology, but having a generic step-by-step process is extremely helpful to those starting out.
Moving along the anthology train, Thurston Howl writes about how to give an anthology cohesion. First, they refute a couple preconceptions that may be popular in the writing field, then they share a few tips to keep in mind when editing the anthology, like including trigger warnings and varying the types of stories you’ve accepted. It’s a pleasant essay that is sure to help anyone considering making an anthology.
Tarl “Voice” Hoch finishes us off with a longer essay about writers’ platforms and why they’re important. What happens after someone reads your book for the first time? They google your name. Which is why, Hoch states, that it’s important to have something that comes up in Google’s search engine. Book reviews, blog posts, anything to give your new fan a better read on you as a writer, and more content that you hope they will like. Underneath it all, Hoch says the best thing you can do is to be professional, and I fully agree. This essay was extremely helpful, and it was wonderfully written.
The essays in this book were super helpful, but not in the way I expected. Like I said before, every essay is a helpful start at the writing and publishing scene, but it’s the fact that they’re essays and not stories that kept me reading. Most of the time when you read books, you’re reading the most polished version of a journey that someone wanted to take you on. Which is great! But rarely ever do you see those authors producing short-form content that aim to help people. At least, I haven’t seen much of that, and that’s why I really like this book. Not because what they’re saying is helpful—although that’s also a huge reason I like it—but because I feel like I’m getting to know the authors’ voices a little better. There’s a lot more personality shining through the words that you don’t always get to see. This doesn’t come as a surprise. Rather, an observation I wanted to share. Such is the way essays tend to be.
Aside from the amazing content, I really liked how the book was organized. The table of contents categorizes the topics into four themes: writing, publishing, anthologies, and other. More importantly, the bios section at the end of the book lists each author by name and tells you a little about them, as well as where you can find them. There were a fair amount of typos here and there, but nothing that really broke me out of my ramen-fueled concentration.
“From Paw to Print” is great for anyone who wants to dip their toes into the writing world. That being said, there are some adult themes so I wouldn’t recommend it for minors.