Dear Friends

  • Greg Hanscom and JT Thomas install new HCN sign

    Cindy Wehling photo
  • Sign designers Anna and Matt Magoffin with sons Mike and Chris

    courtesy Magoffins
  • WELCOME: Taffeta Elliot is in Paonia for the summer

    Cindy Wehling photo
 

Salt Lake City potluck

The High Country News staff and board will converge on Salt Lake City Saturday, June 6, to hold a potluck. These HCN events are held three times a year around the region; they are long on good food and good conversation and vanishingly short on ceremony and speeches.

This one will start at 6:30 p.m. at the Art Barn, 54 Finch Lane, 100 South at 1300 East (presumably Salt Lake City residents will know what the address means). Please bring a potluck dish; beverages will be provided.

If you can come, RSVP to Mary Cox at 970/527-4898.

Visitors

Subscribers Ivan and Carol Doig came through Paonia in early May, and a couple of us got to have dinner with them. Ivan's most recent novel is Bucking the Sun - a story about a family engaged in the building of the Fort Peck Dam in Montana. Carol is a just-retired professor of mass communications.

The conversation ranged widely - the state of journalism, the state of literature, the state of society - but inevitably it came around to our current obsession: marketing.

Ivan said that his novels typically sell 35,000 copies in hard cover, and that he sells 10 percent of them "by hand," through book readings. The thought of autographing that many books in the course of a few months made us almost too tired to eat.

The dinner was at the home of Julia Brown and DeWitt Daggett. DeWitt used to own Audio Books, and Ivan was his best-selling reader. It is Ivan's voice that narrates Norman MacLean's A River Runs Through It on the Audio Books tape. That edition, DeWitt said, sold 45,000 copies, without any selling by hand.

Marketing

HCN was out hand-selling in early May, at the Paonia Earth Day celebration. It was a test, and it went well. We thought the Paonia market was saturated, but we sold subscriptions, T-shirts, a copy of the book Reopening the Western Frontier, and even created interest in HCN's collection of water article reprints, Water in the West.

The event was anchored by staff members Betsy Offermann and Marion Stewart, and may lead us to set up tables at outdoor events in the region this summer.

But not all the marketing is going well. Almost every publication uses "blow-ins" - those annoying cards saying "please subscribe and save 47\% off newsstand price." We are testing the idea by inserting them in one quarter of each press run. (Papers for the Northwest, California and New Mexico were stuffed in this issue.) Thus far we've gotten one angry phone call, and several renewals from people who thought the card's presence meant their subscriptions were running out. But no new subscriptions, which is our goal.

So we're rethinking. Circulation manager Gretchen Nicholoff may use the next set to solicit gift subscriptions.

A call for volunteers

HCN would like to send more sample copies of the papers to conferences - whether they are about environmental issues, land-use issues, politics, agency retreats or academic gatherings. But we need help. If we send the papers to a conference organizer, as we have been doing, it may be an unwelcome burden, and our samples may end up behind a potted palm in a hotel lobby.

So we are looking for readers who are planning to attend a conference or other gathering and would be willing to see that copies of the paper are put on display. If you are willing to help, please call Rita Murphy at 970/527-4898.

A sign

For years, this paper has had a low profile on Paonia's main street, with only a tiny sign to announce our presence. Now we're out of the closet, thanks to Anna and Matt Magoffin, who crafted a huge and attractive sign out of heavy gauge metal and sent it to us from southern Arizona.

The Magoffins run 100 cattle on an 18,000-acre ranch near Douglas, Ariz. They are part of the Malpai Borderlands Group ranching coalition, and we saw their signs on mailboxes everywhere on a tour of that region. Could they do the same type of metal sign on a large scale? we asked, and they said they would try.

If you believe in coincidences, then there is one in this issue. Mark Muro's article on page 11 discusses the Magoffin family's efforts to save the Chiricahua leopard frog by hauling water to a stock tank harboring members of that species.

In other news

HCN subscribers are filling bookstores, not just as shoppers but also as authors. Congratulations to Montana reporter Scott McMillion, whose first book, Mark of the Grizzly, was recently published by Falcon, and to Seattle writer Kathleen Alcalç, whose novel Spirits of the Ordinary: A Tale of Casas Grandes, was just published by Harcourt Brace. And you can find "Reflections on Sustainability, Population Growth, and the Environment - Revisited," by physicist Albert A. Bartlett of Boulder, Colo., in the Renewable Resources Journal, Vol. 15, No. 4, Winter 1997.

Writer Tom Zigal of Austin, Texas, tells us his latest mystery novel, Hardrock Stiff, is set in Aspen and "takes a look at the ugly legacy of mining and the stupidity of the Mining Law of 1872."

Corrections

We incorrectly identified Forest Service technician Mary Dalton as an ecologist in one of Todd Wilkinson's stories April 27 about the agency's changing its ways. Dalton, transferred from Alaska to Arizona after unsuccessfully trying to comment on a timber sale, tells us she is a fire-prevention technician.

Because of reader Dave Gloss, we now know the correct citation for an article cited by Jon Margolis in his April 27 column about big recreation's influence on public lands (-The latest 1,000-pound gorilla'). Titled "Taxpayer-subsidized resource extraction harms species," the article can be found in volume 45, No. 7, of Bioscience. The authors are Elizabeth Losos, Justin Hayes, Ali Phillips, David Wilcove and Carolyn Alkire.

Summer intern arrives

Driving over Western Colorado's McClure Pass for the first time, summer intern Taffeta (named after a dress) Elliott read her fate in a road sign. "Dangerous Area," it warned, without specifying the fallen rocks, steep grades, curves and road damage that were to come. It all convinced her that reporting on the Western landscape was going to be one of the high times of her life.

Taffeta says she's frequently found herself torn between a love of words and an interest in science. In a public arts high school in Minnesota Taffeta's friends called her a science nerd, but when she went to M.I.T. for a year she became a fierce defender of poetry. She graduated from St. John's College in Santa Fe, which focuses on the "great books" of the western world. In her post-graduation year she taught garden ecology to kids at the Missoula Urban Demonstration Project, covered HIV issues for a community-based newsletter and cooked at Montana's only East Indian restaurant. She hopes her work at High Country News will prepare her to employ her pen no matter what else she might be doing.

* Ed Marston for the staff