It’s been a bit quiet on the blogging front lately, as I have been busy getting as much writing done on my book as I can before the Claude McCarthy Fellowship I was so fortunate to receive finishes. The book examines the environmental history of the Manawatu Region, in the lower North Island of New Zealand, from pre-history through to today (see: Manawatu’s environmental past to be documented), and I have been working on it (between work, family and life) for a couple of years now. (See: A racy title is one thing, but what’s the book actually about? for a synopsis of the book.)
Making progress on writing has been further challenged by the arrival earlier this year of our baby girl, Caitlyn. Caitlyn is known to make her feelings very clear when I spend too much time staring at the screen of my laptop, rather than gazing at/playing with/talking to her. (Her protests are in fact entirely justified – she is a little charmer, and it would not be inconceivable to spend every waking hour gazing at/playing with/talking to her, though sadly this is not possible.)
Anyway, thankfully, I seem to have broken the back of the writing, and am now working on the final chapters of the book. In between writing, I have been sending off book proposals to the ever-shrinking pool of potential publishers, and … waiting … More of this later, but in the process of trying my resolute best to sell the book to prospective publishers, I have been very conscious of the title. Though I have had a working title for some time, I have not been completely satisfied that it does enough to interest or excite, and not being a particularly creative type, I would really appreciate some ideas from people more imaginative and creative than me (for the record, I can guarantee that will be most of you).
So, here is a list of the titles I have come up with, with notes below: (You can vote for your favourite title, or offer another here)
1. From Forested Hinterland to Pastoral Province: An Environmental History of the Manawatu
2. Environment or Economy? An Environmental History of the Manawatu
3. Beyond the Bucolic: An Environmental History of the Manawatu
4. Live by the Sward, Die by the Sward: An Environmental History of the Manawatu
5. In the Moa’s Footprints: An Environmental History of the Manawatu
Notes on 1) this has been the working title. It accurately and quite clearly describes the transformation of the region, which is good, but it also a bit plodding and predictable. Lots of local histories use this pattern, “From xxx to xxx …” and I worry I may therefore be detracting from the distinctiveness of the book.
2) This one kind of sums up the “eternal dilemma”that has characterised the environmental history, and pretty much every environmental history the world over, but that it probably its problem – that it isn’t distinctive enough. But also, its BORING.
3) Refers to the layers of history behind the pastoral landscape that characterises most of the Manawatu today. It’s OK, though some might (unkindly I feel) argue that the Manawatu is not very bucolic!
4) This is me trying to be funny. As far as I know, no people have died as a result of growing grass in the Manawatu – directly, anyway – but some might argue that the environment – especially the indigenous – has. Not really a serious contender, I don’t think, but I thought only have four options was a bit measly.
5) This is my current favourite – everyone is intrigued by moa! – but needs explaining. Explanation: it refers to the discovery of a set of large moa footprints in the Manawatū riverbank, following a flood in 1912. By chance, these footprints had been perfectly preserved in a layer of hardened blue clay, revealed when the layers of sand and soil above were scoured away by the powerful floodwaters. The discovery made national headlines, and excited scientists and the general public alike. This event is significant not only because it vividly demonstrates the powerful force of the river in shaping the Manawatū and its history, but also because it shows how layers of environmental history are found behind every landscape. (See: Prehistoric revelations of a Manawatu flood)
I would really like to know whether you like any of these titles – or if not, can you think of a better one? Please let me know if you have any ideas. The submitter of the winning title will get you a copy of the book! …
Though there is that small matter of getting it published first …