Saturday, May 13, 2017

New Author interview!

This interview was recently published in A New Ulster magazine. https://issuu.com/amosgreig/docs/anu56/76 

These are insightful questions, and offer a look into my personal history and how my experiences shaped me as an author and an artist.     






  
1.     Your journey has taken you from Michigan through Florida and Washington D.C, all the way to Montana. What are your defining memories of each of these places?

2.    I was born in Michigan, so it will always hold my earliest childhood memories.  Since my father, the noted artist Boyd A Zimmer, died there when I was 6, it is the most defining memory of my life and it shaped my future.  One of my strongest memories was shortly before his death, when he carried me out of our house one night after it had caught fire from a lighting strike during a violent storm.  Some of my happier memories from the Great Lakes State include sitting in a Sanders Ice Cream Shop enjoying a hot fudge sundae, and spending summers in Traverse City where I played at the lake and picked cherries from the local orchards.  A favourite memory is playing board games with my maternal grandmother, “Gram”.  Regrettably, a couple of years after my father’s death, my mother remarried, and we moved to Florida.  It would be many years before I was able to reconnect with my family in Michigan.  Living in Florida was much different from life in Michigan.  The intense cold of winter and the overcast days were replaced by sunshine and very warm, humid weather.  The extra time spent outdoors provided me ample opportunities to pursue activities that engaged my love of both wildlife and art.  By age 19 I was working in conservation law enforcement as a Duty Officer covering a third of the state, where I monitored and controlled the movements and communications of state wildlife officers responding to both routine calls and emergencies.  In my spare time l handled all kinds of birds and mammals as a volunteer for the Audubon Society.  This included taking many different species of birds into the schools and teaching the children about them.  Seeing their faces light up is a memory I hold dear.  Eventually, I gave up the security of my law enforcement post to pursue my passion for art.  Perhaps it was my bond with my late father, but I always felt that my true calling was drawing, painting, and sculpting wildlife.  It was a struggle at first, but eventually I established a reputation for myself and was managing fairly well.  A few years later, after I had married and started a family, another pivotal moment occurred in my life.  My husband had been recalled to active duty as a United States Air Force Officer, and was stationed at the Pentagon when the terrorist attack took place.  My husband, fortunately, survived, but the next six years dramatically changed our daily lives.  The demands of a military at war meant precious little quality time spent together, so I put my art on hold and focused on raising our two daughters.  When he retired in 2007, we moved as far away from Washington, D.C., as we thought practical, preferring rural Montana and an opportunity to begin a new kind of life.  We eagerly embraced the wide open spaces and breath-taking scenery.  Designing and building our western home was our first big challenge and the beginning of our new adventure, and that’s really where this story starts.   

3.    As a mother, what is your view of the world that your girls have grown up in, especially when compared to your own childhood and adolescence?  Without going into upsetting details, I will admit my experiences growing up were unpleasant.  Therefore, my first priority has been to give my children a happy and safe family life, filled with fun and loving memories.  Country life has advantages that I wanted them to experience, and regardless of where we lived, I wanted to raise them with a sense of hope.  Stepping into the outside world will have its difficulties, so my goal for my daughters is to have them prepared to face life’s realities while still achieving their dreams.    

4.     You successfully made the leap from law enforcement to art: a massive change in career path. Was it daunting to take that decision, and if so, what gave you the courage to try? The most daunting aspect was giving up a regular pay check!  The transition itself was rather smooth. I had been supplementing my income from my animal and nature drawings. Officers or biologists often asked me for wildlife illustrations and I sold some commissioned artworks as well.  When I started to feel the deleterious health effects of years of erratic hours and midnight shifts, I decided to change my life and “retired” at age 23.  Most of the people I knew thought it was a huge mistake and I would pay for my error in judgement.  But those who knew me well were encouraging.  In the end I decided I had developed a well-planned and calculated risk which was worth investing in, and so the next chapter in my life began.

5.     Your debut book Go West, Young Woman! marks the start of another chapter in your creative life. How would you describe your writing process? I am fortunate that I can write from my own recollections and perceptions of our family experiences.  Sometimes I struggle to find the best way to present a story, but usually it flows from my mind to my keyboard.  Whenever possible, I look for the humor in most experiences, and list a few notes in an outline, which makes my writing style very fluid.  I prefer to write when it is quiet, but I often find myself challenged to block out the fray around me.  Having a cup of tea nearby helps.

6.     Which species is your absolute favourite subject from an artistic point of view amongst the various creatures that you have encountered?  I find that a very difficult question to answer.  I love the birds of prey, with their single-mindedness and focus on the hunt.  The colorations in their feathers have always fascinated me and challenged my ability to capture them realistically in my work.  I have also spent countless hours with some of the larger cats – Bengal Tigers, Florida Panthers, Western Cougars, and Clouded Leopards. They have so many dimensions to their personalities, but since I now see cougars here in my own backyard, I have grown to appreciate them even more.  As an artist, I love to capture that certain look in their eye that portrays their individual spirit.    

7.    What would be your advice to aspiring conservationists?  I would suggest that aspiring conservationists find the area they are most interested in and explore the possibilities.  There are many opportunities in the career field: education, law enforcement, biology, marine studies, wildlife rehabilitation, forestry, and of course, art.  As an example of the last option, the proceeds from one of my limited edition art prints was used to provide college tuition grants for students in New Jersey who studied conservation.  Having a love and respect for nature and wildlife can be a part of your life, but doesn’t necessarily mean you have to make it a career.  I recommend they explore groups and clubs that focus on conservation and find one that appeals to their ideals.  Volunteer opportunities abound for all ages, but finding that spark of interest and dedication that reaches you somewhere inside is the beginning of a true conservationist.   




Friday, May 12, 2017

Scat Cat!




I am a guest on a wonderful blog by Sojourner McConnell. She offers a Friday's Fun and Family-Friendly Guest Post.  I wrote a little story about our cougar who is becoming a regular visitor at our homestead. Come west with me!

http://sojournermcconnell.blogspot.com/2017/04/scat-cat.html?spref=fb 




     When we left the urban lifestyle of Washington, D.C., for a more tranquil existence in the rural mountains of Montana, one of our adjustments was learning to live with the new neighbors.  Our home was in a different kind of neighborhood.  Instead of being surrounded by men, women, and children, we had cougars, wolves, and bears.  These predators rarely comprehend the idea of boundaries, or the notion that good fences make good neighbors, so we find them roaming about our property, often very close to the house.  

      Our most frequent nocturnal visitors are cougars that seem particular interested in our daughters playhouse swing set.  Perhaps it is just the curiosity of all felines, but I often wonder what they would do if I left out a ball of string.  It’s doubtful they would play with it because it isn’t food.  As stunningly gorgeous as they are, we don’t want to encourage their visits.  For the safety of my family, dogs, and horses, our goal has always been to discourage predators.  As an example, one particular night stands out in my memory.
    On the second floor of our home we have a large bedroom window that provides a grand view of the back of our property.  While admiring the stars one dark evening the motion detectors suddenly activated the perimeter lights, nearly blinding us.  Once our eyes adjusted, we saw standing in the middle of the yard a very large cougar.  He paused only long enough to realize the brightness was nothing to fear before walking over to the swing set.  This had me wondering how many times he had visited us before, unnoticed.  He sat regally in the play area, surveying all about him, like a king overlooking his kingdom.  Being a wildlife artist, I was enamored with his beauty and grace, temporarily forgetting what a potential threat he was to our family.  It would be dangerous to allow him to believe this was part of his territory.
    I was about to comment on this fact to my husband, but when I turned to speak, he was not there, having immediately retreated to the closet.  He ransacked it, searching for his rifle and ammunition.  As he fumbled to load it, I continued to admire the feline in his pose.  My husband opened the window, but was blocked by the mesh screen.  As he tugged fruitlessly to remove it, the cat rose from his perch and began to walk toward the woods.  On my last look at him, the cougar, who seemed completely unaware of the flurry he had created only a short distance above, slowly and confidently sauntered into the tree line, still secure in the knowledge that this world was his.
    We tried to follow his movements through the darkness with a flashlight, but the battery soon died.  My increasingly frustrated husband, incensed by the attitude of the beast, rushed downstairs and out onto the patio where he fired a single shot into the air, then shouted, “And stay out!” as a warning for the puma not to return.
    I have no wish to harm this mountain lion or capture him, except in spirit on canvas and paper.  I have handled many cougars in captivity, but seeing them in the wild is a thrill I will never tire of.
For more stories in our western adventure read “Go West, Young Woman!”   https://www.amazon.com/Go-West-Young-Woman-Military/dp/1555718299?ie=UTF8&ref_=asap_bc

Visit my new website for my book, https://nancy442.wixsite.com/quinn
Feel welcome to look at my wildlife art at  http://quinnwildlifeart.com/

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Christmas Comes to the Mountain


It is true that all of our animals have Christmas stockings. They are lined up on the stairway with my children’s, husband’s, and my own, because we consider our pets part of the family. I still remember the expression of shocked disbelief I received from my ranching friend, Gail, when I mentioned it during a casual conversation about our holiday preparations. Ranchers have a working relationship with their animals, and view even dogs more as hired hands than as pets worthy of any pampering.




By contrast, our pets have always looked forward to the holiday season with relish, knowing it won’t be long before stockings loaded with special treats will be theirs to enjoy.  This was particularly true of Kobi, our mixed breed German Shepherd/Malamute.  He knew that after Thanksgiving it was our tradition to search for the perfect Christmas tree from horseback, and therefore, took advantage of the opportunity to prance in the snow while hunting for unwary gophers. However, on his first Christmas with us he was rather baffled when we brought a tree inside the house, and he sniffed it suspiciously. I felt compelled to warn him sternly it was not his private privy, and any intentions he had should be left outside where they properly belonged. He seemed to comprehend me, for he never molested the tree, and appeared content to sit and ponder over it as we began the decorating ritual. 
   



Since this was his initiation into our tradition, I made a special effort to show him each ornament as we hung it on the tree.  As always, I explained the stories behind them, hoping that in time my daughters would have them committed to memory.  Kobi listened intently while I recited their individual histories reflecting the places we have lived, the birth of each child, the friends we have known, and the adventures we have shared.  First came the shiny ceramic dog named Snoopy from the “Peanuts” comic strip, with a candy cane in his paws, given to me by Kathy Ericson in the third grade.  It’s the only ornament I ever received as a child, and I cherished the sentiment behind it, though it had to wait many years before it appeared on a tree.  Mother was very strict about Christmas d├ęcor; everything had to match, so our handmade or gifted ornaments never did pass muster.  After I was grown, Snoopy always had a place on my tree.  Next came the glass candy my husband gave me when we first married.  Like so many couples starting out, money was tight, but Bill thought it important we have an ornament that was uniquely ours that first Christmas together.  Kobi licked his chops when I showed it to him.  Sorry boy, it isn’t edible.  Oh, but here’s one he can identify with, my personal favorite, a hand-blown glass figurine of two Dalmatian puppies. I bought it because it reminded me of the Halloween when both my girls, still very young, dressed as Dalmatians.  The image of those smiling little faces will never leave my memory. 




But not all the memories evoked are happy ones, and Kobi must have sensed this one was different as we hung our September 11th military ornament on the tree.  I did so in solemn gratitude that Bill, a United States Air Force officer at the time, survived the attack on the Pentagon that day, when so many others did not or would not in the years to follow.  Kobi sat at attention like a sentry dog.  Could he know what it meant to us?



The decorating continued with a quaint little covered wagon ornament I acquired before the great trek to Montana and the new home and new life it promised for us. That’s where Kobi came in, a lost waif we had adopted from the local Humane Society.  Since it was his first Christmas with us, I made an ornament for him, as I have for all the dogs and horses who’ve shared their lives with us, and will for those yet to come. 



With the work on the tree now done, Bill stopped groaning, the girls enjoyed their sweet rewards, and I was relieved to be tying the last stocking to the stairway bannister.  Kobi eyed this one with its satin red ribbon.  He sat in front of it all evening, wistfully gazing and dreaming of its contents. He knew this one was his, and in it were very special gifts.  When it was time for bed, I had to remind him to settle in for the night.  Reluctantly, he abandoned his vigil, but when morning came, surprisingly, I did not find him by his stocking, but instead, asleep under the tree, near the ornament with his photograph in it.  Yes, I think he really did understand the spirit of Christmas.  



That was nearly a decade ago, and now a new Christmas season is upon us.  As always, opening up the decoration box is like visiting with old friends once more. As my girls excitedly unwrap each ornament in turn, it kindles the memories of horse shows, of travel, of loved ones far away, the good times, and the bad.  We repeat each tale together, ensuring the next generation will remember and cherish their heritage, and the absent friends, both man and beast, who make the memories worthwhile.







Author bio:   Nancy Quinn is an internationally known wildlife artist whose work is noted for its detail and accuracy. She is the recipient of two World Wildlife Art Championship awards and the subject of numerous articles about animal art. She now happily resides on a mountainside in Montana with her husband, daughters, dogs, and horses, where she continues to paint and write about her experiences living in the wild.




Sunday, October 30, 2016

An afternoon for baking.




It was the perfect day for baking.  After a long walk in the quickly setting sun and the sweet, brisk air, I found myself in the mood to bake.  Although I am known for my cookies and elaborate cakes, I felt like making something a little more savory, with a touch of sweetness.

My thoughts turned to the golden leaves and all the glorious fall colors. How could I capture the taste of that beautiful yellow-gold?  I sat for awhile, drinking in the Autumn day. Then a slow smile spread across my face. Of course, corn bread was the answer!

This recipe is my own creation and found in the back of my book "Go West, Young Woman!

Enjoy, and if you decide to make it, please comment, I would love to hear from you!

1 1/4 cups of flour
3/4 cup of corn meal
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of milk
1 cup of vegetable oil
1 egg
1/4 cup of maple syrup

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray an 8" or 9" pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Mix together flour, corn meal, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Then stir in the milk, vegetable oil, egg, and maple syrup. Stir well until combined.  Pour into pan and bake 25 minutes or until golden brown on top.


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Montana Evening

There is something amazing about the wild skies in Montana.  Along with my family, I look forward to the breath taking sunsets, every night. The skies are like a painting on an ever changing canvas.  Being an artist myself, I appreciate every stroke of color, every shadow, and always the whisper, of the promise of tomorrow.






Thursday, September 1, 2016

Not your average Kitty Cat

ANOTHER VISIT FROM THE COUGAR....The other night, after reading a memoir from Jim Corbett, who writes about hunting man-eating tigers in India, I saw a cougar outside my window about 10 feet from my house. He was a large male, and he moved cautiously and gracefully toward my daughters swing set. ( I don't know why it attracts them so much ) He walked around it, inspecting it carefully, then moved off into the shadows.  I am sure he is the same one I wrote about in my book, and larger than the one in the photo on my video book trailer. About 200 pounds, he is the largest cat I have ever seen in the wild or handled in captivity. Proving again, rural Montana living, is not for the faint of heart.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Montana Traffic Jam

When I left Washington D.C, I thought traffic jams were a thing of the past.  I thought my days of dodging cars and pedestrians were over.  Never again would I get stuck behind some obstacle to my destination.  Can a country road be just as frustrating as a six lane highway?  Perhaps not as frustrating, but close. 

One sunny day I was driving down my road, when I saw a herd of elk in the lower pasture.  They looked up in alarm when they saw my vehicle, and began to run up the hill towards the road I was driving on.  One would think they would run in the opposite direction of what caused them such a fright, but no, they came blindly running across the road in front of my car, while in a desperate effort to avoid me!

Part of my road crosses a neighbor's grazing fields. After my narrow escape of being trampled by elk, I encountered cows napping in the road, blocking my progress.  After much horn blowing and inching forward, some of them moved over to the edge of the road.  One particularly terrified cow continued to run in front of me, looking back every few seconds to see if I was still there.  Oh no! that thing is still after me, I have to run faster, faster!  her face said it all.  After a minute or so, it finally occurred to her, to just run down the hill out of my path, where she finally stopped.  With heaving sides from being out of breath, she relayed her narrow escape to all her friends. I saw them, clustered in a group, as they offered her comfort.


So yes, I have traffic on the road.  It just has four legs instead of four wheels.