Saturday, July 6, 2013

Authoring Change with Terri Farley

Debby:  Today, I am honored to host Terri Farley, author of the PHANTOM STALLION series and SEVEN TEARS INTO THE SEA. 

Thank you for being here today to talk about giving back.  I know you speak and write of Authoring Change.  As I understand it, you use this term to describe how you are creating change through your writing and actions. How did you come up with this term--and can you explain more about it?

Terri:  A few years ago, one of my young readers -- Christy from Texas -- emailed me that national legislation had just slashed the protection of America's wild horses. I told her it was probably just an Internet rumor, but I was wrong. Mustang slaughter, hidden in an appropriations bill, was voted in. Within the hour it took me to discover Christy was right, I'd received an avalanche of emails from Phantom Stallion readers asking what I was going to do about it.  Those readers had a lot more faith in my ability to "do something" than I in fact had, but, together, we launched a Hearts for Horses campaign, and I ended up taking over 1,000 heavily illustrated Valentine's Day letters to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  
Terri working with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

When writer Lori Conforti interviewed me about the campaign, she talked about "authoring change." I loved the succinct way her phrase described what was happening between me and my readers. I asked if I could please borrow it and she generously said "yes."

Debby:  Your readers have faith in you because they know you care and not only that, but they know you will take action.  You have worked so hard to save mustangs from slaughter.  Can you tell us more about the plight of the wild mustang?  

Terri:  Wild horses are being killed every day, and we (American taxpayers) are footing the multimillion dollar bill for it. Since 1971, when mustangs were declared endangered, the Bureau of Land Management was appointed to protect them. Since then, BLM has rounded up over 270,000 wild horses with helicopters. Many die. Many miscarry their babies or have them run to death. Most of the others are separated from their families and confined in pens for the rest of their lives. 

I've been there. I've seen it. I've tried to stop it with a lawsuit.

Kids are known for saying "That's not fair!" to decisions they don't like, but in this case they're right. Many children live with parents who don't take good care of them and they identify with the horses in ways that are touching and sad.
Debby:  I know of a local program that allows kids from difficult home environments to work with abandoned dogs.  It gives them a great sense of accomplishment and in some cases, more love with these dogs than they have ever known in their homes.  Can people own wild mustangs?  And what is the difference between purchase and adoption of a mustang?

Terri:  People can and do own mustangs. I own two and a half. I failed to stop the round-up of the Calico Mountain mustangs, the bands which inspired the wild horses in my books. So, I decided the least I could do was rescue two of them myself. I adopted Sage (named by a reader) and bought Ghost Dancer. The two mares were captured in the same place on the same day, but Sage was only 2 years old, so she was "adoptable." That meant I had a year to prove I would take good care of her before I gained title to her. Ghost Dancer was vulnerable under a law that says mustangs can be sold for any purpose, even meat, if they're 10+ years old. Most vets say an equine ten-year-old is equal to a human 35-year-old. Not exactly ancient. In addition, horses of any age can be "sold without limitation" if they have been offered for adoption three times and failed to find a family.
My half horse is the real Phantom stallion. I share him with a wild horse advocacy group. They notified me that because he was on state, not federal land, he was considered "stray livestock." He was on his way to a slaughter auction when we were able to raise the money to save him and move him to a 5,000 acre sanctuary.
Debby:  I remember reading about the round ups the first time many years ago--the loss of the wild mustang is tragic and permanent.  What can people like me do to help? 
Photo by Elaine Nash

Terri:  First, watch NBC's short news clip, "Wild But Not Free"
It's the quickest way to learn what's happening now.  Next, talk about it! The women at the gym, in my critique group, the plumber, my friends and relatives ask me for updates. Once they know they're financing this cruel disaster, they care.  Then, check out It is the organization I trust to give me the facts and tell me how to take quick action online.  The Internet makes it possible and easy to stand up for what you believe. This month, 30,000 people told the new Secretary of the Interior they want her to stop the runaway round ups and listen to the National Academy of Sciences.  Watch for my Tweets or be my Facebook friend. I share lots of wild horse news.

Debby:  Terri, the NBC clip is heartbreaking.  Thank you for sharing these links so people can learn more.  What do you think people will discover about themselves when they take steps to cause change? 

Terri:  You know that saying "Speak up for what you believe, even if your voice shakes"?  That totally applies to me.  I'm more comfortable writing than I am lobbying senators and testifying in Federal court, but my readers count on me and I've discovered I can do it.  Kids who read have a knack for writing.  They know the power of words, but they need someone to listen.  One of the coolest things ever was when I took reader letters into a BLM board meeting that was streaming live online.  When it was time for public comment, I asked if I could read a few letters for the record. I was told I couldn't even read one.  I knew my readers were watching, so I did it anyway. I got about six in before they cut off my mic and the kids loved it.  They discovered they could stand up for wild horses, and I would stand up for them—they got a standing ovation from those attending the meeting.  The board could not overlook that.

Debby:  What an inspiring story—and how wonderful to share your readers’ letters.  What would you tell other authors who want to reach out and make a difference though their work?

Terri:  Do it. Don't preach, of course, but write from your head and heart and people will join you.  HarperCollins sent out over 200 press releases about my work to help wild horses.  Marine Mammal Rescue used autographed copies of SEVEN TEARS INTO THE SEA as a fund-raiser, even though it's a fantasy.  Other humane and literacy organizations have done the same.  It's good for your career as well as your legacy as a caring human being.   We are one book away from changing the world; it might as well be yours. 

Debby:  I am printing your last sentence out and hanging it on the wall above my computer so I can see it every day!  Thank you so much, Terri, for inspiring me today.  For more information about Terri's books and Authoring Change, visit 



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