Interview with Bruce Meisterman, author of 'Arn? Narn.'


ABOUT BRUCE MEISTERMAN

As a photographer, Bruce Meisterman has worked in areas as diverse as fine art and commercial photography, always looking to meld the two. Originally studying to be a painter, Bruce found that he could express himself and his art more effectively with a camera. Starting out as a photo-journalist with a newspaper, he honed his eye, insight, skills, and story-telling abilities from working with the demands of daily deadlines.
The book Arn? Narn. was initially conceived as an examination of a western culture, isolated from the world. Isolated not so much as to having no contact with the outside world, but as to being a destination rather than a place along one’s way. In researching the then-untitled book, Meisterman determined Newfoundland would be the perfect place in which to do this study.
After his first trip up there to photograph, he realized that a core element to his photos was missing, necessitating another trip to Newfoundland the following year. It was then where the story became apparent to him. The title of the book tells it all.
“Arn? Narn.” is the shortest conversation in Newfoundland English. The story behind it is this: two fishing boat captains are in the bay: one departing, the other returning. The departing captain yells out across the bay “Arn?’ The returning captain responds “Narn.” The translation is simple: “Any fish?”; “No fish.” And this book is about a culture, that culture, having supported itself for many years on fishing, finding itself now unable to do. The fish are gone.
While Arn? Narn. is about Newfoundland, the implications are of a much broader scope. The lessons learned here have global ramifications. Meisterman likens it to a canary in a coal mine, but on a planetary scale. When the canary dies, it’s time to get out of the coal mine and avert a human catastrophe. In this instance, the canary (the Newfoundland fishing industry) died, but no one took notice until it was too late. Evidence indicates other such global collapses are inevitable but may be avoidable, but only if action is taken.
Meisterman has been widely published in numerous publications such as: the New York Times, The Sun magazine, Yankee magazine, Country Journal magazine among many others and has been featured in a number of books. He has had numerous exhibitions ranging from galleries to museums. And his work resides in many private collections. Arn? Narn. is Meisterman’s first book.
He has been a guest lecturer at colleges and universities, religious organizations, and trade groups conducting them in a fashion where he also learns from the process as well as those attending. “We are all teachers to each other. How fortunate that I can be the recipient of a whole room full of teachers’ knowledge. They have made me a much better photographer. The one thing I never want to do is stop learning.”
Visit Bruce on the web at www.bmeisterman.com.
Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life, Bruce.  Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how long you’ve been writing?

A: Thank you. My writing career really has been based upon the creation of Arn? Narn., so that makes it about nine years old. On the other hand, I've been a photographer for many years, so the idea of “author” coincides more with my photography in terms of age. It was only natural that in doing such a book, I would have to create a narrative that went beyond the photographs. Like any exercise, the more I wrote, the better I became. Doing a blog twice a week for a year and half really helped stylistically and in learning to meet deadlines.

Q: Can you please tell us about your book and why you wrote it?

A: Arn? Narn. is a photo-documentary book about disappearing rural Newfoundland. For over 500 years, the island supported itself by fishing. In the early 1990's, the fish were in such a level of depletion, a ten year moratorium on fishing was enacted immediately throwing 40,000 people out of work. Ten years later when the fish stocks were revisited, they found them to be in worse shape than prior to the moratorium. It is now in place permanently.

It is not the book I started out to do. But as I got further into it, I discovered that was the story that needed to be told. It is a story with global implications. Now twenty years later, the fish have not returned and rural Newfoundland is vanishing right before our eyes. And this loss of fish will be occurring across the planet in the next 20-30 years.

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges you faced writing it?

A: The first challenge happened when I discovered my original premise was weak and I'd already spent several weeks up there photographing. I needed to find out what was missing, where it had to go. Intellectually, I'd already learned about the fishing situation, but did not fully understand its implications until my second trip up the following year. A Newfoundlander crystallized it for me in one sentence, “What you see in front of you will all be gone in 10-12 years.”

The next challenge was finding a publisher. I had no idea how many were out there. But the internet obviously made this much easier than it might have been. It took a long time to find mine.


Q: Do you have a press kit and what do you include in it?  Does this press kit appear online and, if so, can you provide a link to where we can see it?

A: A press kit was the first thing I created after approving the final galley of the book. I wanted to make sure that all the materials were of a piece – info needed to be current in both the book and the kit and the graphics had to match those of the book as well.

Elements in the kit include: a one-sheet about the book; a short bio; a CV; an appearance schedule sheet; a press release; and a CD with a few sample images and an image of the book's cover. The book's logo is everywhere. The press kit is not available online at this time, but much of the info can be found on my website, bmeisterman.com .

Q: Have you either spoken to groups of people about your book or appeared on radio or TV?  What are your upcoming plans for doing so?

A: Yes, I have. I've done a number of radio interviews. At the time, I had no idea if anyone was out there listening. I was so surprised when people I either knew or even just met knew who I was because of the interviews. I guess that's my fifteen minutes of fame.

I was very fortunate to have been invited to be a featured author at the Southern Festival of Books held in Nashville this fall. That was quite an honor for a first-time author.

I've also done a webinar online which was a very interesting experience. It was an opportunity to talk with listeners and respond directly to their questions.

There have been a few book signings as well. One was done in a private residence which was fun and very intimate. The other was at a large book store with a great turnout. It was a good chance to talk at length to a group of people about the book, my experiences in Newfoundland, and the implications of the story.

There is also another book signing coming up in conjunction with an exhibition of my work.

I'm still working on additional interviews and appearances. So if anyone knows Jon Stewart at The Daily Show...

Q: Do you have an agent and, if so, would you mind sharing who he/she is?  If not, have you ever had an agent or do you even feel it’s necessary to have one?

A: No, I do not have an agent. In the early stages of shopping the book around, a few agents expressed interest in it, but they found no publishers who shared that interest with them.

I think an agent can help if they're enthusiastic about the book. They can get places an author can't, if only because of who they know. That said, each agent operates in only certain fields. It would not help to have an agent who does romance novels, try and sell my photo-documentary  book. That said, I would certainly entertain using an agent for my next book.


Q: Did you, your agent or publisher prepare a media blitz before the book came out and would you like to tell us about it?

A: Since I was without an agent, I had to do the media blitz on my own. I started out a year before publication with a twice-weekly blog about my experiences creating Arn? Narn. It starts out with my initial research, my trips, writing, printing and editing over 5,000 photographs right up through today.

As I mentioned before, I did a press kit. I identified where Newfoundland received most of its tourists from, based on the assumption (right or wrong), that that's where a large market for the book would be. They then got send out to those places.

At the same time, I created a video book trailer that's worked out well. It's on YouTube. Just type in the name of the book, Arn? Narn. or my name, Bruce Meisterman and you'll see the link.

I also engaged an online company to do virtual book tours. That has generated some wonderful reviews and exposure. My publisher also has sent out preview copies of the book which has had positive results.

The reviews have been gratifyingly positive. One magazine in England chose it for their Book of the Month!

Q: Do you plan subsequent books?

A: Yes, I do. I'll start the actual writing and photography of the new book early in 2013. It too will be a photo-documentary but on an entirely different subject matter. Without revealing too much, it will be about an over-looked aspect of our culture.

I expect this one to take about 1-2 years to do and hopefully bring it to market soon after that.
  
Q: Thank you for your interview, Bruce.  Would you like to tell my readers where they can find you on the web and how everyone can buy your book?

A: The blog I mentioned earlier can be found at: arnnarn.com ; info on the book, purchasing it, and public appearance schedules are on: bmeisterman.com .

Additionally, it can be purchased at fjordsreview.com and on Amazon.

Arn NarnABOUT ARN? NARN

Arn? Narn., while telling the true story of a disappearing rural Newfoundland, is also a cautionary chronicle of an imminent world wide concern. In 1992, the Canadian government enacted a cod fishing moratorium on the over 500 year old fishing industry, throwing over 40,000 fisherman out of work. In the next ten years, nearly 20 % of Newfoundland’s population migrated off the large island. Now, 20 years later, the fish have not returned nor have the people.
The implications of this are only now just beginning to be understood. In 2006, Dr. Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia published a paper which received world-wide attention. In it, he predicted that by the middle of this century all stocks of wild, edible fish will be in total collapse. What happened in Newfoundland is expected to occur planet-wide.
Arn? Narn. is a photo-documentary of a culture vanishing before our eyes; perhaps as an early warning to all countries to learn how to manage their resources more carefully. This could very easily happen anywhere.
The title refers to a short conversation in Newfoundland English. It comes from the story of two fishing boats in a Newfoundland bay: one boat is departing, the other returning. The departing boat’s captain yells across his bow, “Arn?” The returning boat’s captain replies, “Narn.” The translation is simple: “Any fish?” “No fish.” That is the tragedy of this story. Through over-fishing, government mismanagement, and greed, the fish are gone.
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