Because of the practical nature of most of our books here at TSB, freelance indexers make up an important part of our small team. Most of the thoroughly useful lists of names, terms, and illustrations found in the back of TSB titles (put there to help you pinpoint the page to which you should turn when on a semi-desperate search for information stat) are compiled by Andrea Jones of the Colorado Springs, Colorado area.
We asked Andrea to tell us a little about her role as “Indexer to Horse Books,” as well as her own book, Between Urban & Wild: Reflections from Colorado, which was released by the University of Iowa Press on November 1, 2013. Here she comes clean as a horse nut, delves into the challenges we face as we strive to find, access, and/or preserve a rural life in the modern age, and even lifts the “veil of indexing secrecy,” explaining a little about the process we all might take for granted but are surely thankful for on a regular basis.
TSB: Can you tell us about how began indexing books and how horse books became a particular focus? Did you have horses in your life before you began indexing books about them?
Andrea: I first learned about indexing back around 1996 when I was reading one of those how-to-make-money-as-a-writer-type books, although I didn’t pursue the notion for a number of years. When we moved to our current place in central Colorado and I wanted to find a way to both work for myself and work from home, I took a closer look at indexing and decided it was a good fit with my situation and my personality.
When it came time to start marketing myself as an indexer, targeting equine publishers was an obvious choice. Having knowledge about a subject is helpful in indexing, and I’ve been a horse nut for as long as I can remember. I was an avid rider as a teenager; during college and for a number of years after that, having horses didn’t really work in my life, but when my husband and I started thinking about where we wanted to settle down for the long haul, finding a place where we could pasture horses was a major factor. I write about the experience of re-establishing a life with horses in it the chapter of my book titled “Horse Lessons” (see the short excerpt at the end of this interview).
TSB: What do like about indexing? What do like about writing? How does one balance the other (or not)?
Andrea: In addition to being able to work from home and work for myself, what I like most about indexing is that I get to earn a living reading books. Every project is different, and the fun part for me is thinking about what topics readers are most likely going to want to look up and then deciding how to phrase entries so that that they can easily navigate to the right places in the text. Creating an index is a matter of answering a long string of small questions one after another, which I find weirdly interesting.
Writing is important to me because it’s how I figure out what I think. I’m easily distracted, and writing—both the formal efforts that I intend to share and the non-public jotting in my journal—slows my brain down. I’m intrigued by the communal aspect of writing—that a text requires a reader in order to achieve its full potential.
One of the ways that indexing has informed my writing is that it has shown me that I am capable of being brief. I tend to be long-winded, and indexing is inherently concise. I’ve also gained a useful tool for those times when my writing gets stuck and I can’t figure out how best to express an idea. When I come upon a convoluted or difficult passage in a book I’m indexing, I’ve learned to pause and ask myself, “What is this about, really?” Applying the same question of “aboutness” to a passage of writing often kicks the process loose and gets it going again.
TSB: Your own book Between Urban and Wild: Reflections from Colorado was just released by the University of Iowa Press. It details your explorations of what it means to live responsibly in a “wild” space—your home in the Colorado Rockies. Can you tell us a little about the birth of this book and the life in Colorado that inspired it?
Andrea: Between Urban and Wild began as a collection of essays about living outside of town. I started out writing little observations about my former home ground outside of Boulder, Colorado, and continued when we moved to our current place in the center of the state. When I had accumulated enough pieces to begin thinking about the whole as a book, the glue that held them all together was this idea of what it means to choose to live outside the urban boundary in this day and age.
In the past, when people lived in the country, they farmed or they ranched or they cut timber or they mined. Sure, we wanted to have horses, and we ended up here in part because it offered grassland at a price we could afford, but we also bought this land because it’s pretty. This was an aesthetic decision rather than an economic one, and that difference is interesting to me. Between Urban and Wild is my attempt to explore some of the implications that idea has for how we perceive and use land in the modern era.
TSB: Describe one moment you remember that told you Colorado was “home.”
Andrea: I spent my junior year of college abroad, attending Lancaster University in northwest England. I started dating an English guy while I was there, and as the year wound down it occurred to me that continuing the relationship would require me to stay in England. I knew I couldn’t do it—I wanted to be home, in Colorado, more than I wanted to be with him. Geez, that sounds cold, now that I write it down. But it’s true.
TSB: Would you describe yourself as a “naturalist”? What does the word “naturalist” mean to you?
Andrea: This is a great pair of questions, and I’ll take on the second one first. I view a naturalist as someone who studies and writes about the natural world from an amateur’s point of view—they include their impressions and interpretations, as well as their observations. This approach differs from formal scientific work, in which the personal point of view is suppressed, the data adheres to rigorous standards of evidence, and any conclusions drawn will be vetted by others in the profession.
Although most of my writing to date has been about my personal experiences and point of view on the world around me, I think of myself more as a writer with an interest in natural history than as a naturalist. This has to do with depth: I know a little about a lot of different things, but my brain is a fence-jumper. It’s too flighty to stay put for long. I’ll get interested in a topic and do research and try to learn more, but it’s not my nature to seize on something and not let it go until I’ve found out everything I can. I cultivate an attitude of attention toward my local environment, but I’m content for the aim of this to be a deepening feeling of being at home, rather than the pursuit of encyclopedic knowledge.
TSB: The horse industry is faced with the very real problem of sprawl inhibiting its ability to manage and graze livestock, but also preventing riders from traveling over extensive and varied territory as we once could. Land conservancy efforts are underway, but what kind of grassroots, local changes can each of us make when we live outside an urban boundary?
Andrea: Sprawl is a tough issue because it is rooted in so many areas of life: our ideals about home and private property, economic measures and community tax bases, historic patterns of land use, regulatory structure, conservation and ecosystem health.
When thinking about what individuals might do, the things that spring to mind are supporting and participating in those small local organizations that are working on preservation, open space, or access issues. It could mean joining forces with, or at least getting to know, other groups such as hunters or ATV enthusiasts, who share the same access goals but who have other ideas about the highest value of the landscape. I think all trail and open space users, whether they’re on foot or riding a bike, motorcycle, or horse, have an obligation to honor rules governing trail closures, hours of use, leashing of dogs, etc—in short, nobody who values the resource should give the powers that be an easy excuse to close access. In Colorado and other parts of the west, conservation easements have emerged as an important tool for preserving undeveloped landscapes under private ownership, and that may be an option for some riders who own property.
I live in an area where subdivided ranches are the primary form of sprawl. As a resident of one such development, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to learn about small acreage management so that our property remains a viable part of the local ecosystem. Pasture management, weed control, and planting native landscaping are small moves, but I have to believe that incremental actions, replicated many times over, can make a difference.
TSB: If you were trapped on a desert island with an animal and a book, what kind of animal would it be and which book would you choose?
Andrea: Somebody cover my horse’s ears because this would hurt his feelings, but I think the animal would be a dog. It’s hard to lay down next to a horse to stay warm and I’m not sure how well coconut fits the equine diet.
I’ve never been able to settle on a good single answer to that question about the book. If the gist is what’s my favorite book, I have to dodge because I don’t really have one single favorite (flighty mind, remember).
If the question is what book I’d be willing to read over and over, I’d have to answer Mary Catherine Batesons’s Peripheral Visions: Learning Along the Way, because I have, in fact read it several times and it always offers satisfying insights.
And if the question is about what would I would want to have on hand to keep myself occupied for a long time, it would have to be something very fat that I’ve never read–the complete works of William Shakespeare, maybe. The challenge of the archaic language and the insights into human failings and foibles would give my distractable brain something to do—and those failings and foibles might be more interesting, if not a source of nostalgia, if I wasn’t actually dealing with people on a daily basis.
TSB: If you could do one thing on horseback that you haven’t yet done, what would it be?
Andrea: To ride a horse trained in upper level dressage movements—a horse patient enough to tolerate me, with enough time for me to learn how to communicate and ride those movements effectively.
TSB: What is your idea of the perfect meal?
Andrea: I like variety in general, so I love the tapas (small plate) concept. Sitting down with my hubby by my side, with a small gathering of good friends, sharing simple but tasty dishes along with a few bottles of nice wine, while wearing comfy stretchy pants, and having no obligations whatsoever the next day so I could sleep off the effects…that might be as close to perfect as it gets.
TSB: What is your idea of the perfect vacation?
Andrea: The one that I get to take next…if I could just figure out when and where.
Andrea is giving a series of readings in her home state to celebrate the release of Between Urban & Wild. Be sure to visit one of the following signing locations if you are in the Colorado area:
Tuesday, November 12, 2013: Maria’s Bookshop, Durango, CO, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, November 16, 2013: The Tattered Cover, LoDo branch, Denver CO, 2:00 p.m.
Thursday, November 21, 2013: Boulder Bookstore, Boulder, CO, 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday, January 14, 2014: The Book Haven, Salida, CO, 6:30 p.m.
Here’s a short excerpt from the chapter “Horse Lessons” in the book Between Urban & Wild:
Our move to Cap Rock, with its grass-clothed expanses, was inspired by the desire to have horses in our lives. The presence of Moondo and Blue and Max expanded the way I interact with the landscape around me. Through them I have been urged toward a regard for and appreciation of the land that requires attention to more than just the prettiness of the view. The land sustains my psyche, but it sustains the horses’ lives in a more fundamental way. The responsibility to keep them well and happy has to be balanced against an obligation to keep the grasslands from getting overgrazed or overrun by weeds. The need to contain the horses calls for fencing that also allows deer and elk to pass through as easily and safely as possible. I observe the horses much as I watch the land: to better acquaint myself with an aspect of the world that is not connected to an electric switch, to learn things I didn’t know, to discover questions I hadn’t thought to ask before.
Be sure to check out TSB’s online bookstore, full of bestselling titles by top riders, trainers, and equine experts (many including indexes by Andrea Jones!), and where shipping in the US is FREE.