“Our House in the Clouds” heading to bookstores

Dear Friends: Well, the great number of responses to my last chronicle, “Where There’s Smoke….,” fell into two categories, no three: (1) chimney fire stories, (2) chimney fire solutions, and (3) Justified. Turns out there are many fellow “guilty-pleasure” fans out there of this TV series set in Harlan County, Kentucky. One responder, who didn’t send advice or suggestions, wrote that at least we were lucky to see two episodes of Justified before the fire.

Thank you everyone. I had no idea. Workers are up on the roof right now, knocking down the chimney and throwing great chunks of concrete, wood, bricks and tiles onto the lawn. (Note that one talking on a cell phone.) There’s no such thing around here as clean-up-as-you-go construction. We’ll be dealing with this mess for weeks…or months or years, just as I’m still finding roofing nails in the garden from the original construction job, six years ago. Later this week, a “maestro” will come to tear out the inside chimney and insert a steel flue, presently been fabricated in Cuenca (someone just called asking for the measurements that were taken last week and lost). I still can’t imagine how this will work, but with such interest I will be sure to keep you informed.


In other news, I hear from University of Texas Press that “Our House in the Clouds,” is available online and will be in bookstores March 15. You can order it directly from the publisher, (for the best price at a 33% discount, though I don’t know about shipping costs) at http://www.utexas.edu/utpress/books/blaour.html

house in clouds cover small

…or from Amazon, where you can take a peak inside the book: http://www.amazon.com/Our-House-Clouds-Building-Ecuador/dp/0292745273/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1359385891&sr=8-3&keywords=judy+blankenship

Or, best of all, support your local independent bookstore. I love Dwell magazine’s map of bookstores across America. Check it out to find the store nearest you, and If you know of one not listed, you can submit it to the site. http://www.dwell.com/map/independent-bookstores-across-america.

This is my second book about our life in Ecuador. Cañar: A Year in the Highlands of Ecuador, traced our first year living full-time in Cañar, in 2000-01. The book came out in 2005 and was short-listed for the 2006 Oregon Book Awards. The new book tells the story of building our house, with traditional materials and local workers, and living half-permanently in the community. Both books grew out of my monthly chronicles and daily journals, and the total process, from proposal to publication, took about three years for each. I am not a fast writer, even when I have the raw material at hand, and my publisher, University of Texas Press, is not a fast publisher. Working on the academic model, a manuscript must go through a review process, sometimes twice, with outside readers. The readers make suggestions; the author rewrites, then resubmits for final approval. This first stage can take up to 18 months, and only then does one receive a contract to publish. After that, I took about six months of my Portland life to rewrite several chapters and select sixty photographs. (A few examples below…)

13.1 house w roof copy17.1 patio Michael copy

10.1 framed house copy building wall

Last August, when I received the final proofs (a typeset copy of the book), I was given a leisurely month to read and respond with any last-minute changes. Then a copy editor took it on, and we went back and forth with final tweaks. No rushing, no drama, and that’s what I like about working with UT Press. I have time for life along the way, time to do other projects, time to travel, time to be with my mother in her last months. The book went into production in September, to press in December, “hit the warehouse” a couple of weeks ago, and is now heading to bookstores.

Now what? I wonder. Do I have another Cañar book in me? I don’t think so, though I’d love to do a photography book some day. For the moment, I’m enthused about my visual history archive project, which I hope to concentrate on fully next year. I’ve been printing the glass-plate negatives of a town photographer, Rigoberto Navas, taken from the 1930’s–1950’s, and find these images fascinating as they record the time of the hacienda, when Cañar was pretty much a feudal place and most indigenous Cañaris were chattels of the large landowners. Agrarian reform didn’t become a reality until the 1970’s! Here’s one of my favorite images that gives an idea of the social relations at the time:

1 reinas, caballos y peones

Another exciting development has been contact with an ex-Peace Corps volunteer, Preston Wilson, who was here in Cañar in 1968-70, helping to organize agricultural cooperatives. He has sent scans of 150 beautiful photographs for the archive – some of them taken right around where we live. A couple of examples, in now-extinct Kodachrome, I believe:


view of chaglabanThis second photo was taken very close to our house, with the same view. To show the difference irrigation has made to this countryside, 40 years later, I attach a photo taken today from our front porch. I keep waiting for the clouds to clear so you can see the same line of the Andes, but they are not cooperating…

view from porch

Stay in touch. I love hearing from you, and I’ve learned how to check my comments, and reply promptly.











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14 thoughts on ““Our House in the Clouds” heading to bookstores

  1. I guess I really lucked out pre-ordering through Amazon. I’m up to chapter 5 now and enjoying every page. From your first book I obtained some insight into the canari culture, which was of great interest to me because of my “little” Mercedes that I was sponsering. Now, I feel I’m getting you know you and Michael better. It’s a pleasurable journey and I look forward to finishing the book over the next week.

  2. I so look forward to seeing more from your visual history archive project!
    And….I look forward to reading the new book!
    One never knows what projects await us!

  3. I have been privileged to read your Chronicles because your mother shared them with me. I in turn share them with Tobie, and Bob and Bob’s daughters. Will be watching for your book when it come out soon. We will be so proud to have it on our bookshelves. We are also fans of Justified. In this world of political correctness we like to see justice without guilt I guess. Congratulations and Kindest Regards. Byrdine and Bob Mccall

  4. Yeah! Congrats on the new book I can’t wait to read it! I think we need an autographed copy though 😉

    PS. Pretty scary about that fireplace! So glad you are safe and rebuilding a new and improved (fireproof?) chimney.

  5. Judy, Congratulations on your new book. What a wonderful job you have done at documenting your life in Canar and the People. I have enjoyed all the chronicles over the years. Can’t wait to get the new publication. Best to you and Michael!

  6. A big hearty congratulations on the book’s entry to the stores, Judy! This book is a real treasure.

    Keep us updated on the archives project. I love those old Kodachrome images!

    May the clouds clear….

  7. Thanks Susie! You’ll get to see the book before I will…turns out sending books to Ecuador is not easy. Fireplace is rebuilt as of yesterday; now we have to let it “dry” and see if it works!

  8. Seeing the “ladies” decked in finery on their horses led by shoeless servants makes me think of another TV show–should one pitch a “Downton Andes?”

  9. Congratulations on the new book Judy!! I will order a copy and let our friends in Craig know about it. I have so many memories of your sweet mother from our childhood. I’m also very interested in the archive project – such a valuable resource to create for that area.

  10. Congrats on the publication of your book, Judy! I look forward to reading it. The historic pictures are fascinating and I hope you will share more of them here.

  11. HI Julie: I was happy to see your comment, and sorry it’s taking me so long to reply. I’m still not used to the “public” aspect of the website. Yes, the archive will be my main project for the next couple of years – I’m very excited about it, and looking for people to work with me. Want to come to Cañar?

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