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Tove Danovich—Under the Henfluence: Inside the World of Backyard Chickens and the People Who Love Them

Under the Henfluence

Under the Henfluence


Tove Danovich
Agate (William Collins in the UK), March 28, 2023, $27
ISBN13: 978-1572843219, ASIN: B0BNQDH42N

Danovich reports:

In 2018 I bought three chickens. My intention was to have a source of eggs from hens I knew had been treated well. It’s probably the journalist in me but my first inclination when starting any new venture is to read everything about the topic I can get my hands on. So I read about chickens. As I spent more time with my flock and began to appreciate them for the funny, quirky birds they are, I began to think that what had been written about them was lacking.

Tove Danovich and her favorite bantam hen Emmylou

Tove Danovich and her favorite bantam hen Emmylou

I started recording my research in a Scrivener file and making notes about my adventures with my chickens almost from the moment I brought them home. I already had an agent from a project that hadn’t sold. We started working together in 2019 on the proposal for the book that would become Under the Henfluence.

I’m a slow proposal writer. Figuring out the structure of this book was key. I hated writing the chapter summaries but I wound up being very grateful for the process. The finished book is exactly what the proposal lays out. I sold the book in August 2020 and turned in a full draft in December 2021.

I aimed to take readers on a journey like the one I’d gone on with my own flock.

I’ve read a lot of books about farm animal welfare and they’re all quite shocking and sad. But I don’t know that they have much of an audience outside of people who already care about food systems and animal welfare. There are 26 billion chickens alive on the planet now. I wanted to show people that chickens can have as much personality as a dog or cat and be as interesting to study as wild animals like wolves. I used reporting trips as a framework for my research. In a chapter on a chicken training camp, I tied in chicken intelligence and behavioral biology.

The result is a combination of memoir and reporting that talks about the place of chickens in the world and what we owe them.

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April 3, 2023

Advance Copy

The path from idea to book may take myriad routes. The Advance Copy column, started in 2000 by NASW volunteer book editor Lynne Lamberg, features NASW authors telling the stories behind their books. Authors are asked to report how they got their idea, honed it into a proposal, found an agent and a publisher, funded and conducted their research, and organized their writing process. They also are asked to share what they wish they’d known when they started or would do differently next time, and what advice they can offer aspiring authors. Lamberg edits the authors’ answers to produce the Advance Copy reports.

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