When a Michigan-bred, self-described misfit with a knack for mathematics and ska music left her job as a psychotherapist and moved to Phoenix, she found a magical farmer named McGlitter and ventured into the lucrative world of unicorn farming.
Meet Jessica S. Marquis.
Marquis is the author of Raising Unicorns: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Starting and Running a Successful--and Magical!--Unicorn Farm. When it's released next month, Raising Unicorns will be the only reference book of its kind and will teach imaginative folks how to live comfortably in fantasy land and still make money.
But Maquis isn't making money for herself. With proceeds from the book, she's hoping to fund Sailbear Labs, a non-profit organization she recently started with her husband.
"The purpose of [Sailbear Labs] is to encourage kids in exploring their imagination, specifically in the creative, and entertainment arts," Marquis says. "Creative writing, screenwriting and film is really where we've started, but we see this going all over the place."
Marquis says the ultimate goal of the organization is to exist in a physical space with a studio, editing bays, cameras -- the works. She wants a safe place for kids to be themselves and engage with professionals that want them to create and tell their stories.
She's already poured her book advance into Sailbear and plans on doing the same with any royalties on the back end. In cahoots with Co+Hoots, Marquis is hosting a book release party on August 12, complete with a unicorn art exhibit to benefit Sailbear.
Jackalope Ranch recently sat down with Marquis to discuss the probability of unicorn farming, teen pregnancy, and the God v. unicorn debate over veggie tacos and citrus-infused guacamole.
As the author will tell you, we can learn a lot from unicorns.
Your book is called Raising Unicorns: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Starting and Running a Successful--and Magical!--Unicorn Farm; in terms of profitability, is unicorn farming as lucrative as horse breeding?
Absolutely. And more.
There are so many different avenues you can go. If you decide to go a non-profit route, you can pull in just enough to make ends meet. And it depends on how big your imagination is.
With horse breeding, there are some very defined limits because horses don't have the same magical qualities that unicorns do. But unicorns have so many different opportunities that we're still discovering today in our R&D.
One thing that is talked about in the book is, as with horses, there are different breeds of unicorns. When you to get to know those breeds, and what they're capable of, that alone opens all kinds of avenues for profit.
Phoenix is dangerously hot in the summers, and incredibly dry year round. Are the conditions in The Valley an issue when breeding unicorns?
Unicorns are notoriously versatile. Depending on what part of [Arizona] you're in, you're going to find they respond differently. There's a whole chapter in the book about good and bad places to raise unicorns, and it goes into depth about what you should take into consideration.
[Unicorns] don't like over stimulation. If you take them into a place where it's just constant noise, constant disruption, they're not going to do as well as if they're in more of a serene valley. That being said, Arizona's a great place. You have Carefree, you have Surprise, Rainbow Valley--we were thinking about building one down there. There are so many great places that are just defined, just created, obviously, for unicorns.
There aren't any laws governing unicorn farmers--no zoning restrictions, health codes, nothing--and that seems to work totally fine. Do you think Sheriff Joe Arpaio can learn a lesson from that, and maybe take the same approach towards immigration issues in Maricopa County?
Here's one thing that is mentioned in the book: unicorns are not political. The unicorns would not necessarily say one thing or another about Sheriff Joe, but I believe unicorns can teach us all lessons about everything.
I think that when it comes down to it, unicorns, as creatures, do not do well with restriction, they don't do well with confinement, and they tend to buck. If Sheriff Joe was interested in finding how to work within that, I think unicorns would be happy to meet with him. They really don't tend to have a lot of presuppositions.
Creativity. It's in everybody, but seldom used by folks because they're too caught up in "real world" issues. Is unicorn farming a therapeutic escape from the brutal realities of our world like war, genocide, and world hunger?
You'll see the case studies and testimonials throughout the book about why people get into unicorn farming. Some people get into just because they want to make money, and some do it because they need to get away from the rat race, and unicorns are famous for their peacemaking quality.
When you're working with unicorns, whether it's doing research with them, whether it's doing a petting zoo with them, whether it's farming them, whether it's allowing them to breed, whatever it is, they have that effervescent, quieting element to them. I do believe it's a nice respite from a lot of the rest of the world.
Our understanding is that a unicorns' horn is magical. Evidently, it has the power to turn poisonous water into potable drinking water to heal the sick. How long do you think it'll take for the medical community to accept unicorns as service animals?
Enterprising humanitarians among us have utilized unicorns in a service capacity, as well as in a healing capacity. But there is also the fear of FDA getting a hold of that, and eventually organizations, and humans, exploiting unicorns. It's kind of like that secret family recipe that is so good, but you don't want to share it because you want it to still stay a secret, and still allow it to be pure.
According to Wikipedia, unicorns were once a symbol of purity and grace, and it was believed that only virgins could catch one. Do you feel that we'd see a dramatic drop in teen pregnancy if boys and girls were taught to abstain from sex with the incentive of one day finding their own unicorn?
What an awesome idea. We're currently working on some curriculum ideas, and that would be a fascinating study. I would say yes.
Some skeptics will tell you that unicorns aren't real, that there's no scientific evidence to prove they exist. However, there's no scientific evidence that proves God created the Earth, yet people are really adamant about defending creationism. Why do you think people are so adamant about defending God, and not defending unicorns?
I don't think that there is a difference; I think people defend what they have faith in. When somebody truly believes, and truly has a connection to a concept, a creature, a deity, faith is going to compel them.
I have seen people get vicious about unicorns, as I've seen people get vicious about their belief in god. I think when somebody brings question to the faith of another person--whatever that faith might be it--things can get really unpleasant because it's objectifying something they really hold dear.
Raising Unicorns: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Starting and Running a Successful--and Magical!--Unicorn Farm is due out on August 18. You can pre-order a copy on Amazon.
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