Friday, November 12, 2021

Book Stack ~ September and October 2021

  A monthly post about my progress toward finishing a very large stack of books. Past months' posts:

In September I started a lot of books but didn't finish many of them until October, so this time around the two months are combined into one.

In service of researching ways of promoting my book I reread Austin Kleon's Show Your Work and read for the first time Steal Like an Artist. These are fun and fast reads that give good ideas for fostering creativity.

In the long-distance-hiking memoir category, I read Alone in Wonderland by Christine Reed, in which she recounts her hike on the Wonderland Trail in Washington, as well as an earlier partial hike of the AT while she grapples with what it means to be independent versus lonely.

For a long time I've been meaning to read Kathleen Dean Moore's Wild Comfort: Finding Solace in Nature, and now, a million years into the pandemic, felt like the right time to get around to it. I always love reading Moore's gentle words and her twining of philosophy and nature observation, and this book did not disappoint. 

Many years ago I read Wallace Stegner's Beyond the Hundredth Meridien, about John Wesley Powell and the history of water in the West, and I've been meaning to read more ever since. I finally picked up a copy of The Sound of Mountain Water, which is half essays about travel and the natural world around the West and half pieces on Western writers and writing, which is kind of an odd combination that I'm not sure would appeal to everyone. The travel and local interest pieces are delightful, especially one in which he and friends and family take a road trip through the desert not long after WWII, an experience that would be impossible to replicate today.

Continuing on the Stegner theme, I read Angle of Repose, which is one of his most celebrated novels. It's written in a style that reminded me of Victorian writers or William Styron's Sophie's Choice, in which one character tells another character's story, in this case the narrator is a man in the "present" (1970s California) who is suffering from a degenerative bone disease and trying to cope with his circumstances and a changing world while researching the life of his grandmother, a genteel Eastern artist who followed her husband to mining camps and frontier towns in California, Colorado, Mexico, Idaho, and again California in the late 1800s. It's a long book that took a long time to read. Very little actually happens, though the thing that happens is a big one (again like Sophie's Choice), yet it remained an engaging read almost the whole way through (I did feel that it lagged a bit in the middle, round about Mexico). Stegner's descriptions of the places his narrator's grandmother lived, her thoughts and feelings, her experiences are vivid and fascinating.

Finally, I read City of the Mind by Penelope Lively, a book a friend passed on to me several years ago. Again it's a book in which very little happens, but the writing is stunningly gorgeous.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Drumroll, please...

It's here, it's here! The cover art is here! I hope you love it as much as I do. It's nowhere close to what I imagined when I envisioned my ideal cover and filled out the design worksheet for the publisher, yet it's exactly the perfect cover for this book (which, I suppose, is why I'm the writer and not the designer). There are so many things I love about it.

  1. It's a picture I took, which is gratifying and validating and makes this book even that much more a product of my creativity.
  2. It's iconically Colorado--dramatic scenery, blue sky, purple mountains majesty, and all that. You know what you're getting when you buy this book.
  3. The kids look SO small. I remember thinking as they hiked down this very slope how small and vulnerable they were (and no doubt I wrote that thought in the book). It tells potential readers that there will be kids in the book, and it tells them that that's a pretty awesome feat. I mean, that mountain is so big and they're so little!
  4. What you can't see is that this view is from the top of Hope Pass, a place whose name is symbolic of both this journey and of the stage of life I write about in the book. It's also one of the most physically and mentally challenging stretches of trail (something like 4,000 feet of vertical rise over four miles). So descending from that pass, though not quite halfway through our journey and though challenges would remain ahead, was an important symbol of overcoming obstacles and making progress toward goals.
  5. Doesn't that view make you want to sing Sound of Music tunes (as my friend Libby pointed out), especially if you didn't just climb 4,000 vertical feet to get to it?
This week I've been reviewing the page proofs of the book, looking for last-minute typos that I missed in the first 3,000 drafts (like writing "tail" instead of "trail"). Those proofs, along with the cover, makes it all seem so real. They're laid out exactly as the book will appear, with the font and the margins and the photos and illustrations. It looks so beautiful--and professional. A real, live, genuine book. I suppose the proper attitude, the grown-up writer attitude, at this stage would be nonchalance, but it's all so exciting! I'm elated to see five years' (and counting) of work coming to fruition in such a beautiful way, and I'm so deeply grateful to the editors, designers, and other people who have helped get me here, including you, dear reader. Thank you!

This post went out recently to subscribers of my newsletter, along with some bonus material. Subscribe here and receive a free PDF of my illustrated short essay "Eleven Ways to Raise a Wild Child" and also be entered in a monthly drawing to win a print of one of the illustrations from Uphill Both Ways.
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