Wednesday, March 23, 2022

So Much Gratitude

The first couple of weeks of book motherhood have been an incredible experience. The book launch party was the first time I've been in a room crowded with people in nearly two years (other than Passport Control and various other airport and airplane spaces on my trip to Mexico, but let's not count those)--and all those people were all there for me (except the ones who thought they were going out for a late lunch at the local farm store/dining establishment, but let's not count those). I've been touched, honored, and humbled by the range of people from all different chapters in my history who came to the launch or attended my remote reading or have read my book and sent me messages with such kind words about it. It's been like starring in an episode of This is Your Life.

An enormous THANK YOU to all of you who have made it to any of the events or who have read the book so far! And for those of you who couldn't make it--don't worry; there's more to come! (See below.) And if you want a book reading or signing at a book store, library, or event space near you, drop me a line.

Book News
If you missed my Stone House Readers Series reading, along with the amazing poet Eder Williams, you can listen to the recording here (I say listen, since my internet has going wonky and my video was off).

If you missed my conversation with Jim Davidson, author of The Next Everest, through Old Firehouse Books in Forth Collins, CO, you can watch the recording here.

My local paper, The Lincoln County News, did a great interview about the book and a lovely writeup about the book launch party

Upcoming Events
Live Reading, March 29, 2022, 6 p.m., South Berwick Public Library, South Berwick, Maine.

Check out my events page for updates about readings and events as they're scheduled. And if you'd like to schedule an event at your local bookstore, library, school, land trust, business, or organization, send me an email and we'll put one together!

Buy the Book
You can order Uphill Both Ways from:
Or visit your local bookstore and ask them to order a copy for you
and a few to put on the shelves for other customers.

Signed Bookplates
If you can't make it to a reading, book signing, or other event but would like your book signed, send me an email with your address and the name of the person the book is for, and I'll mail you a personalized, signed bookplate that you can stick inside the front cover of your copy of Uphill Both Ways.

I'm doing one last giveaway of a matted 8x8 archival art print of one of the book's illustrations to a subscriber of my newsletter. This month's giveaway is one of my favorites--Blue Pleasing Fungus Beetle. I'll draw the winner on April 1. You can subscribe here.

Help Spread the Word!
Here are some ways you can help make Uphill Both Ways a success:
  • If you enjoyed the book, please review it on Amazon and/or Goodreads.
  • If you're a blogger or bookstagrammer and you'd like to write a review of Uphill Both Ways on your platform, send me an email and I can forward you a digital promotional copy of the book.
  • If you know of a newspaper, magazine, or website that would be a good fit for a review, contact the book reviewer and let them know about it or send me an email and I'll get in touch with them.
  • Ask your local bookstore, outdoor gear store, or library to carry the book. You can use this sell sheet to provide them more information. 
  • Drop a stack of bookmarks at your local bookstore, library, coffee shop, gear store, or climbing gym. Email me and I'll send you a bunch.
  • Share a picture of the book with your pet, your favorite beverage, or yourself reading it on social media. Tag @Andrea.lani and #uphillbothwaysbook on Instagram or link to my website, on Facebook or Twitter.
A version of 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 ONE LAST drawing to win a print of one of the illustrations from Uphill Both Ways.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Flash Friday ~ The Oak

The oak came down on Thursday morning. The sky was blue, the temperature around 34 degrees to start, later warming to nearly 50, which in March is balmy. Our arborist friends put a rope around its limbs, above the point where the trunk split into two leaders, threaded the rope around a distant maple tree, and hooked it up to the winch on a blue tractor. 

The arborist cut a notch out of the base of the tree, near the ground, on the north side, the direction it was intended to fall toward. Then he cut lines perpendicular to the notch and began the working the chainsaw into the meat of the tree. The bar was not much longer than the thickness of the trunk, and he came at it from different angles, until only a narrow strip of bark on either side of the notch remained intact. I thought about how the living tissue of a tree is only a thin layer of cells beneath the bark, how those two strips of connection might be enough to keep the tree alive, until a windstorm took it down.

The arborist turned his saw off and all was quiet for a moment, then the winch started up, pulling the rope taught. The oak stood up, vertical, its limbs reaching toward the sky; it had developed a houseward lean over the years, reaching for the sunlight that grazed the roofline from the south. Then it tipped over and lay down almost gently among the scrubby saplings that grow on that side of the house, its own twigs and branches breaking its fall.

The oak was originally scheduled to come down in November, when I would be gone, visiting my family in Colorado. I measured it before I left, wrapping my dressmaker's tape around it at chest height: 57 inches in circumference, making it 18 in diameter. Later, after the arborists left and the tree lay in the yard in bucked-up cordwood lengths, I measured the stump at ground level: 27 inches across its widest dimension.

I have a picture of the oak from when out house was a framed-in box of raw wood. I stand where one day our purple front door and a granite step will be, holding M, a few weeks old, all big head and scrawny limbs. The tree stands in the foreground, and because of the perspective it's hard to say how big it is, but it looks almost small enough to wrap my two hands around. Counting off the thick growth rings of the last twenty years, it appears it was about eight inches in diameter then, meaning it's more than doubled in thickness in less than half its life.

We never intended to keep the oak. C had cut down most of the trees that inhabited the little, mostly bare, knoll where we planned to build our house. The oak tree he'd left for some reason--he thought it was too far from the house's footprint to bother with, perhaps, or he figured the excavators would take it down with their bucket. As it turned out, however, the tree was too close to the foundation for comfort--its roots would eventually gnaw at the basement walls, its branches overhang the roof and encroach on the chimney--and the excavators went to great lengths to avoid knocking it down. 

Because they'd saved it, we let it stay, leaving a little well around its base for water to collect in and to allow some of the roots to breathe when we backfilled the front yard. I planted white-and-apricot daffodils in that well. Our first clothesline hung between the oak and a poplar in the scrubby area north of the house, where I hung M's diapers, gathering them in in the twilight to an audience of mule deer. Each summer I'd hang the hummingbird feeder from the clothesline. We strung the hammock between the oak and a hemlock nearby, and I whiled away many summer hours reading and writing and daydreaming in its swinging embrace, the dappled shade of the oak leaves filtering the sun.

Then the brown-tailed moths came. The first caterpillar dropped from a different oak tree in the yard onto the back of my shirt. The rash formed in minutes, covering me from chin to shoulder in an angry, stinging red patch of raw meat. I am a sweller and an itcher, reacting redly to everything from cheap jewelry to synthetic waistbands. Mosquito and blackly bites give me welts; bee stings swell to the size of footballs; don't even think about fire ants and chiggers; poison I've spreads and weeps and oozes. But none of these irritations have kept me indoors. However, for weeks after my brown-tailed moth run-in, every time I stepped outside, my skin erupted in goosebumps. Burn the trees down, I thought. Burn them all down!

We did not burn the trees down, and we tried to live with the moths. For the first time ever, I prayed for a cold wet spring. But they kept coming and coming. By night the caterpillars would rain out of the oak tree and by day they would climb up the front of the house. I knocked them off with a twig into a bucket of soapy water. One day I counted more than 200 caterpillars caught in my bucket. C considered pruning the tree back, to keep it from overhanging the house, but our arborist friend issued the death sentence: take it down; take the whole tree down. Not long after the poplar, where the other end of the blackened clothesline was tied, long-dead and swollen with water from a rainstorm, collapsed on a still day. A sign.

After the tree was cut and bucked, it lay in the yard, the chunks of log giving off the vinegary smell of cut oak. When Z got home he asked why we hadn't left the log whole, to be cut into lumber, and I felt panicky ache in my chest, the feeling of having made a mistake you can't undo. The tree could have yielded the wood for the quarter-sawn oak end table I've always wanted. It could have ended its life with a little more dignity than sixteen-inch chunks of cordwood. We could have honored its place at the front door of our home for the first twenty years we lived here, but instead we will burn it, to keep that home warm, the tree reduced to nothing but smoke and ash and heat.

You can order my book, Uphill Both Ways: Hiking Toward Happiness on the Colorado Trail from any of the retailers listed here, or ask your local bookstore or library to order a copy. And if you want more Andrea, you can subscribe to my newsletter here.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Book Stack ~ February 2022

A monthly post about what I've been reading, with aspirations but no real hope 
of reading down a very tall stack of books. Previous posts from this year:

I see from this photo that I read a lot of books last month--I'm not sure when I found the time, because I felt straight out with book promotion all month, but I guess I found some escape and rest in books.

I had enjoyed Kate Baer's poetry collection What Kind of Woman and I love her erasure poems that peppered Instagram last year and which are gathered together in I Hope this Finds You Well. These are found poems, in which she turns messages--often hostile troll messages, but sometimes lovely, supportive messages--and blots out many, or most, of the words and turns them into tiny haiku-like commentaries on human nature. Loved it. 

I brought a lot of books to Mexico in January. I don't know why I thought I'd have so much time to sit around reading, but I only finished one while I was there (covered in last month's post). I went thematic, and brought along novels that take place in Mexico. 

The first, Lost in Oaxaca, by Jessica Winters Mireles, I bought because I thought it was a thriller, but it turned out to be a love story, which was a little disappointing (in my defense, the first paragraph of the back cover makes it sound like the setup for a thriller; I did not read the second paragraph, which makes it clear it's a love story). Still, it had some lovely descriptions of the food, culture, and landscape of Oaxaca (which was not the part of Mexico I was in, so it was fascinating to read about). 

To sate my appetite for a thriller, I picked up a book I've read many times before, The Night of Four Hundred Rabbits by Elizabeth Peters. Even though I remembered who done it (though not why), it was still a thrill to read, and even though it was published in 1973, it has held up. The description of the drug trade in Mexico, however, comes off as naive, or quaint perhaps, compared to today's (more) murderous cartels. 

Finally, in the Mexico category, I read Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, which is SO good--super creepy and delightful in the gothic tradition, but with a heroine who is not a helpless ingenue and a supernatural force that is so original. I wish I could rhapsodize about the device, but it would give too much away. If you're a fan of the gothic tradition, you will want to read this book.

When I heard that a school district in Tennessee had banned Maus by Art Spiegelman, I knew I had to read it. I mean, if some ass-hats in Tennessee think it's bad, it must be good, right? And it's a book I've been meaning to read for a long time. It's the story of Spiegelman's parents' experience in Poland under Nazi occupation, right up to their removal to Auschwitz. You can see why fascists wouldn't want children to read about where fascism ultimately leads.

Because my book has been so admiringly compared to Kelly Corrigan's work, I figured I needed to read her latest, Tell Me More. I was familiar with her work on NPR podcasts, but this was the first book of hers I read. It's warm and funny and smart and generous in all the right proportions, and even though it tackles a very difficult subject--the death of her close friend due to cancer--it manages to be a feel-good read. I do admit to skipping one essay, though, once it started delving into the realm of the scatological. I mean, I've got a pretty high tolerance for potty humor, being the mom of three boys, but this one went a little far down the toilet even for me to take.

Oh, why yes, I did read my own book, Uphill Both Ways: Hiking toward Happiness on the Colorado Trail. I started it the minute the box of author copies came in the mail. And, in my totally biased opinion, it is SO good! Of course I was on the lookout for mistakes, but I only found one typo and a handful of commas I wish had been placed differently, plus a sentence I didn't think needed to be in there--it over-explained what came before it in the rest of the paragraph. Otherwise? You guys, I'm SO happy with it. I mean, really, really happy. So please, if you haven't already, get your copy today, and then you can read it, too! And if you like it, give it a review on the old Amazon and Goodreads (I know, I know, but it's good for my visibility, which is good for my sales, which is good for feeding my children). 

And last of all, the book on the bottom of the stack, which doesn't have a title on the spine, is Your First 1,000 Copies by Tim Grahl. It's, as you can probably tell from the title, a book about marketing your book. Grahl calls his system permission-based marketing, which he defines as asking people's permission to market to them (primarily by getting them to sign up for an email list) and then giving them something of value in exchange (useful content). So here goes: if you subscribe to my newsletter here, you'll receive a free PDF of my illustrated short essay "Eleven Ways to Raise a Wild Child" and also be entered in ONE LAST drawing to win a print of one of the illustrations from Uphill Both Ways. Sounds like a good deal to me!

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Publication Day!!!

Today is pub day, friends! I know many people have already begun to receive their copies of the book, which I guess could make today a little anticlimactic, but I hear pub day is generally anticlimactic anyway, and I'm not good at waiting for Christmas or birthdays, so I'm all for the books trickling into the world ahead of schedule. So far the reviews have been all positive (but then again, so far I've mostly only heard from friends and family!). I've already given two interviews (keep an eye on my website for links to those when they're published), and I've got two book events scheduled with more to come (see below). It's all terribly exciting!

At the same time, it's really hard to feel so happy and excited for myself when children are being bombed in Ukraine in an unprovoked attack by Russia, when trans kids are being persecuted by the government in Texas (and elsewhere), and women are losing their reproductive rights all over this country. The entire journey of creating this book has been a process of me trying to convince myself that what I'm writing about matters when really shitty things are going on in the world. The hardest day was November 8, 2016. Why should I bother writing a book about hiking, I wondered, when half of the people in this country chose to elect a tyrant and a buffoon president? It took me months to ease back off that ledge and get my pen moving again. The pandemic, along with being a health crisis of unprecedented proportions, brought with it dire predictions about the future of publishing, just at the point when I was ready to send my book proposal out to publishers. I had to forge through that barrier as well and send my book out into an uncertain world.

Speaking of uncertain worlds, on top of scrambling to accomplish a scattershot of pre-publication publicity efforts and having anxiety dreams about my book launch, this week I've been taking the younger two kids on tours of colleges around Maine. Unlike myself, who could not wait to go to college, their enthusiasm for the project is underwhelming. I wonder if it's because boys mature later than girls or if life at home here is just too cushy. C told me that he heard a radio report which suggested that all kids these days are lackadaisical about the future because they're skeptical that they'll even have a future, thanks to climate change, mass shootings, wealth inequality, and creeping christo-fascism (I added that part, but it's what keeps me awake at night). I countered, What about us, growing up in the Cold War? At least our kids don't have to worry about mutually assured destruction. And then Russia invaded Ukraine, returning nuclear annihilation to the realm of possibility. So I guess I don't blame the kids, if they really are skeptical about the future. But you'd think they'd at least want to go to college for the unlimited meal plans. May as well face the end times well fed.

As I try to balance my joy with a world of sadness, I'm reminded of Rachel Carson, whose first book, Under the Sea Wind, was published on the eve of the US entering World War II and as a result did not do well. But she persisted, writing two more books about the ocean world and one of the most important books of the twentieth century. I'm no Rachel Carson, and Vladimir Putin's shenanigans in Ukraine are no World War II (let's hope), but I can draw strength from Carson's example, and, as I did to extract myself from those earlier funks/existential crises, remind myself that what I write about--family and the natural world--does matter. Perhaps it matters more than anything else.

A version of 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 ONE LAST drawing to win a print of one of the illustrations from Uphill Both Ways.

The book launch party for Uphill Both Ways will be this Saturday, March 5, from 2-4 p.m. at Sheepscot General Store in Whitefield, Maine. There will be a meet & greet, reading, book signing, art print giveaway, and more!

You can order your copy of Uphill Both Ways from any of the following:
Or ask your local bookstore or library to order a copy for you. 

If you enjoy the book and aren't allergic to Amazon, consider writing a review. Those reviews really drive the algorithm
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