Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Whole New Book

I did it.

I published my second Hike with Me book, in print and electronic versions. (The pages are separate until Amazon figures out that they need to b combined.)

It was somewhat easier to do than the first one. For one thing, I knew how much work I would need to do after I had the initial draft written, which helped me get grinding on the writing. I also had less school work to do during the writing of this one, which made budgeting time a little easier.

Last year, I had to completely redo many of my photos, but this year I was able to use those lessons and not repeat the same mistakes. I got to make new mistakes instead, but it's all a part of the process.

There aren't any books that I know of that are quite like it out there. I mean, I could draw some comparisons between the idea of my book and Wild by Cheryl Strayed. That book, however, is a memoir, and has a point of view that isn't as much about the backpacking as the meaning of the journey to the author. My books are direct accounts of a backpacking trip, including many color photos, that strive to bring the journey to life for the reader.

The solitude of the wilderness and the act of backpacking are integral to my books. I encountered only a few people on my solo trip in the Sawtooth Wilderness. There are moments of introspection that I share, but the meat of the book is the experience itself, not reflections upon it.

The print edition is again a large print edition, because the primary reason for it existing at all is my Mom, who needs the large print to read. I was able to get the book to her and some other family members in time for Christmas.

I also created a new edition of the Hike with Me: Stump Lake print book, which I was able to make shorter (and therefore cheaper) by reducing the line spacing and eliminating some of the white space that I'd originally left under some of the photos.

Now that I've got some experience putting up these non-fiction books, I just need to get up the courage to actually try and publish some of my fiction. At least under a pseudonym! I mean, what's the worst that could happen?

A picture of me and my book (and Ambrose's ghostly reflection as he takes the picture). 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Holidays

I like the idea that the appropriate response to any holiday wishes is a simple thank you. That there's no such thing as a war on Christmas, only a desire to divide good intentions into meaningless pieces.

Nonetheless, it looks like it's going to be a white xmas.
The snow is coming down on the eve of the 24th of December. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hockey Conspiracy

On the one hand, I'm pleased to see so many of my Blackhawks players being voted up on the All Star fan vote. They are my team, and I consider them to be All Stars.

However, the fact that so many of them are being voted so highly, second only to the insane love being received by Zemgus Girgensons, that I smell something fishy.

I mean, think about it. No one wants to play in the All Star game. It's a meaningless exhibition game just as the regular season enters the home stretch. There are rules that prevent players from skipping the game because so many players have, in the past skipped that game.

So what better way to attempt to weaken the Blackhawks than to vote them into the All Star game, thus forcing them either to miss games surrounding the All Star weekend, or actually attend and play in the All Star game? Who would be so dastardly as to explicitly vote for their rival team for long term gain?

I'm looking at you, LA.

Um, and you, Saint Louis.

And I definitely wouldn't put it past Vancouver...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Ten Percent

The other night, I surprised and impressed the heck out of my husband.

I didn't think what I was doing was all that impressive, because I've known people who could have done what I did faster, better, more easily and more thoroughly. But he didn't know I could do what I did, and he hasn't associated with other people with that skill.

I mean, I suppose it's a skill. I hadn't thought of it that way until Ambrose said he was blown away.

During my solo hike this year, I made up a song. Not a complex one, just a simple melody and some lyrics. For the proof copy of my book, I just put an image with the lyric, but I kept it full page so that I might substitute music if I could get music done.

And what impressed him so much was that I recorded my song, pulled out my flute and a keyboard harmonica, dug out my old blank score notebook and set my song to music.

I figured out that I'd sung in the key of E flat major. I wrote out the most basic melody, and apparently, that's a skill.

I disbelieved that it was a valid skill to the point that I had to ask Ambrose what he was blown away about when he just kept looking at me and shaking his head.

I still need to figure out how to annotate the rhythm of the song, but I've got the melody, and, in a way, I feel like I've discovered a new skill.

Even if all I did was rediscover the principle that you only have to know 10 percent more about a subject than someone else for that person to consider you an expert.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Distinguished Lecture Part 2: Sir Salman Rushdie

continued from The Distinguished Lecture Part 1: Preparation

My husband can be a bit obsessive about being on time. And to him, on time is not precisely on time. On time is no less than 5 minutes early. In this case, the doors for the even opened at 6:30 and we arrived no later than 6:25.

Since we arrived into a crowded lobby, I had no complaints. We made our way slowly to the back row of the main level, taking seats in the center where the back row transitioned from folding seats to chairs on a platform. And we proceeded to watch the theater fill. Not once, not twice, but three times an announcement was made asking people to please move towards the middle.

It seemed no one had expected such a large crowd. And this event was competing the the Transiberian Orchestra!

There were introductory remarks by the man in charge of the Distinguished Lecture series and then Sir Rushdie was introduced by the President of Boise State, Bob Kustra. And then, at last, on to the stage walked the man we were all waiting to see.

He received a standing ovation before saying a single word. And told us, quite politely, that we were supposed to stand at the end.

I had expected an interesting accent from a man raised in India, having lived in London and then New York. But he did not have a strong one to my ears. More what I would call an English affect than accent. He spoke clearly and articulately. And he began by asking why would we all have braved the chill weather to see a writer speak.

He spoke of the role of literature and particularly the role of the novel. The current news media seems more to propagate fear than understanding. Shit expands to fill the feeds until there's no room for anything else but disaster after disaster. A novel is a way to experience the lives of others, in other cultures, and find understanding.

We are creatures of story, story animals. And we have a fundamental right to story.

Politics and literature both offer stories, but only literature advertises its stories as fiction.

Even in the United States, there have been attempts to censor books like Harry Potter, because they encourage the practice of witchcraft and evil. This does not mean that censorship is correct, but rather that "crazy assholes are here, too."

Some of the themes in the lecture I recognized from Joseph Anton. Sir Rushdie used the example of Charlie Brown and the football to illustrate how character defines destiny. Charlie Brown can never kick the football, because to do so would be to violate his very character. But when chaos intrudes, it is no longer character that defines destiny. Being a good person doesn't stop the suicide bomber from choosing to detonate near you.

Novelists no longer have the luxury that Jane Austen did to write of a contained space, ignoring the wars that rage around it. The public and the private have been conflated, and a novel that ignored the world to that extent would not be able to have the same impact.

He spoke of the self as being multiple and fragmented. Human characters are broad and inconstant, but we are being asked, even forced at times, to choose single definitions to fit ourselves in. Convenient chyrons to choose sides. News channel affiliations so we only listen to people we agree with.

Art outlasts tyranny. Pushing boundaries is the job of the writer.

That was the end of the lecture, but a question and answer period followed a second standing ovation.

One questioner asked about getting students to read literature, which brought about an answer I liked. "I kind of resist the idea of the usefulness of books." It tickles me to think of literature as useless, but he did not mean that in the sense of having no use, but rather, I think, that literature should not be a tool. Or not be created as a tool. An author should not set out to create a teaching moment, a path to show the reader the way. Rather, "when you love a book, it changes you." That might prove useful to you, but the way you use it would rarely, if ever, match an author's intent.

The ordinary life of a book is to receive varied responses. Love, hate, indifference. All are part of what stories naturally elicit. "[S]tories are not true." Self-evident words, perhaps, but worth reiterating from an author whose untrue stories caused his life to be turned upside down. Fiction functions through its fictionality, not its verisimilitude.

I was disappointed that the only people who got to ask questions were male, because time ran out and the women hadn't gotten in line soon enough. Sir Rushdie was whisked away and I was not the only person in the theater who would have been willing to listen to him speak for hours more.