Monday, March 27, 2017

Florida: The Sunshine State

Justin & I both read 1.5 books this past weekend.
It was the kind of relaxation we really needed.
Life has been moving at 90mph lately, and with some minor stress mixed in, it feels like we are doing all we can to stay afloat. Yes, I know I've neglected this blog, but I am hoping a post mostly full of pictures will hold you over. My motivation for writing is zilch, yet I have 4.5 writing deadlines looming over my head. It'll come back, just give me a moment.

We took a six-day trip to visit Justin's dad and stepmom in Florida, part of the time with J's siblings. When we visit my family in NJ/CT and Justin's family in Denver, we intentionally have a trillion things on our agenda. Denver is "our primary residence," so it feels like our trips to Denver are a serious dose of reality and adulting. I now associate Denver with anxiety—self-induced—but present nonetheless. As for NJ, we just always have a million friends and family to cram in and see. Never enough time.

Our Florida trip was the complete opposite. We visited and relaxed. Novel concept.

Ah relaxing ... we all should do that more often, eh?
Indeed, we did convince our brother-in-law to rub J's feet!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Te Araroa Book Progress Volume 5: The Waiting

We all know the feeling. You apply for a job you think is so perfect and are at the mercy of constantly checking an empty inbox.
No one wants to see a picture of me staring at my inbox. So I give you Mrs. Gibbles/Gibs/Gibby.

I feel like I've applied for 25 perfect jobs and with only 4 rejections to show, I wonder, did I send everything into outer space?

Before I submitted my book to potential publishers, I read about the dreadful waiting period and I thought, "eh, I'll be totally cool about it. I'm busy enough that I'm not going to obsessively check my inbox."


I was a little off the mark on that one. Wait, who am I kidding? I couldn't even see the mark!

It's been 3 months since I clicked send for my first query to a publisher—followed by another 24 submissions—and there is not a thing I can do about it. For those who don't know, most publishers suggest NOT following up. The squeaky wheel does not get oiled; it gets thrown away. You should hear back from most, eventually, but in the meantime, you are at their mercy. I keep going back to this idea: the writing process was entirely enjoyable for me. But more importantly, it was within my control.

According to my mom, the Obamas, the Trumps, the Clintons and Alec Baldwin have all published books recently. Why is it so easy for them? Rhetorical question.

I am fully aware that checking my e-mail forty billion times a day is only wearing me down more, but I can't seem to stop. It's like a baker not baking bread.

Of course my writer friends remind me that three months of waiting is NOTHING. Time is a stagnant river in the publishing world. And the fact that I've only received 4 rejections out of 25 is GOOD NEWS.

But I am seriously lacking motivation to send out more queries or doing any new writing. I mean, I am they type of person that squeezes every last drop out of my toothpaste tube, so throwing in the towel after 25 submissions seems out of character.

The thing is, I have scoured Writer's Market 2017 and every book on my shelf for publishers within my niche of travel memoir nonfiction that allow me—as an unagented writer—to query them directly. My initial list had about 60 potential publishers. After more research, my list dwindled to 25 that accept electronic submissions. There are 6 others I could query via snail mail, but I just feel like that may be more hassle than it's worth in my case (with the closest post office being 45 miles away with limited hours!). I am at the end of the list, or at least the end of my rope.

I do wonder if I should switch my approach. There hasn't been any constructive feedback from the 4 rejections I've received, so I hesitate to make any big query, proposal or manuscript changes. I could start querying agents. Agents can query bigger publishing houses (like Penguin Random House) and take a cut of your sales in the long run. You impress the agent, the agent impresses the publisher. But it would require massive research to come up with a list of agents in my niche and a little revamping on my proposal. Plus, I am told there is more waiting to hear from the agent, who is waiting to hear from the publisher. Plus, plus, my book subject is so specific, would Random House and bigger publishers really be interested in it? Is the middle man really worth it for me?

I could also self publish. I can upload my book to Amazon and have it on sale as an ebook in minutes. I know this is an option. It would obviously accomplish my dream of having my book published. The barrier for me is that there is no hand-holding through the process. Publishing through a publisher requires you to do a lot of marketing on your own, but self publishing requires 10x more. Plus (this may be the fourth time I've used "plus" in this post, don't judge), there's the whole production and business side of things. I've learned so much through this publishing attempt that my brain is full; I'm not sure I have the gumption to clog it more. The ego part of self publishing—for me—is that I am old school. Being published in the traditional sense is a goal I cannot let go of ... yet. Call it stubborn.

So I continue to wait and spring ahead!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Summer Speaking Tour 2017!!!!

Well folks, this shouldn't come as a surprise, but we have a summer of adventure ahead of us.  

We are going to once again drink in the inspiration of the road and get the country under our fingertips ... 

We are going on yet another speaking tour about Te Araroa around the United States from May 1-July 24!
2015 Tour - PC: Kristin McLane

Before I get into the schedule, allow me to give a little background info (I wouldn't be myself if I didn't preface everything).

Who and What and Why?
J & I have really gotten into this whole public speaking thing. It started as a handful of Appalachian Trail presentations subsequent to our 2011 thru hike. In the summer of 2013, we were chosen by Backpacker Magazine to be the Gear and Go Tour Ambassadors, giving 26 presentations in 6 months across 17 states (total road trip mileage: 25,000 miles!).

After our Te Araroa thru hike in 2014-15, we realized New Zealand's long-distance trail was gaining notoriety, but without comprehensive info circulating, especially stateside. We took it upon ourselves to work with our gear partners to test the presentation waters spotlighting this topic. It would not only allow us to share helpful tips and the differences between Te Araroa and other US trails, but remind users of Leave No Trace ethics and promote responsible tourism. Our 8-stop nationwide tour in December 2015 and January 2016 was a HIT.

Justin's wheels never stop turning and one day, he pitched the idea to me of a bigger speaking tour. My initial response: NO. Too much work, how would we sustain a longer tour, yadda yadda yadda. My husband is truly a valedictorian of dreaming. Admittedly, I squash most of them and counter with reality. However, he refined his pitch to me and had me sold. By partnering on a higher level with gear companies, we could make this work. It is with justifiable pride that I say he has done much of the legwork to get a second tour off the ground and running.

And then there's the other part of it. Hopefully we can also use this tour to promote my book. Still waiting ...

Where and When? 
31 events in 17 states, covering about 10,000 miles over the course of 85 days. This includes 27 REIs, 1 mom-and-pop store, a climbing gym, 1 brewery and 1 town library. See schedule below!
We start in New Mexico and Arizona with 6 stops, but then we fly up to Washington to continue the tour south ... read further to find out why we are disrupting the driving route and flying to Washington ...

Tour Sponsors
We've worked with various gear companies over the years on all different levels and we couldn't give enough praise for these partnerships. We are happy to say many of these outfits will be joining this tour as sponsors!

Home Is Where You Park It
You might remember we purchased a 1995 Chevy G30 Roadtrek Popular 210 Camper Van in the summer of 2016 and affectionately named him "The Wanderer." The purchase had our future speaking tour in mind, although we took it for a spin around 18 states, adding about 10,000 miles to its odometer.

"The Wanderer" would have wandered to plenty of other states, but one of our gear partners, Superfeet, had a better option for us to use this summer. A 2016 Converted Sprinter Van!!!! This is what we will be picking up in Washington. It is currently being converted, so I don't have much info on amenities. They asked what we might want, so we put in our request for must haves, such as a bed and kitchen unit (fridge, sink, propane stove) and dream items, such as bluetooth stereo system with outside speakers. We shall see what we end up with!
PC: Superfeet
Weekend Warriors
My non-Type-A husband meticulously planned out our route so that we typically have short drives between stops presenting Monday through Thursday. He also left our weekends for outdoor adventures, a friend's wedding, general visiting and a few concerts (of course)! What's the fun in traversing the country if you can't enjoy all it has to offer?!

We hope to hit 5-6 more National Parks, adding to the 37/59 we've already visited. These include: Saguaro, Redwood, Lassen and the Channel Islands.

We also hope to climb a few more state high points, adding to the 40 we've already hit. These include: Oregon's Mt. Hood, Minnesota's Eagle Mountain, Michigan's Mt. Arvon and Wisconsin's Timms Hill.

Mark Your Calendar
We have friends spread like butter across the map of the US, and while we aren't going to see everyone (sorry South and Southeast), we are going to see TONS of you. If you haven't heard from me already, you will soon. Of course we want to give you a hug, but we may also want to bum a shower, Internet and maybe even a bed off of you??? Fair warning. Check below to see if we are coming your way. And BE SURE TO REGISTER for the events if you plan to come. They fill up fast (we're pretty cool. JK. New Zealand is a popular topic).

Monday, May 1 - 6pm
Santa Fe REI - 500 Market St., Santa Fe, NM
Register here!

Tuesday, May 2 - 6pm
Albuquerque REI - 1550 Mercantile Ave NE, Albuquerque, NM
Register here!

Wednesday, May 3 - 6pm
Flagstaff REI - 323 South Windsor Lane, Flagstaff, AZ
Register here!

Thursday, May 4 - 6:30pm
Chandler REI - Chandler Pavillion Shopping Center - 870 North 54th St, Chandler, AZ
Register here!

Monday, May 8 - 6:30pm
Paradise Valley REI - 12634 N. Paradise Village Pkwy, Phoenix, AZ
Register here!

Tuesday, May 9 - 6:30pm
Tucson REI - 160 W. Wetmore Rd., Tucson, AZ
Register here!

Monday, May 15 - 6pm
Bellingham REI - 400 36th St., Bellingham, WA
Register here!

Tuesday, May 16 - 6:30pm
Seattle REI - 222 Yale Ave. N, Seattle, WA
Register here!

Wednesday, May 17 - 6:30pm
Olympia REI - 625 Black Lake Blvd SW, Suite 410, Olympia, WA
Register here!

Wednesday, May 24 - 7pm
Beergarden (brewery partnering with Eugene REI)
777 West 6th Ave., Eugene, Oregon
Register here!

Thursday, May 25 - 6:30pm
Medford REI - 85 Rossanley Dr., Medford, OR
Register here!

Tuesday, May 30 - 6:30pm
Hermit's Hut Base Camp - 3184 Bechelli Lane, Redding, CA
Shasta Rock Club - 2523 Athens Ave, Redding, CA
One of these 2 locations TBD. No registration needed.

Wednesday, May 31 - 7pm
Sacramento REI - 1790 Expo Pkwy, Sacramento, CA
Register here!

Thursday, June 1 - 7pm
Santa Rosa REI - 2715 Santa Rosa Ave, Santa Rosa, CA
Register here!

Monday, June 5 - 7pm
San Francisco REI - 840 Brannan St., San Francisco, CA
Register here!

Tuesday, June 6 - 7pm
Saratoga REI - 400 El Paseo de Saratoga, San Jose, CA
Register here!

Wednesday, June 7 - 6:30pm
Fresno REI - 7810 N. Blackstone Ave., Fresno, CA
Register here!

Thursday, June 8 - 6:30pm
Oxnard REI - 2700 Seaglass Way, Oxnard, CA
Register here!

Monday, June 12 - 7pm
Henderson REI - 2220 Village Walk Dr., Suite 150, Henderson, NV
Register here!

Tuesday, June 13 - 7pm
Boca Park REI - 710 S. Rampart Blvd., Las Vegas, NV
Register here!

Thursday, June 15 - 6:30pm
Salt Lake City REI - 3285 E. 3300 South, Salt Lake City, UT
Register here!

Friday, June 16 - 7pm
Idaho Mountain Trading - 474 Shoup Ave, Idaho Falls, ID
Registration not needed.

Monday, June 19 - 6:30pm
Minneapolis REI - 750 W. American Blvd., Bloomington, MN
Register here!

Tuesday, June 20 - 6:30pm
Madison REI - 7483 W. Towne Way, Madison, WI
Register here!

Wednesday, June 21 - 6:30pm
Ann Arbor REI - 970 W. Eisenhower Pkwy, Ann Arbor, MI
Register here!

Tuesday, June 27 - 6:30pm
Hopkinton Public Library - 61 Houston Dr., Contoocook, NH
Registration not needed.

Wednesday, June 28 - 6:30pm
Reading REI - 279 Salem St., Reading, MA
Register here!

Thursday, June 29 - 7pm
Milford REI - 1587 Boston Post Rd., Milford, CT
Register here!

Thursday, July 6 - 6:30pm
King of Prussia REI - 161 Town Square Place, King of Prussia, PA
Register here!

Monday, July 10 - 6:30pm
Virginia Beach REI - 350 Independence Blvd., Virginia Beach, VA
Register here!

Monday, July 24 - 6:30pm
Denver REI - 1416 Platte St., Denver, CO
Register here!

Hope to see some of you out at the events!!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Currently: February

Currently living/working in: Still property caretaking Fenton Ranch in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico … the environmental education program starts up here at the end of March.

Current mood: Enjoying one more month of peace and quiet before our life gets crazy and busy teaching kids nonstop again! 

Currently excited about: Announcing our grand summer plans! Stay tuned this week!!!

Currently not excited about: Ugh doing taxes. 

Currently worried about: Health insurance. Period. 

Currently thankful for: It’s been 4 months since Justin’s surgery and I think he can honestly say he is feeling better. His spine infection is still present, but has diminished so much that his infectious disease doctor took him off all his antibiotics to let his body do the work now. He still has many other random issues (i.e., sleeping) and his Crohn’s/ileostomy is still part of his life, but overall, there is improvement. He is doing WAY more activity and eating better although he won’t put on much more weight than what he is now.
It is alarming when your husband weighs less than you do! 

Currently proud of: 23 submissions to publishers for my Te Araroa book! I wrote in detail about the publisher-seeking process here, but overall, I’m proud of all my efforts thus far and still hopeful I will score a book deal! It is a discouraging and slow process, but I’m not giving up!!!!!!

Currently regretting: Still no wildlife!! But they are taunting us! Every new snow, we see prints and scat. Come out, come out wherever you are!

Currently amazed by: Puppy sitting. Oh my. Almost as exhausting as babysitting. 

Meet Umbra (Heart of a Shadow), an 8-week-old Australian Shephard, owned by one of the rangers at Fenton Lake State Park (which is less than 2 miles from us).
The cat was less than happy about this situation. 

Current confession:  I love the winter, I do, but I am glad our days of constant shoveling snow are mostly behind us. Not to say we aren’t getting more snow (and I probably jinxed us for a big one), but I am glad we aren’t getting the back-to-back masses of snow we had in January. Nowadays, we chop ice and push snow from the roof of the big house. Not much better, but it still doesn’t feel as hard as everyday shoveling!  

Current guilty pleasure: A new camera! I’ve been talking about it for years, and I finally upgraded to a DSL camera. I bought a used Canon Rebel T3 EOS. I’m slowly reading, practicing outside of Auto mode and trying to understand the impact of shutter speed, exposure, aperture and ISO. It’s going to take some time to master, but so far, I’m happy with my choice! 
Currently reading: Still on a reading roll, although the book I am reading is 350+ pages, so it will probably take me the whole month. 
Paths of Glory by Jeffrey Archer: I am not a fiction person, but this historical fiction book is based on George Mallory’s life. There is great mystery surrounding Mallory because he died while climbing Everest in 1924. No one knows if he died on his way to the summit, or the way down. The latter would make him the first person to successfully climb the highest point. However, without ever knowing the truth, the credit goes to Sir Edmund Hillary. 
I thought I’d list J’s books too. He’s reading two simultaneously: 
Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen 
Energy Leadership by Bruce Schneider 

Currently watching on Netflix: We have gotten ourselves hooked on “The Wire” TV series. Of course we are still on the DVD program, so we are moving ever so slowly through the first season. We also have a great DVD lending program in the small community of 3-4 neighbors up here in our neck of the woods, so we decided to borrow “Breaking Bad” to watch again. Because when in New Mexico …  

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Te Araroa Book Progress Volume 4: Rejections

Boy do I miss the days when my fingertips flitted across the keyboard, barely keeping the pace with the electric currents of ideas sparking through my brain. That's the real magic of writing.
You know what's not magical?

Sending out queries to publishers.

I've sent 20 queries in the past 2.5 months.

That number doesn't feel like a lot. But, I assure you, it's a freakin lot of work.

Researching publishers is step one. Besides a list of potential publishing houses shared by one of my writer friends, I am using Writers Market 2017 to come up with a list of publishers that allow unagented queries for nonfiction directly from writers. Then I go and research each publisher individually. Sometimes this results in crossing them off the list. Because maybe they are listed as interested in nonfiction, but right now they only want books about Asian philosophy, vampire folklore, Catholic heritage, espionage or UFOs (I cannot make this up). Timing is everything. I've also cut ones that ask for snail mail only. By the time I get to a post office, it will be 2018.

Further, each publisher has a certain format and specific requests (one publisher asked what I envision for the cover). Yes I developed a skeleton book proposal upfront, one in which I could copy and paste parts for each individual query. But I personalize each cover letter (which includes tracking down a name of the acquisitions editor) and rename certain parts of the proposal. For example, one publisher may call it "marketing platform," another "marketing plan" and another "promotional ideas." You may think that sounds neurotic, but I've heard of publishers making their requirements so peculiar in order to make cuts easier.

Every time I click send or submit for a query, I'm as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

You know what's also the opposite of magical?

Getting rejections.
FYI, if any fellow writers out there need an organized tracker, I downloaded this one from Writer's Digest.

I'm up to 3 rejections. Certainly not enough to wallpaper my cabin, and quite honestly, all the rejections have been extremely polite. They've also come within a day of my submission, so that says something.

One editor wrote: "This sounds like quite the experience, but we're primarily looking for how-to guides at this time. If we get to the point where we're able to expand into travel narratives, we'll be sure to follow up."

I'd like to remind you that publishers pursue less than 1% of submitted work and it took bestseller Chicken Soup for the Soul 140 queries before finding a publisher. I'm submitting to small publishing houses and these stats ring true. They typically publish between 10 and 250 titles a year, but receive between 1,000 to 5,000 queries. Response time is typically between 2 and 6 months.

Tough odds and a painstakingly slow waiting game.

In the meantime, I am still self-editing my book. Boy did it need polishing from the very first draft.
I still have a long list of publishers to research and probably at some point, I should go through and check how many times I've overused certain words (like very or so). I am also going to triple protect myself by asking permission of those who I've included in the book. (I drop more than 60 names!!!)

But for now, that's all I have for you folks! 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Visitors in New Mexico

Besides Justin's mom, who visited in December, we've had 3 other brave souls venture into the boonies this past week to spend time with us.

First were our kindred spirits: Paul and Kristen. We call them our kindred spirits for many reasons, but mainly because they are just as keen about sleeping in the dirt and reusing foil as we are. J met Paul back in 2009 at a Parks & Rec event, and shortly thereafter, we had a successful "couples" date introducing myself and Paul's wife, Kristen. My first post about hanging with Kristen one-on-one is hilarious (I wondered if we would be lifelong friends ... LOL). Paul & Kristen have been our go-to active friends. They are the friends who helped us cross train for the AT in 2011, hiked the first 60 miles on the AT with us, introduced us to the Insanity workout in 2013 to help whip us into Rainier shape, the list goes on.
More than lifelong friends ... kindred spirits!

Our other bold soul was Jason. Jason is Justin's college buddy. We see Jason and his wife, Adrienne, pretty regularly even though they live in Ohio. This is because we are often driving across the country and Columbus, Ohio, is a convenient stopover. Like this time, and this time, this time and this time (you get the picture). We actually claim Jason and Adrienne's home as one of our many addresses. But I digress. When we ARE settled, these two usually make their way to visit us. Adrienne couldn't make it this time around, but she did send Jason with some clothes for me (most of my wardrobe comes from A or my SIL!).
These 2 and the stories they can tell ... 

Now, just in case you think you've missed out on visiting us in yet another one of our random locations, fear not and brace yourselves. We will actually be returning to Fenton Ranch for the fall 2017 through winter 2018. I know, simply amazing that we will keep an address for more than one year!! (More on our future plans in another post)

To wet your palette, here are the top 5 reasons to unplug and visit Fenton Ranch.

1) We will put you to work. Either moving snow, breaking up ice or chopping wood.
You would never know Jason had never chopped wood in his life -- a born natural!

2) We will enjoy outdoor recreation. We have trails out our back door and are surrounded by national forest, so there is no shortage of opportunities to play. We took both Paul/Kristen and Jason to Valles Caldera National Preserve for some snowshoeing. I actually think I like visiting that area better in the wintertime than when we did in the spring. The National Park System took over management of the Valles Caldera in October 2015 and it is growing in popularity. The park is a massive crater left by a super volcano eruption from a million years ago. Oddly enough, it has been the filming site of dozens of popular movies and TV shows, like The Missing and Longmire. Cool sites to see and vast land to explore!
The 1.2 mile La Jara trail makes for a very beginner-friendly snowshoe or ski loop. 

Yes that is a coyote! 
This was Jason's first time snowshoeing! Lots of firsts for him on this trip!

Backyard shenanigans in our DEEP snow are just as fun, but are straight uphill!

Of course Paul & Kristen were smoking me on the uphill ... I thought I would have the edge living at 8,000 feet, but the altitude didn't even phase them. 

3) We will enjoy indoor recreation. Anyone who knows us well knows we love to play games. The Bean Game is our go-to, but we may have discovered a new addiction thanks to Jason: Sushi Go! This card game is similar to the Bean Game, feeding Justin's competitive edge. Besides games, we discovered a special indoor activity thanks to Paul and Kristen ... wooden spoon making! I would say we have a lot to learn in the craft, but it is fun to try. I also read a few chapters of my book to Paul & Kristen, which reminded me I really need to get back to editing it (reading out loud is a humbling way to edit!).
The Bean Game!!!

Justin and I worked our first spoon together!
New game obsession: SushiGo!

4) We will take our cat for walks. Mrs. Gibbles—the once stray mama cat who chose Fenton Ranch as her home and us as her owners—follows us everywhere!

5) You will spend very little money. Aside from your flight and rental car (under $100 for multiple days!), we live in the middle of nowhere, making it hard to spend money. We did venture down to the sole bar 35 miles away from us with Jason, but a meal out there is not going to break the bank. 
Have no fear, civilization is only 30ish miles away ... 

I know I am always trying to convince you that Fenton Ranch is a magical place, but we are excited to keep it as one of our many homes!