Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The second book

I've been keeping this blog for nearly five years, and every so often, I create a post that I come precariously close to deleting before I publish it — whether it's too intimate, too "off subject" or too personal. The previous post was one of those. I "wrote" most of it in my head while driving home from Salt Lake City, sleep-deprived and trying to process a swirl of emotions. I tapped it all out after work on Monday, late at night. Then I read it over and decided that I didn't want to publish it. I thought it straddled the barrier of comfortable and uncomfortable for both my family members — all of whom read my blog — and strangers who might happen across it. But a few years back, a woman writer who I greatly admire told me, "Whenever you're convinced you should throw a piece of writing away, that's the stuff you really need to keep." So that's how I treat my blog. Generally, I keep it pretty and bikey, but every once in a while, I venture out.

I'm going through similar thoughts right now with my "Great Divide Book." I've talked about this book on this blog before, and recently have received several questions about it from both family members and a few blog commenters, so I thought I'd update. I started the project last August, completed a couple of chapters, and put it down for most of the fall. I picked it back up in December and dove into the writing full-bore. I was riding less and generally just trying to cope at my place of employment and my personal life in Juneau. I was trying to make some hard decisions, and the project was very cathartic for me. It helped me through a tough period, and I was genuinely sad when I finished the initial draft in March. I went through a couple of self-edits and decided to start pursuing publication in May. I was "funemployed" in Anchorage at the time, and although a overwhelmingly large block of my time was dedicated to the fun side of things, I did spend quite a bit of time researching options and sending out proposals to agents. I caught the initial interest of three agents, one of whom seemed poised to pick it up. However, everything came to a head during a period of monumentally bad timing, the very same week I had been offered a job in Missoula and was faced with uprooting my entire life. I dropped the ball in an embarrassing way, and the agent rightly decided to end discussions with me. So now I'm back to square one, except for I'm employed full-time, and have other training aspirations brewing that will cut into my free time even more.

I could start over, but I find myself asking why I should bother. It does seem a bit futile as a writer to aspire to traditional print publication when the entire industry is struggling. So many jobs are being cut and profits are being slashed that there's almost no money in it for writers, except for a small fraction of the most successful, and niche publications by little-know bloggers about little-known bike races aren't likely to find their way into this upper tier. I could follow a growing trend that I tapped two years ago with a fair amount of success — self publication — and I am considering it. However, before I went forward, I would need to fund a professional edit that I'm not sure I could afford right now, and then there is the time investment that I found to be surprisingly large when I experimented with the format two years ago. Plus, for all of its advantages is the modern market, self-publication of books still carries a huge stigma that I admit does bother me a little. It is still considered preferable to be "legitimately" published, so much so that all serious writers pursue it even when all of the evidence suggests the payout is laughably small for all of the time they have to invest.

My first book, "Ghost Trails," I wrote because I felt I had to. It was something I sincerely believed I had no choice but too create. It really wasn't intended for public consumption until the 11th hour, when I cobbled together a "book," zoomed over to a self-publishing site, and hit "send." I learned a lot from that experience, and now have better ideas for a possible second go. At the same time, I also created the Great Divide Book for personal and admittedly cathartic reasons, so I often wonder if it wasn't just meant to be bound and placed in a drawer, the way so many memoirs have for so many years.

But that's what I'm considering right now. It may be a while yet before I make any solid decisions. In the meantime, I need to somehow find a third project to begin. I can try to improve my Great Divide Book as much as I want, but I miss the intimacy and excitement of its initial creation.


  1. I think it's cool that you have your second book done.

    Would I like to read it?

    Heck yes I would:-)

    Having said that....if you put the book in a drawer-that's cool too because it sounds like it is very personal.

    You're only 30, maybe in twenty years, you'll decide to try and have it published-just keep it in a safe place in the meantime:-)

  2. Jill, I am in the same boat as you and considering the same set of options. It is so difficult to write when you work full-time. Cause if you sit in front of a computer for 10 hours a day, the last thing you want to do is more of the same off work. My approach has been to publish abbreviated chapters in magazines. It is easier to get in and gives you more publishing cred. I have heard that agents reject 95% of what they get. But check out Fulcrum Books. They requested a full from me, and though declined it, it seems like this publisher might be up your alley. Good luck.

  3. Jill: We really enjoyed Ghost Trails and hope you can find a way to publish your GD book too - !

  4. I really want to read your new book. Hope everything works out.
    Any thoughts on a book showing off some of your better photos??

  5. Long-time reader, first-time commenter...

    I love the way you write about biking and hiking and everything else. You have a rare gift for expressing what you feel in words that resonate with our souls. Your pictures are great and enhance your words too.

    I've been reading your blog for over 2 years and I'm also an Adventure Cycling member, so I was giddy with excitement when I heard that Adventure Cycling had hired you. I'm looking forward to seeing your byline in future issues of Adventure Cycling.

    I would love to see your Great Divide book get published so I could buy it and read it. I'm sure there are many more like me. While we can't help you with the time investment you need to get published, we could help you out with the cost for professional editing or whatever.

    Please consider putting some kind of "Donations" link on your blog site so us faithful readers could express our support to help get your book published. Heaven knows, you have given us many hours of great reading and we'd love to help pay the favor back!

  6. So glad you left the previous post on the site. Beautifully written, and universal because it's so personal and real.

    Re: the book: I'm one who will buy it in whatever form it's finally available in. Hope the right circumstances come together for you to release it.

  7. I'm not a biker, but I really enjoied your last book!

  8. Firstly, you could test the waters by trying to raise funds on It's all or nothing funding, so you could concept-test your ideas without commitment (or find that so many people want your book that you have a cash cow to make it happen).

    Secondly, self-publication does not make your book less of a book. In small niche markets like yours plenty of people self-publish and do really well; some even set up their own publishing company! (see lin and larry pardey's Lots of artists, whether they are writers, musicians, or photographers, self-publish to avoid giving a large percentage of the income to a third-party not because they can't get a deal.

    Thirdly, what about an ebook format? If you need a hand with techie stuff, I'll happily help you out.


  9. I just got my copy of this month's Runners' World in the mail yesterday. There's a profile on an ultra runner from Juneau named Geoff something (sorry, I don't have the magazine with me today). I just wondered if you knew him!

  10. Haha, that could only be Geoff Roes! But according to his blog, he's recently moved (temporarily he claims) to Boulder. No more Alaska, poor guy..

  11. Come on Jill, publish! It's who you are, it's what you do! Just find a way. You may pick up readership because you label yourself a biker, adventure racer, hiker, photographer, or whatever. The real reason you keep us avid readers coming back is the peek you provide into your life as a human being. We all see your sense of adventure, your successes, your failures, your emotions, and feel for you every step of the way. Can't you feel us out here? We already know a bit about the race, as we followed you along the way. We want to know more about your mental and physical state as the race progressed. That is what these races are all about and that is usually what your blog is all about. My 85 year old mother loved your book and we would buy several copies of your next one. She loves stories by adventuresome women. Ya, you qualify in spades!
    You are the best.

  12. I just finish reading "Cordillera, literature from the World's Toughest Bike Race". And when “Independence Day” was a preview of your second book, I only can say "PUBLISH!!!"

  13. I just discovered your blog - and I'm glad you didn't delete the previous post. Deciding that one's going into hospice care is hard, but I can tell you from experience that it's much MUCH harder to make that decision for someone else, as I've had to do (twice). I've considered writing about the experience, but it's just too difficult to get through.

    I once burned everything I had written - yes, back when people wrote rather than typed - and now I find myself rewriting the same things in my head. Better out than in, I say. There's a desire to constantly revise and refine, but sometimes you have to say you're done, so you can write something else.

  14. In the web industry (design/development) a lot of people are using e-publishing initially, be it PDF or ePub, and doing cheap, free or donationware downloads. Then, when they have something to show (say a certain number of downloads) the publishers are more interested in their book as a product.

    If I were you, I'd consider that approach. Put it online, say "pay what you think it's worth" and see what happens. I'm betting only good things.

  15. Hey Jill, just want to say that I think your more personal posts are some of your best writing. Keep it up!

  16. I think "Lone Peak" is some of your best work, if not the best. Emily Dickinson wanted her work destroyed, as did Kafka. Hemingway didn't want his unfinished works published, but when read they demand that his whole oeuvre be looked at anew.

    I think you have a duty to yourself and the rest of the world to let that book out of the cage.

  17. Just wanted to say that I enjoyed "Ghost Trails" and the vast majority of your posts and very much wish I could read the GD book.
    I'll also be happy to donate for a professional edit and pay full price for an ebook.
    And yes, I ride a bicycle, but your writing appeals to me for much deeper and grander reasons.
    No matter what, thank you for all your posts!

  18. Jill, Lone Peak was incredibly moving. Brought up some really intense memories from when my parents passed. Thanks for hitting "send" on that one. Plus I loved the narrative on the Lone Peak hike. Despite living in its shadow for seven years, I never had that big of an adventure on the mountain.

    I think if you want a "real publisher" for your book, you should just keep at it. Maybe even go back to the one that rejected you...if they're a real publisher, then they're also used to writers flaking out at some level. Comes with the territory. Put out the olive branch, and see if they'll meet you halfway, give you a chance to not drop the ball again.

    Loved your first book, and will by your second, whether self-published or otherwise.

  19. After reading your previous post I raised a glass to Grandpa Homer and great grandpa's everywhere. Thanks, that meant a lot to me.

  20. I think you should publish your book, either by yourself or a "real" publisher, and dedicate it to your grandfather.

    From Supergirl to Superman.

  21. Great posts, thanks for sharing about your grandfather. These losses are very hard to write about and share. As for publishing the next book, I hope you will just go at your own pace so you are not rushed into anything. Everyone will push you to publish, push you to share, push you to write the next book in an on-going gluttony about your work. I say, it's yours, share what you want, just write without a plan for publishing if that's necessary. (I say all this believing your work is great and highly publishable, too!). Happy trails.

  22. hey

    just registered and put on my todo list

    hopefully this is just what im looking for, looks like i have a lot to read Im trying to find a way to build an e-mail list.

  23. Jill,
    Please publish your 2nd book. I have a copy of Ghost Trails, and also the Cordillera, and your “Independence Day” writing was a pleasure to read.
    Set-up a link to donate or pre-pay for the book, and I will gladly pay in full now.
    I also would like to see, and would purchase a book of your spectacular photos.

  24. I've been reading your blog for years Jill, and I consider my signed copy of ghost trails one of my favorite books. Write another one and i'll buy and read and pass that one along as well!!!

  25. Hi Jill. I've been following your blog for a few years now and am totally inspired by your writings! I hope you can publish your second book, as I would to get (more) inspired to the the continental divide race. What about asking a subset of your interested readership to read / review and provide comments. I'd volunteer for that! Perhaps not as a god as a professional review, but could be a good social media experiment. Happy 2011. Paul


Feedback is always appreciated!