Monday, October 31, 2016

Eight years later

On this day in 2008 ...

On November 1, 2008, I sat in front of my clunky desktop PC in Juneau, Alaska, pondering what I wanted to do with this PDF file I'd spent a few months creating. It was a book I cobbled together from personal essays and blog posts, about this obscure thing I did earlier in the year — riding a fat bike 350 miles over the Alaska Range and into the frigid Interior — and a loose timeline of past events to provide some explanation about how a Mormon girl from Utah with no athletic talent and lots of fears could reach that point.

My blog was as popular as it would ever be, with nearly 100,000 hits per month, and I figured at least a small percentage of readers would be interested enough in the story to buy a book. But would anyone else be interested? Selling a book is a difficult prospect. In order to catch the attention of publishers, the story has to appeal to a larger audience than the few interested in esoteric outdoor sports. Even if the book did sell, the process could take years. I was a journalist, and the thought of "Ghost Trails" being released in 2011 or 2012 — when not even I would care about the story anymore — seemed like a pointless endeavor. So on that (likely rainy) November evening eight years ago, I wavered at a self-publishing Web site, contemplating the possibilities. Could it be that easy?

That's how I started down this path of writing and publishing adventure memoirs. It's been a sometimes bumpy but mostly enjoyable ride. I'm still a journalist at heart, and think of my own writing as such. It's not high literature and it's not painstakingly revised, but it's real, occasionally raw, and as honest as I can make it, within the confines of my own flawed memory. I want my stories to be timely, but I've been known to sit on a project for years (in fact, I'm trying to revive a 2012 project right now.) In the midst of the learning process, I've managed to sell tens of thousands of books. And this is a cliche, but my greatest reward has been comments from people who found inspiration and embarked on a new adventure. Overall, the results have been pretty good for a Mormon girl from Utah with no athletic talent, lots of fears, and exhaustive dedication to weird endeavors that will never appeal to the mass market.

Now it's November 1, 2016, a date I specifically chose to release "Into the North Wind." Today this "Ghost Trails" sequel becomes available on Amazon and other online retailers. I was planning to write something more to celebrate the release, but I've been feeling a little ambivalent about it as of late. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's this phase I'm going through. Today I was working on queries for the Guardian, and thought, "But I don't really want to be a writer. I should try to get more editing work. Maybe I can find a coach who will know a revolutionary way out of my breathing malaise, and I'll start training hard. Because if I was just a little more tired every day, I wouldn't spend so much time worrying about writing."

I am grateful to everyone who bought "Into the North Wind" so far. I've sold 150 copies of the photo book, which was more than I expected and more than made the project worth it. The best journalism combines photos and words, and it was fun to finally do this in book format. There are still a few more copies available at this link:

There's also a less expensive regular (black and white) paperback on Amazon:
Into the North Wind: A Thousand-mile Bicycle Adventure Across Frozen Alaska

And finally the Kindle version, which can also be read on phones and iPads using a free app from Amazon.
Into the North Wind

As always, I appreciate your support over all these years. Thank you!


  1. Thanks for the book links! I'll have to go back and look at your blog posts from that time period. I'm a former Juneauite too, currently calling a bush village on the AK peninsula home. I often feel nostalgic for Juneau and the lifestyle there though. Do you find yourself missing it too?

  2. I was also living in Juneau on that same date, that same year. I remember it like yesterday. A lot has happened in my life since then, but I still follow your blog. Thanks for your great inspirational stories!

    1. Oh, and I sure miss Juneau every day, though I try to go back at least once a year.

  3. Into The North Wind downloading from Kindle as I write. Thanks for the inspiration from a fan in UK

  4. Keep up the good work! I pre-ordered the Kindle and it showed-up on my iPad last night, a few hours before midnight (PST). Looking forward to reading it! (My blog gets very few hits, but I do get a rush out of positive comments and helping others visit places I've gone.) Montebello Road misses you!

  5. Into the North Wind is another great read by Jill! The photo book is SOOO worth it. I would highly recommend getting one of the few copies left. Really adds to the story to see all the pictures. Jill, I still remember getting a copy of your first book for Christmas the year it came out. Best Christmas book that I ever got from Eric. And that led to finding your blog and of course, meeting you and becoming friends a few year later. So glad Eric bought me Ghost Trails! Here's to more great adventures and books.

  6. I've really liked all of your books, and Into The North Wind ranks right up there with the best. I found it a "can't put it down" book that goes by way too fast. Now I'm already waiting for your next effort. Nice job!

  7. Really enjoying 'Into the North wind'; your thought and observations as you race are wonderfull !! Please keep having adventures, and writing about them, I find them inspiring. Greg


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