Two years ago today, Eric and I got on a train in Santiago de Compostela and set off toward the sunrise. After 79 days of walking, 3 days of rest in Finisterre, and one last day in Santiago, it was strange to be going east. But our Camino was officially done.
Two years to the day later, I’m embarking on a new adventure.
Before we left for the Camino, plenty of people asked if I would write about the trip. My answer was always “we’ll see.” At the time, I thought that meant “no.” I didn’t want to walk the Camino as a research trip, constantly thinking about how I would describe it to others. I wanted it to be something I experienced fully, in the moment. And that’s what happened. During my Camino I turned off all the screens and lived in the present. I kept a journal and took photos for myself, to ground my memories, but I stayed away from social media.
However, my Camino was a story that wanted to be told.
A couple of months after I got home, I started to write. It went slowly, tucked into corners of time. Turns out that it’s hard to write a personal project while also writing for others.
After about a year, I had enough on paper to start thinking about what I would eventually want to do with it. I was objective enough to know that this was the practical, travel-focused memoir I had looked for when I first started to consider walking across two countries. The one that answered questions like where do you sleep? How hard are the trails? And most importantly: where do you go to the bathroom if you’re outside all day?
I could pretty easily self publish. I’ve done that before, and as a consultant I’ve helped dozens of others do the same. There are lots of self-published Camino books, and I could see that many of them find engaged, curious audiences.
But there were other options, too. So I stepped back and asked the most important question any writer wanting to publish should ask: who will want to read this book?
Part of my proposal read:
I’m not the typical “outdoor travel adventure writer” type. I’m not risk-taking or super-fit. No one would ever mistake me for an athlete…I’d been to Europe only once, twenty years before, on an organized college tour. I’d never been backpacking. I don’t sleep outside if I can help it. I didn’t speak any French when we set out, and my Spanish was atrocious. (It still is.)
Walking Together to the End of the World is an assurance to people like me that an outdoor, boundary-stretching adventure is accessible to anyone. I’m telling my story in order to reassure others that they, too, can get off their comfortable couches and do something spectacular.
I thought about the armchair travelers browsing my local bookstore, and the people wandering awkwardly through the outdoors stores, wondering if they really belong there. I wanted this book to reach them.
I started looking at traditional publishers, and one name consistently rose to the top of my list: Mountaineers Books.
The publishing arm of Mountaineers is part of a larger outdoor exploration and conservation nonprofit, based here in Seattle. Their publishing mission is “leading readers to the lessons and pleasures of the great outdoors.” I described my book as “a narrative about the gift of letting go, getting outside, and living at a human pace.”
These were my people.
I spent a month crafting a book proposal and sent it off, and then I waited.* (Getting a book published involves a lot of waiting.) And more importantly, I went back to writing.
In May, I got an email from Kate Rogers, the editor-in-chief for Mountaineers Books. She’d read my proposal and liked my writing. We met for coffee (a bonus of working with a local publisher) and talked. I liked everything she told me. The Mountaineers got me, and more importantly, got what this story could be.
Over the next few weeks, Kate and I went from coffee, to getting enthusiastic approval from the full publishing team, to a verbal commitment to publish, and then, yesterday, to a signed contract.
You guys. Walking Together to the End of the World (don’t worry, I’m working on a better title) has a deadline (September 5), and a great publisher, and will release in Fall 2018.
I did warn you that getting a book published involves a lot of waiting, right?
It’s not do-nothing waiting. I’ll be writing and revising frantically for the next two months, while also preparing for and walking Camino 1.3. Then I’ll start working with Mountaineers on edits, photos and illustrations, a cover design, and a marketing plan. Fall 2018 will come before I know it.
Today, when I put the contract in the mail, I was equal parts elated and scared—kind of like the day we walked out of Le Puy. Now that this book has a team behind it, I’ve got to make it as good as I can. That means things might be quiet on the blog over the summer, other than a few posts I’ve got planned about the August trip. But have no fear, I’ll be back soon, with a whole new series of stories.
Also, if you’d like to get regular updates on the book progress, as well as sneak peaks at chapters and opportunities to be part of the launch team, please sign up for the Book Club emails.
*Caveat: it’s unusual to send a book proposal to only one publisher at a time. There are lots of reasons why even a house that seems like a perfect fit wouldn’t be interested in a project. I had Publishing Plan B, and even Plan C, lined up in case the Mountaineers declined, and I was ready to launch them as soon as I had a more solid manuscript draft in hand. Lucky for me, Kate got in touch before I spent time going down that path.