I was in a local bookstore today and read that Jose Chaves’ The Contract of Love had won a Kindle 2013 book award for indie nonfiction. This is a beautiful book about fathers and sons, alcoholism and recovery, dreams and truth.
I just received a rejection from a literary journal, and although I only read the form-rejection email once, I’m pretty sure it went like this:
We just read your pathetic attempt at a story
At the end, three editors were snoring
We turned it around
Flipped the page upside down
Yet the manuscript was still incredibly boring.
I’m visiting The Seven Hills School in Walnut Creek, California this week, speaking on outdoor education, media alternatives, children and nature, and recovery as part of “The Parent Lecture Series” on Thursday night.
On Friday morning, I get to meet with all of the grade school children, hoping to inspire wonder and curiosity as part of the Let Them Be Eaten By Bears Mission.
Grateful for five days at the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association trade show, Castle Rock State Park, and the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association “Feast Of Authors.” I learned once again that most people are wonderful. The authors were sharp and funny, humble and grateful. Booksellers were looking to promote authors and titles, and doing their work out of love for stories. And climbers are always excellent to be around.
We started the weekend in San Francisco, at the NCIBA author event, a speed-dating experience where an author pitches his book to bookseller after bookseller in fifteen-second conversations, an excellent way to get an elevator pitch down. If she likes me, I sign a book and give it to her. If I’m not what she’s looking for, she walks away. Simple and clean.
Ben Leroy, my publisher, and I went from San Francisco into Castle Rock State Park where we got to climb with locals, including the superhero John Ford, who took hours out of his climbing day to show us around and point out classic after classic.
After hiking west into the sunlight, we camped tentless in a grove of Madrones that night, sharing food and campsite with a guy we met, living the dirtbag ethic.
Then on to Portland on Monday and Tuesday. It was fun hanging out with Willie Vlautin, Tom Barbash, C.B. Bernard, Benjamin Parzybok, and Brian Juenemann from the PNBA.
A few pics:
Because of the publicity campaigns for Let Them Be Eaten By Bears and Graphic the Valley, I was fortunate enough to do forty or so radio interviews this summer with local, regional, and national radio shows. So I talked to a lot of hosts, some of whom had read the books and liked the writing or the message, and were willing to promote outdoor education or literary writing in general.
In many of these conversations, I realized how positive radio hosts are, how supportive they are of the arts, how much a lot of them love books and storytelling. As a group, radio hosts are good people doing a job they seem to love. So it was a fun summer for me.
Every once in a while, a radio interview feels like a conversation with a friend, like a long involved talk about life and what’s important to both people. My interview on Wisconsin’s syndicated Northern Spirit Radio was like that. We talked about Graphic the Valley, and the host, Mark Judkins Helpsmeet, was a thoughtful and involved reader. He engaged with the novel in a way an author can only hope for. He considered the extended metaphors and had insights I hadn’t considered.
Plus, Helpsmeet recently made wild-rice and acorn burgers at his rural home in Wisconsin. And if that isn’t something that Tenaya’s parents would do, I don’t know what is. Helpsmeet has a perspective on the novel that most readers don’t ( he had a wandering cougar down by his canoe a while back), and that’s just one of the reasons that this interview was one of my favorites.
The AM Northwest television producers asked me to share “Fall Camping Tips” and a good “sleep warm” trick (click here for video), getting involved in the mission of Let Them Be Eaten By Bears – A Fearless Guide To Taking Our Kids Into The Great Outdoors:
- Encourage kids to go outside all four seasons of the year (Establish a “No Child Left Inside” act – Richard Louv)
- Balance outdoor time with indoor time (bike, hike, swim, fish, explore, climb, scramble, camp, catch bugs, smell flowers, hold snakes, stare at clouds, etc.)
- Nature as a an antidote for technology addiction
- Outdoor movement to combat childhood obesity and rising ADD numbers
- Don’t be afraid to get dirty (dirt on the skin makes us happy on a chemical level)
- Play like children (because children are children)
- And for adults: It’s okay to play like children
- And the big goal: All school districts in the United States include outdoor education in their established curriculum
Two Biblical perspectives on Graphic the Valley in the past day. Interesting. This weekend, the novel was reviewed in The Wall Street Journal Saturday/Sunday edition as part of an article that connected Graphic to J.M. Coetzee’s new book, The Childhood of Jesus.
Also, freelance writer Andrew Weber blogged about Graphic the Valley, an interesting take as well (…The core of the story’s conflict lies in the tension between two versions of the human ideal…).
Because many people aren’t online subscribers to The Wall Street Journal, here’s the full text of the WSJ book review.
‘There are prophets and there are judges. . . . Both are holy, but they have different jobs.” So says a character in Peter Brown Hoffmeister’s “Graphic the Valley” (Tyrus, 271 pages, $24.95), a vigorously original retelling of the Samson and Delilah story set in Yosemite. The speaker means that judges must be men of action; he is talking to Tenaya, a Yosemiti Indian who has been charged with the duty of protecting the valley from commercial developers and is our stand-in for the Bible’s ultimate wild man, Samson.
Tenaya was born and raised in an illegal settlement in the park, where he was taught by his zealous father never to forget his people’s ancient claims on the land. Mr. Hoffmeister, an experienced outdoorsman and magazine writer, marvelously harnesses the valley’s natural wonders to convey Tenaya’s strange magnetism toward primal violence: “Ravens fought in front of me,” he observes upon climbing a solitary mountain pass, “a physical argument, not loud with squawking, not like the crows on the Valley floor. I saw one raven drop and slam the body of another from behind, the second one rolling.”
Inevitably, Tenaya is seduced by his Delilah, in this case a woman named McKenzie who works in public relations for the development firm bringing fast-food franchises and other sacrilegious tourist traps into the park. At moments, when the story forces its one-to-one connections with Scripture, a bit of allegory exhaustion settles over the book (the infamous haircut scene, for example, is shoehorned in almost as an afterthought). But the avenging destruction wrought by both Tenaya and the natural world is captured with beauty and aplomb. Mr. Hoffmeister brings a newfound sense of urgency to one of the Bible’s oldest and strangest tales.