Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Camping Tiki is going to take over for a while

Going to take another little break for a brief spell. In my absence, The Camping Tiki is gonna take over. I hope you give him a warm welcome.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

My Cactuseaters Blog Tour


Thank you to my friend Samuel Autman for asking me to participate in the Blog Tour, in which a group of writers talk about their latest projects and share a few words about their writing process. So here I am, taking part and passing it on. Read here about Samuel's writing process. Here goes:

1. What are you working on? For the last couple of years I have been working on a book that is now under contract with Henry Holt & Company. The working title is Soaked to the Bone. It is an embodied history of American camping, meaning that I must participate -- enthusiastically, and sometimes dangerously -- in every form of camping I write about. I am using a combination of research and history and my own adventures to tell the story of recreational camping's evolution from the late 1860s to the present day. Along the way I explore the world of glamping, survivalist camping, Leave No Trace practices and RV snow birding, among others.  There will be a few outrageous scenarios and a blend of comedy and weirdness, ecology, adventure, and contemplation.

2.  How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre? I have an 'all in' approach. I try very hard to be honest and candid in a way that serves the story and cuts to the truth of the situation. I try not to worry too much about having a narrative voice that is 100 percent cuddly and likable all the time. I think some of the strength of the work lies in my candor, my willingness to 'go there' and not flinch. 

3. Why do you write what I do? I'm a fairly shy person -- depending on the situation -- and kind of a bookworm, so travel writing gives me a license to see the world, while my Olympus recorder and writing pads and pens give me a new identity that makes me feel more comfortable cold-calling people or walking up to them at campsites and taking down their stories, finding out about their camping process, and asking all sorts of pesky questions that would be hard to ask if I didn't have a project and a mission as an excuse. Writing really is a way for me to engage with life. Every so often i hear people gripe that certain writers seem to live through something just so they can write about it. A few people even said that to me after my first book, The Cactus Eaters, came out. That may be true for some writers, but what about the rest of us who write about something just so we can live through it? 

4. How does your writing process work? I have a gargantuan Word file that serves as a kind of rolling scroll or possibilities bag. I just shoehorn bits of research and daily thoughts in there, and i have other files with saved Proquest documents and database files, with notes riffing on them, and separate folders for interviews.  In the early phases, I imagine my process as a great big dredging net, dragging the ocean floor. I just try to spread the net as widely as possible. At some point when I feel I have sufficient 'stuff' -- enough recollections, enough interviews and context -- i start creating a separate file, and I start roughing out a structure. Sometimes I'll create a summarized version of the text -- a kind of short- story version -- and rough it out from the best stuff I've recovered from the Monster File. I never, ever get it right the first time. My first drafts are embarrassing -- horrible. 

I have invited a couple of great folks to participate in the Blog Tour. I hope you hear from them soon! 

Monday, June 02, 2014

Battered scuzzy copies of the Cactus Eaters ...

Lately I've signed some seriously scary copies of my book. A few of them looked like somebody dropped them in a lake, rolled them down a hill, or cleaned their showers with them.  I signed them anyways. I am willing to sign anything except for a blank check. In other news, I'm heading to the Hoh rainforest very soon to spend time with the bugling elk and write about "quiet camping" for my new book. Also, thank you for your continued support of my first book. It keeps creeping along, slowly, inexorably, like a slimy but determined hermit crab at the bottom of the ocean.

Friday, May 02, 2014

Twenty years ago this week ...

... I prepped for the Pacific Crest Trail by baking boatloads of granola. Oh to be young & dunderheaded again. On that fateful week, I baked dozens of batches of appalling, inedible granola to take with me on the Pacific Crest Trail. Every time I stopped at a new trail destination, another enormous baggie  awaited me, spoiled cashews, burned oats, and all. Tehachapi? I opened up my supply box and out came a baggie of home-baked granola cinders. Kennedy Meadows? A mountain of scorched granola awaited me once again. The overwhelming bulk of it wound up in the "free pile." So if you're evem thinking of hiking the PCT right now, do me a favor and taste test everything before you ship it to yourself. And avoid sending perishable stuff with nuts that will turn  rancid and sour on you or buttered oats that will grow blue fuzzy stuff by the time you get to eat them.  Your taste buds will thank you. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday, March 31, 2014

In light of my new camping book project, here is my list of backcountry survival tips (corrected version, with new information supplied by Mossberg enthusiast.)

NEVER bring a fondue maker into the woods with you. The bread crumbs, fruit wedges, gas and molten cheese will form a white magma that will spew all over you, leaving fourth-degree burns all over your entire body.

NEVER cook a meal while sitting inside your tent, even when it’s raining outside. (Trust me. Your tent will explode.)

NEVER forget that “freeze-dried’’ and “chili’’ is a very bad combination. (Trust me. You will explode.)

NEVER try to reason with anyone riding an All-Terrain Vehicle --- especially if he or she is drunk and holding a 12-gauge Mossberg shotgun and wearing a knit cap that says "I Like Big Jugs.''

NEVER try to make your girlfriend, or boyfriend, hike faster by calling out a military cadence in a fake Southern accent. ("Sound off, sound off, one, two, three, foe!")

NEVER attempt to brush your teeth in total darkness. Preparation H does not fight gum recession. And it tastes fishy.

NEVER bring artisan-quality cheddar cheese into the Mojave Desert with you in mid-June. A horrid white pus will extrude from the cheese, and you will vomit.

NEVER set up your tent in the middle of a mule trail in the North Cascades. Brighty, Big Snort and Old Thunder will trample you to death in your sleep.

NEVER underestimate the amount of toilet paper you will use in the backcountry. Sticks and stones won't break your bones but they will leave nicks and abrasions on your derriere.)

NEVER camp at a suspiciously beautiful, yet strangely empty, lakeside campsite. It is probably empty for very good reasons (think “flood plain,’’ “poisoned water’’ and “spaniel-sized mosquitoes.’’)

NEVER eat the freeze-dried stroganoff. It has been mummified and sealed away for good reason.

NEVER cut the handles off the toothbrush “to save pack weight.’’ Toothbrushes weigh less than an ounce – and if you try to brush your teeth with the head of a toothbrush, it will fall down your throat and lodge in your trachea, and you will die.