My new book is here! Somewhere and Nowhere recounts my adventures riding my bike from New Jersey to Oregon with my friend Mary. Along the way, there were a lot of “life lessons” about balance and living in the present moment.
I began writing a few years after the trip, in 2008. First I wrote what I remembered, but this didn’t amount to much. Then I got out the trip log (in which I recorded our route, miles, and other data), my spottily kept journal, the maps (which we’d stared at multiple times each day), and the 2200 photographs Mary and I had taken. I began piecing all this together, and memories began to return. I wrote down everything, resulting in a first draft of 353,439 words.
I knew I wanted to write a story for others, though, so I began cutting material. This was easy at first: what I ate for lunch, random photos I took, and other dead-end material. I also knew the book should have a theme, but there were so many possibilities. Some, like “wherever you go, people are nice,” seemed too trite. Eventually, however, I realized that many of my ideas (such as, daydreaming too much is harmful, and, I repeatedly get stuck in the past, and, worry results from my mind inventing problems) were variations of one theme: it is better to live in the present moment. This book theme was also the current theme of my life, as I tried to be happier and let go of past problems. So the bike trip story merged with the learning that continued afterward. Once this happened, I was able to cut material that did not support the theme.
I worked with an editor who helped me see places that the manuscript could be better. Then I put it aside for a few years as I worked on starting an editing business and writing fiction. When I came back to it, I was able to see the writing differently, and rewrote passages with everything I had learned. Several friends acted as beta readers and gave feedback. I went over the manuscript so many times: on the screen, on printed pages, and reading aloud.
Then it just felt done. It was spring of 2016.
I self-published Bread Science in 2006 because I could not get anyone to publish it. This time, I self-published because I did not want to sell the rights to my story. I also wanted to do the self-publishing process again; I had spotty notes from the first time, but I kept thorough notes this time so I could share them. So many steps come after the writing is done: choosing and scanning photos, creating a cover, and designing the book interior. I also spent months working on permissions: I read books on the subject and made a huge spreadsheet of all the copyrighted material in the book (which, I found out, includes artwork that I photographed), all the potential privacy issues (some of which existed even if I changed people’s names), and any other possible problem. I changed some passages to avoid issues and wrote to ask permission in other cases.
When the book was finally done, I uploaded it to my printer, Thomson-Shore. They only had to contact me three times with errors! This was much easier than in 2006, when I was rushing to the university library to use InDesign with the files on a USB drive (invented just in time!), and when the printer’s server didn’t have enough space for my giant book! The books arrived on April 3; my parents are still acting as the distribution office.
Since the books shipped from the printer, I’ve been filled with doubt. I consider how unimportant my story is—there are so many bigger problems in the world than my personal dilemmas. I worry that I should have gone over the text one last time, that it could have been better, that I’ve forgotten to change someone’s name or that my narrator is way too whiny and self-involved. But I already decided that Somewhere and Nowhere is a success to me even if it sells no copies because I learned so much while writing it. As I did on the bike trip so long ago, I am trying not to worry about it!
Books are for sale at http://www.twobluebooks.com/somewhere-and-nowhere/.