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|At The Warming Hut holding my book! Photo by Becky|
Last year brought to me an incredible adventure and it’s about time I write about it because the result is now out in book stores. In late January 2010, a freelance editor contacted me. The Mountaineers Books, a Seattle-based outdoors publisher, was looking for an author to write a new “Best Hikes with Kids: San Francisco Bay Area.” The editor had come across my blog Frog Mom and wanted to know if I was interested. Interested? More like eager – I loved the idea! The original 1992 book by Bill and Kevin McMillon had been updated in 2002 and needed a new version. As I had the book on my shelves, I read it cover to cover and turned my hiking brain on.
By late February, I submitted 3 sample hikes, a table of content with 90 hike destinations (mostly different from the original book) and a book proposal with ideas. Anxiously I waited and kept telling myself it’d be ok if they rejected me because I was not a published author and you can’t always get what you want.
Two weeks later, I received an official book offer and fell off my chair! When the contract came a month later by April, the deal was the following. The 65,000 word manuscript was to be submitted in September 2010 with sample maps for each hike, 140 digital photographs, an author bio and a table of contents. That gave me 5 months to explore, research, photograph and select 110 hikes in the Bay Area.
I had no idea where to start a book so I started by looking at a map of the Bay Area. OK, so officially the Bay Area includes 10 counties: San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Contra Costa, Alameda, Solano and Santa Cruz. I decided to follow 3 rules.
First, I wanted my book to be fair to each county and represent the diversity of the Bay Area wherever you lived – not just for San Francisco families. That way, you could take the book with you on a day trip to Sonoma or a day trip to Santa Cruz and still find stuff to do. That meant popular Marin hikes would not be included but people would be able to discover the green side of Napa or Solano.
Second, I wanted to include sightseeing and nature facts sidebars because I love to combine trails and travel. Seemed like seasonal events would be cool additions too. Third and last, I wanted each hike to have specific kid appeal – animal farm, cool nature fact, animal migrations, historic buildings, famous children’s books locations, shipwrecks, native American way of life, etc.
On that basis, I started the actual “professional” hiking in March 2010. At the beginning I was hiking about 3 trails a week but the winter rains lingered well into spring and summer which meant I had to forego several days on hiking at a time – which I dedicated to writing and research. When the weather dried up around June, I counted that I needed to complete 5 to 7 hikes per week to reach my goal. My goal was to hike 20% more than the final result so I could weed out 20 hikes and end up with 110 perfect hikes.
By then my girls were out of school and I was glad I had selected their summer camps based on my hikes. Since I went on day hikes, I needed to be able to drop off my girls at camp in the morning, cover whichever miles I needed to drive to the trailhead, complete the hike while jotting down notes and taking photographs, eventually ask for families on the trail to photograph them and have them sign releases, maybe do a second hike nearby and rush back for pick up time at camp. I cannot count the number of times my girls were the last to get out of camp.
At the end of the summer, the hiking pace picked up as I saved the farthest parks for the last. Some weekends, I left my husband take care of my girls, left at 6am and returned at 8pm having covered 2 or 3 parks that day. Needless to say, I was in great shape. But in dire need of a new pair of hiking boots – 400 miles later, my shoes were neither waterproof nor mud proof.
At the end of the day, my family and friends all took turns volunteering to come hiking with us and the GGMG Magazine team outdid itself to contribute young hiking models and provide book support efforts. Thank you all!
Come September 2010, I submitted my manuscript and it went through several rounds of careful edits until late spring 2011. I re-did some of the hikes to confirm details, I changed a couple hikes because of new information and I got serious headaches on non-accurate maps. Fortunately The Mountaineers Books team was tip top professional and Ben Pease the cartographer incredibly knowledgeable about the area.
The book finally came out on August 12 and has been in Bay Area bookstores since early September 2011. It’s 365 pages long and weighs 12.6 ounces – I couldn’t help weighing it. You can get it on Amazon.com here or at your regular book store – if they don’t carry it, encourage them to do so!
I did my first REI presentation in San Francisco on Wednesday September 7 and it went great. Here is a calendar of my upcoming events, until I manage to get myself a decent author website.
Upcoming Talks on Hiking with Children and Bay Area Trails
– Wednesday September 14, REI San Carlos, 7-8.30pm
– Wednesday September 21, REI Concord, 7-8.30pm
– Monday October 24, REI Saratoga, 7-830pm
– Tuesday October 25, REI Fremont, 7-8.30pm
I also have a healthy snacks cooking class in the works (exciting!) and more author events in store. I’ll post details as soon as I have them. If you know of a good place to hold a talk or a book signing, please contact me by email at frogmomblog [at] gmail [dot] com.
To celebrate my book, I’m organizing a giveaway for 2 lucky readers! It’s easy. Write about your favorite Bay Area kid trail in this post’s comments and you’ll be entered to win. Double your chances by commenting on the Frog Mom Facebook page and by referring friends to Frog Mom – tell them to mention you referred them in their comment.
Deadline: September 30th, 2011. 5pm PST
The winner gets an autographed book from me with a special surprise and I’m not tellin’ what it is before the end.
To the question “What do we do now?” in the movie Rango, the main character always answers “We ride!”