Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Pushiking Contract

It's been 7 1/2 years since I started down the path of seeking a publishing contract to write a book about Kellisa and I finally realized the dream by signing with Rowman & Littlefield. The journey has been long and filled with a lot of hard work with few results. I considered self-publishing in this modern era of dwindling book sales and therefore fewer deals for authors, but I was driven to go big or not publish at all.

I'd say I received hundreds of rejections, but most of the time you don't even get a reply from the literary agent or editor on the other end of your email book idea pitch. I've spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours over the years on pitches, queries, and proposals. I'd like to say I never gave up, but I did several times, but always came back with a new determination because I felt strongly in Kellisa's story of survival and breaking stereotypes. 

My book idea grew to include Laurel over the years and I would change a few slants to the story each time I tried to find a publisher. I always imagined a non-narrative book weaving between the medical history and outdoor adventures. I would question myself every time I was ignored. Was I crazy? Was I the only one who thought we had a story worth sharing?

Lisa pitched the idea of writing a guidebook for pushiking many years ago and while I loved the idea, I always saw that as a follow-up book after laying the foundation with more of a memoir style book. I had given up or at least blocked the idea of publishing a book out of my head for close to a year when it started creeping back into my head earlier this year. 

But, something was different this time. I started to embrace the idea of writing a guidebook. I have dozens of files from my previous efforts, but pitching a guidebook was almost like starting over. I convinced myself that this would be my last attempt and if I couldn't find a publisher, I would either put this book madness out of my head once and for all or maybe I would self-publish something. 

As I was bouncing ideas through my head, I did a little research and sent off one quick query email to Rowman & Littlefield. Because I wasn't expecting a response, I broke the number one rule- sending a query without having a completed book proposal.

While this query was hanging out there, I came across a post on Facebook from a friend back in Chicago who was making a major change in her life and was looking to start a business that included editing. Up until this point, I was doing all the writing and most of the editing and proofreading myself. I knew that if this really was my last effort, that I needed to give it my all and that would include seeking outside help. 

I reached out to Gin and pitched my book idea and what I might need as far as help. Gin immediately liked the idea and we discussed a plan. To my total surprise, within a couple of weeks, I received a response back regarding my query and it was my worst nightmare- they wanted a full book proposal.

I was embarrassed when I had to admit I didn't have a finished proposal (this rookie mistake is often a deal breaker in the publishing world), but I was given some time to complete it. With Gin on board, we were on an incredibly tight timeline. I had just a few weeks to create the perfect book proposal. Sleep would have to wait. Gin was huge in keeping me on track by seeing the big picture of the entire proposal and helping guide me with the perspective of someone removed from our story. In the end, we had a completed proposal of over 8,000 words and submitted the book proposal on June 4, 2018. 

It was a long summer of not knowing if this would finally be my big break. Then, in mid-August, I heard back that it was looking like the book might have a chance, but a little more time was needed. It was hard to sleep or function knowing I was close and this would be it, one way or another.

September 5th rolled around and I received an email from Rowman & Littlefield with an attachment...a contract offer. It was six pages long and I read every word on my tiny cell phone screen (I was traveling for work and eating lunch in a Chinese restaurant). I was so excited, I was ready to sign right there before the offer could get away. But, I thought I should print it out and really read every word when I could see them clearly and also have Lisa look it over. 

I would have signed just about anything at this point, but I had a few questions. We went back and forth and I was able to sign my first publishing contract on September 15, 2018. 

I could go on and on, but I have a book to write!

Don't worry, I'll be sharing more details about the book in future posts.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Photo Session at 7,000ft.

Summit Lake
Lassen Volcanic National Park

July 2018

Kellisa's friend Jenny, is also professional photographer Jenny Sloan. Our mountain lake swim turned into a photo session in a breathtaking natural studio. Look at these amazing pictures and if interested (especially our friends and family in NE Florida), Jenny's work can be viewed on Instagram at @julyfifth1957.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Summit Lake

Lassen Volcanic National Park

July 2018

We were hoping to get the chance to go for a swim in a natural body of water during our visit to Lassen National Park. As we were sightseeing through the park, we passed by Summit Lake at 7,000 feet above sea level. It was a small lake, so we were hoping the water wouldn't be ice cold.

Jenny was the first one in and Laurel was right behind her. I felt the water and it was freezing which killed my interest in going in the lake. Usually I'm up for an ice cold dip, but wasn't feeling it for some reason. I pushed Kellisa to the edge of the lake and she splashed around with her hand.

I was hoping the water would be too cold for her, but I was wrong again. She desperately wanted to join her best friend and sister IN the water. I wasn't thrilled because I would have to change her into her swimwear and carry her in the water. How could I say no to Kellisa's smile and bossy finger pointing to the water? I couldn't and after a few minutes of getting ready, we were both in the water. 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Devastated Area Interpretive Trail

Lassen Volcanic National Park

July 2019

Kellisa's "best buddy" from Jacksonville, Jenny visited for a few days and going to a national park was high on her list of adventures. Yosemite was closed due to forest fires, so we headed north to spend an afternoon in Lassen Volcanic National Park. We visited the park and this trail back in July 2014 on our vacation to northern California, 18 months before we would move across the country. This would be Lisa and Jenny's first visit to this beautiful and surprisingly little visited gem in the national park system.

Jenny was more than happy to push Kellisa along the trail. It was nice to watch Kellisa have so much fun with her friend. This opportunity to see Kellisa as strangers see her on the trail confirmed everything I always believed, it's beyond obvious that she is having the time of her life with the non-stop smiles and giggles that resonate through the deep forest.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Foresthill Bridge

Auburn, CA

July 2018

Out of the blue, my phone started alarming with notices from the Sacramento Bee. There was a traffic situation in Auburn, approximately 20 miles from our house. The police had blocked traffic around the Foresthill Bridge because there was a jumper situation. 

We had driven across the bridge and even hiked under it, but until I received the alerts, I never realized the bridge towers 730 feet over the North Fork of the American River, making it the highest bridge in California and 4th highest in the United States. 

Two days after the jumper situation had the bridge closed for 4 hours, Kellisa and I had a few hours with nothing to do. It was only 81F outside, so we wanted to be outside, but didn't have enough time for a trail. My thoughts went back to the bridge. We've flirted with the idea of walking across bridges in the past, but many don't have lanes or walkways for pedestrians. The first and only bridge we've crossed was the Francis and Mary Usina Bridge back in St. Johns County, FL. A quick Internet search revealed that you could walk across the Foresthill Bridge on both sides. We now had a plan.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Three Senses Trail

Calaveras Big Trees State Park

July 2018

We found the Three Senses Trail closed for renovation. Instead of driving to a sporting goods store to buy a BB gun because someone owed us an explanation, we decided to peacefully return once the trail is opened.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

North Grove Trail

Calaveras Big Trees State Park

July 2018

Our second hike in Calaveras Big Trees State Park was the North Grove Trail. It was little longer Beaver Creek Trail and far more scenic. The trail is rated as accessible and except for one short narrow section with a few rocks that could be easily negotiated by most people in a wheelchair or jog stroller, this trail was perfect for pushing Kellisa. 

Sometimes we want a challenging trail, especially Kellisa since it usually means more struggle for me and more bumps, but it's also nice to be able to push Kellisa on a longer trail without too much worry. And it's a huge bonus when the trail is highly scenic and the North Grove Trail did not disappoint as it weaved through many "big trees". 

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Beaver Creek Trail

Calaveras Big Trees State Park

July 2018

It was 101F degrees in the central valley of California. Too hot for hiking, especially considering that excessive heat is a trigger for seizures in Kellisa. We wanted to go on a hike, so we headed up into the mountains to check out Calaveras Big Trees State Park.

The park sits at an elevation of roughly 5,000 feet above sea level and there's a general rule that it cools off approximately 3 degrees for every thousand feet of elevation gain. Since the temperature reading in the car varied between 84F and 86F, the rule proved accurate.

We stopped at the visitor center to gather some information before deciding which trails to explore. It may seem odd to some, but the mid-80s temperature seemed a little "cool" under the shade of the big trees. 

Normally we look for non-accessible trails because they're usually longer and a bit more challenging. A quick look at the trail guide revealed three accessible trails and with our recent struggles with accessible trails in Idaho, we decided to attempt all three trails while scoping out the regular trails for future opportunities. We decided to start with the Beaver Creek Trail because it was the shortest and farthest from the entrance. We thought it would be a great warm up while getting a quick feel for the entire park from the main road. The trail was short, but 100% accessible. We weren't disappointed.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Driving into a Horror Movie Scene

The dead-end road to the Settlers Grove of Ancient Cedars was long and rough through a deep forest in northern Idaho. Kellisa loved the rocks, potholes, and overall "bumpiness". We spent maybe two hours on the trail and enjoying a snack back at the rental truck after our hike before we returned to the forest road. We didn't see another human the entire time on our adventure to see the ancient cedars. As I was driving out, I came around a corner and came to a sudden stop. We were next to an old pickup partially blocking the road and maybe 10 yards in front of us, a tree was blocking the road and there was a man with a chainsaw. We were behind him and he couldn't see or hear us. 

My heart starting beating out of my chest. There was only one way out and a tree and chainsaw wielding mountain man were blocking the way. I watched the man saw a few sections of the tree and when the saw powered down, I called out a friendly, "Hello" while smiling and waving from the safety inside my truck.

He waved back. I decided to get out and offer help. I was banking on the fact that this tree had fallen over and he was just clearing the road. At worst, I was hoping he was poaching a tree and wouldn't see us as a threat.

He told me that he was on his way to hike the same trail we just completed and he found the tree blocking the road....and he just happened to have his chainsaw with him ready to go. Maybe this is normal for the area, I don't know? As he cut the tree down to manageable pieces, I helped clear the road by rolling the pieces off to the side. As soon as we had a clear path, he told me that he could handle the rest and we could go on our way. We had our way out and he didn't have to tell me twice. 

If he wanted to use the chainsaw on us, our bodies would have never been found. I don't know if the tree spontaneously fell, but I do know his pickup was between the tree and the trailhead. Since he said he was headed to the trail, if the tree fell spontaneously, it would have had to fall after he drove past. I suppose it's possible it fell and just missed his truck or maybe he saw it fall in his mirror. 

I will never know for sure if the tree fell on it's own and he magically appeared with a chainsaw. There was a sign at the trailhead warning about limbs and trees falling because of recent fires. We were many miles from cell service and the nearest anything. We would have been stuck for probably a very long time if the tree did fall on its own and he wasn't there with his chainsaw. If he was poaching a tree, I'm thankful that he let us pass without any trouble. 

Even in black and grizzly bear country, I'm a little more afraid of encountering other humans and this experience did nothing to change my mind. We cashed in some karma for sure, we just don't know how much we spent.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Settlers Grove of Ancient Cedars

Idaho Panhandle National Forests

June 2018

I'm beginning to think the state of Idaho has a different definition of "accessible" when they use it to describe trails as you can see by the picture to the right. For the second day in a row, Kellisa and I drove a great distance to hike a trail that by all accounts is accessible. Previous hike found here.

The trail started out as a wide, hard packed surface mostly flat through a dense forest, but the ground quickly included mud, rocks, roots, and narrow sections. The trail crossed a creek several times with nicely built bridges, but then there was a crossing of large rocks piled across the creek. I'm not sure if the bridge got washed out or burned in recent fires, but even if you could use a standard wheelchair on this trail, I can't imagine a wheelchair making it across this rock bridge. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Myrtle Falls Trail

 Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge

June 2018

The Myrtle Falls Trail in the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge was the main reason Kellisa and I made the long drive. Waterfalls remain mostly elusive for people who use wheels to go down trails. Very few have ADA paths and it's been our experience that due to the topography surrounding waterfalls, it's very hard to push Kellisa down non-ADA trails to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of a waterfall. 

We were silly to believe that the trail would be accessible all the way to the waterfall just because they have the little blue and white wheelchair sign hanging with the Myrtle Falls Trailhead sign and the website leads you to believe the trail is accessible. 

The trail starts off accessible for the first .15 of a mile. You can't even hear Myrtle Falls, let alone view it when the trail becomes a rugged path not developed for wheeled devices. Once the accessibility ended, the trail started to switch back up the side of a steep hill. The trail was barely wide enough for Kellisa's chair. Since the sun was setting, we were a tasty treat for all the local mosquitoes. I wanted to buy some bug spray on our drive, but forgot and we both paid a heavy price. We didn't let the mosquitoes or lack of accessibility stop us from reaching the viewing area for Myrtle Falls. We exchanged high fives, snapped a few pictures, and quickly descended the trail back to the waiting enclosure of our rental car.