Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Modern Man's Hustle

This piece appears in the La Vida Local section of today's Durango Telegraph. 

I have a confession to make: bookstores make me feel insecure. Well, at least until two weeks ago they did. Ever since I started being published as a writer, ten plus years ago, I’ve had a strange feeling, ever increasing throughout the years, about the fact that when I walked into a bookstore or library I didn’t have a book of my own on the shelves.

That all changed when I finally got my first book, Climbing Out of Bed, onto the shelves of Maria’s Bookshop and the Durango Public Library a couple weeks ago. I feel like I finally lost my literary virginity, and when I walked into Maria’s the other day and saw my book, well, it was a first time I’ll never forget.

Bob Dylan once said, “there’s no success like failure and failure’s no success at all.” Of course Dylan, he said it all, and along with some of my other favorite artists: Jack Kerouac, Ed Abbey, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, John Long and Jay-Z, I realized long ago there was nothing new under the sun. If I were to become an artist myself it would only be through imitation, after the first artist, only the copyist.

I had the dream about my book a decade ago, and mostly used it as a conversation piece while flirting with girls. I was a climbing bum, who wrote every once and a while, calling myself a writer, but hardly dedicated. Girls seem to be impressed by my aspirations, but I only really got serious about writing when I had tendonitis and couldn’t climb full-time anymore, stranded in Salt Lake City, Utah for a winter. I decided to start applying for a full-time job as a writer.  

I eventually landed a gig with my alma mater up at Western State, in Gunnison, writing public relations stories for the college, learning that writing nearly every day is the only way you’ll ever make it as a writer. I had access to all sorts of academic types that had been published, and saw the vision of my dream coming to fruition, if I really wanted to write a book I could make it happen with dedication and discipline.

The ironic thing about my situation: my co-workers were some of the same ones that mentored (and tormented) me through those awkward young twenty-something years of college. My brother has this theory that when a young man is say, 20 years old, he is like a one year old puppy. The puppy may look like a full-grown dog, but he is just stumbling around, making a mess, and making mistakes along the way, until he learns how to be a dog. I couldn’t agree more, at least for my own former self.

Looking back more, perhaps my greatest collegiate accomplishment was an English class I got an F in. No joke, it was called Bob Dylan 301, an entire semester of studying Bob Dylan’s work. I loved the idea of getting credit for listening to Dylan, but didn’t exactly enjoy having to analyze another writer’s work, I never have. I’d rather create my own art than analyze another’s.

Instead of dropping out, I just stopped going, hence the F. I later joked with the professor of the course when we were colleagues, “You know Bob Dylan would have been proud of me to get an F in that course.”

Without hesitation he replied, “I think you’re right,” with a big grin.

About seven years ago I compiled a list of drafts for my book, untitled, unorganized, but a draft nonetheless. One summer I managed to get into a writer’s conference at Western State for free, and one professor who had been brought in to instruct at the conference was particularly impressed with the way I wrote words. “I work these writing conferences all summer,” he said. “Usually most of the people don’t belong here, I’d say only one percent are actually going to make it as writers. You are part of that one percent.”

Ego swelled. I went on to pitch him on my book. (The professor had twenty-some books published.) It would be a collection of climbing and mountain town stories, covering topics ranging from buildering (climbing buildings) to couch surfing. He quickly replied back, “I don’t think that’s a very good idea. It won’t work.” Ego deflated.

My dream of getting my book done only came to fruition when I left the 9-5 gig. Like Forest Gump’s mom said, “God works in mysterious ways,” I had to leave my writing job to truly write what I was destined to create. After two years of solid work on the book, writing and editing every day I wasn’t on a climbing trip, I finally had a draft. Then the process of pitching to publishers began.

Writing a book is one thing, getting it published is another ball game. It’s like getting into a nightclub when you’re not wearing the right clothes, or with the right people. If you’re a dirtbag-climbing bum-writer like myself you have to sneak in the back door.

I do have some connections in the publishing world, mostly with magazines, and I solicited each and every one for advice. They gave a surprisingly short list of companies that publish writing from the climbing culture. I submitted my manuscript the most recommended first, and after four months of waiting got my first ever rejection letter, on Valentine’s Day! I was single that particular V-Day, adding to the sting. Ouch. After submitted to a couple more publishers and getting rejected, I eventually decided to self-publish.

I discovered that back door is increasingly open, and all types of new technology are making it easier and easier (not to mention financially feasible) to self-publish. The process wasn’t easy, but the story has a happy ending, and my dream was finally realized.

Being a writer is something I have to do now, rather than something I’m trying to become. It’s in my blood and if I go a little while without writing, I’m simply not myself. Just ask those close to me. In the end, that’s the reward, my work doesn’t feel like work most of the time. 

Like usual I’m struggling how to wrap up my La Vida Local for the month, so I’ll leave you with some words from another artist, Macklemore, who after years of struggling, finally made it in the hip-hop world, in his own way, without the support of a major label, “A life lived for art is never a life wasted.”

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Book Tour and the Dirtbag State of Mind Gear

Though I feel like I'm late to do this, and I've already imagined it for years, my first book tour is about to happen in less than one week. My stoke-o-meter is just getting started, and I'm anxious and excited to present my first book, Climbing Out of Bed, in a real and tangible way.

Yup people that are this stiked will be at the presentations!
It has been available as an e-book for almost a year now, but its fresh off the press with regards to the printed version. It is cool to have an e-book and the technology is great to have the work available on e-readers, but something is missing if a book is only available electronically: the human connection. We cannot virtually make love, or experience nature in front of a computer; the best things in life will be the pastimes, the things that were great a thousand years ago will still be greater than any electronic or virtual experience. Just a thought, I am so psyched to interact with an audience on the Western Slope of Colorado during this first stint of the Climbing Out of Bed book tour. This land is where I found my passions and reasons to live, and to present my book in Durango, Gunnison and Telluride will be a dream come true. Here's the information about the events, as well as a link to our new "Dirtbag State of Mind" gear via Adayak. Mallory Logan designed this logo, inspired by Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" and people have been loving it. I do too. Everything from Adayak is 100% organic cotton, good style and good karma!

See you on the road, and if you can't make it to this part of the book tour, I plan on hitting up more places in Colorado, Utah, and beyond this year...word!

Tuesday, May 21st at 6:30, Maria's Bookshop, Durango, Colorado 

Thursday, May 23rd at 7:00, The Firebrand, Gunnison, Colorado. Sponsored by Deuter and the American Alpine Club

Sunday, May 26th from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., Mountain Film Reading Frenzy in Telluride, Colorado

Monday, May 6, 2013

Writing and Raining, Yurt Living

When I want to write and I cannot I am not myself. I’m not talking about writer’s block here, writer’s block is a hint to take a break, do something else, or dig deeper; there is no such thing as writer’s block, it is an illusion.

I am talking about not having the time, or space to write. This has been my issue the last few days, but here I am, at a new house sitting gig, a yurt more specifically, and I have the time and space to write.

Writing is exercise, an art that comes to fruition when one is destined and dedicated. One of the most important ingredients though is something to write about, experience. I think that is why it may be foolish to study writing in college if you have not experienced much. A better bet may be to take a year off and move to another country, or ramble our own countryside, doing what you love: playing music, writing poetry, climbing rocks, floating rivers, or skiing mountains, etcetera.

Where I am, at this yurt, just outside of Durango, the rain is coming down, and my thoughts are centering, forming onto this page (screen). Rain is a blessing in the desert, and its timing is perfect. We are nothing without rain.
Living is simple on this seven acre piece of property. Each amount of energy is thought of as it is used. The water tank has only so much water, the computer can only be used when the generator is fired up, and candles are used for lighting. It is romantic. We get our eggs from the chickens, not the store, and have to feed the other animals (donkeys, sheep, cats, dog and the llama) twice a day. I am falling into a groove with this place and falling in love.
I am trying to turn my life into one where I can eat based on what I write. What a privilege that is. I am not there yet, but I am getting closer and closer. Closer to living the dream. I write my dreams and I write my experiences. The rain continues to fall, as I slip deeper and deeper into the moment, the groove, my destiny. What is yours?

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