With cooling evenings, school in session, and pumpkin spice everything already cramming store shelves, it's easy to forget we're still in the final days of summer--and what a big summer it's been for Conversations With US and Spoke & Word Books.
We kicked-off the season by releasing the audiobook version of CWU - Great Lakes States. It's a great alternative to the print book, and makes a nice gift for commuters and folks who prefer listening over squinting at pages. I narrate all chapters, with help from two actors/friends who portray my interviewees. I did act a few of the male voices myself, though--can you tell which ones?
The instant recording was finished I set off on CWU's first book tour, retracing the Great Lakes States route, and reconnecting with so many folks and interviewees I met while cycling, like Ernie Broadnax, Cate O'Neil, Jennifer & Jesse Bieber, Kyla & Bryan Rippey, Doty Wagner, and others.
Over some 20 events, the rig and I met hundreds of readers and other folks curious about what we experienced and learned. The two-week long book tour buoyed my enthusiasm about continuing to pursue this dream.
One highlight was my keynote address to the GOBA crowd (Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure) in Port Clinton, OH near the beginning of their week-long ride. Joining me onstage was my Sandusky interviewee Jackie Mayer, Miss America 1963. Of course, I didn't even try putting up a fight when Jackie decided to crown me Miss America for the evening.
I capped the presentation with a harrowing bike-touring story from the Grand Canyon. The next time I tell the story it will be even more harrowing, of course.
I was happy to revisit places that appeared in the book, and even update a few photos.
Also, OF COURSE I didn't travel by bike. With everything packed into my pickup, I drove over 200 miles per day to reach the places I had biked through before. Constantly on the move, camping in random spots, brushing my teeth in public restrooms, chatting with lots of folks (mostly strangers)... it reminded me a lot of another period in my life.
A final, special treat was getting to meet the people who took my incorporeal digital version of Great Lakes States and turned it into that beautiful, tactile work of art many of you have held in your hands. It was really satisfying to tour Versa Press in East Peoria, IL, on my way back home, and speak with guys in the production area who actually remembered wrapping the cover around my book. Many thanks to Roger, Darold, Mitch, Jason, Matt, and others who helped ensure I could get a high-quality product at a fair price right here in the USA.
Other Summer Events
I held two local book signings this summer: Bound2Please Books in Orange, VA and Horton Vineyards in Gordonsville, VA. Thank you Gerilee, Kathy, and Shannon for inviting me and the rig to your establishments!
Fall is the season for literary festivals, it seems. The touring rig and I will have a packed weekend schedule as we share stories from the road and sign books at the following events, mostly in Central Virginia: the Fredericksburg Annual Independent Book Festival (Sept. 21); the Williamsburg Book Festival (Oct. 5); joining "Jus Joe" for Q&A mixed with jazz during 91.1 FM WTJU's jazz marathon week (early Oct.); the 17th Annual James River Writers Conference (Oct. 12-13 - Richmond); the RVA Booklovers' Festival (Oct. 19 - Richmond); and possibly the National Bicycle Tourism Conference (Nov. 6-9 - San Antonio, TX).
Interviews, News, & Reviews
Wabash River Cycle Club
Radio Interview with KBEK 95.5 FM in Braham, MN
Adventure Cycling Association
Peace Corps Worldwide
Cville Weekly's UNBOUND Magazine
Independent Book Publisher's Association Member Spotlight
At the end of August, CWU - Great Lakes States sold its 500th copy - not bad for a first-time author and a scrappy little, 9-month-old publishing company! Thank you, thank you, thank you for your support, and your interest in this small slice of America's story I have been able to put into print.
The Next Milestone
The second volume in the CWU series, American Southwest, is presently in the works. To those of you who have already pre-ordered: I appreciate and value your confidence in me and the project. I very much hope to have the book in your hands before year's end. For those considering pre-ordering a copy, check out this draft sample chapter. The first 100 pre-orders get free shipping using coupon code FIRST100.
Reviews are Important (and very much appreciated)
CWU - Great Lakes States is my first book, hopefully the first of many. But getting traction as a new author in our age of information overload can be like trying to pedal uphill along rain-slicked asphalt (on bald tires, with a leg cramp). Your thoughtful book review--good, bad, or ugly--will help me improve as a writer and storyteller and will help boost CWU's search engine ratings so that readers who haven't yet heard of CWU will be more likely to see it come across their screen. I love great reviews (perhaps that is obvious) but I also very much appreciate honest and constructive criticism, so I hope you'll share your thoughts online, whatever they are. The REVIEWS section of the Spoke & Word Books website has suggestions and links to various platforms. Remember--you can leave a review at Amazon and other sites, even if you purchased your copy elsewhere. Speaking of Amazon... why not leave your review, or at least your star rating, there right now?
If purchasing a copy, though, the CWU website is still best platform, as it will be autographed by Yours Truly before shipping.
Whew!! That's it for now. As always, thanks for following along. We'll be in touch in the fall with CWU's next big update.
-Chris (and the touring rig)