Monday, January 30, 2012

On Trying New Things

For the first time ever, I’m dipping my toe into a whole new writing pond. I’m trying my hand at some creative nonfiction.

Those of you who have gone anywhere near my website, my photo galleries, my blog or my Facebook profile know I’m very big into hiking. I travel to some interesting places when I get it into my head to take on a new hike. And then usually I post photos, and sometimes videos, for my readers.

About a year ago, I was walking down Indian Cove Road in Joshua Tree National Monument, headed for the Boy Scout trail. I was thinking about that old and beloved mantra “Do what you love and the money will follow.” Of course, I was doing what I loved right then. Not that I don’t love writing. I do. First. Foremost. But that day I had two sudden new thoughts. One: maybe I should write (my first love) about hiking (my second love). And, perhaps even more importantly, two: if I did, all of this travel would be tax deductible.

My new book of essays was born. It’s not out yet. Not even sold yet. I’m just going over the very last small revisions suggested by my agent.

It’s really not a book about hiking. It’s a book about the moments in my life that changed me, sometimes in small ways, sometimes monumentally. It just so happens that about four out of ten such moments took place on tough trails in the great outdoors.

Last Fall I was asked to present a reading for a Sierra Club fundraiser that took place yesterday. What better to read than non-traditionally inspirational trail stories? And it was a multi-media presentation, with my photos of the Grand Canyon, the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, Pinnacles National Monument and “The Wave” cycling around as I read about my experiences in those places. I knew all the photos I take (which would probably raise the production cost too much to be included in the book) would come in handy for something.

More than one person commented that I seem to have a feel for nonfiction. Who knew? And how will I know unless I try?

This might open doors for me, I’m thinking. For example, I’ve always wanted to trek in the lower reaches of the Himalayas in Tibet or Nepal. Maybe I could do that, and end up with a book about the experience. I’ve also always wanted to meet an Atlantic Puffin face-to-face on some cold, remote northern island, or watch the aurora borealis from those hotel rooms in Norway shaped like glass igloos. And if I want to do it so much, maybe others might enjoy reading about it.

That’s actually what I like about firsts. The way they sometimes lead to seconds, and then thirds, and then “lifetimes of.” But first you have to be open to the first.


  1. Go for it. It sounds like a wonderful idea. I started out as a nonfiction writer of mid-grade biographies and then moved to YA fiction. Scary, but that's what makes life exciting, right?

  2. What an inspiring post! You've totally made me feel better about 'wasting time' doing fun stuff instead of writing. Now I just have to go find out if there's a big market for a book of essays about watching Vampire Diaries reruns while eating Nutella from the jar. Bound to be.

  3. This is so true. I think "first you have to be open to the first" just might be my new mantra...I can't wait to read your nonfiction, Catherine!