Laramie Boomerang Feature Article – May 16, 2014

Thank you, Eve Newman of the Boomerang, for a great feature today!


‘It’s never too late’

Book explores author’s pursuit of Wyoming dream


Before she set out to write a memoir, author Mary Beth Baptiste knew she had a story to tell, but she wasn’t sure what kind.
Her story of moving from the East Coast to work for the National Park Service in Grand Teton National Park encompasses nature writing, wildlife biology and a westward journey.
But her story became the makings of a book when Baptiste realized it was bigger than those parts.
“This is about following a dream,” the Laramie-based writer said.
Altitude Adjustment: A Quest for Love, Home and Meaning in the Tetons was published by TwoDot in early May. It is Baptiste’s first book.
Baptiste writes about moving from Massachusetts to Moose and taking a seasonal job in the national park.
She left behind a 15-year marriage, a steady job as a mental health therapist and nearby family. She traded a cape house for a run-down trailer infested with rodents and shared with a college student.
“When I made this journey, I was older than the average person who makes a journey like this,” she said. “I gave up a lot.”
Baptiste made a new life for herself and finally put a decade-old wildlife degree to work as she gave in to a westward tug that had been with her since childhood.
“It was something driving me from a young age,” she said of the desire to move west.
One theme of the book, she said, is the importance of following one’s dreams, no matter at what age.
“It’s never too late,” she said. “Your dreams have value. You need to be the person that you’re meant to be.”
It’s a message that has resonated with readers, she said, including women who have told her they have similar stories.
“I knew I would connect with a lot of people. That’s what was driving me,” she said.
Baptiste left the Tetons and moved to Laramie in 1998, “for the social life,” she joked. She was tired of the lifestyle of a seasonal worker and ready for a change.
She joined a local writing group and started putting her story into words.
In 2007, Baptiste decided to turn what had initially been a series of essays into a book-length manuscript. Along the way, a chapter of the manuscript, “Teton Two-Step,” won first place in the nonfiction category of the Wyoming Writers, Inc. annual contest. Another chapter, “Harlequin Romance,” was published in an anthology called “Permanent Vacation: Twenty Writers on Work and Life in Our National Parks.” More recently, Baptiste won a 2014 Creative Writing Fellowship from the Wyoming Arts Council.
Finding a willing publisher was a project in itself, but after a series of rejections, Baptiste connected with an editor at TwoDot, a division of Globe Pequot Press.
“It’s wonderful to have it launched out into the world, and I hope it can find the audience that needs to read it,” she said.
Baptiste said she has more stories to tell and plans to keep writing, though she’s not sure what shape her next project take.
“People often tell me that my words made them cry or laugh, carried them away, or got them to re-examine their own life priorities. That, to me, is writing’s greatest reward,” she said.Mary-Beth-Baptiste_Bighorns_2009