I wanted to share a podcast I made with Lisa Marshall, Smart Talk host, that we made earlier this year. My thanks to Lisa for inviting me! Below are links to the podcast, as well as an iTunes link.
I’m delighted to report that Altitude Adjustment has been named a 2015 Finalist for the WILLA Awards in Creative Nonfiction! Many thanks to Women Writing the West, the fantastic organization that sponsors this prestigious award named after one of my favorite authors, Willa Cather.
There’s a nice review of my book in the latest edition of the great publication, the Wyoming Library Roundup, on page 16 in the “Bookshelf for Wyoming Readers” section.
Altitude Adjustment is a Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Award GOLD winner in the Autobiography & Memoir category! Wa-hoo!
I’m thrilled to announce that Altitude Adjustment has again been named a finalist in two more national book award competitions: the Indie Excellence Awards and the Next Generation Indie Book Awards!
The book is one of two finalists for the Indie Excellence award. Check out IndieExcellence here, and scroll down to the “Regional Non-fiction” category. It’s buried in the list, but it’s there, sure enough!
Here’s the NextGen announcement: NextGen. A.A. is one of five finalists in the “Memoir: Overcoming Adversity/Tragedy/Challenges” category.
I’m overwhelmed by the support and recognition my book has received. My sincere thanks to everyone who has been involved with judging, reading, and spreading the word about Altitude Adjustment!
John Muir was a great inspiration to me. I mention his cabin in Chapter 19 of Altitude Adjustment:
“Unlike modern buildings, designed to shut out as much of nature as possible, log cabins, built of whole boles of trees, smudge the boundary between outer and inner. While strong and protective, wood invites the outside in. Like owls in a tree snag, the cabin’s inhabitants are also part of the forest ecosystem. Perhaps no cabin builder better illustrated this principle than John Muir, who diverted Yosemite Creek to run beneath the floor of the cedar and pine cabin he built. Plants grew through the floorboards; frogs chirped beneath him while he slept.”
Today I got some wonderful news. First of all, I discovered that Altitude Adjustment made #4 in this week’s IndieReader “List Where Indies Count”– featuring the Top 10 best selling indie titles culled from the likes of The New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon.
Then, I learned that AA is also #12 on the New York Times Bestseller list for e-book nonfiction: http://www.nytimes.com/best-sellers-books/2015-01-25/e-book-nonfiction/list.html
I’m still in shock! I came home from work today all a-flutter and had to go to the gym, grit my teeth, and pump iron with a bunch of college students to work off the excitement!
While I’ve never longed to hike the PCT or the AT, I was right there with Cheryl Strayed in “Wild” as she traveled through western landscapes just like the ones I’m used to: sagebrush flats, snowy forests, rocky passages, heart-stopping vistas. Like her, I’ve talked and sung to myself as I’ve hiked alone, and started at nighttime noises. I’ve felt the same fear when I’ve come upon unsavory characters along the trail. I’ve also confronted raging stream crossings, trudged miserably through drenching rain and scalding heat, post-holed through deep snow. Felt the inexorable pull up a steep trail, panting all the way, as the backpack seems to get heavier and heavier. It was all there—even to the obscenities that are always the first words out of my mouth when encountering an equipment malfunction! While other parts of her life were alien to me, I do understand the draw of the trail, and the deep-gut satisfaction and raw joy that come after a challenge well-met. It’s seldom that I can identify with people and lifestyles in movies, but “Wild” drew me in. Thank you, Cheryl Strayed and Reese Witherspoon, for bringing this adventure to vivid life.
I’ve been recently blessed with an email from my long-ago professor, Chet Raymo, science teacher extraordinaire and author of 16 books, both fiction and non-fiction. Chet was a huge influence in my young life at Stonehill College, North Easton, MA. I’ve never been so inspired as I was in his astronomy class, which grounded me in historical discoveries while stretching my eager mind with the mysteries of cosmology. He also guided me in an independent study called The Naturalist, allowing me to indulge my love of nature and wildness through targeted readings and journaling.
For twenty years, he wrote a weekly column, Science Musings, for the Boston Globe. He continues to post his thoughts in a blog, www.sciencemusings.com.
Chet was kind enough to say the following words about Altitude Adjustment: “I read it straight through in two days and loved every word. It is a brave, honest, heart-wrenching, beautifully-written book.”
Thanks so much, Chet! These words are extra-special coming from you!
At the Women Writing the West conference last month, I had the pleasure of meeting an author I greatly admire, Linda Hasselstrom. Linda has authored numerous books of nonfiction and poetry, and edited the noted Wind Anthologies– Leaning Into the Wind, and others. Linda is also a writing teacher and conducts writing workshops at her ranch in South Dakota. Learn more about Linda, her work, and upcoming course offerings at www.windbreakhouse.com.
Linda was kind enough to send me the following review of Altitude Adjustment. Thank you, Linda!
Altitude Adjustment: A Quest for Love, Home, and Meaning in the Tetons, by Mary Beth Baptiste. Helena, MT: TwoDot, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press. ISBN 978-0-9134-7. Paperback. 272 pp.
I’m always reading about private lives. Since I conduct writing retreats, much of what I read when working with prospective writers is about their struggles to live satisfyingly and with meaning. I’ve never become cynical about these writings because every one of us is doing the same thing: trying to figure out how to get the most from our time on earth. We can learn from one another.
Mary Beth Baptiste’s Altitude Adjustment has joined my shelf of books I will recommend to writers who are trying to figure out just how to write about that divorce, that disastrous love affair, or that terrible loss. With courage, and a discerning eye, she has looked at her own past, at the way she left a bad marriage in suburban Massachusetts to become a woodswoman in the Rocky Mountains.
Have you got a difficult story to tell? Read this book for clues on how to do it.
How do you handle the reactions of relatives to your decisions? Mary Beth’s parents weren’t happy about her divorce or her plan to move west. Sounding a lot like my mother, hers said, “No man would ever want you again.”
How do you handle swatches of your life that you don’t want to write about, because they were unsatisfactory or boring or nobody’s business? She tells us enough about the marriage she left to be convincing, but doesn’t hammer at the subject, understanding readers don’t need every detail in order for us to understand. In a sentence or paragraph, she summarizes several events that aren’t part of the quest of the subtitle.
What about love and sex? Mary Beth handles scenes of intimacy with relish but with restraint; your mother won’t be embarrassed to be caught reading this book.
Readers always ask writers of nonfiction, “Is this true? Did this really happen?” We’ve all become a little cynical after learning that writers we trusted made the whole thing up. Mary Beth has written an author’s note that clarifies the way she has handled the truth so well that I must quote the whole thing:
“I sincerely hope that those who recognize themselves in these pages will understand that I wrote this story from a place of love and gratitude for all of you who crossed paths with me during this magical time of my life. The events in the narrative did occur. Whether others will recall them as I have is debatable. To protect privacy, I changed some names, genders, physical identifiers, draft numbers and birthdates, radio call numbers, and other finger-pointing characteristics, and I created a character to take the heat. Some local place names have been changed.
A chronology of events does not a memoir make. To create narrative flow, I reconstructed dialogue, scrambled chronology, and compressed time. To keep the book to a manageable length, some people and events had to be left out.”
Besides all this, she writes with skill about her new home and the people in it; her prose is lyrical and strong. “Snow sheets over the ground and feathers up the mountainsides, lending a paradoxical softness to the landscape.”
Writing about your life? Mary Beth shows how to do it honestly and with grace. Mary Beth writes, “”The mountains called, and I came. I found my way home. . . . I finally feel the power of my life, and it matters. . . . I don’t pretend to understand it all, but this I know: Dreams won’t die, no matter how hard we try to slay them.”
She’s not only provided a lesson in writing about your life, but the book will give you goose bumps too.
Writers/aspiring writers in the Jackson area are welcome to attend my workshop “Beyond Scenery” on Saturday, September 13, at Grand Teton National Park. Meet at the flagpole at the Craig Thomas Visitor Center at 9 a.m., dressed for the weather, with paper and pen. Here is the workshop description:
Writing past the “WOW!”
Few people, if any, can gaze upon these mountains without feeling a deep stirring. To write evocatively, i.e. to stir the reader, we must get beyond the scenery to those deeper, universal realms that nature touches in us. In this workshop, we will explore and practice ways to move beyond the “WOW!” to evoke feeling, connection, and inspiration in our readers.
It was great to help out the Rocky Mountain Amphibian Project (www.toadtrackers.org) last Saturday, July 5. Rich and I volunteered to survey for amphibians at 5 sites in the Fish Creek Catchment Area west of the Snowy Range. Rich found one adult wood frog and that was all, but it was great to be out there poking around, slogging through marshes in our waders!
On the way home, we were surprised to see this moose family– I’d never seen moose twins before. They usually only have one baby at a time.
Julene Bair and I had a fabulous trip to Jackson last weekend. We signed books at Valley Bookstore, attended the Jackson Hole Writers Conference, and camped in Grand Teton National Park. We hiked up Paintbrush Canyon until the snow stopped us. Photos: Paintbrush Canyon Trail, as inviting as a trail can be, and the view from Lizard Creek Campground.
Thanks to Jennifer Dorsey for her fantastic review of Altitude Adjustment in today’s paper!
The flowers were decadent as I drove north of Laramie last Friday! Our local treasure- the Snowy Range- glitters with snow in the distance. Blue flax are like people and animals: they don’t thrive in captivity. When you pick them, they drop their blossoms and you end up with just a rangy stem. Here’s more information about blue flax: http://www.wildflowerinformation.org/Wildflower.asp?ID=78
What a great trip it was! Last week I took some time to travel across our great state of Wyoming with a trunk full of books. With all the rain we’ve had, the countryside was green and lush, unusual for our arid state! I met some wonderful people in Rawlins, Little America, Farson, Boulder, Pinedale, Jackson, Moose, Dubois, Crowheart, and Lander. My thanks to all who bought my book! This is a photo of springtime at http://dornans.com/ in Moose.
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
By EVE NEWMAN
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.
The launch party was a huge success! My sincere thanks to the Second Story Bookstore and Night Heron Books and Coffeehouse for hosting, and to all my wonderful family and friends who came to join in the celebration. Here are some photos by Susan Davis. Reading a funny passage, enjoying the book babies with sister-writer Julene Bair who read from The Ogallala Road, and signing books.
Many thanks to all who’ve had a part in this. It’s truly a dream come true!