Saturday, August 18, 2012

My Footsteps on the Trail of ‘98: Part 2

By Georgeanne Irvine

My toes have now traipsed on the Trail of ’98 and my heart is filled with a gold mine of treasured memories from the experience!  I’m just back from a splendid trip to Alaska, where I was the guest enrichment lecturer on a Silverseas Cruise ship.  In my June 1 blog, I explained how the upcoming trip inspired my interest in the Alaska (Klondike) Gold Rush of 1898, especially because my grandfather, Pete, was a Klondiker.  He trekked the Chilkoot Trail in bone-chilling 40-below-zero temperatures, rescued other prospectors who were buried in the famous Chilkoot Pass avalanche, shot the perilous White Horse rapids, survived typhoid fever, and encountered the notorious con man, Soapy Smith.  This blog picks up where the other left off.

To Talk or Not to Talk About the Klondike

The day my three Klondike Gold Rush books arrived in the mail, I immediately read two and skimmed the third.  I continued my online research, downloaded more historical photos, restored the family photos of Pete’s adventures, and reviewed two additional Gold Rush books from my sister.  Even so, I hadn’t decided whether I should or would include a talk about Pete’s Gold Rush experience in my cruise ship lecture repertoire.  I had been asked to prepare four talks about critters and conservation because my expertise is animal stories.  In addition, the Alaska expert on the cruise would undoubtedly lecture about the Gold Rush.  Pete’s story was a personal, first-hand account of this dramatic moment in history, though, so I emailed the Silverseas enrichment program manager with my suggested non-animal topic.  Within seven minutes he responded, “What a wonderful idea! Nothing like personal experiences to get people’s attention.” 

Are Two Klondike Talks Better Than One?

In late July our ship, the Silver Shadow, set sail from Vancouver en route to several Alaskan ports including Skagway, a gateway city to the Gold Rush.  My three animal talks plus Blazing the Trail of 1898: My Grandfather’s Experience as an Alaska Gold Rush Klondiker were Powerpoint ready.  As I expected, the Alaska expert was featuring a talk about Gold Rush history.  I was OK with that because I knew my story was unique—until one of the staff said he was surprised that two lecturers were speaking on the same topic.  Gulp!  What should I do?  I had prepared several extra animal presentations.  Should I scrap my Klondike tale for Bentley the Tree Kangaroo’s Big Apple Adventure?  No…at least yet.

Instead, I took a break from studying my own presentations to listen the other Klondike talk.  I wanted to see how similar it was to mine.  Trail of the Argonauts: The Great Klondike Gold Rush was fascinating but very different!  What a relief!  A few of the photos overlapped but that was inconsequential because the two talks truly complemented each other.  The Alaska expert's historical perspective of the Gold Rush set the stage for Pete’s personal experience—and the passengers attended and loved both of our talks!  To my surprise, I received more compliments on my Klondike tale than any of my animal presentations.

The Grand Finale

My Alaskan adventure was filled with incredible wildlife sightings, from orcas and humpback whales to sea otters and spawning salmon.  We explored fjords, gazed at glorious glaciers, posed for pictures on the pontoon of our float plane after it landed on a glacial lake, and meandered through rain forests lush from the 150 inches of annual precipitation.  My most magical experience, however, was a misty morning on the Chilkoot Trail, sloshing through mud, slipping on rocks, and climbing steep hills, all in memory of Pete!  The guide was ecstatic because I was the first Klondiker descendent he had ever met.  He treated me like a celebrity plus he wanted to know every detail about Pete’s story on the Trail of ’98.

Although we hiked a mere 2.5 miles of the Chilkoot Trail’s 33 miles, just being in the area made me feel closer to Pete, who has been gone for 45 years.  (Note that the remaining part of his journey to gold country was another 550 miles.)  At the end of our hike we floated by raft down the Taiya River to what was once Dyea, the boom town from which my grandfather’s journey began.  I was amazed—and delighted—to find that Dyea has been reclaimed by nature.  It is now a wildlife-rich forest on the edge of an estuary, inhabited by black bears, bald eagles, porcupines, deer, and many more animals. 

I can never retrace or relive Pete’s extraordinary adventure but I can imagine and appreciate the hardships he endured as well as share his pioneering spirit through my Klondike talk, which now has an animal element after all.

San Diego native Georgeanne Irvine has devoted more than three decades of her career to raising awareness about animals and wildlife conservation. By day, she is associate director of development communications for the San Diego Zoo, where she has worked for 34 years. George is also the author of more than 20 children’s books, plus numerous magazine, newspaper, and Web articles. George’s most recent work is the coffee table book, The Katrina Dolphins: One-Way Ticket to Paradise, which is a true story about 8 dolphins from an oceanarium that were washed out to sea during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and dramatically rescued a few weeks later.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fondling A Few August Nuggets

By Divina Infusino

Summer is one of the most inactive times in the publishing industry. A few major houses still practice the decades-old custom of taking off on Friday afternoons so they can beat the traffic to the Hamptons for the weekend. (Now that is a symptom of an old industry.)

The newer outlets for publishing are busier than ever, however. As I buzzed around this summer to publishing panels, I picked up a few bits and trinkets of information along the way. and the Single caused a stir when it published Jon Krakauer's Three Cups of Deceit. I took note of the book for three reasons:

It refuted the premise of the much talked about book on Middle Eastern culture, Three Cups of Tea;

Three Cups of Deceit sold more than 75,000 copies, which is a very good showing for such a book;

It came out as a "single."

A single, as's founder told us in a panel on e-publishing, is a work ranging between 5,000 and 30,000 words, that is meant to be read in one sitting. The form is perfect for e-publishing because something of that length can be read easily on an e-reader or a mobile device. Amazon, Apple and Nook all accommodate the single.

As a writer, all I could do was think "finally." I never really understood why publishing and most media did not accommodate this length of work. I presumed the reasons had something to do with printing and distributions costs. If so, e-publishing bypasses those concerns and can claim the single niche for itself. acts like a traditional house in the sense it chooses which authors and titles the company will publish under its moniker. With Krakauer's success, Byliner. com has gone out and cherry-picked for its roster some of the best-selling names in books, including Elizabeth Gilbert (East, Pray, Love).
But what makes the single truly disruptive is that any business or entity can more readily act as a singles publisher.

Some of the major news organizations have jumped on the form. Why? Because e-publishing is fast. claimed that once it agrees on a book to publish, it can put it on sale in eight hours.

For a news operation, this is a bonanza. Greece threatens to default on its debt? A single on Greece's history on defaults and financial troubles--say 10,000 words or so-- could accompany a news article or broadcast on the current news event, providing some background. Michael Phelps leaves London with enough gold to set off a chorus of airport security alerts? A nice little 20,000  word single bio could satiate the public's immediate hunger to know more about the swimming hero.

But news organizations are accustomed to publishing. The single--not so long that it requires months of research and not so short that is appears inconsequential--has made it possible for a corporation, a non-profit, a cause or a political campaign to develop a publishing arm.

E-publishing has only begun to change not only the publishing landscape but the cultural one as well.

See below.

Vook and the Multi-media Book

Vook is an inexpensive technology that enables you to publish an e-book with photos, audio and video. This is truly multi-media publishing and for about $100, the technology for such a hybrid is available to most anyone.  And it is relatively easy, with drag and drop functions and simple uploads.

Vook could be a boon for children's books, business books, and any subject that cries for visuals as well as text. But I shuddered at the thought of what Vook would mean for fiction. (That is a subject for another blog).

If Vook is really that easy to use, looks good and works well, it could create a new form of publishing and new opportunities for writers. And if it is not all that it's cracked up to be, something else will take its place in the future. Once technology identifies a hole, it will fill it eventually.

50 Shades of Gray and the Library

The librarian got up in front of the audience to bash the short term life of digital rights. Apparently, major publishers grant digital rights to a library for a certain number of reads and when it is finished, the library must buy it again. Now, this was not your Marion the Librarian speaking. Her hair was dyed black and clipped irregularly, she wore layers of back lace and leather in some semblance of steam punk fashion and she had more make-up on than anyone else in the room. She was a hipster librarian--very smart and savvy.

Much of digital rights discussion rushed passed me. But my ears pricked up when she made an off-handed comment about the mommy-porn sensation--and perhaps the first real e-publishing phenomenon--50 Shades of Gray.  She said the book's popularity started in the libraries.

It did?

After the panel, I cornered her. What did she mean?

Her bright red lips slipped into a smile. She leaned in and whispered: "The library has an incredible collection of erotica. We just don't label it that way."

I walked away thinking that while publishing and distribution may change and even modify the content, some works are perennial no matter the form.

I also checked to make sure my library card was up-to-date.