Publishing a Book Is Like Driving the Cassiar Highway!


I drove the Cassiar Highway south through western British Columbia in July of 2002. It is, I said bravely in my trip log, “a nice little highway.”

The highway was on my itinerary because it sounded scenic, with wildlife, a jade mine, and native displays. There were giant jade boulders along the highway at the mine, and I saw a grouse on the road, a moose with twin calves, several bears, and an eagle soaring above the river. My camera was busy, and it was lucky for everyone that there wasn’t much traffic.

There were plenty of interesting people each time I stopped. I met a boy in a campground who told me, “We’re heading south, for the lower 48, or should I say, ‘the lower 49’?” At the Kitwanga totem poles, a woman commented, “They just don’t make things like this anymore. You can’t get slaves to work that hard now!” A campground neighbor explained he was cancelling his plans to drive to Alaska because “there’s just too many dirty rigs!” The engineer of a train crusing by the totem poles returned my wave and blew his whistle in greeting.

My trip log reminds me that my two days on the Cassiar were slow and ponderous, however, filled with roadblocks and confusion. I made barely 150 miles the first day, because the road was packed mud with water-filled ruts and potholes. The mosquitoes were plentiful, I discovered when I stopped—so thick the construction workers slipped their sandwiches to their mouths under the mosquito netting, rather than lifting the netting. The campground was so full we were two rigs to a site, and the toilets were overflowing.

Nonetheless, my memories are happy, and I would gladly make the drive again, modifying my itinerary to fit my experience.

What, you are wondering, does all this have to do with publishing a book?

Well, as I’ve gone through the process of writing RV Tourist: Tips, Tools, and Stories, the parallels with the Cassiar Highway have become increasingly clear.

Photo stops? My book includes over a decade of pictures and stories from my adult travels, so many it was hard to choose which would be most helpful and interesting to readers. The cover is laid out as a scrapbook, with snapshots displayed on a background of a Winnebago Sightseer.

I’ve met wonderful and fascinating people in the process of putting this book together—not just fellow travelers, but my marketing expert Jan Wallen, my publisher’s rep Kristin Oomen, and my editor Silvine Farnell.

But the roadblocks and lack of easily-seen progress have been extreme. My editor helped me do a full rewrite. The manuscript is immensely improved by this, for which I’m grateful, but I hadn’t put that into my schedule. Then an earthquake near Taiwan disrupted the publisher’s ability to communicate with their printer. I’ve fallen into the potholes of cover confusion and index pagination, not to mention proofreading …

But I wouldn’t have missed this experience for anything. It’s been a wild ride but a good one. Come along with me, will you?

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