Sidetracked is UK-based and features first person narrative with gorgeous photography.
What I’m Reading
On Self-Respect: Joan Didion’s 1961 Essay from the Pages of Vogue
Joan Didion is lyrical, a weaver of narrative, and offers critical insight into the human psyche.
To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves—there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect. Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home.
Kilian Jornet. Mountain poetry
Kilian talks about what drives him to the mountains, and what he seeks out there and within himself. Also, why it is important to strive to be heroes in the everyday:
What we should contemplate is that it shouldn’t be considered heroic but the natural thing inside all of us… They’ve shown us that the heroic should be the normal human thing to do, and in our individualistic and self-centered days, this is important and admirable.
How a one-handed champion is reinventing rock climbing
I mean, shit. She’s one-handed and climbing 5.12s.
“Hey guys, I’m missing my left arm below the elbow, so I chopped off the end of a Trango ice tool, put a screw in it, and attached it to the socket of my prosthetic. Wondering if this would be okay to climb with?”
The boundary between 30 and 31 came to pass, and nothing perceptible really happened. I was flooded with a sense of sadness upon waking, got caught up in comparisons to a vague sense of where I thought I ought to be, rollicked in joy at all the years I (hopefully) have in front of me, and grappled with day-to-day existence type shit, like where to go for lunch and “I should really respond to that email.”
Brendan Leonard is one of my favorite outdoor writers as he combines humor, vulnerability, and an adventurous spirit. This workshop offers 6 days on the Salmon River, covering 90 miles and what it takes to craft a compelling story.
What I’m Reading (& Watching)
Murmurations are an aerial ballet
The mysterious flights of the Common Starling are known as a “murmuration” and it is still unknown how the thousands of birds are able to fly in such dense swarms without colliding. This is from the same director as last week’s video.
We’re Here. You Just Don’t See Us.
I am constantly working to figure out how to make you acknowledge me as American, too. I refuse to be seen as poor and powerless, and I attempt to approach each day with a boldness and vulnerability that leaves an imprint on somebody. I continue to penetrate spaces where I’m not expected to be.
What narratives have you been told? How are they shaping your perception of yourself and what is possible?
Climbing Doesn’t Change You
The backlash to one of Kathy’s earlier posts (of which this is a rebuttal piece) is surprising. Since when could you not express the outdoors/ climbing/ your passion in romantic, sentimental language?
Failure gives you depth. It gives you mental tenacity. It shatters the expectations we often feel trapped within, the expectations that our perceptions of ourselves create. Exposing our failures lets us fearlessly show the world that we are human…. Nobody walks up the mountain to the top with a smile on their face the entire time, or without shedding a few tears, a little blood.”
I realized why I had shared it in the first place: to cultivate empathy and understanding not only for myself, but for others who might have had an experience
It was then that choosing vulnerability became an act of courage.
Art Is Commensurate with the Human Spirit
Art has but one principle, one aim, — to produce an impression, a powerful impression, no matter by what means, or if it be by reversing all the canons of taste and criticism.
Why do you create art? What impression are you hoping to make?
Longform Podcast #256: David Gessner
Great interview with an intelligent, open, and self-effacing writer.
The ambition got in my way at first. Because I wanted my stuff to be great, and it froze me up. But later on it was really helpful. I’m startled by the way people don’t, you know, admit [they care] … it seems unlikely people wouldn’t want to be immortal.
Claire took the band and rolled it between her fingers and thought, What if someday this is all I have left?
The Writing Life
Lessons from Eight Years of Writing an Adventure Blog
Buckle in, this might take awhile:
In my second year of pitching stories, I made $75 from one article. I moved to Denver to work at a small newspaper—but on the side, I kept pitching any outdoor publication I thought might pay. Almost all of them sent me rejections. In late 2006, John Fayhee at the Mountain Gazette liked a story I sent him enough to publish it and pay me $100. In mid-2007, I got a part-time job writing funny 100-word blogs for an outdoors website, at 15 cents a word, two to three blogs per week.
After almost six years of trying, I started getting magazine assignments, starting in early 2011 with a story I’d been pitching and had written for Climbing magazine.
On facing the unexplored and the ethics of taking another step
Where Not to Travel in 2019, or Ever.
Kate Harris is a fantastic writer, who I only came across this week. I’ve been reading a bunch of her articles (they are all great) and am eager to start her book, Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road.
“Chau’s escapade… was nothing more than a violation: he was just another person who believed that the world was his to do whatever he wanted in and with.”
Perhaps more headlines should have read: “Remote Community Faces Biological Terror Threat From U.S. Religious Extremist Killed by Local Authorities.”
How Miguel’s Pizza made the Red River Gorge
If you like climbing narratives that are not so much about climbing, this is an insightful peel-back-the-curtain style look at the history of Miguel’s Pizza, and the enigmatic man behind it all.
Miguel said, “Art becomes part of your ego… that got to me.” As Miguel recounted, the epiphany came when he drew a cartoon character lifting up the costume of an artist and getting inside. “You don’t need a costume to be a person; you just need to be yourself,” said Miguel. “I threw that outfit out and became who I am today: a pizza man.”
“What’s the story? Why now? Where do you see it fitting in the outlet (what section or department)? And, why you? Stay pithy; aim for no more than a page.”
Also, something I’m probably under-appreciating:
“A rule of thumb: the earlier the better. A year ahead is not too early for a magazine feature story, nor a month ahead for a digital piece. And get to know the editorial cycle of your favorite outlets.”
“A writer must make an editor’s job easier. Full stop…
A salesman who hopes to earn a client knows who his client is; he knows what his client is looking for; and knows he must make the best pitch possible to sell his widget…
The simple question: why would an editor want to buy my widget over a similar widget being sold by Jane Doe?”
I take comfort in outlook #2. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The Log: My Freelance Writing Journal
I’ve started keeping a training journal to track my progress towards some big mountain goals I have this year. I like the idea of opening up the process and also using a public forum for some semblance of accountability.
So I’m sharing what I did this past week for pitching stories and writing.
Pitched three stories. One feature, one newsy story (see below), and one series of posts that will turn into just a one-off piece (also, see below). This is the first time I’ve pitched a feature story idea.
One newsy story accepted for online publication in a climbing magazine. I was hoping to be able to do a longer-form interview, so I need to figure out what this will look like.
The one-off piece came about from clarifying how I wanted to write the series with the editor. The timing is off for a series, so the editor decided to simplify and do a self-contained piece that is still timely.
Two story ideas were rejected by an outdoor magazine and a climbing magazine (pitched weeks ago). One was about gear reviews which didn’t really fit their typical review model, so that makes sense. I didn’t get feedback on the other story.
This week centers around stories from people who decided to write their own adventure story, often by dramatically shifting their life’s path. The characters overcame self-doubts, fear, and other objections to find joy and understanding. Also super helpful tips on the very first things to think about when you start writing.
The Italian Sabbatical
Live like a local in the small village of Grottole. Four people, three months, one authentic rural experience.
Live and Write in Thailand
The Content Castle offers free accommodation + 2 meals/ day in exchange for writing 7,500 words per week (for their marketing clients).
What I’m Reading (& Watching)
Onwards and upwards
An uplifting video on turning 35, and all the beauty that comes with growing with family, friends, and the pursuit of what moves you.
“In 2017, the Global Wellness Institute reported only 7 percent of all leisure travel consisted of primarily wellness-focused trips, and adventure travel operators have an opportunity to fill this niche.”
Former Guardian science editor, letters editor, arts editor and literary editor Tim Radford shares his tips for writing. Wide ranging insight and immediately practical.
1. When you sit down to write, there is only one important person in your life. This is someone you will never meet, called a reader.
3. So the first sentence you write will be the most important sentence in your life.
10. So here is a rule. A story will only ever say one big thing.
11. Here is an observation. Don’t even start writing till you have decided what the one big thing is going to be, and then say it to yourself in just one sentence.
This week features a bunch of opportunities to fuel your next adventure (which make great stories, of course). There’s a fantastic feature on Bernd Heinrich, a leading naturalist, data about the economic might of climbers, and a charming little cartoon. Enjoy!
World Nomad’s 2019 Travel Writing Scholarship
aka a 14-day travel writing trip for “3 aspiring travel writers to go on assignment in Portugal and be mentored by professional travel writer and contributor to The New York Times, Tim Neville.” This looks like an incredible opportunity.
Also, be sure to read “The Art of Travel Writing”, a free travel writing how to by Tim, which I’ve found to be immensely useful.
Photo source: American Alpine Club
AAC’s Live Your Dream Grant
You don’t have to be a professional climber or pursuing a FA to win this climbing grant. All you need is a clear goal and the aim to level up your skills. Grants are awarded from $200-$1,000.
The purpose of this grant is to support and promote unforgettable experiences for climbers—to dream big, to grow, and to inspire others.
The Epic Road
Stay Wild magazine is offering to fund your next road trip. They are offering funds and goods to make your auto-powered jaunt a reality.
The author writes, “We live in an age that affords little time and space for communing with nature. We’re busy. Our days are fragmented. But Bernd has dug in his heels against this collective drift. He has recognized where he wants to be in old age and settled in, with purpose. “ (emphasis added by newsletter curator)
“A naturalist,” he e-mailed me, “is one who still has the habit of trying to see the connections of how the world works. She does not go by say-so, by faith, or by theory. So we don’t get lost in harebrained dreams or computer programs taken for reality. We all want to be associated with something greater and more beautiful than ourselves, and nature is the ultimate.
Real artists have day jobs.
Because it’s hard to pay your way solely from your art. That’s the game we play. But it doesn’t mean you aren’t an artist, or that you can’t make art because you damn well want to. And who knows, maybe some day you will be able to live solely off your art.
“Real artists have day jobs, and night jobs, and afternoon jobs. Real artists make things other than art, and then they make time to make art because art is screaming to get out from inside them. Screaming, or begging, or gently whispering.”
Climbers are a major economic force
We know the outdoor industry is a contributing economic force to be reckoned. In 2016, the outdoor recreation economy contributed 2 percent ($373.7 billion!) of the entire U.S. Gross Domestic Product.
The economic-impact study found that visiting climbers (not including residents, whose spending is considered part of the regular economy) spent $6.96 million in Hamilton County during the 2015/16 fall and winter season…
These numbers put dollars made from climbers on par with revenue from major special events held in Chattanooga, another boon for area tourism. Held in late summer every year, Ironman Chattanooga brings in $10 million, with the race occurring in one weekend and many of the participants staying up to 10 days.
This is a weekly round-up of stories about adventure and reflection, action and meditation, awe and all the rest.
There is a mix of personal story, adventurous narratives, engrossing news, humor pieces, and poetry—all with the aim to inspire action and contemplation.
In the words of Kurt Hahn:
“There exists within everyone a grand passion, an outlandish thirst for adventure, a desire to live boldly and vividly through the journey of life.”
Go find it and live it.
What I’m Reading
“I don’t think you should ever have to tell anybody how good you are at anything.”
A fantastic-artistic video about Ned Feehally, who struggles with the self-promotional aspect of today’s media-driven landscape. He is one of a few climbers who have flashed V14.
Alas that is the world we live in. And to be frank, social prestige isn’t anything new. Of course, the paradox is that here he is as the main feature of the video.
“Under a Sheffield house lies a head high cellar featuring steep plywood and sculpted wooden holds. It is the training venue of Ned Feehally, climber and co-founder of Beastmaker. He is a member of an elite group of climbers to have flashed V14. This is a film about his mindset, motivations and what it takes to be one of the strongest climbers in the world.”
I think it’s a good thing because it’s dictated my life.
I also recognize what it’s cost me and I don’t mean in just in terms of friends dying, but in aspects of my own character I never fully developed because adventure is ultimately selfish.” – David Roberts
(Emphasis by the newsletter curator)
This is a tension I grapple with. There are activities that you love to do, that make you feel the most alive. Inherently, these may be selfish acts.
The alternative is surely not to not pursue these. We are here to live, after all. I do believe we should all be so lucky to find things that make us sing for joy.
Perhaps the key is in the recognition of the selfishness, and then to actively welcome others into finding their own pursuits (worth being selfish over).
In Bosnia, a father’s grief swells into an antigovernment movement
In stark contrast to adventure writing, Davor Dragicevic is putting his life on the line for the sake of his deceased son. David, 21, was found dead in a creek last March, and the official explanation was that he had been “a drug addict and a thief, and had killed himself or been murdered by a criminal gang.”
Mr. Dragicevic didn’t buy it.
“He started a one-man protest movement that has grown into the largest antigovernment demonstration in Bosnia in decades.”
Davor is a Bosnian waiter in a cafe, not an adventure seeker.
In case you missed it: Pictures of the Super Blood Wolf Moon
“When the central part of the Earth’s shadow, called the umbra, covers the moon, the only light that reaches the lunar surface has been filtered through Earth’s atmosphere, which strips out the blue wavelengths and casts the moon in a red glow.”
On breaking into the world of freelance writing
This interview with Abigail Wise, the Online Editor for Outside Magazine, is jam-packed with advice. I’ve started implementing some of her tips in my own pitches (holler at me Climbing Magazine!).
It’s the freelancer’s job to get to really know the publication, know what we are looking for, and then bring an idea to me. A fresh idea.
The basics can be summarized as such:
What can a freelancer do to stand out from the pack, and to make themselves more useful to you?
“In their 2018 Travel Trends Report, Ford Motor Company found that 52 percent of U.S. travelers said they enjoy getting lost and spontaneously discovering hidden restaurants and shops to create unique memories when they travel.”
Pack Up and Go organizes everything for you, from accommodation to recommendations of what to do. It’s sort of like a spontaneous trip with bumper lanes. Go figure.
“In the fall of 2015 I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa… a degenerative retinal disorder. Imagine a vignette photograph with blurred edges. With RP, the edges of your vision gradually get fuzzier and fuzzier, slowly closing in and getting darker…
I’ve committed to spending my time with extreme intentionality. I structure my life around experiencing as much as I can and doing all the things now which I may not be able to do later.” – Emilia Wint
(Emphasis by the newsletter curator)
What’s the turning point in your life?
Events to get amped for:
Feb. 8-10: US National Toboggan Championships. “The tension of competition thickens the air. The smell of wax pierces your nose, as a complete set of Abominable Coneheads saunters by with their sled. It’s February in Camden, Maine, which can only mean one thing: the U.S. National Toboggan Championships, bitches!”