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The next Who Pooped book – the California Redwoods!


Last month, I finalized the manuscript for my 19th Who Pooped in the Park book, which will be called Who Pooped in the Redwoods.

I took this picture of a redwood grove in Hendy Woods State Park during the research trip.

I took this picture of a redwood grove in Hendy Woods State Park during the research trip.

Our intrepid regulars, Michael and Emily, will be hitting the road with Mom & Dad to visit Redwoods National and State Parks in California. Along the way, they’ll meet up with a host of critters, some of which we’ve met in other Who Pooped books, and a few new ones as well, like mountain beavers, fishers, tree voles, and ringneck snakes.

The book is scheduled to hit the streets in the spring of 2015. That may seem like a long time, considering I signed the contract back in July, but there’s a reason for that. I write these books in a grid: page numbers on the left, then a column for descriptions of the illustrations, one for the text on the page, and another for the “Straight Poop” sidebars. The manuscript comes out looking like this:

Manuscript section

This is a section of the manuscript for the Redwoods book.

When I had the manuscript done, I had two people proofread it before submitting it to Will Harmon, my editor at Farcountry Press, who went through it with a fine-toothed comb. He found a few issues, and I fixed most of them right away and argued with him about a couple of others. He does tend to be right most of the time, but I still win sometimes!

Each book is exactly 48 pages long. I put a lot of time and thought into arranging the story so that there will big beautiful color pictures, including two-page spreads, illustrating everything the family finds. But it takes illustrator Rob Rath even longer to actually draw those pictures. As I write this, Rob is sketching up his rough drafts for all of the pages. When he’s done, those will go back to Will, who will check everything carefully and then send it to me. I will look at all of the animals, scats, tracks, plants, and other content to make sure it matches the text and accurately reflects what that area looks like.

My books focus on ten main animals that appear in the scat & track guide at the end, but those aren’t the only animals in the books! I try to find a lot of other species that live in the ecosystem I’m writing about and work them in to the text and illustrations. This means Rob has to draw dozens of different plant and animal species in each book. Just to give you a feeling for it, here are the animals included in Who Pooped in the Redwoods:

Mammals

  • Black bear
  • Black-tailed deer
  • Brush rabbit
  • California Grizzly Bear
  • Fisher
  • Gray fox
  • Mountain Beaver
  • Mountain lion
  • Northern flying squirrel
  • Porcupine
  • Raccoon
  • River otter
  • Roosevelt elk
  • Sonoma tree vole
  • Spotted Skunk
  • Striped Skunk
  • Townsend’s big-eared bat

Birds

  • Bald eagle
  • Brown pelican
  • Great blue heron
  • Northern spotted owl
  • Robin
  • Steller’s jay

Reptiles

  • Northwestern ringneck snake
  • Pacific giant salamander
  • Rough-skinned newt

Fish

  • Chinook Salmon

Invertebrates

  • Banana slug
  • Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly
  • Sequoia Pitch Moth
  • Silver-spotted Skipper
  • Western Tailed Blue butterfly
  • Western Tiger Swallowtail
  • Yellow-spotted millipede

And that doesn’t even count the plants! Not to mention the fact that Rob has a tendency to sneak one or two of his favorite critters into the background here and there, which makes it even more fun.

Will and I probably won’t find much during our proofing pass – this is the 13th book Rob and I have done together – but there will likely be a few little things. Once Rob has made any required changes, he’ll do the final drawings and color everything. Then the book goes through one more proofing pass, which will involve a few more sets of eyes. The bar codes will be added to the cover and everything will be finalized. That’s when the book is sent out to be printed, which takes even more time.

By the time the book hits stores, it will have been almost a year since we started. I hope you’ll find it worth the wait!

Upcoming Appearances 2014


This spring and summer is lining up to have a wildly eclectic set of public appearances for me! So far, I have things scheduled all across my areas of expertise: book signings, a TED talk about captioning, and a tea blogger’s panel at World Tea Expo.

Upcoming Appearances Header

TEDxBozeman

TEDxBozeman logo

Join me at TEDxBozeman on Friday, March 21 for a day of celebrating Pioneer Spirit with an amazing lineup of speakers. My talk is entitled “Does Closed Captioning Still Serve Deaf People?” I’ll be exploring the history and roots of closed captioning and look at the progress it has made, the pitfalls it has encountered, and where it might be going. As of this writing, tickets are still available, but they’ve sold out pretty quickly the last few years, so if you want to be at the talks in Bozeman, Montana, you’ll want to snag those tickets quickly. It will, of course, be streamed as well, and the talks will be available as individual videos on the TED website.

I wrote a while ago on this blog about my talk and included links to some of my favorite TED talks. I’ll add a link here when I post more details about the talk.


Tea Bloggers Roundtable @ World Tea Expo

Tea Bloggers Roundtable

If you have any interest in tea, head for Long Beach on Friday, May 30. I will be joining a group of other tea bloggers for a panel discussion about the world of tea. There is more detail on my other blog, Tea With Gary.


Book Signings in Yellowstone

Who Pooped? Yellowstone

I will be signing “Who Pooped in the Park?” books at Yellowstone Stage (the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park) Sunday July 6 from 1:00 to 6:00 and Monday July 7 from 11:00 to 6:00.

A new book, and a state-by-state look at the series


NOTE: The information in this post is obsolete, but it’s all been brought up to date in a new post from 2017.

My 23rd book — 18th in the Who Pooped? series — is now officially out. In the beginning, each book in the series was for a specific national park, and most of those national parks were tucked securely in a single state (Yellowstone does span three states, however). As the series progressed, the books covered more ecosystems than specific parks, and sometimes those covered multiple states. That got me thinking: what states does this series cover?

Who Pooped Map 2013

So far, the series covers 18 states in 18 books — a coincidence, since some books cover multiple states and some states have multiple books. The number of national parks, national conservation areas, national monuments, national recreation areas, and national forests is significantly larger than that. I haven’t compiled that list lately. A project for another day!

Arizona

California

Colorado

Idaho

Maine

Michigan

Minnesota

Montana

New Mexico

Nevada

Oregon

South Dakota

Texas

Utah

Virginia

Washington

Wisconsin

Wyoming

So, given that my publisher is most interested in covering well-traveled areas, what do you think should come next? The next one is pretty well decided, although we’re not announcing it until a contract is signed. What should the 20th book be? I’d love to hear some feedback?

I guess I’m one of the few…


Who Pooped in the Cascades?In the bookstore today, a customer was looking at my big spinner rack of Who Pooped in the Park? books. He looked at the sign on the top, which shows a picture of me signing books in Yellowstone Park. Then he looked at me. Then back at the sign. Then at me. Then he raised an eyebrow.

“Yes,” I said, “that’s me. And, by the way, my 18th Who Pooped? book is coming out next month! It’s for the Cascade Mountains in Oregon, Washington, and California.”

He swiftly summoned his daughter. I’m very bad at judging ages, but I’m going to take a shot in the dark and say she was eight or nine years old.

“This man here is the author of the Who Pooped in the Park? book that you like,” he told her.

She eyed me suspiciously.

“The author?”

“That’s right,” her dad assured her. “He wrote these books.”

She looked at me more closely.

“He’s alive.”

“No, honey, not all authors are dead. Some are still alive.”

Oh, well. I’m still planning a book signing at the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association conference in Portland, Oregon this fall. If I live that long.

A few book signing observations from Yellowstone


Last week I made my annual pilgrimage to Yellowstone Park to sign Who Pooped in the Park? books. There are two concessionaires in the Park: Delaware North, which operates the gift shops, and Xanterra, which operates the hotels. Some years I go to the Xanterra sites and some years I go to the Delaware North sites. Some years I hit both. This year, I was invited well in advance by Xanterra and offered one of the choice sites in the Park: the lobby at the Old Faithful Inn. Since it’s a busy time of year, I decided instead of my usual routine (a few hours a day for a week in various locations around Yellowstone), I’d just do two long days in the same place.

Signing at the Old Faithful Inn in 2013

Signings at places like this are very different from bookstore events. For one thing, no bookstore is going to ask you to spend eight hours behind a signing table. For another, the foot traffic is simply amazing. For a second-tier author like me, selling 30 books at a signing is pretty good. I did that in the first hour in the Old Faithful Inn. Also, the questions you answer are quite different (I’ve talked about this here before).

This year’s top questions

  1. When is the next eruption of Old Faithful? See that thing on the wall behind me in the picture above? It’s a clock showing the estimated time of the next eruption of Old Faithful. This question was #2 last year and jumped to the top this year for some reason.
  2. Where’s the bathroom? Usually question #1. Maybe folks weren’t drinking as much water this year.
  3. I took a picture of some scat. Can you identify it? Maybe. Unless it’s a blurry picture with no context and nothing to give it a sense of scale. But what the heck? I’ll give it a try!
  4. Is that POOP? See below.
  5. Where are the animals hanging out? I try to answer this one. Really I do. But Yellowstone is over 2.2 million acres of wilderness and I just got here yesterday. This is what the interpretive staff is for.
  6. Are these free? Really, people? You think I drove down here to give away free copies of my books?

Yep, that’s poop

Props are a highly effective way to start a conversation, and starting conversations sells books. Lest that sound entirely mercenary, I’m a social animal and I do love having conversations. But back to the main point…

Signing at Old Faithful 2013 from above

Having a six-story lobby with balconies all around gives people a unique perspective on book signings.

In this picture, you can see a row of round things on the table in front of me. You can also see rows of books. Sometimes I do rows, sometimes big spiral stacks, sometimes pyramids. The round things on the table are samples of animal scat (a.k.a. “poop”) that I have cast in resin. The big one in the middle is bear scat — always a crowd pleaser. That thing in the lower left is not poop. It’s my lunch.

As a complete non-sequitor, I inscribed books to hundreds of people this week. The vast majority were children. The most common names were Emma and Wyatt. Do what you will with that information.

Something new and different

I have done a lot of book signings in my time, but every year brings something new. This year it was an evacuation.

It was about 6:15 p.m., and I had been sitting at that table since 11:00 (minus a few bathroom breaks). I was chatting with a family when an alarm sounded. I made some quip about someone opening a door they shouldn’t have opened, and then a recorded voice came on asking everyone to evacuate the hotel. The restaurant was full, with a line halfway through the lobby. The bar was full. The gift shop was packed. There were lines at registration. People were unpacking their bags in their rooms. Everyone began streaming out.

I had my handy-dandy leather satchel with me, so I swiftly stuffed my important possessions in it (signing pen, poop samples, phone) and headed outside. The books and the sign were left to fend for themselves.

Cell service at the Old Faithful Inn is spotty. Did I say “spotty”? I really meant “lousy.” In the interests of keeping Yellowstone as pristine as possible, there is one cell tower in the area, and it is utterly incapable of handling the data traffic that people attempt to use it for. When I went outside, I found myself surrounded by hundreds of people all trying — with varying degrees of success — to tweet about the experience. I managed to get a tweet to go through myself, shot a text message to my wife so she could find me, and then settled in to chat with people.

“We had just gotten our dinner,” one woman lamented. “I had only had one bite of my steak!”

“There’s the difference between men and women,” I told her. “I would have brought the steak with me.”

In general, people handled the situation with grace and humor. Someone commented that a vendor with a beer cart would be making a mint. Someone else said if there was a fire in the kitchen, at least the food wouldn’t get cold.

The signing was scheduled to end at 7:00, and that’s about what time we were allowed back in. It wasn’t until the next morning that I found out what had actually happened: low water pressure in the fire sprinkler system had triggered the alarm.

Guerrilla marketing

I believe in using whatever tools lay themselves at my feet when it comes to marketing. When we checked in and went to our room, we found that there was no WiFi available in the hotel except for “Dave’s iPhone.” I don’t know who Dave is, but he had a password on his WiFi, so it didn’t do us any good.

Luckily, however, I have my iPhone set up to become a mobile WiFi hotspot, too. Using it for that does suck the juice out of the battery, so I don’t use it that often, but this situation gave me an idea. There was only one visible WiFi network in the hotel, and it would probably be going away soon. So I changed the name of my iPhone and activated the mobile hotspot app when my signing began the next morning. What did people see when they searched for a WiFi hotspot that day?

Who Pooped WiFi network

That, my dear readers, is called free advertising.

I’m a celebrity, by golly!

Every writer should have the experience of being recognized. It’s an amazing feeling. When I was having breakfast with my wife the following morning, someone came up with a book she’d purchased in the gift shop right before the evacuation and hadn’t gotten signed. She recognized me, of course, by my ruggedly handsome face and thoughtful, intelligent demeanor. It had nothing whatsoever to do with the Who Pooped in the Park t-shirt I was wearing.

Yep, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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