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Summer 2012 “Who Pooped?” Book Signings

I’m starting to put together the summer book signing schedule. We’ve confirmed three signings with Yellowstone National Park:

  • Fri, Jul 20 – Lake Hotel
  • Sat, Jul 21 – Old Faithful Inn
  • Sun, Jul 22 – Old Faithful Inn

If you’re going to be in the park that weekend, please come by and say hi!

I will post more details (and more signing dates) as we get closer to summer.

Book Signings: Learn from my mistakes!

Last month, I wrote a blog post entitled “14 book signing tips for authors.” Last night, I kicked myself for not following all of my own advice.

Actually, things started out just right. I talked to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center well in advance and worked out the details. I would give a talk in their theater from 7:00 to 8:00 pm, and then sign books in their gift shop afterward. I publicized the talk and signing on Facebook, Twitter, and this blog (tip #1), leaving the local publicity to the Grizzly and Wolf Center — and I made sure the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce knew about it. I sent them some artwork for posters (tip #2) and packed my big sign. Since they told me that they regularly carried my book and it sold well, I assumed they’d have plenty of stock, but I tossed a few extras in the car, just in case.

See the problems? Hint: they’re both in that last sentence, and there are two key words in each problem. The first one is “I assumed” and the second one is “a few.” When I showed up a couple of hours early to check in (tip #4) and chat with the staff (tip #10), one of the first things the manager said to me was, “we sold out of your books, so I hope you have plenty of them out in the car!” Oops. I had five. Count ’em, five.

Luckily, West Yellowstone is a small, friendly town. The gift shop manager at the Grizzly and Wolf Center knows the owner of the bookstore in town, and called her. Oops again. They were out of stock, too. Fortunately for us, a very pleasant assistant manager at another store in town (thank you, Smith & Chandler!) had a big stack of books they were willing to share.

Talking Poop in West Yellowstone

So all went well. I gave my talk to a good-sized group, and there were plenty of books for the signing. I also learned my lesson. I should have paid more attention to my own tip #13 (see below), and I should have called the store before I left home to ask whether they would need books. Calling ahead might not have been adequate, though. My event was on a Sunday, and they had a good stock going into the weekend. She might have told me they had it covered. But it still would have been good to ask.

TIP #13: Carry some spare books. If you’re lucky, the signing will be a smash hit. With the economy down, though, booksellers are being cautious about over-ordering. That means that if your signing is fantastic, they just might run out of books. If you have a box or two in your trunk, you can grab them (be prepared to sell them to the store at the standard distribution discount!) and keep on going. If you don’t, the signing is done.

As always, everything comes down to communication. As writers, that’s our first job anyway, right?


book signing book banner

Book Review: “Hawks Rest” by Gary Ferguson

Why am I writing a review of a book that came out over eight years ago? Because it went out of print — which made me unhappy because it is one of my favorite pieces of nature writing — and it’s coming back now. I spoke to Gary Ferguson this morning, and he said it looks like Hawks Rest: A Season in the Remote Heart of Yellowstone will be coming back out this fall. When I have details, I’ll share them here.

Luckily, I am a cyber-packrat as well as being one in real life, so I still have a copy of the book review I wrote for the Carbon County News shortly before the book came out. So here, direct from April of 2003, is my review of Hawks Rest:

The wait is over for Gary Ferguson fans. His latest book, Hawks Rest: A Season in the Remote Heart of Yellowstone, is here, with another dose of the evocative nature writing we’ve come to expect of him.

Last June, Ferguson strode through the front door of his Red Lodge home and took the first step of his 140-mile hike to the most remote spot in the lower 48 states. This book describes both the trek to Hawks Rest, which is just south of the Yellowstone Park boundary, and his stay in the remote wilderness. How far can you get from a road in the continental United States? A paltry 28 miles — an easy day’s ride on horseback or a long day’s hike.

The trip was ostensibly about a lot of things. Writing Hawks Rest for National Geographic. Fixing up a Forest Service cabin. Counting various species of wildlife. Fixing fences. The book, however, reveals as much about its author as it does about the wilderness he visited. Clearly, the trip was also about a catharsis for Ferguson, perhaps a return to his days as a Forest Service ranger. This would be an opportunity for him to step away from the craziness of the human world and retreat to the seclusion and renewal of Mother Nature.

Seclusion, however, is one thing he found little of. Between rangers, trail crews, hikers, riders, outfitters, hunters, a camp for troubled juveniles, and backwoodsmen of all shapes and sizes, he encountered over 600 visitors in his months in the backcountry. Nature, he found in abundance, and he describes it with typical Fergusonian flair. His prose ranges from flowery descriptions of the grandeur of the area surrounding the Hawks Rest area to more factual recitations of the goings-on, but never settles into a dreary “this morning I arose at 6:48 and had a bowl of granola” journal format.

The combination of his wonderfully descriptive writing style and an encyclopedic knowledge of flora, fauna and the geological features of the area draw vivid mental images of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem. One piece of advice consistently given to novice writers by grizzled veterans is to write what you know. There’s no question that’s what Ferguson is doing. He knows and loves his subject matter, and it shines through in the writing. Having achieved grizzled veteran status himself with over a dozen books under his belt and his work appearing in over 100 magazines, he continues to educate, enlighten and enchant readers with his tales of the relationship between man and nature.

If you know Gary Ferguson, you won’t be surprised to hear that he pulls no punches when describing the things that offend and annoy him. His writing has matured as he has matured, and his feelings are expressed more clearly than in his earlier works like The Yellowstone Wolves. The groups most targeted by his blunt criticism are those using political clout to exploit wilderness areas for their own financial gain. Take this excerpt as an example:

“…I’m constantly amazed at the degree to which outfitters are wrapped in a victim mentality. Emerging from this profession, at least in the Thorofare, is a mean-spirited paranoia, a constant griping about wolves and city people and anti-hunting groups destroying a way of life; in short, it’s one of the most self-indulgent whinefests ever to unfurl in the land of the Great Divide.”

A far greater part of the book, though, is dedicated to the plants and animals of the Yellowstone ecosystem; especially the elk which dominate the area and the wolves that obviously hold a special place in Ferguson’s heart. He speaks of his critter encounters with fondness, and evokes both fascination and chuckles. I still can’t get the image out of my mind of his surprise meeting with a large grizzly bear where, in his words, Ferguson was “watching him with my pack turned slightly so that should he suddenly look up, my skinny ass will look bigger than it really is.”

Unlike most of his previous books, Hawks Rest is going straight to paperback instead of going through an initial hardback release. The publisher, National Geographic, is sending him on a publicity tour to promote the book, and he’s starting here in his hometown of Red Lodge.

July-August Book Signings

(Edited July 10)

Who Pooped? YellowstoneHere’s the latest version of my Who Pooped in the Park? book signing schedule for July and August. There will probably be more, but here’s what’s confirmed so far:

West Yellowstone, Montana
Sun, July 24, 7:00-8:30 — Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center

I will be giving a scat and tracks talk in the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center theater starting at 7:00 p.m., followed by a book signing outside the gift shop (which closes at 8:30).

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming/Montana
Mon, July 25, 11:00-2:00 — Old Faithful Store
Mon, July 25
, 3:00-6:00 — Old Faithful Inn
Tue, July 26
, 11:00-1:00 — Canyon Lodge
Tue, July 26, 4:30-7:30 — Lake Hotel
Wed, July 27, 11:30-2:30 — Map room at Mammoth

Who Pooped? Red Rock CanyonRed Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada
Sat, July 30, 10:00-2:00 — Red Rock Visitor’s Center

Red Lodge, Montana
Mon, Aug 1, 6:00-8:00 pm — Beartooth Nature Center

This will be a “poop talk” and book signing as a part of the Beartooth Evening Adventures program.

Most of these will be book signings without a formal talk, but I’m always happy to chat if things aren’t too busy.

Summer Book Signings

Who Pooped? YellowstoneMy summer book signing schedule for Who Pooped in the Park? is slowly coming together. Here’s what’s confirmed so far:

West Yellowstone, Montana
Sun, July 24
I will be giving a scat and tracks talk in the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center theater starting at 7:00 p.m., followed by a book signing outside the gift shop (which closes at 8:30).

Yellowstone National Park
Mon, July 25: Old Faithful Inn
Tue, July 26, 11:00-1:00: Canyon Lodge
Tue, July 26, evening: Lake Hotel
Wed, July 27, 3:00-5:00: Map room at Mammoth

I’ll post the rest of the times as we lock them down. Most of these will be book signings without a formal talk, but I’m always happy to chat if things aren’t too busy.

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