The world of self-publishing has opened up a world of possibility, especially for those of us who simply want to share family stories with our loved ones, or have an idea, but are not willing to jump through the hoops to convince a more traditional publisher of the worth of that idea. I started out learning about self-publishing as a way to help others easily share their family stories.
And I received the blessing of gathering a substantial number of our own family stories in the process of creating that first book, the book I wanted to have, to be able to show others what they could do.
In the years since that finishing that first book, I’ve read a lot, met many colleagues who are also involved in self-publishing, and have created a number of books, both for clients, and for myself.
But it was when I realized that there was a market for extremely local books about Easy Walks right around the corner from where I live, that the “Easy Walks in Massachusetts” trail guide series was born.
No, none of my books are headed for the New York Times bestseller list. But on this journey of self-publishing, I have made life-long friends, gained a new perspective on visiting new places, and had more fun than I could have imagined. Sold a few books along the way as well.
I’ve wondered what the connection was, this self-publishing of local walking books, and my personal history work. And what about my life as a professional storyteller before that?
And then I had a brainstorming walk (an Easy Walk, of course!) with Kathryn Parent, staff member at Riverbend Farm in Uxbridge. She and I came up with a program to invite families to come for an easy walk, then return to the Visitor’s Center to create story books about something each person saw, heard, thought about, or imagined. Kathryn was so helpful in providing a place to host the program and was resourceful in preparing the supplies she had ready for the participants. I mostly acted as cheerleader and photographer.
With the structure of the program we suggested, no age limit was needed. Children who could speak coherently could dictate their story to adults (or others) who could write their story down.
What a joy to see pairs of people working on their stories after our hike. We’ve planned a series of these events, and I expect the experience will be different each time, since weather, trail conditions, and participants are likely to all be different as well.
And this has what to do with self-publishing? Perhaps mostly that you never know the path your life will take if you step out into the world with an idea for a book that you bring to reality and then share.
During the self-publishing workshop I conducted, it was exciting to talk with a group of women who gathered in Mansfield to talk about this topic. Each person brought skills and experiences to the group that they shared. We had lots (and lots!) of self-published books for the group to check out, to see the possibilities that are available. And we had a lot of fun as well.
I’m working on yet another Easy Walks book right now, getting maps to trailheads sketched out, making sure the maps are as clear as possible, to be useful tools in helping readers learn about areas they might not have known about, right around the corner from where they live. And once this book is done, it will be a tool for opening doors, making friends, helping people realize the possibilities that are waiting for them, right around the corner from where they live.
Do you have a “Great Idea” just waiting to be turned into a book to share? If so, we really need to talk.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress. She is a co-author of the recent community history, Bellingham Now and Then.