For the past two weeks, I’ve been doing just that. As I’ve embarked on a book tour for my memoir, Hiking Naked: A Quaker Woman’s Search for Balance, I’m aware that my story is no longer confined to pages in my journal and documents on my laptop. So far, my words have mostly made their way to friends and family—people who already know me to some degree. Now, they’re coming to know me better, and if I think about that very much, I feel exposed. I’m not complaining about this discovery—after all, I willingly churned out events from and reflections upon my life and sought a publisher to put my words on pages in a book. A book that I now want and hope people will read. You can start here with Chapter 1.
Still, I reel a bit each time someone says something like, “I’m reading your book, and it really speaks to me.” Or, “I was right there with you.” And, “My back hurt just reading about your work in the bakery!” What stuns me is the realization that, as I go about my life each day, some number of people are reading about it. There’s an intimacy in that knowing that I hadn’t anticipated. I’m discovering that the metaphor of “hiking naked” extends to how I feel about others now reading my words.
I have yet to receive any critical reviews, but I expect they’ll appear eventually. I can’t control negative responses any more than I can influence the ways my experience may (or may not) resonate for others. As I learned over and over in Stehekin, my yearning for safety, certainty, and pleasing others was a through line in my life; it was tested there, and I wrestle with it still.
I don’t know how reactions from readers will feel in the coming weeks and months, especially as I encounter more people meeting me for the first time through my book’s pages. Whenever this baring of my soul makes me tremble, though, I’ll remember the smiling faces, the nodding heads, and the books offered to me for my signature at my first two launch events.
The first was in Stehekin, WA where the book is set. There, my mentor and friend, author Ana Maria Spagna, introduced me.
A week later, I celebrated in my current home of Lopez Island, WA. Friend and fellow writer Kip Robinson Greenthal introduced me there, and after I read, we shared in a conversation about writing, nursing, and the challenges of memoir.
Today’s publishing industry demands that writers actively promote their books. So, now that Hiking Naked is available wherever books are sold (if your local bookstore doesn’t have it, ask them to order it from their supplier), I hope you’ll pick up a copy. And here’s my request that you help me boost my memoir’s visibility. Once you read Hiking Naked, I hope you’ll take a few moments to review it at Amazon or GoodReads, in newsletters, and on social media. If you’d like me to visit your community, your book club, writing group/class, or your Quaker Meeting, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Despite a few jitters, I enjoy talking with readers, librarians, and booksellers about my work. That’s a type of exposure I look forward to.
Stehekin photos by Tracey Cottingham; Lopez photos by Beth St. George & Karen Hattman