Category Archives: Books

What I’m Learning About Self-Publishing a Book

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Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods
I recently self-published my first book, Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. It’s a 200+ page collection of short essays about my experiences as a camp host and parking lot attendant at a popular trailhead in a National Forest. Some of my readers have expressed interest in publishing books of their own, so I thought I’d share what I’ve learned about self-publishing so far.

#1 Writing the book was the easy part.

Confessions of a Work Camper includes 15 never-published-anywhere-else essays, as well as newly written introductions to each chapter, and some fun lists, but the bulk of the book has appeared in blog posts. For the most part, the book was written before I decided to self-publish it.

The steps that came after writing were the more difficult parts for me.

#1a Proofreading is a pain.

Believe it or not, I edit my blog posts several times before I schedule them. I thought I’d been doing a great job proofreading until I put the texts of posts into my book document and found typos all over the place. So I did more proofreading and editing. Then I did more proofreading and editing. Then I took a friend up on her offer to help, and she read the entire document and offered some corrections. Then I read the entire book aloud and found more mistakes. So when it was time to approve the proof of the book, I did so without reading it one more time. That was a mistake.

When I started reading my essays again in preparation for reading them aloud to an audience, I immediately found more errors. I’m not talking about formatting problems. I’m talking about wrong words in sentences. Since the words aren’t technically misspelled, the spell check didn’t alert me to them, and my eyes glided right over them. Sigh.

Every typo is an embarrassment to me.

The first edition is barely complete, and I already need to work on the second edition.

#1b It took me a while to figure out how to use CreateSpace.

I needed some form of Adobe to use CreateSpace’s cover creator. I couldn’t get Adobe to work with Firefox. I had a telephone conversation with a CreateSpace representative in South Africa. He was exceedingly nice and very helpful, but Firefox and Adobe still wouldn’t work together to let me use the CreateSpace cover creator. I ended up using Google Chrome to do anything on CreateSpace that required Adobe.

I put the text of the book in a Word Starter document. (Word Starter is the word processing program my laptop came with. I never upgraded.) When I transferred my text into the document formatted for CreateSpace, any words in italics transferred to all caps. Since I use italics to indicate thoughts or conversations, this glitch made it seem as if all the people in my book were YELLING AT EACH OTHER. I had to go into the CreateSpace document and manually change each instance of capital letters into italics.

When it came time to approve the book’s formatting online, formatting that looked fine in the CreateSpace Word document looked all wrong in the examples of the actual book. I spent an entire morning working on the formatting, and it’s still not perfect.

I’m not saying CreateSpace is impossible to use. When I got frustrated with it, I reminded myself that people many people use CreateSpace to self-publish every day. However, there is a learning curve when using CreateSpace. (The Poet had warned me of the learning curve when she first told me all she knew about publishing with CreateSpace. Read that post here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2016/10/19/self-publishing-books-online/.) Until a writer learns the ends and outs of CreateSpace, getting a book ready for publication may take more time than expected.

#2 That book’s not going to promote itself.

Again, writing the book was easy, compared to getting people to buy it.

My book was first released as an ebook. In the first day the ebook was available, it sold nine copies. This is great! I thought. From there, sales dwindled. Once my friends who read ebooks bought their copies, I had to figure out how to get strangers to buy it.

#2a Public libraries aren’t so keen on buying self-published books (and sometimes they don’t seem to want to buy any books at all).

I had the idea to get all my friends across the country to ask their local libraries to buy my book. To make it easier for them, I researched different libraries to find out how my supporters could go about requesting a book for purchase. Many libraries have an online form for such a request, but while some library systems (I’m looking at you, Las Vegas, NV and Richmond, VA), say sure, patrons can suggest a book for purchase, I found no indication of how to do so.

I filled out an online request for the purchase of my book with a library system in a major U.S. city where I happen to have a library card. I received a response saying they don’t even consider buying a self-published book unless it has at least 50 reviews on Amazon or GoodReads. (I currently have seven reviews on Amazon and none on GoodReads.)

#2b I’m not much of a hustler, so figuring out ways to promote the book hasn’t been easy. I’m encouraging folks who’ve read the book to leave reviews on Amazon and/or GoodReads. I’ve set up an author’s page on GoodReads. I’ve announced the book (repeatedly) here on my blog and on the Rubber Tramp Artist (https://www.facebook.com/Rubber-Tramp-Artist-1582864462007151/) and Blaizin’ Sun Creations (https://www.facebook.com/Blaizin-Sun-Creations-291317231259583/?fref=ts) Facebook pages.

I’ve done two readings so far, and have another scheduled for the day this post runs. The two readings were at the RTR and both were small. Making a reading a success seems to take a lot of promotion, including hanging flyers and sending emails. I haven’t given up, but it’s a lot more work than I expeted.

#2c It takes CreateSpace a while to deliver 100 copies of a 200+ page book.

It was Christmas before I was able to approve the book for publication and order the 100 copies I wanted for promotion. I thought I’d get them by the first week in January, which was based upon absolutely no concrete information. Instead, my estimated delivery date was January 17. I was hesitant to schedule reading where I hoped to sell copies of the book when I had no copies of the book to sell.

#3 Lots of people want to write a book.

When I mention I’ve recently self-published a book, the person I’m speaking to often says s/he has written a book or wants to write a book. I try to be encouraging while also making clear that writing a book is only the first step in getting it read.

 

Book Review: Don Coyote

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Don Coyote: The Good Times and the Bad Times of a Much Maligned America
I’d never seen or heard a coyote until I lived until New Mexico. Until I was in my 4os, my sole experience with coyotes was Wile E. Coyote from The Bugs Bunny Road Runner Show. But when I spent three summers and parts of two winters in Northern New Mexico, and heard coyotes and sometimes even saw them.

During my first winter in Northern New Mexico, I found a copy of Don Coyote: The Good Times and the Bad Times of a Much Maligned American Original by Dayton Hyde in a free box. I read the book and learned more about coyotes than I ever thought I’d know

One night, while reading , Don Coyote I had the pleasure of hearing real live coyotes yip, yap, and howl in the distance. I thought this book and that far off canine conversation might be as close as I ever got to a coyote.

Dayton Hyde has been up close and personal with coyotes. Don Coyote is the story of how he befriends a wild coyote, then has friends in the East send a captive mating pair to his Oregon cattle ranch. Hyde ignores the necessary coyote permits and finds himself in possession of eight coyotes when the female gives birth to a litter. Since his plan is to tame the pups “to the point where [he] could release them on the ranch and observe their everyday life without their being concerned about [his] presence” he snatches two of them from the parents before their eyes open. Days later, when the pups’ eyes are opened, he steals two more from their family and brings them into his human world where they stay until each decides to move on into the wild. (Strangely, from that point, he never again mentions the parental coyotes, and the reader is left to wonder what happened to them.)

By the end of the book, Hyde is a rancher and naturalist, but he was not always both. This book chronicles not only his fascination and love of coyotes (the ones he tamed to varying degrees as well as wild ones), but also how that love and fascination caused his transformation from a person who tried to mold nature according to his human whims into someone who observes nature and notices that often the natural way is the best way. As he stopped fighting nature, he began to feel more of a responsibility toward the earth and all nonhuman creatures.

Hyde writes, “What made me so different from my neighbors was that they figured we humans had dominion over the land while I felt we had a responsibility for it—for the soil; for every plant, bird, and animal that shared this planet with us; for the rivers, and for the air.”

Hyde’s writing style is accessible, although his vocabulary is sometimes of an age prior to the book’s 1986 copyright date. He’s a thinker and not just a doer, and his prose is lovely and evocative.

This book came to me via a free box, and I’m glad to have read it. It is a must read for every environmentalist and for anyone who thinks killing predators is a good idea.

My Creative Dream Guidebook

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I’ve adored SARK for years.

I can’t remember which of her books was the first I read, but I know I knew about her before the 21st century. I remember decorating a post card and writing a fan letter on it and sending it to her in 1999 or 2000, so I certainly knew her work well by then.

If you’ve never heard of SARK, I’m glad I can be the one to tell you about her.

Succulent Wild Woman
SARK is her acronym name; the letters stand for Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy. On her website, Planet SARK (http://planetsark.com/about-sark/), she says about herself,

Throughout the course of my life and career as an international expert in personal well-being and transformation, my name has become synonymous with transformation, color, healing, movement & FUN.

I’ve written countless books and created programs that I offer to provide a powerfull [sic], grounded and practical approach to feeling glad more often, transforming what hurts into what helps and living a life of joyfull creative expression. No matter what!

I’ve read a lot of SARK’s books over the years, including Succulent Wild Woman, Eat Mangoes Naked, A Creative Companion: How to Free Your Creative Spirit, The Bodacious Book of Succulence: Daring to Live Your Succulent Wild Life, and Change Your Life Without Getting Out of Bed: The Ultimate Nap Book.

The books are full of colors and wisdom and love. Even though I live in a van and have little space to hoard books, I own copies of both Succulent Wild Woman and Eat Mangoes Naked. Sometimes when I am sad, I reread one or both of the books for the umpteenth time. I like browsing through the books, skipping around, reading bits and pieces here and there. Reading SARK’s kind and gentle words always lifts my spirits, cheers me up, makes me feel better.

Make Your Creative Dreams Real: A Plan for Procrastinators, Perfectionists, Busy People, and People Who Would Really Rather Sleep All Day
In 2004, Touchstone books released SARK’s book Make Your Creative Dreams Real: A Plan for Procrastinators, Perfectionists, Busy People, and People Who Would Really Rather Sleep All Day. (Yes, I WOULD rather sleep all day, as a matter of fact.)

I’ve had my eye on Make Your Creative Dreams Real for a while now, but I was never in the right position to acquire it. I don’t like to spend money on books since there are so many free ones out in the world, but I never found this one in a free pile or offered on BookMooch.

I was house sitting for a friend from Christmas Day to New Year’s Eve. She had a $10 voucher at an independent used bookstore that expired on New Year’s Eve. She didn’t have a chance to use the voucher before she left town, and her plane didn’t land until late on December 31. Since she couldn’t use the voucher, she left it for me. (Super big thanks to this generous friend who also left a Chick-fil-A gift card for me!)

Before I went to the bookstore, I didn’t really know what I wanted to get. I wandered around in the store for a while before I thought, OH! SARK!

So I sought out SARK in the store’s self-help section. (SIDE NOTE: I couldn’t find the self-help section, but I was too embarrassed to ask any of the workers to direct me. How silly is that!?! I was too embarrassed to let strangers know I wanted to self-help myself. Sigh.)

The Grapes of Wrath
There were quite a few titles by SARK on the shelf. Then I saw Make Your Creative Dreams Real. Oh, yes, that would do. I checked the price. It only cost $8! Score! (With my remaining $2, I bought a battered copy of The Grapes of Wrath, which I’d decided to revisit.)

Although the word “plan” is clearly in the subtitle, I didn’t realize Make Your Creative Dreams Real is a how-to book. I started reading it and realized it’s a twelve month, week-by-week guide. Every week SARK presents a new project, exercise, game, or suggestion.

I’ve never been good at sticking with how-to books that require weekly exercises, but I figured since I already had the book I should stay the course.

The exercise for the first week was to make a “creative dream guidebook” for myself. I had a visual journal I’d bought with a gift certificate The Lady of the House gave me a couple years ago for Christmas. I’d bought two journals and only used part of one, so I thought the second one would do just fine.

I made collages on both covers. (One of the best features of this particular journal is that you I can open it completely and lay it flat.) I went for a blue theme, which I thought gave everything a dreamy feeling. Coyote Sue had just given me an old children’s dictionary she’d bought at a thrift store, so I cut out and pasted on the definitions for “create/creation/creator” (since there was no entry for “creative”), “dream,” “guidebook,” “blaze” (because, you know, the dictionary doesn’t include “Blaize”), and “sun.” I think it turned out great.

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I took the photo of my Creative Dream Guidebook collage. The other images are links to Amazon.com. If you click any of those images, they will take you to Amazon, and I will get an advertising fee from anything you purchase.

Happy Birthday, Dolly Parton

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Today is the birthday of Dolly Rebecca Parton. I’m sure everyone knows who Dolly Parton is, so I won’t even bother with autobiographical details. Instead I will share a review I wrote of a Dolly Parton biography I read last summer.

Dolly Daughter of the South
The book in question is Dolly: Daughter of the South,  written by Lola Scobey.

Where to begin?

I picked this book up at a thrift store for a dime. I wouldn’t say I’m a big Dolly Parton fan, but I do like some of her music and when I’ve seen her being interviewed on TV, she seems like a really nice person. So I figured, what the hell?, and forked over the dime to buy the book.

Several things about this book are suspect.

#1 It has no ISBN. Did books in the 70s and 80s not have ISBNs? What does it mean that this book has no ISBN? I dunno. (Oh, wait. I did find the ISBN, in tiny print on the spine, and again in tiny print on the right side of the front cover, right next to the price of $2.50)

#2 There are photos in this book, but no photo credits. Don’t most reputable authors give credit, if not to the photographer, at least to the person who provided the photo? No one is credited with the photos in this book.

#3 The following disclaimer is given on the book’s credit page: Sections of Chapters 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, and 18 are dramatizations based upon facts about the characters’ lives and/or attitudes they have expressed. Dramatizations? As in made up? As in fiction? Ok, the author made up some of the shit in this book, and while she admits to making up some shit, she doesn’t tell us what shit she made up. So how can the reader really know what is true and what is not?

#4 The author never says where or when she actually interviewed Dolly Parton. At the end of the book, she does “acknowledge” some “fine people of Sevierville” (the town near where Dolly Parton grew up). Throughout the book, the author does mention situations in which some of those “fine people” told her about Dolly Parton’s past, so I do believe the author interviewed and got quotes from those “fine people.” And although the author presents the reader with many direct quotes attributed to Dolly Parton (with quotation marks and all), I think the author read a bunch of other interviews other people did with Ms. Parton and cobbled together quotes and included them here. For some of the quotes, the author of this book even says who did the interview and in what magazine it appeared (but no dates or issue numbers). I think this book is akin to a term paper, where the author read a lot of other people’s writing, then put it all together hoping for something bigger than the sum of its parts, but without any endnotes or footnotes or citations of any kind. I think any of my high school English teachers would have called that plagiarism.

This book is has a copyright date of 1977, with a first printing in October 1977, and additional printings in January 1978, August 1978, August 1979, January 1981, and February 1981, so I guess it sold a lot of copies. I’m sure Dolly Parton had a lot of fans at the time who wanted to know all about her and were willing to shell out a few bucks to get all the info in one inexpensive, paperback package. (I thought my mom had a copy of this book lying around the house when I was in middle school, but nothing in this book seemed the least bit familiar, so if my mom had it, I somehow didn’t read it.)

Great literature, this ain’t. Consider the first sentence of the book: “Kicking the damp, sticky sheets away from her legs, Avie Lee stared with plucky brown eyes into the sultry morning darkness that still filled the hot rooms of the cabin.” “Plucky brown eyes”? “Sultry morning darkness”? I haven’t seen such overwrought use of adjectives since 10th grade English class. I suspect this is some of the stuff author Lola Scobey dramatized, since I doubt she was in Dolly Parton’s parents’ bedroom before Ms. Parton was even born to experience for herself how sultry that morning darkness was or to witness the pluckiness of Ms. Parton’s mother’s brown eyes. Sheesh!

I like trashy biographies. I really do. But this one was kind of disappointing. I didn’t get swept up in the writing, and nothing really juicy is shared here. I did learn that Dolly Parton has been working as a singer ever since she was a little girl of nine or ten years old. That was interesting.

Really, the best thing about this book is the cheesy photograph of Dolly Parton on the front cover.

To really celebrate Dolly’s birthday, let’s watch a video of her singing “Jolene,” circa 1975.

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbooks

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I love the Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbooks, a series of books with information on living through a variety of awful experiences. Some of the scenarios and instructions for survival are funny, but many are totally serious. Today I’ll tell you what I think of each of the books in this collection.

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook
According to Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worst-Case_Scenario_series), it all started in 1999.

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht is a book published in 1999 by Chronicle Books. It has sold over 10 million copies worldwide[1] and spawned a series of related books, games, and a television show called Worst Case Scenarios.

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook  will tell you how to survive interactions with sharks, bears, mountain lions, and alligators, as well as how to jump from a moving car and how to jump from a moving motorcycle into a moving car. Aren’t these skills everyone needs?

This book isn’t as fun as others in the series. Learning how to survive a confrontation with a person shooting at you is not as lighthearted as how to avoid getting cornered under the mistletoe by someone you don’t want to kiss or how to cope if you are on a date and realize that you have forgotten your wallet. However, learning where to cower during an earthquake or how to survive getting stranded is good information to have.

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Dating and Sex
Jennifer Worick teamed up with Piven and Borgenicht for The Worst-Case Survival Handbook: Dating and Sex, first published in 2001. This book is full of lots of step-by-step instructions to get people out of all sorts of sex-related mishaps.

Topics include (but are not limited to) how to spot fakes (breasts, toupees), how to fake an orgasm (not recommended–by me or the book), what to do if you can’t remember the name of the person you wake up next to, how to ditch your date, what to do if don’t have enough money to pay the bill, and how to successfully have an affair.

Highly recommended, if only for a laugh.

James Grace teamed up with Joshua Piven for 2002’s The Worst-Case Survival Handbook: Golf.

.Reading the book did not help improve my golf game because I don’t have a golf game. I don’t play golf. I’ve never played golf. I never hope to play golf. However, since I’d read almost all of the other Worst-case Scenario Survival Handbooks, I jumped at the chance to read this one too.

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Golf
In true Worst-case Scenario Survival Handbook style, this book is both funny and informative. Funny: advice on how to “How to Thwart a Cheat.” Informative: “How to Play Out of a Water Trap.” Funny and Informative: “How to Survive Being Hit in the Goolies.” (Yes, “goolies” are just what you think they are.) Also funny: “How to Disarm an Irate Golfer,” “How to Control Your Golf Rage,” and “How to Cure a Golf Addiction.” The line-drawing illustrations are wonderfully humorous too.

I gave the book away pretty soon after I finished it, but it was worth the hour or so I spent reading it.

In 2002, the world received a gift in Piven and Borgenicht’s The Worst-Case Survival Handbook: Holidays. This book is hilarious. It gives all sorts of simple step by step instructions for surviving whatever catastrophe may befall your holiday season.

In addition to Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht, co-authors for The Worst-Case Survival Handbook: Parenting include  Sarah Jordan and  Brenda Brown. This book was first published in 2003, and is the funniest Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook I’ve read. I almost passed it up  because I don’t have and will never have children, but I’m really glad I read it anyway.

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Parenting
To think, I almost missed out on knowing that “many monsters are afraid of the color green,” that skills for dealing with a stray dog are nearly the same as skills for dealing with a stray exchange student, and that while “couples frequently disagree over whether to bribe children,” kids are “almost always…in favor of it.”

I busted out laughing when I saw the section titled “How to Recapitate a Doll.” Recapitate, now that’s a great word. I don’t know if it’s standard English, but I will be using it from now on. Recapitate! Brilliant!

Another fantastic section is “How to Discipline an Imaginary Friend.” Funny, funny, funny! I like the idea of telling a kid that if s/he is going to play with an imaginary friend, “they both need to be on good behavior and are both responsible for any broken vases, stolen cookies, or messes.” Also fantastic is the idea of creating “activities to keep the imaginary friend out of trouble,” such as sending him/her to “(imaginary) music lessons,” “(imaginary) summer camp,” or “(imaginary) boarding school.” I laughed so hard when I read all of that.

The illustrations are hilarious too. The drawings that go along with how not to use a stroller (“as a shopping cart, as a sidecar, as a scooter/skateboard, when running with the bulls in Pamplona) were fantastic. Also great are the pictures showing how to break up fights between parents at Saturday soccer.

Please, please, please, the next time a breeder in your life tells you they are expecting a bundle of joy(?), give them a copy of this book.

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Work
In my opinion, 2005 brought one of Piven and Borgenicht’s least useful books in the Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbooks series.

 The Worst-Case Survival Handbook: Work was mildly funny and barely helpful. I’m not going to try to get a job as a forklift operator or a brain surgeon, so I don’t really need to know how to fake my way through a job interview for one of those positions. And if I have to clean up on aisle 7, will I really have time to read the appropriate entry before heading to the spill? I think not. But it’s good to know the resource is out there if I ever need it.

Jennifer Worick once again joined the Piven/Borgenicht team for The Worst-Case Survival Handbook: Collage, first published in April 2004. Even though my collage days are far behind me, I enjoyed this book very much. Parts of it were really funny.

My favorite sections are the “hippie” portion of “How to Take on a New Identity” (it’s spot-on); the food

Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: College
equivalency chart (the caloric equivalent in mugs of beer for a variety of food items); “How to Eat When You’re Broke;” “How to Sleep in the Library;” and “How to Tell Your Parents You’ve Been Expelled.”

Joshua Piven, David Borgenicht, and Sarah Jordan were back at it with The Worst-Case Survival Handbook: Weddings, first published in 2004. I’ve never had a wedding of my own. I never plan to have a wedding of my own, so I’ll probably never use the advice offered in this book.

This volume about weddings didn’t offer a lot of laughs for me. I think this book mostly played it straight. Or maybe it was just that the parts that were supposed to be for laughs, well, maybe the jokes just weren’t that good.

I thought the illustrations were some of the funniest parts of the book. (See “Extreme Heat/Extreme Cold” on page 81 or “Disaster Honeymoon” on page 148.)

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Weddings
The disasters contained in this book all related to the bride and groom; the advice is all for them. Guests could have used some advice for surviving wedding disasters too.

Also, I think there should have been advice for the bride or groom who realizes right before the wedding that this impending marriage is a bad idea and has decided to call the whole thing off or to go along with it anyway.

Another cool book in the Worst-Case Scenario series is 2005’s The Worst-Case Scenario Book of Survival Questions. This one was authored by the duo of Piven and Borgenicht and helps readers determine if they can survive a variety of disasters.

It includes disaster scenarios ending in multiple choice options the reader can choose from. Turn the page and find out what’s the best answer and why. Some scenarios have no best option, so the reader is given two choices and

The Worst-Case Scenario Book of Survival Questions
told the pros and cons of each. The book ends with the “Worst-Case Scenario Survival Aptitude Test.” I gave this test to friends and found that a lot of the questions are not in the pages of the book, making it kind of unfair.

Josh Piven and David Borgenicht were at it again with The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: LIFE, first published in 2006.

Where else are you going to learn what to do if the pandas won’t mate, the sauce is too garlicky, the lobsters escape, giraffes stampede, a bird gets loose in the house, you get caught passing a note in class, you’re stalked by a leopard while lost in the jungle, or a bird gets caught in your hair? Seriously, this book answers all of these questions, plus more, more, more.

The illustrations, while few, are absolutely hilarious!

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: LIFE
Read this book in the safety of your own home, before you need all the information it provides,

There are a couple of The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbooks I haven’t read. I guess I’m not the target audience for The Complete Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Manhood, but I really, really want to read The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Paranormal. It’s not currently listed on BookMooch, so I’ll have to keep my eyes open for it at thrift stores.

Confessions of a Work Camper Is Available NOW

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Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods
It was a Christmas miracle!

I received the proof of the paper copy of my book, Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods. It looked good enough for me, so approved it. Within a couple of hours, the paperback version was available on Amazon.

For only $10 (plus shipping and handling) you can own your very own paperback copy of my book. For $3.99, you can read it as an ebook.

If you’re forgotten what it’s all about, here’s a reminder:

Follow the adventures of a campground worker as she chronicles the delights and disasters of working with the public away from all the conveniences of modern life: electricity, running water, internet access, or phone service. Join her on the top of a mountain, as far from civilization as she’s ever lived, in this collection of creative non-fiction essays.

If you click on the image of my book above, it will take you right to Amazon, and I’ll get an advertising fee.

I’m pretty excited about this book. It’s my first. I don’t think I could possibly be any prouder.

Remedios Varo

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I first learned of Remedios Varo while reading an article in a feminist newspaper about a rare exhibit of her work. I became fascinated with her and her work and started learning more about her. Remedios Varo was soon one of my favorite artists.

UNEXPECTED JOURNEYS: The Art and Life of Remedios Varo
I learned a lot about Varo by reading the book Remedios Varo: Unexpected Journeys by Janet A. Kaplan. Here’s a review I wrote of the book:

This book is incredible, awesome, amazing, fantastic, and wonderful. I do not have the words to say how good this book is.

It’s the biography of Remedios Varo, a female surrealist painter of whom most people have never heard. I found out about her when I read an article in the now defunt Sojourner newspaper about a very rare exhibit of her work in Chicago. From that moment, I was fascinated.

I don’t understand why I have heard of Magritte and Dali and Duchamp, but never Varos. Her work is just as good (better) than theirs. Hmmm, I wonder if it’s because she is a woman and hasn’t been taken seriously.

In any case, this book is a biography, and also includes many full color reproductions of her work. I go back to it again and again and just look at the pictures, which are mesmerizing and beautiful. This is one of those books that I want to hang on to forever.

Unfortunately, I was not able to hang on to the book forever, so I had to do some internet research to find information to share about Varo today, the anniversary of her birth.

Mujer saliendo del psicoanalista

Image of Mujer saliendo del psicoanalista (Woman leaving the psychoanalyst) by Remedios Varo from https://theartstack.com/artist/remedios-varo/mujer-saliendo-del-psicoanalista

According to the Totally History website (http://totallyhistory.com/remedios-varo/),

Remedios Varo Uranga, one of the world famous para-surrealist painters of the 20th Century, was born in 1908 in a small town called Angles in the province of Girona in Spain.

Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remedios_Varo) says,

Remedios Varo Uranga  was a Spanish-Mexican para-surrealist painter and anarchist.

Born in Girona, Spain in 1908, she studied at the Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid. During the Spanish Civil War she fled to Paris where she was greatly influenced by the surrealist movement. She met her second husband, the French surrealist poet Benjamin Péret, in Barcelona. She was forced into exile from Paris during the German occupation of France and moved to Mexico City at the end of 1941. She died in 1963, at the height of her career, from a heart attack, in Mexico City.

Nacer de nuevo

Image of Nacer de nuevo ( Born again) by Remedios Varo from https://theartstack.com/artist/remedios-varo/nascer-de-nuevo

A website dedicated to Varo (http://www.remediosvaro.org/varo.html) lists her influences:

Remedios Varo’s artistic influences included the work of Hieronymus Bosch…She was also influenced by styles in other realms including Picasso, Francisco Goya, El Greco, and Braque. Andre Breton was a formative influence in Varo’s understanding of Surrealism. Further artistic influence can be seen in her paintings of the modern Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico. While in Mexico, Varo became influenced by the primitive art ancient Columbian culture…

Philosophically, Varo was influenced by a many [sic] mystic traditions of both Eastern and Western society. She studied the ideas of G. I. Gurdjieff, C. G. Jung, Ouspensky, Sufis, H. Blavatsky, and Meister Eckhart. The legend of the Holy Grail fascinated Varo along with sacred geometry and alchemy. She believed that through each of these there was a path self-enlightenment and the transformation of consciousness.

Although I was most attracted to the beautiful yet creepy quality of Varo’s art, I was also attracted to her as a person. She had a variety of lovers throughout her life (although she never divorced her first husband), and she was an anarchist and a feminist. The aforementioned Totally History webpage says,

[Varo] was not only a surrealist but also an anarchist. She believed that the state was an unnecessary evil that opposed the conduct of human relations…This philosophy was also reflected in her isolationist art style…

Feminism was another school of thought that influenced the art style of [Varo]. At the time when she was a surrealist painter, the male surrealist did not see their female counterparts as talented. T[h]is created an environment where female artists were isolated. The misconceived talents of the women were reflected in her art as images of sad women in isolated and confined places. This was her way of responding to the feminine injustices in the world of art at the time.

Although nothing can replace viewing art in person, it’s easy to see much Varo’s work just by doing a few web searches. In honor of the birth of Remedios Varo, I hope you will seek out more of her art and maybe come to a better understanding of why I appreciate it so much.