Never ignore your junk mail. That’s a lesson I learned a year ago last July when I found an e-mail in my junk mail folder from an agent in New York City. She was representing a small press in Virginia — Axios Press — that was interested in reprinting my first book, Escape to the Mountain. I had never heard of the press and tended to be suspicious. My husband Bruce and I immediately googled the name of the press and the name of the agent. Both seemed to be legitimate.
Axios Press is part of the Axios Institute, which is dedicated to printing books that describe alternative lifestyles and ethical philosophies. They include books by a wide variety of thinkers and, at first, I couldn’t understand how my book fit into their list. But then I saw that they were also reprinting some of the work of the famous ornithologist Alexander Skutch, whom we had visited back in the late 1980s in Costa Rica. I didn’t mind having my book (figuratively) in his company. (And, strangely enough, Axios Press will be pairing it with his in an advertisement they’ll be running in the Nov./Dec. issue of Birdwatcher’s Digest — where, coincidentally, I’ll have the cover story.)
I cautiously answered the agent, Emma Sweeney, and said I might be interested. Almost immediately I was offered an advance! And they sent me what appeared to be an excellent contract. Still, I held my breath and didn’t sign anything until the advance had been cashed and banked. Since then, I have been amazed that everything they promised has been fulfilled and right on time.
I, in turn, at the suggestion of my poet friend Todd Davis, wrote an update of our lives since that book was written. I also asked them to include a tribute I had written to my father-in-law for my Altoona Mirror nature column many years ago. They eagerly embraced both contributions and even added a minimal index. The map that appeared as endpapers in the original book is now in the back of the paperback. They changed the cover three times and finally settled on a photo of a mountain stream.
It seems a little strange to reread a book I wrote so many years ago when the boys were young. On the other hand, the natural world is at an even greater risk now than it was then. And our attempts to be self-sufficient are back in vogue. Worries that children no longer relate to the outdoors are still another theme in such books as Last Child in the Woods. Our boys were in the woods and fields throughout their childhood. Reading about their exploits might encourage other parents to give their children more outdoor experiences. Who knows? In any case, I’m pleased that Axios Press has wanted to give my long out-of-print book a second life.
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For those within driving distance of Altoona, I’ll be giving a reading from the book at Altoona College on October 1, in 150 Hawthorn at 7:00 p.m. I’ll illustrate it with some of Bruce’s slides from the early years. The event is sponsored by Penn State Altoona’s Environmental Studies Program and is free and open to the public.