In Canoeing the Great Plains, I recount my journey on the Missouri, the country’s longest river. A novice canoeist when I begin my trip, I face the Missouri at a time of dangerous flooding and must learn to trust myself to the powerful flows of the river and its stark and serenely beautiful countryside. I meet a cast of characters along the river who assist me both with the mundane tasks of canoeing—portaging around dams and reservoirs and finding campsites—and with my own personal transformation. Mishaps, mistakes, and misadventures plague my trip, but over time the river shifts from being a frightening adversary to a welcome companion.
From letters to books: Your author in print
As you know, many of the letters and other pieces you read here are actual letters I’ve written or would like to have written. They deal with the complex workings of the human interior. If you like what you’ve seen here, please consider reading my books.
My first book, published by the University of Nebraska Press in 2009, is Seldom Seen: A Journey into the Great Plains. In May 1995, with nothing but a backpack and a vague sense of disquiet, I left my home and a steady if deadening job in Kansas City, Missouri. Over the next two and a half months I made my way on foot to Helena, Montana, letting chance encounters guide me to a deeper sense of who I was and where I was going. My chronicle of this journey charts my experiences with the seldom-seen people of the small towns, the far-flung outposts, and the Great Plains that make up “our America.”
Beginning as a seeker, I become a faithful recorder of other people’s search for contentment, introducing us to a firefighter with a farm at the end of the world, a fiery Christian conservative, a man sharing a van with a crowd of cats, a former circus carny who’s found the secret to living life, and a homeless Native American offering a special and enduring gift. Ridden out of a hostile Kansas town, sniffed by bears, confronted by bison and recalcitrant moose, I cannot help but see how land, sky, weather, and a world of circumstances influence people. Against the majestic sweep of the open plains and endless horizon, his story is one of hope and desperation, richness and simplicity—a portrait of who we are in the heartland of America.
You can find Seldom Seen on amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Canoeing-Great-Plains-Missouri-Summer/dp/0803271883. It will make a great holiday gift for the readers in your life. You can read an excerpt of the book: http://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/Supplements/excerpts/Fall%2009/9780803216167_excerpt.pdf
My second book, Canoeing the Great Plains: A Missouri River Summer—also a University of Nebraska Press publication–is due out in bookstores and online booksellers on May 1. Canoeing the Great Plains continues what Seldom Seen began. After two and a half months, 1,450 miles, and numerous encounters with the people of the heartland, I arrived in Helena, Montana. I then set a canoe on the Missouri and asked the river to carry me safely back to Kansas City, hoping this enigmatic watercourse would help reconnect me with my life.
As the miles float by and the distinctions blur between myself and what I formerly called nature, I come to grips with my past, my fears, and my life beyond the river.
You can pre-order Canoeing the Great Plains now for delivery in April. Find it on amazon.com at http://www.amazon.com/Canoeing-Great-Plains-Missouri-Summer/dp/0803271883. The pre-order price is about $9 off the list price, which makes it a good deal for your bookshelf, that of a friend’s, or the one of someone close to you.
If you would like a signed copy of either of the books or both, please let me by E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. At the moment, the best way to get a signed copy to you is to have the book sent to me and I will sign it and post it to you.
Feel free to contact me anytime.
1717 Jarboe St.
Kansas City, MO 64108
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