Sonoran Desert, after the rain

Lush. Cool. The cholla (bright gold) and ocotillo (bright green) are on fire right now. So much color! Cloudy sunset, views of the city and mountains. ūüôā

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Becoming an Independent Author: Reflections Along the Way

Pictured: New front and back cover of Pedaling Home: One Woman’s Race Across the Arizona Trail

Last year I self-published my first book, Pedaling Home, about my experience bicycle racing the Arizona Trail from Mexico to Utah. I completed the 100-page book in five or six weeks of full-time work. I created my own book and cover design, learning the ins and outs of self-publishing platforms like Kindle Direct Publishing and IngramSpark. I enlisted my (gifted!) friends to help with editing. I read manuals and watched instructional videos. I studied the basics of Amazon advertising. After the book came out, I agreed to speaking engagements, where I sold books in person.

It was terrifying. It all happened so fast, perhaps too fast. Yet I was able to face my fear of public speaking, as well as the hatred of my own artless handwriting, scrawled into the books I signed.

Recently I walked into a local business, where I was taking a yoga class. To my surprise, my book was on display, though I never approached the business. It was an important moment for me, not because I was flattered (though I was). It was important because it helped me recognize my own yearning to connect and share ideas with people beyond a small group of academic specialists.

Though the book was “garage band” quality, I got my story out there. And people liked the story. Nearly every week somebody reads the book, in countries all around the world. I have yet to make a substantial income from it, but it is a job I take more and more seriously. For stories are powerful, and our culture needs better stories. Whenever I feel as though I am alone in the way I see the world, I find a kindred soul in an author, narrator or filmmaker. At other times stories help me see the world in a newer, better way.

In November I will release a revised, expanded and redesigned version of Pedaling Home¬†— a book I will more wholeheartedly market, something more within the realm of professional quality. In the spring I will sell and sign copies at my city’s annual book festival, where I will meet readers and other indie authors. Already I more often spend weekends at an author conference or workshop than at an academic conference.¬†I still read philosophy books and articles; but I read a lot more besides that. Next year I will write (and hopefully publish!) fiction,¬†while teaching philosophy part-time¬†at my local community college. (Altering your career path does not require giving up the parts of your former job — or life — that you find meaningful! Quite the contrary.)

This is a new track, different from the tenure-track. I am excited to see what it holds. Unlike my academic career, the path forward is less clear, less certain. So, I try to enjoy each day of writing, revising or business strategizing. One thing I have learned through my bikepacking adventures is how to enjoy the ride. And that is what I am doing right now. I try to bring that adventurous spirit to each and every day.

Peace and Love on your own Career Voyage!

Sarah