In the Bluff

“We thought, because we had power, we had wisdom.”

Stephen Vincent Benét, Litany for Dictatorships, 1936

Because things here in Wisconsin are moving at such a fast rate, I wanted to provide a brief update on my post from yesterday. You may notice I have repeated the quote from Benét; to me, this should be plastered on every government building across the country. Our leaders, from the president on down to the people who serve on our municipal councils, need to remember that the power attained in leadership is temporary, and that political power alone does not grant wisdom. It is only by reaching out to others who may disagree with you, by listening to and engaging the public, by looking at both sides of an issue and showing a willingness to find consensus and compromise, that true political power and wisdom are attained.

Sadly, that is not what is happening in Wisconsin as I write. The conversation is breaking down and positions are hardening, with no compromise in sight by either the governor or the Democratic senators. And this is bad for our democratic process. Out of these tough times, however, a small light of leadership and compromise shines through, though sadly underreported in the national media.

Last week, in trying to find middle ground between preserving the rights of the unions and the governor’s draconian move to end collective bargaining forever (and taking the governor at his word that such a move was necessary to help the state budget process going forward), Republican state senator Dale Schultz offered an alternative: allow the collective bargaining rights to be frozen for two years, giving the state time to work through its budget emergency, with the freeze “sun-setting” at the end of such time. (Full disclosure: I serve on a statewide board with Senator Schultz, though I don’t feel that experience biases my opinion of him.) This proposed alternative would give the governor what he has indicated he wants—the ability to deal with the current budget situation—and while not perfect for the unions, this at least preserves their rights in the long term.

Personally, I would not want to see those rights taken away at all, and I feel the union has offered to compromise on benefits already, doing their part. I still stand with the unions on the collective bargaining issue, and support their actions. But I would rather see Senator Schultz’s bill pass than accept the hard-line alternative from the governor. Though Senator Schultz’s bill is not perfect, and practical matters would still need to be resolved, it’s a start.

It shows a great deal of courage for a Senate Republican, under pressure from the governor, to be willing to buck his party and offer any such compromise. The senator listened to the arguments against the governor’s proposal and came up with a compromise solution—the only one proposed thus far in the state senate, to my knowledge. At a time when positions are hardening on both sides, I applaud Senator Schultz for being a leader when we desperately need one, for understanding that our politics are about give and take, and that our system is not designed to give everyone everything they want all the time. To date, not one of his fellow senators has signed on to this bill; perhaps the “Democrat 14” should consider working with Schultz to make his bill better, to “come in from the cold” and actually show the leadership that, with the exception of Schultz, is missing right now. Until then, Senator Schultz, listening to both sides, hearing the public concerns, understanding the impact for all parties, and attempting to find a solution, remains alone in the legislative wilderness.


In the Bluff—February 23, 2011

a blog from Wisconsin’s west coast
(the opinions expressed in this blog are the opinions of the author only, and do not represent the opinions of Fulcrum or its employees)

“We thought, because we had power, we had wisdom.”
—Stephen Vincent Benét, Litany for Dictatorships, 1936

Seven years ago, Fulcrum launched a book series called Speaker’s Corner, with the intention of increasing civil dialogue on a variety of issues facing America and the world today. In 2011, we will be launching several new initiatives in support of this endeavor, which will be discussed in a future blog. We live in a world today where civility is largely absent from our political interactions; increasingly, politicians on both sides see black and white in a world that is largely gray. It is my hope and intention that through the expansion of this series, we will contribute to building the much-needed bridges for constructive debate in the future.

The absence of constructive debate has really hit home with the continuing troubles here in Wisconsin. Last night, the governor continued to dig in his heels on his unyielding stance on benefits for public employees (which is troubling given the compromises offered by the public employee unions as well as by one brave Republican state senator, Dale Schultz). The movement has now become national, with similar efforts in Indiana and Ohio and rallies in support of the unions across the country (including 1,000 supporters in Colorado). There are many troubling underlying aspects to this issue, many of which go well beyond Wisconsin and public employee benefits. To wit:

The keeping of campaign pledges. The governor of Wisconsin has repeatedly stressed that he has given the voters in the state, who elected him as well as a Republican legislature last November, exactly what he pledged in his campaign. Unfortunately, neither the governor nor any of his supporters has of yet been able to produce any evidence that the governor campaigned on a pledge of ending collective bargaining for public employee unions. He did indicate that he would seek concessions from the unions in terms of their benefits (which the unions have offered, an offer ignored by the governor), but nowhere did he indicate that this basic right to collective bargaining would be abridged. To my mind, this gives moral force not only to the efforts of the protesters, but also the 14 democratic senators who refuse to return to the state until the governor agrees to discuss this issue. Had this issue been a part of the governor’s campaign pledge in the fall, his actions today would be reasonable, as voters would have had an opportunity to debate and process the issue. Sadly, this did not happen, and thus the voters are left with a leader taking unanticipated actions.

But the Democrats did the same thing. A lot has been made about President Obama forcing healthcare reform on the nation, and the notion that by doing this, he set a precedent that the Republicans are merely following. A few critical differences. First, while the final vote on healthcare was held using arcane parliamentary rules (something I disagree with regardless of party), the whole public debate on healthcare reform was out there for many months prior to passage. Remember all the vitriolic public forums preceding final passage? In Wisconsin, the governor has attempted to push through significant legislation not only with a lack of public debate (and no indication of compromise, which at least President Obama attempted to do), but to do so in a mere week, simply because he “had the votes.” Moreover, President Obama campaigned in part on healthcare reform; unlike the Wisconsin governor, he put the idea out there for voters to process and to vote on. Finally, there is the old-fashioned notion that two wrongs simply do not make a right. Even if a case could be made against the other two points above, does one really want to do something wrong simply because somebody else did it first?

Follow the money. More than one commentator has made the observation that what is really going on here has little to do with workers’ rights and collective bargaining, and more to do with money in politics. It seems to me this is an astute observation. For those of you who have read our book The Blueprint (Speaker’s Corner, 978-1-93621-800-4) released last year, you will see that authors Rob Witwer and Adam Schrager were on top of this bigger story well before the national media; this book, which received positive endorsements from commentators on both the left and the right, should be required reading for anyone interested in how money shapes politics today. By eliminating the power of the unions, which are the biggest contributor to Democratic Party campaigns, a significant base for candidate funding would be eliminated. Now, I am very much in favor of removing the influence of money in politics; but until we are able to create strong and fair legislation to achieve this end, it seems to me that eliminating union influence would create an uneven playing field for the near future, tilted to one party’s favor.

Unions are the enemy. The saddest outcome of this debate, in my opinion, has revolved around the status of union employees. These union members are our neighbors, our teachers, the local firefighters and police officers, the kind faces we see at city hall, the nurses and EMTs who take care of us, the state employees who diligently work to make the state a better place. They are not the enemy. Yet, the Wisconsin governor has created a situation where middle-class private sector employees are at odds with middle-class public employees. This to me is class warfare at its ugliest. I don’t want to dwell on the canard that state employees are somehow overpaid, other than to note that there are several studies that conclude that, including benefits, public employees tend to be underpaid, and I have yet to see a study that contradicts these findings. To ask these public employees to take a lion’s share of the pain in the midst of a state budget shortfall (I hesitate to use the word crisis, because Wisconsin’s problems, while significant, pale compared to those of other states), to in effect brand them as the enemy while giving tax cuts to corporations, seems unethical. The perception that unions are bad in general, that they have somehow outlived their usefulness, is also troubling. While I would agree that unions have at times taken advantage of political situations to forward their agenda (as have corporations, the wealthy, etc.), they have also provided many of the good things that benefit all workers. Think safe workplaces, healthcare, minimum wage, child labor laws, and the list goes on. In the grand scheme of things, unions have done much more good than bad. And they continue to be vital to providing a voice to workers. The basic right to collectively bargain is provided in the UN Declaration of Human Rights; I do not understand what we gain as a society by removing this right.

Why do I, a private employer, care about this situation? To put it simply, what is happening here in Wisconsin is not only a referendum on the future of public employee unions, it is a turning point where we Americans determine what sort of country we want to have in the future. Do we want to live in a nation where dialogue should precede large decisions? Or should we simply vest power in our leaders, to use at their whim? Do we want a level playing field for the free exchange of ideas and opinions? Do we want all sides to be heard? Do we want to protect and grow the middle class or do we only want to protect those with the most wealth?

The governor of Wisconsin, along with other state governments across the country, certainly has the power to decide many of these issues; they must recognize, however, that the wisdom comes from including all of the people in the debate.

To learn more about the Speaker’s Corner series and to see a list of titles, please click here.

Designing Fulcrum’s Book Covers: An Inside Look at ‘Endangered’

For those of you who follow a certain award-winning NBC show on Thursday nights  (or, I guess, if you work in an office yourself), you know just how unique and hilarious office environments can be. At Fulcrum, we have our own zany set of editors, designers, marketers, and salespeople, and this is never more telling than during our twice-yearly book covers meetings. In graphic designer Jack Lenzo’s perfectly light-calibrated office (the lighting and paint were chosen to create a color neutral proofing environment. Pretty cool, huh?) we battle for the perfect cover for each and every one of our books. To those outside the book publishing industry, this design process may be shrouded in mystery, but I think it’s time to lift our metaphoric skirts, if you will.

No, this is not a transcript of one of our meetings (if those were shared, I’d have to kill you), but instead a peek inside the mind of Jack and our featured author, Mitch Tobin, author of Endangered: Biodiversity on the Brink. This is one of our most controversial covers. Read on to see why.

JACK LENZO: Before we get too far, let’s consider the value of a title. We started with the title Legislating Noah’s Ark. What does that evoke in your mind? Probably something very different than Endangered.

No one ever saw my first ideas, but it’s fun to reflect on what came to mind. Where on earth did I find this picture?

JACK LENZO: Obviously Endangered didn’t fit the imagery I had been collecting for the original title, so we turned to the author for a new perspective. He had a photographer friend. Nice!

The humpback chub plays a role in the book, and it just so happened that Mitch and his friend hiked to the floor of the Grand Canyon on a research mission and came home with this photo. Perfect.

But apparently not everyone empathizes with a fish. What!?!? This fish made me cry, at least on the inside. His eyes scream, “The cold water from the dam is killing me!”

No? You can’t hear it?

The Southwest doesn’t have polar bears stranded on melting ice or cute penguins with nowhere to go…

JACK LENZO: How about cats? Cats are cute. After looking up the list of endangered species in the Southwest, I found a picture of an ocelot. Think mini leopard. Everybody loved it. Yeah! We’re done.

We send it to Mitch to hear his enthusiasm. Mitch is a nice guy…and he seems to be holding something back. Well, ocelots are endangered, but climate change, oddly enough, is likely to increase their range and chance at survival. We picked the one animal that is an outlier to the narrative. Seriously?

MITCH TOBIN: One of the first covers that Jack produced showed a cat perched on a ledge. Aesthetically, I loved that cover, but there was a slight problem. The species depicted, an ocelot, is one that I only mention in passing. It’s true that ocelots are listed as endangered and they once occupied the American Southwest, where my book is set. But I chose instead to focus on another borderlands cat, the jaguar. I figured the ocelot would be mistaken for a jaguar (in parts of South America, ocelots are called jaguaretes), and because many people associate both cats with the tropics, I thought the cover would suggest the book was about endangered species in some exotic, far-flung jungle, not their own backyards.

I was still tempted to go with the ocelot cover because it was so beautiful, but what sealed it for me was the fact that no one had seen an ocelot in Arizona or New Mexico in recent memory. Sure enough, a few months after the cover was finalized, two ocelots turned up in southern Arizona—one dead and one filmed by a remote camera—marking the first time the species had been recorded in the state since 1964.

JACK LENZO: Well then, what would be more relevant? I know what you’re thinking. He should have read the book. That’s why covers often make no connection to the story. I hate designers!

Keep in mind that the cat was a knee-jerk reaction to the lack of love for my fish. I still love that fish. I read the manuscript, thank you very much, and the section on condors was pretty darn compelling.

But if you don’t feel anything for a fish, what are the chances that a condor tugs at your heartstrings. Talk about fugly…

JACK LENZO: What to do, what to do? I went through the images I had been collecting along the way. I’m not sure the average person is ever going to think a condor is cute, but they are intriguing.

This shot of a condor with his head down turned out to be just what we needed. It’s unexpected, colorful, visually interesting…and it doesn’t hurt that the expression is kind of a downer in that projecting-human-emotions kind of way. Book it!

MITCH TOBIN: People often question me about the cover for Endangered. “What is that thing?” they ask. “And why is it upside down?”

Despite the occasional confusion, I’m a big fan of the cover depicting the California condor. Endangered begins and ends with the story of one such bird, condor 134, and the species has become emblematic of our attempts to protect biodiversity through the Endangered Species Act. When you see a condor in person, one of the most striking things about its appearance (aside from its nearly ten-foot wingspan) is the rainbow-colored gooseflesh that covers its neck and head. That featherless head isn’t exactly pretty, but neither is the story of our endangered species. I especially like that the photo is a close-up and the bird’s eye is so prominent on the page. As I write in Endangered, “When I could see the birds, bats, fish, and frogs eye to eye, I felt farthest from the tired talking points I was transcribing on deadline and closest to the truth.”


Since 1973, the Endangered Species Act has served as our nation’s legislative ark for imperiled wildlife. But our toughest and most controversial environmental law has failed to recover all but a handful of the 1,300 species under its protection. In Endangered: Biodiversity on the Brink, award-winning journalist Mitch Tobin uses firsthand accounts to show why so many species are at risk of extinction. For nearly seven years, Tobin reported from the front lines of Endangered Species Act battles. He crisscrossed the Southwest in search of wildlife driven to the brink of extinction and solutions to the crisis. Tobin discovered that this region, with its urban sprawl, wasteful water use, and vulnerability to climate change provides a snapshot of the issues facing species throughout the world. Tobin also found compelling examples of collaboration. Mitch Tobin’s year-long series on Arizona’s endangered species was a finalist for the John B. Oakes Award for Distinguished Environmental Journalism. Today, Tobin serves as a consultant to leading conservation groups and foundations.

In the Bluff

A blog from Wisconsin’s west coast
(The opinions expressed in this blog are the opinions of the author only and do not represent the opinions of the company or its employees)

I was just talking with a good friend of mine, and she made the excellent observation that the world seems especially volatile these days. Maybe it is because we are both in publishing, where indie bookstores continue to shutter at a daily pace and Borders, the second largest chain bookstore, just filed for bankruptcy and is closing approximately one-third of its stores. I was very surprised and dismayed to see the list of stores being closed, including the store on University Avenue in Madison, which in my opinion (based on visiting dozens of Borders over the years) is among the best in the chain (and is especially well managed).

I know there is a certain amount of schadenfreude in some online posts about the demise of one of the industry’s 800-pound gorillas. But let’s try to remember that the two biggest groups of folks most impacted by the closing of Borders stores are the store employees and the American consumer. With respect to the employees, in my visits to Borders stores over the years, I have always been impressed by the professionalism and book knowledge of these staffers (I know it is probably un-PC for me to point this out, but people who work at the chains very often display the same love for books and the industry as those at indie stores). In one fell swoop, many of these people are without jobs, for reasons that have nothing to do with them. My heart goes out to them and to all the folks who have lost jobs in the course of the shake-up of our industry. With respect to the consumer, the closing of Borders stores (including three in Milwaukee, which has already taken its lumps on the bookstore front) will mean fewer choices for buying books. And this can certainly have a deleterious effect on the ability for publishers to take risks on new authors and important titles. I am hopeful that there will be some upside in sales for indies and Barnes & Noble. But I cannot help but feel that we may be witnessing the start of a sea change in the industry that many of us have been discussing for years.

This overarching feeling of volatility may also be based on living in Wisconsin, where the governor is busy taking on the state and municipal employees and pushing to effectively reduce their salaries by increasing employee benefit costs and removing union protection (in fact, by the time this is posted, the state legislature will have likely approved the governor’s actions). What a mess! To single out these hardworking folks who are in many ways the backbone of our communities, providing necessary functions required by the citizens, teaching our children, and acting as the only interface many of us have with the government, is just wrong. There is this tremendous misperception that public employees are overpaid and receive too much on benefits vis-à-vis private employees; in fact, empirical evidence shows that these employees are actually underpaid, including benefits, when compared with private employees. Moreover, if this bill goes through, much like the Border’s closings, it will have impacts far beyond the employees directly affected. On average, these employees will lose about $2,000–$3,000 in annual salary from these changes; this is money that is spent in our communities on groceries, restaurants, movies, and, yes, books. I fear the ripple effect this decrease in salary will have on our general economy.

As I write this, tens of thousands of state employees, mostly teachers, are in Madison standing up for their rights. These calls for fairness will sadly be ignored by our state. I think we all know we are living in times that require some measure of sacrifice (and to the public employees’ benefit, they acknowledge as much and are willing to find some compromise). But to single out one group (mostly made up of middle-class workers) while, for example, refusing to look at increasing taxes (and thus revenues) on the most fortunate in our society is simply bad form. Stay tuned—this sort of action may be coming soon to your state.

Now, not all the change and upheaval is bad. I watched the uprisings in Egypt very closely for the past several weeks and found myself choking up last week when the Mubarak government fell. You could feel the pride of the Egyptian people radiating from the television. It felt like 1989 all over again, with democracy spreading across parts of the world previously kept in the shadows of freedom. Perhaps this is one of those incredible moments in time when we can learn from the Middle East that it is right to stand up for what you believe in and use peaceful means to be heard and call for change, and that civil society requires the diligence and contribution of all of its citizens, and that at the end of the day, we work best when we work together.

Colorado Fourteeners: Interview with a Climber

I’m a recent Colorado transplant, having spent the past three years in Boston. In my former cushy sea-level life, the only climbing I did was on the stairs out of the subway system, grappling with a cup of coffee in one hand and my iPod in the other, and dodging native wildlife such as the gray squirrel, the pigeon, and the New England sports fan. As both a Colorado and climbing newbie, I’m looking forward to my first mountain-state summer and to climbing some of those fourteeners that I’ve heard so much about.

This week I talked to Jeb Conner at Jax Mercantile in Lafayette, CO. We discussed the fourteeners, and he dished out some helpful advice for Padawan climbers looking to reach their first summit.

Tell me about yourself.

I’ve lived in Colorado my whole life, and my dad took me out on my first [fourteener] when I was eleven. You don’t think of mountains as something that change rapidly, but I feel like I’ve grown up with them and watched the routes change. It’s a living ecosystem up there, and nothing is permanent, even 14,000 feet of rock.

What advice would you give a novice climber who wants to tackle a fourteener?

Do your research before you climb.  Most of the climbs are walk-ups, with a little scrambling and light climbing. Summer climbs are a great opportunity for learning basic climbing skills, but mountains can be dangerous and deadly in the best conditions. Hike with a buddy, let someone know where you’re going and when you should be back, plan your route, and take proper supplies. Mountain weather can change on a dime, so better to have something and not need it…

What kind of gear and skills do I need to get started?

For the Class 1 routes, you won’t need to make a huge investment in gear. You would want to bring layered, non-cotton clothing, food and water packs, rain gear, a guidebook and a map, and a good, worn-in pair of hiking shoes.

As far as skills go, some new climbers like to join climbing clubs, so they’re always climbing with experienced climbers. The American Alpine Club is good for this and so is the Colorado Mountain Club.

Which peaks do you recommend for beginners?

I always recommend Torreys/Grays, Quandary, and Bierstadt for first-time climbers and for families with kids.

What’s your favorite fourteener?

Snowmass is a beautiful climb, and you can’t beat the scenic views. It’s unlike anything else in the world. I’ve climbed there in winter and summer, and it’s a personal favorite for me.

Readers, remember to enter to win the bible of fourteeners guides, the newly revised Colorado’s Fourteeners, by sending us your best fourteener or climbing story! Comment on this post, send your entry to our Facebook page, or tweet it to our Twitter account by February 24 to be entered in the drawing for the book!

Colorado’s Fourteeners Giveaway Contest

There is nothing quite like standing on top of a 14,000 foot peak, otherwise known as a “Colorado fourteener.” The awe-inspiring views and the feeling of being on top of the world among dozens of Colorado peaks will take your breath away, literally. And you can’t help but feel incredibly grateful.

Castle Peak

Top of Castle Peak in the fog

I started hiking fourteeners with my Dad when I was 14 years old, and I remember something about each and every experience. Over the years, I’ve collected many different memories in the Colorado Rockies. I’ve been surrounded by loose, scary boulders the size of school buses on Snowmass Peak, wondering how the heck we were going to get ourselves, and our dog, to the peak. I climbed Castle Peak in the spring with my snowboard strapped to my back and glided back down the mountain on my board.

Snowmass Peak

Among the boulders on Snowmass Peak

When we reached the top of Mount Massive a few years ago, there was so much fog that it was hard to know whether we were on top of a fourteener or at the beach in San Francisco. For a few minutes we were upset that couldn’t see the view you long for when you climb a fourteener—but a few moments later we watched as the fog slowly drifted down the mountainside and away from the peak. I’ve climbed two fourteeners in one day—Mt. Belford and Mt. Oxford (and you can climb a third peak in the same day if you head over to Mt. Missouri). It’s a wonderful feeling when you reach the top —you revel in the silence, the solitude, and the high-altitude bliss.The list of adventures goes on and the stories are always fun to share…

Mount Massive

Mt. Massive

Right now it’s the dead of winter in Colorado, however, and most of us are not out checking-off 14,000 foot peaks (unless you’re Chris Davenport). But reading through the recently published Colorado’s Fourteeners, Third Edition: From Hikes to Climbs (Fulcrum Publishing, 978-1-55591-746-3, $22.95), has gotten me amped-up to start planning my summer and deciding which fourteeners I’ll tackle this year. Whether you’ve never climbed a fourteener or you are a seasoned climbing veteran, Colorado’s Fourteeners is a book every hiker should have in his or her backpack. In the newly revised edition of this best-selling guide, mountaineering legend Gerry Roach includes everything you could possibly need to plot out your hike, with detailed route descriptions, topographic maps, GPS coordinates, trailhead information, and much, much more. And there are dozens of color photographs of the peaks, which helps give some perspective on what you are getting yourself into.

As a way to help our readers get through the long Colorado winter, we are giving away a copy of Colorado’s Fourteeners, Third Edition: From Hikes to Climbs! To enter the contest, send us your best Colorado fourteener story—whether it’s a tidbit about your favorite fourteener, your scariest incident on a fourteener, a funny fourteener story, or any memory you may have. We will pick our favorite story from the bunch and one lucky reader will receive a free copy of Colorado’s Fourteeners. Send us your story by commenting on this post, or email by February 24!

Click here for more information on Colorado’s Fourteeners.

Jerry Apps on the Boundary Waters, bears, and his latest book


If you’re anything like me, you spend most of the winter daydreaming about how you’ll spend your spring and summer. This winter the Boundary Waters region keeps coming to mind, perhaps because I just read Jerry Apps’s beautiful reflections on this special place and his years of camping, canoeing, and connecting with nature.

I recently caught up with Jerry, Fulcrum’s author of Campfires and Loon Calls: Travels in the Boundary Waters (February 2011, 978-1-936218-07-3). Apps discussed his inspiration for Campfires and Loon Calls and revealed some very helpful hints for aspiring writers and made me think that I need to make my Boundary Waters winter daydreams a reality come spring.

Why did you write Campfires and Loon Calls?
My son Steve and I, and occasionally other family members and friends, have canoed in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for more than 25 years. I thought it would be fun to go back to my journals, which I have kept on every trip, and share some of our stories and adventures. I have written other books about nature and the environment, but writing this book was an opportunity to write about a true wilderness area. I felt others might enjoy reading about our treks into the wild, how we, as rank amateurs, managed to not only survive quite handily but how we came to enjoy the experience as very special and an essential yearly event.

What was most challenging in writing this book?  Favorite Part? Humorous incidents?
Deciding what to include and what to leave out proved to be the greatest challenge in writing the book. Also, I wanted to write the book as a story rather than as a guidebook or a how-to book. There are elements of both of these in the book, but I wanted the book to be more, or perhaps better said, different. Several good guidebooks for the BWCAW are readily available, as well as many good how-to books on canoe camping. I wanted to write a more personal book, relaying my own story with the hope that readers might find it interesting, and, dare I say, helpful if they should wish to visit the area.

My favorite parts of the writing were the challenge to create on the printed page not only the details of an event, such as a wicked thunderstorm, but to honestly share the feelings associated with the experience. This was especially fun when crafting the scene for two of my favorite humorous experiences in the book, one involving a police officer friend of Steve’s who was deathly afraid of bears and what happened when a big one lumbered into our camp one evening, and the other a time when we were hopelessly lost and came upon a group of young women sunbathing in the nude.

What is your writing process like?
For the past 16 years, I’ve worked full-time as a writer, with a schedule quite different than when I worked at it part-time while working my day job.  Today, I try to be at my desk every morning by eight, with coffee at the ready. I drink lots of coffee. I check the overnight emails, but answer only the most pressing. The rest of the emails I deal with in the afternoon. I write until noon, attempting to complete 1,000 words a day. For most of my books, I can complete a first draft in two or three months. I write until I complete a project, not stopping along the way to edit. I set the rough draft aside for a month or so to “ferment” and switch to another project. I am usually working on at least two books at the same time, something I’ve done for many years.

After a month or so, I return to the draft manuscript and usually spend six or more months, revising and rewriting. Of course before doing much writing on a book project, no matter if fiction or nonfiction, I spend up to three years researching the project, which usually includes interviewing people, doing lots of digging on the Web, visiting libraries—that sort of thing. I work hard to meet my deadlines, and I can proudly say that in more than 40 years of writing, and with more than 35 books published, I’ve not missed a deadline.

What are you working on for your next book?
I’ve about completed the first draft of a book tentatively titled Limping Through Life. The book, a memoir, describes when I had polio as a 12-year old and had a paralyzed leg for much of a year. It has taken me many years to confront the effects of that dreadful disease, and to come to grips with how it shaped who I am and what I have done so far in my life. Clearly, as I look back, polio is largely responsible for me becoming a writer. When I was in high school, I couldn’t participate in any sports, so I read, wrote (I was assistant and then editor of my high school newspaper), and studied. I also was active in public speaking competitions. These experiences have served me well as a writer.

About Jerry
Jerry Apps is professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the author of more than 25 books, many of them on rural history and country life. Jerry received the 2008 First Place Nature Writing Award from the Midwest Independent Publishers Association and the 2007 Major Achievement Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers. Please visit his website,, and his blog,

Wet Your Paddle in the Boundary Waters – A blog round-up

Campfires and Loon CallsThis month, we released Campfires and Loon Calls by Jerry Apps. In this guide to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Jerry shares his seasoned advice, from how to set up camp and protect food from hungry bears to minimalist cooking and appreciating a rainy day, all the while weaving in the incredible history of the Boundary Waters region. Jerry blogs about his life on and off the boundary waters at

It’s too snowy to do much adventuring in Colorado, but you can also get your Boundary Waters fix at these blogs:

The Boundary Waters Blog –  the blog of Border Lakes Outfitting and Boundary Waters Guide Service. The blog shares skills, stories, and photos from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

The Voyageur Canoe Outfitters – Sue, blogger and co-owner of Voyageur Canoe hopes to introduce new people to the joy of wilderness paddling.

Mad Canoeist – This blog is written by and for avid paddlers. It features travel tips, photos, and product reviews.

Sneak peek at Modern Homestead

Modern Homestead: Grow, Raise, CreateOne of the titles I’m most excited for this spring is Renee Wilkinson’s Modern Homestead: Grow, Raise, Create. When she’s not ruling her garden with an iron trowel, Renee blogs her adventures in sustainability and homesteading at her website:

This book is a great guide for urbanites and homesteading newbies to get their paws dirty raising small livestock and growing and preserving their own bounty of fruit, herbs, and veggies, as well as anyone who has an interest in sustainable and conscientious living.

For me, this book is a great guide for breaking free of food systems and preparing to survive for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. (Romero flicks are a great short-term guide for zombie survival: Hide, Defend, Behead; but for the long-term, you better grow, raise, create to survive the first zompocalypse winter.)

Staff Picks: Our Favorite Fulcrum Outdoor Titles

Canine Colorado: Where to Go and What to Do with Your Dog, Third Edition

By Cindy Hirschfeld

Have you ever been at the park and seen a large dog running free only to be quickly leashed when the owner realizes that he is not alone? Owners can save themselves the fine and embarrassment of being caught by picking up a copy of Canine Colorado. It has hundreds of recommendations across the state for pet-friendly activities and will even let you know where naked pups are given a green light.

Jack Lenzo is the designer at Fulcrum. He appreciates looking out his window and seeing mountains instead of cornfields and bumper stickers that are thoughtful enough to say Naive instead of Native. Some of his favorite projects have been ones that have overlapped with and informed his own experiences in the West.

Roadside Bicycle Repair: A Pocket Manifesto

By Sam Tracy

I sure do love Roadside Bicycle Repair: A Pocket Manifesto by Sam Tracy. I tool around on a sweet cherry red 21-speed Giant that I call Madam Chomp (named after her hunger for my pant legs), and this little guide is a great resource to keep her (and your bike!) on the road and out of the bike shop. Particularly for those hard cycling days, when the fate of the world rests on your wheels, and you’ve zombies and robotic wolves on your tail, you’re gonna want these quick and handy instructions by your side to fix that flat tire or wonky brake pad.

Dani Perea is the marketing and sales associate at Fulcrum Publishing. Ever since working in a comic shop as a young sprout, she has enjoyed selling fantastic books to wonderful people. When she’s not wearing her sales and marketing top hat, she enjoys punk rock, a rousing game of tumbleweed chasin’, and gazing at vast desert skies filled with stars, preferably all at once.

Brothers on the Bashkaus: A Siberian Paddling Adventure  

By Eugene Buchanan

Outdoor adventure is relative. To one person, a bicycle ride on groomed trails with his four-year-old child is an adventure. To another, adventure is a five-day hike in the desert with trails fading away between strategically placed cairns. For me, adventure is rafting white water in America’s West.  I’ve done multiday trips on the Yampa, the Middle Fork of the Salmon, the Green, and the Colorado. In my favorite outdoor book published by Fulcrum, Brothers on the Bashkaus, adventure is raised to a level few people will ever experience.
In 1993, four Americans ran the Bashkaus River, one of the hardest white-water runs in all Siberia. Their story is told in Eugene Buchanan’s Brothers on the Bashkaus: A Siberian Paddling Adventure. Class V rapids, isolation, food shortages, and equipment improvisations were all part of the amazing journey made by the Americans and their ten Latvian companions. From rafts made from old germ-warfare suits to lifejackets stitched together from soccer balls and wine bladders, river running in the former Soviet Union was not for the timid. Along the way, they dealt with everything from language barriers to armed horsemen and rapids lined with memorials to those who perished before them. They soon found that the river creates a common bond regardless of race, religion, or nationality—a bond in which a group of strangers truly come together as brothers.

Ingrid Estell is Fulcrum’s special sales manager and places Fulcrum’s titles with museums, state and national park stores, and many others. In her time away from the office, she enjoys skiing, hiking, and white-water rafting. And, unlike the Bashkaus rafters, has yet to eat pork fat to survive on a river trip.

Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway: An Epoch Tale of a Scientist and an Artist on the Ultimate 5,000-Mile Paleo Road Trip

By Kirk Johnson
Illustrated by Ray Troll

Not only is it an informative and fascinating read, the colorful illustrations are wonderful. I find it helpful to refer to after my trips to Dinosaur Ridge fossil trail, near Morrison, Colorado. There’s a lot of information for fossil lovers in this book.

Patty Maher has been with Fulcrum for twenty years and has seen in progress or worked on many of the Fulcrum titles. Having worked in many capacities, including production manager, book designer, and website designer, she is currently working with special projects that Fulcrum is involved in or has launched. She enjoys the West and living in Colorado.

Endangered: Biodiversity on the Brink

By Mitch Tobin

Because I grew up in the Southwest, issues like water use, urban sprawl, and species vulnerability are just a part of my lexicon. They also turned into white noise for me for several years, until I read Endangered: Biodiversity on the Brink. Award-winning journalist Mitch Tobin spent nearly seven years writing about and crisscrossing this region, searching for wildlife driven to the brink of extinction and solutions to the crisis, and using firsthand accounts to show why so many species are at risk of extinction. This book is not only important, it is incredibly well written, engaging, and hopeful. I think anyone who lives in or has an interest in the environment and the Southwest will gain much from this book.

Katie O’Neill is the marketing manager at Fulcrum. She believes her interest in marketing dates back to childhood: her mom would hold neighborhood garage sales and Katie was responsible for “signage and mingling.” She is happy, though, to now be marketing books and not her old clothes, Barbie dolls, and the O’Neill family’s furniture.

Ramble: A Field Guide to the U.S.A.

By Eric Peterson

Ramble California: A Wanderer’s Guide to the Offbeat, Overlooked, and Outrageous

By Eric Peterson

Ramble Texas: A Wanderer’s Guide to the Offbeat, Overlooked, and Outrageous

By Eric Peterson

Ramble Colorado: A Wanderer’s Guide to the Offbeat, Overlooked, and Outrageous

By Eric Peterson

I love Eric Peterson’s Ramble series, comprising Ramble U.S.A., Ramble California, Ramble Texas, and Ramble Colorado. My husband and I have taken some really fun and memorable road trips over the years, and I’ve found it’s not as easy as you would think to find those off-the-beaten-path stops that Peterson has such a knack for discovering. Reading the Ramble guides sparks my desire to get out on the road and explore new territory again. Peterson’s voice is honest, engaging, and hilarious, and his books will lead you to places you never would have found. If you are looking to take a road trip or if you just want to hop in the car and explore a new corner of your state over the weekend, I recommend picking up a Ramble guide. Filled with color photos, stats and facts, and suggestions for restaurants, hotels, beautiful spots, and attractions in each city, these books are highly entertaining and very useful. Ramble on…

Brynn Flaherty recently joined Fulcrum as the marketing assistant.  She is excited to start a new career in publishing after attending the Denver Publishing Institute in 2009 and, for the past year, working as an events manager at a wonderful independent bookstore in Aspen, Colorado.  In her spare time, Brynn loves to snowboard, hike, travel, cook, drink good beer and cheap wine, and keep her two rambunctious pups exercised in some way.