Signing a Book Contract From the Sky

Greetings from my fire watch in the sky! Today I’m as buoyant as the brilliant blue tree sparrows that dive and flit around my office perch, a cupola, or tiny dome that balances atop a 100-foot steel frame tower.

I’m briefly breaking my vow of technological silence to SING out the splendid news: Women Who Dig, my book about female farmers and farmworkers around the world, has been warmly welcomed for publication by Bruce Walsh and his team at the University of Regina Press.

I’m soaring over these boreal tree tops today!

Yesterday afternoon, as the fair-weather clouds strolled quietly along the big blue canvas of the sky, I looked out on the vast spread of spruce, poplar, pine and birch trees below, and felt humbled by the journey Women Who Dig has taken me on. Three years, three continents, eight countries, and over one hundred stories from women who are defying cultural, political, economic and social odds to grow food, steward the land, preserve cultural integrity, and nourish their children and communities.

After all that blessed, but shaken travel on off-beaten country roads to meet women on their farms, I must admit, I couldn’t have imagined a better ending to the journey of this book — to receive the news of publication from a place of solitude: the writer completely alone, at last, on the land, in the woods where hundreds of known and unknown wild things grow and roam and blossom.

Sounds romantic, eh? Trust me, some days it isn’t…but today, it’s pure euphoria!

When the email entitled “We’re done! We’re done! We’re done!” arrived from my agent, Marilyn, attached with the signed contract, I took a long, deep breath — looking out upon the forest with love, elation, and gentle weariness — and slipped my harness over my shoulders, locked myself onto the the long, strong cable that falls down to the bottom of the tower, and descended, rung by rung, to the earth.

The writer in her perch: a small glass dome in the sky where I can see out for 40 km radius over the boreal forest.

The writer in her perch: a small glass dome in the sky where I can see out for 40 km radius over the boreal forest.

A white tipped tail wagged furiously below me. My loyal husky girl, Holly, shook her whole body and yowled with pleasure, as if to say, “Hurry up and go sign that contract!” And I had to marvel as I signed my name because there was no one around me — not a single soul within a fifty kilometre radius — to officially sign the contract as my witness. I looked down at Holly, her pink tongue dangling out of her jaws in a goofy grin, and just laughed.

Of course, I’m over the moon for my book to finally find a home with the University of Regina Press. Publisher Bruce Walsh is shaking up the Canadian book industry, having already produced two national bestsellers since the small press’s launch in 2013, including Clearing the Plains by James Daschuk, Children of the Broken Treaty by Charlie Angus, and The Education of Augie Merasty: A Residential School Memoir by Joseph Auguste Merasty. “Unheard of for a small university press,” praised my agent, Marilyn. The U of R Press is known for backing thought-provoking titles that explore the social issues of our time, including indigenous and minority rights.

Fertile soils for a book like Women Who Dig that cuts deeply into the controversial issues facing female farmers around the world.

I can’t wait to share more with you as this journey unfolds. I couldn’t have made it this far without many of you — my family, my friends, my colleagues, and my way-beyond-borders global community who supported me in many, many different ways to research, write, edit, write, edit, write, and somehow survive this emotionally tortuous book publishing process. Thank you for helping me to travel so far with this dream of mine to write and publish.

For now, friends, I’m retreating back to my sweet hermitage as a lookout in the northern boreal, immersed in a world that feels a long way away from civilization, dreaming animal dreams, remembering something deep that only comes from the earth, and living out a new chapter.

Happy summer days to you!