Write, Release, Reprise

Longtime readers know that about a year ago I self-published Mountainfit, a little book of natural history essays that bloomed out of a summer’s worth of volunteer fieldwork at the beautiful Lake Ånnsjön Bird Observatory in Handöl, Sweden. It’s my very great pleasure to report that a second edition of Mountainfit is being released, this time by a small press named the Chicago Center for Literature and Publishing. Here’s the blurb from the CCLaP site:

In 2011, a tiny bird observatory in far western Sweden found itself hosting its first American volunteer, and Meera Lee Sethi found herself exactly where she wanted to be: watching great snipe court each other under the midnight sun and disturbing lemmings on her way to find a gyrfalcon nest. Mountainfit is an ecological field notebook, a keenly observed natural history of the life that sings from the birches, wheels under the clouds, and scuttles over the peat bogs of the Swedish highlands. And it is a letter, in 21 jewel-like parts, from a well-read and funny friend. Meera’s vigorous, graceful prose communicates a wry understanding of how utterly ordinary it is to long for more out of life — and how extraordinary it can feel to trust that longing. Meera’s intent was to create a book small enough to fit in your pocket and read on the train to work in the morning. It is that. But it’s also large enough to contain a mountain or two.

Publishing with CCLaP is really neat for a bunch of reasons.

1) They traffic in ebooks, but they also release incredibly beautiful, hand-bound editions of all of their titles. We used three photographs I’d taken in Sweden for the new Mountainfit.

2) You can download an ebook version of any CCLaP title for free, or you can choose to donate as much or as little as you like. This model makes me happy because it means no one is deterred from reading by a sticker price, but people who want to support the book can do so to exactly the extent that they wish. I wish I’d thought of it when I put my book up for sale on my own website last year.

3) CCLaP books are released under a Creative Commons license that allows people to translate them, convert them into new formats, or produce derivative works (like films, comic books, or art projects) as long as they don’t alter the original text or remove attributions from it. I love this part of the model, too.

The first edition of Mountainfit was never intended to reach very far. I was doing something very important to me personally: testing the idea that I could be good at working in the field, and that it would bring me a kind of joy I’d been missing. Promising to write about it was my way of committing to the experience, a means of making sure I’d reflect on what I saw without letting it slip through my fingers. My goal was to print copies for the 100 or so people who backed me on Kickstarter. (Some were friends and family, but more than half, to my surprise, turned out to be strangers who offered such affectionate, generous support that we have since become friends.)

When I finished the book, I thought it was good enough to warrant making a page on my website to sell digital copies to anyone who wanted one, but I never did much to spread the word about it. This was partly because at the time I was caught up in a tangle in my life that’s only recently come loose, and partly I was preparing to leave for another 10 weeks of fieldwork in the Alaskan wilderness (a wonderful summer that will become a second book, I hope).

Among the few things I did was try to get the book reviewed. Jason Pettus, CCLaP’s founder, was one of about three strangers I invited to read it (and the only one who followed through). I had bought and enjoyed a CCLaP book, I thought Jason’s book reviews were smart and thoughtful, and I was living in Chicago and liked the idea of being reviewed by someone in my own city.

Months after I sent him Mountainfit, Jason wrote back to tell me he loved the book, and would rather publish it than review it. And so here we are.

Please help us spread the word about this—one of my jobs as a CCLaP author is to promote my work as much as is humanly possible, something this human often finds impossible to do. But the more you’re willing to say something nice, the easier it is for me to as well. Thank you. Now go download a free copy of the book! I hope you enjoy it.

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