News, April 2021

This month feels like a pause as I wait for the June 1 publication of A Private Wilderness. I was amused several weeks ago when Steffi O’Brien, executive director of the Listening Point Foundation, called and said she had just received an advance review copy of the book–even I haven’t seen a printed copy yet! But once the hardcover final version is printed I’ll finally get to hold it and page through it. I’m guessing sometime next month.

Meanwhile, I have to satisfy myself with the digital proof. I am so excited for the final version because it is going to be a beautiful book, with more than six dozen photos, including a full-page one at the start of every chapter.

Within These Woods

This pause was a perfect time to receive an advance review copy of Timothy Goodwin’s Within These Woods, coming this spring in a new edition by Riverfeet Press. They have a prepublication sale going on right now. I hadn’t been aware of the book before now, so was glad to read it and I think many of you will be, too. Here’s part of what I said in my message to editor and publisher Daniel J. Rice:

“Within These Woods,” by Timothy Goodwin, provides an antidote for those who want to recover a sense of belonging and meaning. Like Thoreau, he knows that quiet desperation doesn’t need to have the final word. And, like Thoreau, he shows that nature can help us become our truest selves and lead lives of fulfillment and joy….

We are connected not only to all other humans, but to all beings and the ecosystems that sustain us. And perhaps this is where Goodwin’s book is most valuable, for he points out many of these connections, and with gentle wisdom discusses some of the implications for us two-legged creatures that so often wander with eyes and ears closed to reality. Let wandering lead to wondering, and nature will help us reconnect to the world around us and the wilderness within. Read an essay or two of “Within These Woods,” then set it down for a while and go outside. Get to know the fellow creatures who share your little corner of the world. They have things to teach you, if you are ready to listen with inward ears. They may even help you better know yourself.

David Backes

My First Novel

I have sent a draft of my first novel to my editor at the University of Minnesota Press. I realize that they publish only a small amount of fiction, so my main objective is to get some feedback and suggestions for other publishers, assuming it doesn’t fit their own needs. But who knows? Maybe they will be interested enough to take a gamble on a novel that is set in northern Minnesota in the 2060s, is connected to Sigurd Olson’s philosophy, and has five of its key scenes taking place at Listening Point. And a storyline, I hope, that keeps people from putting it down easily. Oh, it’s title?: Listening Point.

Back to the Drawing Board

If you have been to this site before, you’ll notice another dramatic change in its design. The third time’s a charm, so I’ve heard, and I certainly hope it proves true! This is what happens when an author designs his or her own website, rather than paying someone else.

Several weeks ago I learned that the “page builder” software I used to set up my site in December is going to hike its annual fee into the stratosphere. I liked what I could do with it, but didn’t want to pay a huge increase when my first year is up. Plus, I noticed my site was getting slower to respond, especially on my cell phone.

Then last week I came across an article saying that Google is about to start making site speed the most important factor in ranking search results. So I started researching, and learned that the WordPress free block editor was super fast, and people were making the switch. I figured I might as well do it during this pause in writing, rather than wait until December when I’ll have even more content to overhaul.

So I did! And I swear, I will not do another major design overhaul for a long time! It’s a ton of work. So for an obsessive-compulsive person like me, that meant all this week from mid-morning to late in the evening, figuring out a new theme and block builder.

Unfortunately, one casualty was the conspicuous use of my beloved ravens. But the black color in the design is a tribute to them, and a couple of them appear in the footer and site icon. There may well be other opportunities in the future, too, as ravens play an essential symbolic role in my first novel, Listening Point, and will in its two successor novels as well: The Lonely Land and The Singing Wilderness.

Anyway, this site now has a more classic design, and it seems to be much faster, too. I’m glad I did it. Let me know what you think!

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