Wow, this fall has seen a lot of changes in my life. My marital status changed to “separated,” I moved in with someone I’ve loved for the last 26 years (my 26 year old son), I sold my car. and I’ve signed a contract to write a book. The first item includes more complexities, sadnesses and ambivalence than I could possibly explain in a blog post. The second item is a great joy. Who’d have thought that I’d live in a great apartment with one of my favorite people in the world who just happened to be looking for a roommate at the same time as me? The third item is a challenge. I’ve had a car since I was 16 and even bike-friendlyish slash transit-equipped Seattle isn’t the easiest place to get around in without a car. The final item is a delight — researching and writing a book will give a little structure and meaning to my private life in 2014.
Here’s how it all happened. Last July I wrote a review of a Cicerone Press guidebook for my blog and for the Internet Camino Forum I help moderate. I made contact with the editor so I could run the review past the book’s author. Then on a whim I asked her if the press she works for ever works with new authors. The answer was “yes,” and soon I was in contact with the publisher himself. He asked for my qualifications and a synopsis, was interested, and then asked for a writing sample, a detailed outline, and sample photographs. While I was at my sister’s house in Hawaii in September (taking a break from my marriage breakup) I researched my potential itinerary, drafted the writing sample and chose the photos I’d use. When I returned from Hawaii I sent in my submission — and earlier this month it was approved. I had a conversation with the publisher over the phone, and then a couple of weeks later a contract arrived in the mail.
My book will be a walking guide to “The Saint Francis Way,” a 550 kilometer walk from Florence, to Assisi to Rome. As I discovered last year, there’s no guidebook in English for this route and it’s a truly spectacular walk — every bit as amazing as the Camino de Santiago — and it ends with a genuine apostolic tomb (or two, or three) at the finish!
Early next year I’ll begin researching the walk by reading books on St. Francis and doing Internet surfing about important sites along the route. Next summer I’ll walk the full route, carefully taking notes, GPS readings, and photographs. When I return I’ll gather these together and, by the terms of the contract, will have them in publishable form to Cicerone Press by December 31, 2014. The result will be a book very much like the one in the photo above, only with the name “Sandy Brown” as author and the title “The St. Francis Way.”
I love how this project will combine some of my favorite things — helping people discover the joys of pilgrimage, learning and explaining history, sharing stories of spirit and faith, and of course walking in Europe. As I look ahead it sends my mind back to the mid-1990’s as I was researching and writing my doctoral project. Lots of work, a tight, self-imposed deadline, and the reward of learning and growing. It also sends my mind back to last summer as I walked from Assisi to Rome with my dear friends, Sebi, Jacqueline and Andreas.Jacqueline has already been a big help as she sends me notes about the strategies revealed in the German language guide for this walk.
Over the next weeks I’ll make more detailed plans about schedules and flights. There’ll also be a lot of research to do about GPS mapping hardware and software. The next step will be convincing friends to join me and walk some of this amazing pilgrimage. After that, some language study, and then….next year, in Rome!