Sunday, March 2, 2014

Book Project: A Paddler's Journey

Those who know me know that outside of kayaking my passion is writing. I've been working on a couple of novels for the past few years and I'm in the process of shopping them around for publication. (I write fiction under the name Blair B. Burke). I've long had the idea to combine my two passions and write a book that involves kayaking, but there are several reasons why I've hesitated.

First, there isn't much of a market. Kayaking is a small world, relatively. It's also a very specific world. It's hard to find something that appeals to kayakers and to the general public. So making much money off a kayaking book is unlikely.

I'm not famous. Fame helps with making money. It gets publishers interested in you and gives you a podium from which to announce your book for sale. While I am quite happy that there are people out there who read this blog, and plenty of them by my reckoning, I don't really have a large reach when you look at the large scale necessary to make print runs profitable.

I'm not that special. OK, my mom would argue differently. But my story is not unique. I haven't suffered a life-threatening injury. Kayaking hasn't saved me from a life on the streets. I didn't emigrate from Mozambique and become a professional kayaker. I'm a middle class white kid who grew up in Minnesota and learned to kayak in California. I haven't done any record setting trips and I don't paddle the gnar - I've never had much interest in doing either.

Writing a book is hard. It's not that I'm afraid of the work - I've done it three times now and I enjoy it immensely. But to do it well takes time and effort. I need to spend those commodities on things that may have a return on the investment. Basically, I need to make money like everyone else.

But right now I'm in between other projects. One novel is out on submission. I'm waiting until it sells to begin the sequel. Another novel is out with test readers to provide feedback for editing. Again, it's a waiting game on that. So I've decided to begin writing a kayaking book.

One of my recent journeys
Since I don't expect to make money I get to write the book I want, without worrying about market considerations. So I'm going to tell my story. I want to write about my journey from a newbie kayaker in a sit on top off the coast of Southern California to becoming a professional instructor and class V whitewater kayaker. I plan to share the interesting stories that always come up when a group of paddlers are sitting around the campfire. Epic trips like the Rubicon and Channel Islands, scary stories like my swim on Royal Flush on the Kern. Fun times like winning the Kayak Polo National Championships.

While I've written up a lot of these trips for this blog, I aim to include a little more. What I want to share is not just the fun kayaking stories that we all like to tell. I want to share what the experiences really meant to me, what I've learned from them. The last fifteen years of my life has centered around kayaking and it's had a profound impact on who I am. Again, that's not unique. I'm actually counting on the fact that other people have had a similar experience in this sport. Maybe their journey was different than mine, but kayaking has taken a lot of people to places they never thought they'd go. I want to share my trip with the thought that others will recognize their own in the themes it contains.

So over the next few months I'll be sharing my progress. I'll post some excerpts as the stories develop. At the end of it all, I'll be putting out a book in both electronic and print formats. Hopefully you'll want to check it out. If not, I'll keep blogging anyway.


  1. And what about a fiction story about kayaking? I saw a movie about a plane crashing on some mountains. Climbers rescueing them and finding the survivors were criminals with heaps of money and ready to kill... I think the guy from rambo was involved... It could be somecrazy story but with kayaks... I woul read it.

    1. I might combine my fiction and kayaking some day, but for now I like them as completely separate things. But I know a kayaker who has written such a book, so check out Leland Davis' Precipice if you get the chance.