I asked his advice about the problem of my book being on a back shelf out of sight when I signed books at Borders and Barnes and Noble in Boulder. He suggested I appeal to my publisher about getting better placement in the stores in strong markets like Colorado and the Northwest.My publisher was sympathetic, but said it was up to the stores where a book was placed.The stores told me that which books got placed on the front tables and displays was primarily a corporate decision and that publishers paid coop money, I believe is the term, to get their books well displayed in the stores.What to do?
Denver is is an area where I expect many people would be interested in Breaking Trail. But with the book not visible in the stores and no publicity at all to date here, it’s hard to know how anyone would hear about the book and buy it. Sigh.
Michael Chessler, a mtg book dealer came by with a load of books for me to sign of which forty were BT.He then kindly gave me a ride to the wonderful AmericanMtgCenter in Golden where Brenda Porter and I were taking a walk.Just as we were leaving, I received simultaneous calls from the LA Times and the Denver Post, both of whom are doing stories on Tuesday. So people in Denver will hear about the book after all. A promising ending to the day.
About eighty people came to my talk that eventing which seemed a small audience for a large auditorium, but it was an enthusiastic group .One woman said she flew in from Wisconsin to hear me speak and buy a book, which may be a record.
Arlene Blum's 1980 book "Annapurna: A Woman's Place," an account of how she led a team of mountain-climbing women on one of the most challenging peaks in the world, is a modern classic that has inspired countless climbers and recently was named one of the 100 best adventure books of all time by National Geographic Adventure.
After such a success, publishers and readers wanted another book. Blum wasn't ready. Her life story -- Reed College graduate, doctorate in chemistry from the University of California-Berkeley, pioneering leader of several all-women climbing teams -- was a natural for a memoir, but Blum resisted for years. It was only after she looked hard into her past and examined her motives for making the life choices she did that she was able to write "Breaking Trail: A Climbing Life" (Scribner, $27.50, 313 pages).
"It took me forever," Blum said from her home in Berkeley, Calif. "I wanted to understand why I chose to take the risks I did. I probably spent 95 percent of my time on the family sections of the book. I'd written articles for magazines about various climbs I'd done, and those sections came fairly easily, but I had to find out who I was by looking at where I came from."
Blum grew up in Chicago with her overprotective mother and grandparents and discovered mountaineering when her chemistry partner at Reed, John Hall, invited her to climb MountAdams. It was love at first sight, even after a glissade in the dark tore the skin off her behind and forced her to sit on an inflatable toilet seat for weeks. Her senior thesis was collecting volcanic gases, which she did on Mount Hood with Fred Ayres, a Reed professor and an outstanding climber.
Hall died in an avalanche in 1971. He was one of many climbing friends who died over the years; each time, Blum was devastated but kept going back to the mountains.
"There was always a reason," she said. "I'd get invited to go on a climb, or something would come up. Part of it was wanting that sense of community and family that you feel when you're on a climbing team, and part of it was that I'm a strong optimist and always believed you could do it safely. Looking back, some of that might have been a little foolish."
Two women made it to the top of Annapurna on the trip Blum led, but two others died on the mountain. Is there any way that can be considered a success?
"No," she said. "The loss of two climbers is huge. It overshadows everything else. Everyone on the team felt awful about it, and still does."
Blum still gets around the mountains and climbed Mount Hood earlier this year "but nothing life-threatening," she said. "I'm through with that."
Arlene Blum reads from "Breaking Trail" at Sunday in the Vollum Lecture Hall at ReedCollege, 3203 S.E. Woodstock Blvd.; at Monday at Borders Books & Music, 7227 S.W. Bridgeport Road, Tigard; and at Tuesday at Powell's City of Books, 1005 W. Burnside St. www.arleneblum.com.