October 2, 2018

     The working life of a writer is solitary. You sit alone in a room, hour after hour, day after day, and you create pages. It takes years to write a book (five years, for me, is about the minimum on a complex nonfiction project), and once that book is finished, tangledPile330edited, revised, fact-checked, printed, and published, the extrovert part of the job begins. If you’re lucky, people invite you to talk about what you’ve written. And you do that, because, extrovert or introvert, you want folks to buy the book and read it. Social media and public radio and podcasts are nowadays hugely significant dimensions of book promotion; among the nice things about them is that they don’t require you to leave home. But the book tour in its classic form—get on a plane, go to a series of cities, do interviews in person, speak at a bookstore, sign copies—is still an important element too.

October 2, 2018
     My new book, The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life, has recently been published (August 14, 2018) by Simon & Schuster, and since that date I've been traveling—off and on, but mainly on—to talk about it before a variety of genial and welcoming audiences and interviewers.  Meanwhile the reviews have been abundant and extremely good (generally), the few controversies stirred up have been substantive and worth discussing, and the book has been longlisted (a group of ten candidates) for the National Book Award in Nonfiction.  The Tangled Tree apeared at #12 on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller for one week, and after that cup of coffee, it has had two months on the Times list of Science bestsellers.  Simon & Schuster and I are gratified. 

     This week I'll head to Telluride, Colorado, to participate in an exciting new festival of ideas called Original Thinkers, created by the estimable David Holbrooke and his team.  After two lectures and a panel discussion there, I'll fly home to Bozeman for a day, do some laundry, get a haircut, change the water for Boots the snake, etc, and then depart for Madison, Wisconsin, to do a talk on The Tangled Tree at the Wisconsin Book Festival.  Next morning, to Washington, DC, for the annual meeting of the National Association of Science Writers, where I'll team with Kathryn Schulz, Virginia Hughes, and others on a panel to discuss the challenge of writing about huge, intractable, even apocalyptic problems in ways that entice people to read and think freshly, rather than simply burying their heads under the covers.  The logical aftermath of that discussion would be to enjoy some sideline conversation with my pals of NASW, including Kathryn, and David Dobbs, and Carl Zimmer . . . but instead I'll scoot to the airport that afternoon and hop a flight to Florence, Italy.  Don't misunderstand: I'm not complaining.

     In Italy, at the resort venue of Montecatini Terme, in Tuscany, I'll give a keynote talk to the World Summit of the Adventure Travel Tourism Association, discussing the quest for spiritual refreshment through adventuresome travel, whether you're slogging through the Congo forests in the footsteps of Mike Fay (as I did in 1999-2000) or engaging in some sort of less arduous but still off-the-track journey, for which you don't have to duct-tape over the sores on your feet.  After Italy (and a week of adventurous eating and relaxing with my wife, Betsy), I'll return via New York City, where from October 24 to October 26 I'll be the Simons Visiting Journalist at New York University, hosted by my pal the distinguished Dan Fagin.  And then, after lingering long enough to catch The Book of Mormon on Broadway, Betsy and I will fly home to Bozeman, gloriosky, and begin making preparations for Halloween.

     Halloween is a big deal in our neighborhood and, even during book-tour season, we'll want to be ready with a few hundred pieces of candy for the kids, and some welcoming adult beverages for our adult friends seeking respite while their kids (or grandkids, now) work the block.


August 14, 2018
Last week I began the book-support effort by taping an interview with Scott Simon, for his Weekend Edition Saturday show at NPR. Who wouldn’t want to exchange thoughts with this astute and companionable radio man? Scott was so nice as to say, before we started recording, that the book had changed the way he sees life on Earth. The interview ran on Saturday, August 11, and is archived here: https://www.npr.org/2018/08/11/637780618/understanding-horizontal-gene-transfer-in-the-tangled-tree

Now the travel begins, intermittent over the next month or two while I continue on work another National Geographic story and try also to live life.

Washington, DC: I’ll be at Politics & Prose, a famous bookstore on Connecticut Ave., on Wednesday evening, August 15, at 7 pm.

Chicago: Next day I’ll scoot up there, in time for an event at the American Writers Museum, 180 N. Michigan Ave., at 6:30 pm. Annie Minoff, of the Science Friday team, will interview author Sy Montgomery and me about the craft of science writing. The following day, from a studio still in Chicago, I’ll talk with Science Friday host Ira Flatow, for a live segment of the show airing that afternoon.

Back to Bozeman: an event at my faithful home-town independent, The Country Bookshelf, on August 22 at 6 pm.

Then to Livingston, Montana: home of many of my writer friends, including those who run Elk River Books, where I’ll do a talk and signing on August 23, at 7 pm.

Missoula the following week: Fact & Fiction, another fine independent, on August 30, a Thursday, again at 7 pm. (This bookstore is a short walk from The Depot restaurant, on Railroad Street, where I worked as a bartender in 1975-76. Just FYI, in case you’re hungry or thirsty after my presentation. Tell ‘em DQ sent you. Any employee under the age of 60 will say: Who?)

In September, after the summer and the Beach Reading season have officially ended, I’ll be doing more travels to distant cities, including Seattle (Town Hall), Portland (Powell’s Books), and elsewhere. More on those visits, places, and venues closer to the time. Somebody, some crotchety writer, once said: The only thing worse than being asked by your publisher to do a book tour is not being asked to do a book tour. But I’ve got a sort of extrovert hiding inside my writerly introvert, and I enjoy meeting people—such as you—who deeply appreciate books, and who recognize that nonfiction writing, though ever responsible for accuracy, is also, like fiction, an imaginative art.