It’s been a busy few months, and I seem to have lost the habit of regular blogging on here. Partly that’s because I’ve been focusing on my newly rejuvenated Pinnacle Newsletter (and, to be fair, I have been diligent about linking each week’s communication through to the blog); partly it’s because my professional writing has been quite intense. So, to bring us up to date, here’s something of a grab bag of updates. I usually like my posts on here to be focused and to have a point, but this one is going to ramble a bit…
A return to the hills
As I recently wrote on my newsletter, I’ve been back to the mountains AT LAST. My backpacking tour of the White and Dark Peak was just the tonic I needed, and it was also an eye-opener. Online discourse regarding outdoor recreation has turned a bit weird since the pandemic kicked off. A melting pot of fears and anxieties, combined with inflamed forms of localism and tribalism, has created an environment that I can charitably describe as fraught. For a while, back in 2020, there was a sense that everything we loved about British outdoor culture was unravelling. Wild camping under attack from all sides, bothies closed and with no signs of reopening, media reports of the countryside being trashed, walkers being confronted by angry locals, ‘GO HOME’ signs at borders: it all felt precarious and ugly. There seemed to be no firm ground left to stand on.
With all this in the background, I really didn’t know what to expect in the Peak District. Honestly, I think I’d given all the online nonsense a bit more room in my thoughts than it deserved – and I should have known better than that. When I actually started my walk, it was fine. I was not accosted by angry landowners and marched off the hills. I saw no heaps of rubbish left by clueless visitors. I enjoyed three lovely peaceful wild camps. The dissonance between what we’re presented with online and the reality out there on the hill was surprising.
I’ve written all this up in a slightly more organised way in my latest comment piece for TGO magazine, called ‘Why the countryside might be in a better state than you think’. As always, I’d like to thank the editor, Carey Davies, for providing an outlet for my rambling thoughts. TGO is becoming a valuable space for progressive voices in outdoor culture, and it’s a privilege to be a regular contributor.
Being editor of Sidetracked continues to be quite an adventure. It is not a full-time job (just as well, given my other responsibilities), but the month or two running up to the release of a new issue can be intense. There’s no work I love more than this. The process of taking a feature from pitch to printed page is uniquely satisfying – I find it easy to slip into that flow state in which I edit intuitively, letting the story take shape in an organic way. My best editorial work is highly intuitive. Although I also rely on style guides and dictionaries, even software such as PerfectIt for that final check, the most important stage of any edit is almost unconscious and depends entirely on nebulous concepts such as feel, sound, rhythm. Not all editors work like this – for some it is a more conscious and cerebral process – but this is how I do things, and I’ve often found that the more intuitive the edit, the better the feedback from the client.
Issue 21 is shipping to subscribers now, and it’s one we’re all tremendously proud of. Our team worked hard and worked well together. We’ll be starting early work on the next issue in the next few weeks.
It’s been a busy spell for writing. Much of my time in recent months has been spent writing a new coffee-table book for gestalten, all about long-distance backpacking in the Alps. It’s very much the same kind of project as last year’s Wanderlust Europe (which, I’m glad to say, is selling well), but concentrating exclusively on the Alps. This has been a dream project for me; I love trekking in the Alps, and I’ve been able to include quite a few routes that were considered too niche to put in Wanderlust Europe. Like last time, it’s involved a great deal of research and piles of guidebooks. I am very much standing on the shoulders of giants here.
Two other manuscripts are occupying much of my time at the moment. The Farthest Shore, my Cape Wrath Trail book, is due out on the 2nd of September 2021 with Vertebrate Publishing. The team at Vertebrate have now begun work on the marketing plan, which may involve an old-fashioned physical book launch, depending on restrictions. I’m hoping that we can launch the book in Fort William at the start of the CWT. As with any book launch, I’m also compiling lists of media contacts and possible reviewers, plus working on a plan for content on my own blog and for the publications I write for.
I can confirm that there will be special pre-order offers for subscribers to my newsletter, The Pinnacle, so please do sign up – it’s free!
Secondly, there’s a new handbook on lightweight backpacking, commissioned by Vertebrate and due in at the end of August. This will be a bit of a distillation of everything I’ve learned so far on my long-distance trails. Writing is well underway, but I haven’t written as much of this yet as I’d like, and I’ll be focusing heavily on it over the next two months.
Other manuscripts to juggle include my freelance editorial projects, of course. When I first launched Pinnacle Editorial, editing manuscripts from private clients constituted the bulk of my work, but now it’s rare for me to take on more than two or three book projects a year. Partly this is due to a conscious shift in many work. Relying on income from indie authors felt precarious; I was living from project to project with little security. These days I have far more areas of work to draw on, and as such I simply have less time for big book edits.
However, this is still very important work for me – and hugely satisfying. This year I’ve edited The Earth Beneath My Feet, a truly wonderful book on long-distance hiking by Andrew Terrill, a new client who approached me in late 2020. The book is now out (buy it; you’ll love it). Editing this rich and fulfilling tale of hiking through the Italian and Swiss Alps in the late 1990s helped to sustain me through the dark days of lockdown in early 2021 when big mountains felt further away than ever. I’m pencilled in to work on the second volume later in the year, and I can’t wait – if it’s anything like the first one, I’ll be in for a treat. Keep an eye out on this blog and my newsletter for more from Andrew Terrill soon.
I’ll also be working on a new project by long-term client Mark Horrell, whose no-nonsense and often very funny books about trekking and high-altitude mountaineering have been a mainstay of my editorial calendar for years now. Finally, there’s Marek Bidwell, who approached me several months ago to work on a book based on a walking tour of Northumberland. His writing shows great promise; it occupies a cross-genre grey area between traditional outdoor writing and new nature writing, and as such is right up my street! This is a grey area I’ve increasingly been occupying myself, and one colonised so effectively by another long-term client of mine, John Burns, whose recent books Sky Dance and Wild Winter (both projects I edited) blend nature and adventure seamlessly.
The rest of the year is filling up more quickly than I thought it would. I can look forward to Scottish trips in September and October (ongoing apocalypse permitting). Currently, December is the only month in which I expect to be able to take on any additional work. As always, if you have a manuscript that you’d like me to take a look at, please get in touch sooner rather than later.
All images © Alex Roddie. All Rights Reserved. Please don’t reproduce these images without permission.