I’ve given my book talk at least 40 times, so when I received an invitation to speak at my favorite local library, Himmel Park, I thought: Time for something different. I asked the librarians what they’d like to hear. “How about something about your work as a botanist? Out in the desert. Write up a little announcement, and email it.”
I got to work. As a botanist, that is, typing in field data for a vegetation map of the Santa Catalina Mountains. When the library announcement was due, I spit out the following:
Odd Jobs: Desert Tales from a Botanist and Writer
Jim Malusa is the author of the travelogue Into Thick Air (Sierra Club Books, 2008), a Catalina High School Graduate (1975), and a devoted patron of the Himmel Park Library. Tonight he’ll show slides and tell stories from his travels, on foot and bicycle, to drylands ranging from Arizona's Cabeza Prieta, to China's Takla Makan.
Back home, I had the usual bean dinner, read the kids a story about owls locked in mortal combat, and reviewed my announcement. Lame. I popped open a bottle of beer and rewrote.
Odd Jobs: Making Half a Living as a Half Time Writer
Come to Himmel Park Library at 6 PM on August 27, and listen to tales from a part-time author. Half-hearted, half-witted, yet fully alive, botanist Jim Malusa is the first and last person to bicycle to the lowest points on earth. His travelogue Into Thick Air (Sierra Club Books, 2008) made him a celebrity at his children’s school, Blenman Elementary, where he’d raised hopes a year earlier during his Career Day presentation. It also earned a humdrum review from the New York Times and happier words from Canada’s Globe and Mail. Tonight he’ll talk about his work as a botanist, making vegetation maps of Arizona deserts. He’ll show some pretty pictures, too.
In the morning, after the beer wore off, I wondered if anyone would come to hear a half-wit. And the bit about the Times and the Globe and Mail was shameless name-dropping. I tried again.
Odd Jobs: Desert Botanist and Writer
Jim Malusa is the first and last person to bicycle to the lowest points on earth. To his parent’s everlasting delight, he wrote a book about his travels, Into Thick Air (Sierra Club Books, 2008). Mr. Malusa is not, however, a professional cyclist. He’s a writer and a botanist, and tonight he’ll be speaking on his work in the Arizona desert – the solitude that ultimately inspired the bike trips to the pits. He’ll also show some pretty pictures.
This felt right. It was more than a better announcement. I’d taken the first step for my next book.