The Process of Writing Detour Nebraska

If you happened to follow my blog in the very beginning, you would know that for awhile I had two parts in my post.  The Readers Digest summary version about how to visit places (cost, hours, reasoning) was written in honor my Dad’s style of communicating.  The lengthier part of the post was filled with pictures and stories as to why you would to want to visit certain places.  This is in honor of my Mom and even my Grandma Gus who are both communicators.  I decided that this post about Detour Nebraska will follow a similar format.

I am pretty certain that most of the people who read this blog and who are a part of my life know about this book that  I wrote this year.  Hopefully I have been able to talk about other things.  But I will admit that it sort of has consumed my thoughts.  I wanted to write a post about the process for several reasons.

  1. Someday I will forget how everything came about.
  2. Maybe my kids might wonder and care about the year their Mom wrote a book.  (They really don’t at the moment.  They would rather I drove them around and cooked them food.)
  3. Perhaps ome of you might want to write your own book.
  4. Some of you who read blog posts find personal narratives inspirational.
  5. Maybe some of you would read this post than clean your house.  Quite frankly that is partially why I am writing right now – to avoid other less desirable tasks like running or cleaning off my desk. 🙂

Summary of my Detour Nebraska project

Here is the Reader’s Digest version.  End of July – asked to consider writing a book about Nebraska for the History Press.  August – signed contract. 1,700 mile trip before Labor Day.  Further local travel in the fall.  Pictures chosen and sent in by December 15th.  Text of book written in December and January.  Found out end of May book to be published in October.  In July, the edits begin.  In September & October, the focus is sales and marketing.  Detour Nebraska: Historical Destinations and Natural Wonders will be available October 30, 2017.

The Detailed Version of Detour Nebraska

On July 26, 2016, I received an e-mail that changed my life.  Well, at least it changed the course of a year or two of my life.  I received an e-mail from Amie of the History Press asking if I would be interested in writing a book about Nebraska.  To be honest, I thought it was a scam at first.  After all, I receive “offers” from people all of the time where they are glad to have me write about them  … for free.

But then I noticed that History Press is associated with Arcadia Publishing.  I did recognize that name.  In fact, I had done a review of one of their books: Lincoln’s Early Architecture by McKee, Zimmer and Hansen.  Now I was a bit less skeptical.  We e-mailed back and forth as the questions kept coming.  I filled out the proposal.  (Why do you want to write a book for the History Press?  Because you asked me if I was interested?)  I sent in the paperwork, then the waiting began.

Detour Nebraska Writing for the History Press

The Detour Nebraska Book Contract

In the meantime, I continued on with my life.  Brenna and I traveled to Southeast Nebraska with my 4 kids and one of hers.  My husband and I took our 4 kids out and explored more of central Nebraska, then went to a family reunion.  I took pictures with even more of a purpose – I might need to use them in a book.  Finally on August 11th, I received my contract in the mail.  I was an official History Press author.  The project was going forward.  Initially the title was not Detour Nebraska but instead was Nebraska Detours.  I think I like the name change.

The Detour Nebraska Travel Tour

On August 31st through September 3rd, I traveled 1,700 miles all around Nebraska.  My husband told me I had three days to travel across the state and then was okay when I extended it to a fourth.  Between him and my parents, the kids were fed and even got their school done.  This trip was a defining moment for me in so many ways, so I apologize if I mention it often. 🙂

The end of September, we did another “Detour Nebraska” as we stopped at several Northeast Nebraska locations on our way up to Minnesota.  After than, my travel was local to fill in picture gaps.  One of my favorite discoveries was the original “Lincoln Highway” brick road that is found on the western edge of Omaha.  (Yes, that picture definitely made it into my book).  At this point, I did start to think through what pictures I wanted to use.

Photographs for Detour Nebraska

But I did not really start to think about the photographs until the December 15th deadline was looming.  My friend, Brenna, came over for 2 afternoons and helped me go through hundreds of pictures.  Since my book has a mix of both color and black & white photographs, we tried them both ways.  Once the final decisions were made, the flash drive was sent off to South Carolina.

Then I heard back from my editor that he did not agree with some of our color vs. black & white picture selections.  He wanted to make some changes.  SO, I wrote back a very kind e-mail explaining my reasoning and showing him why certain pictures really were better the  way that we had originally chosen.  He thanked me for my e-mail and said that he wanted to still make the changes.  This was the point that I realized that even though my name may be on the cover, the book is not exactly mine.  By the way, I did take a picture of the package I sent to the History Press.  But that might be oversharing. 🙂

Writing Detour Nebraska

Now it is Christmastime.  Perhaps not the ideal time to write a book.  But I made it work.  During the dark chilly mornings, I would be bundled up in my basement typing long before my family woke up.  I loved the stillness.  Being in my comfy pants with my pumpkin candle flickering beside me while drinking coffee and listening to “I am They” over and over – beautiful memories of a somewhat stressful time.

While writing, I contacted almost every place mentioned in the book.  Sometimes I had questions.  More often, I wanted them to make sure that I had not made any errors in accuracy.  Gradually I learned to stress less about getting suggestions because I was definitely told to make changes.  The funniest ones came when people would e-mail and ask where I had gotten particular tidbits of information because the details were inaccurate.  Several times I had to tell them that the info was actually on their websites.  Hopefully I helped a few people to update their internet presence. 🙂

My part of the book was officially complete by mid-February.  I was ready to be done.  Then the waiting began.  Originally I was under the assumption that my book would be available in the summer.  That would work well for this homeschooling mom.  But then I finally found out in May that the book would not be ready until October 30th.  Evidently that is a better release date in the publishing world?  This process did make me better at politely expressing my opinion and being okay with the result.  Once again I asked them to push the book release up.  They declined, but I am glad that I asked.

Editing Detour Nebraska

The end of July, I was asked to edit my book.  They did have some read through the book for style and format.  But I think the rest of the editing was up to me.  (Thanks, Mr. Rex, for teaching me how to do that!)  By now enough time had passed from writing the book, that I was able to slash away at the words I had taken so long to craft.  I read through the book a few times and did improve the text. Somehow this was less painful than I anticipated.

The History Press sent me the completed proofs and a few minor changes were made.  Okay – one was not minor.  They had put in an Iowa picture that was one of my original picture selections before I knew that particular Lewis & Clark statue was not in Nebraska.  (I forgot to mention that my friends Tim and Lisa of The Walking Tourists had let me use three of their pictures in my book.  I had searched their blog for relevant pictures.  One post featured both Iowa and Nebraska places.  While my memory is not what it used to be, I do remember which states contain what. 🙂  )  Anyway, I officially signed off on book on August 24th, 2017.  On September 26th, 2017, I held a copy of Detour Nebraska in my hands.  And I cried.

Publicizing Detour Nebraska

At that point, I started working with marketing and publicity.  Setting up book signings and events has been a small part of my life lately.  And trying to figure out how to send out newsletters.  Finding time to do all that I have wanted toward promoting Detour Nebraska has been a bit of a challenge.  I already had a full life.  But I am doing the best that I can.

That is why I decided that it would be helpful for me to participate in Write 31 Days.  Along with many other writers, we have all chosen a topic to write about for 31 days.  Since my book happens to be coming out on Day 30, the timing seems to be perfect.

Writing about Detour Nebraska 31 Day Challenge

31 Days #DetourNebraska Challenge


Detour Nebraska map from bookFor the next 31 days on this blog, I will be telling you more about the book itself.  The final page count in Detour Nebraska was 155 pages.  There are only seven chapters in the book, and they follow the designated regions on this map.

  1. Metro Region
  2. Pioneer Country
  3. Lewis and Clark Region
  4. Sandhills Region
  5. Frontier Trails
  6. Prairie Lakes
  7. Panhandle

For the next month, I will be taking you on a “behind the scenes” tour of Detour Nebraska.  We will hang out in each region for 3-4 days.  Some of the posts will show you some of the pictures that I wish could have been in the book.  And I will tell you some of the stories that I could not share in the book.  I will expand on some of the places that are mentioned only briefly in the book.  If you end up purchasing a copy of Detour Nebraska, I hope this will make the book even more interesting to you.  Thanks for all of your support on the way.

P.S.  A BIG thank you to all of the History Press people who helped me on this journey.  I did thank Amie, Chad, Abigail and Katie in the acknowledgements section.  But at that point, I did not realize that Erin and Dottie would be helping me as well.  Or the others who I may not ever know about who were a part of the process.  I always wanted to write a book.  Now I have.  And I am SO thankful.


Author: neodyssey

My name is Gretchen Garrison. I started this blog about Nebraska in 2013. So far, I have written three books about Nebraska and Lincoln.