September 2021 Update #7 “Torrents as yet Unfinished”
This will be the seventh update on my journey writing Torrents As Yet Unknown: Exploring Earth’s Great River Gorges.
Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day. – A. A. Milne (1882-1956)
Stepping out: Research has been slow, but with the vaccine, and now a booster, I’ve begun easing out of my COVID hermitage. I recently completed fun and useful driving trips to DC and NJ to talk with two members of the Polish Canoandes expedition about the Colca Canyon in the Peruvian Andes and the “longest ever paddling road trip” that got them there in 1981. I now have a first draft of that chapter, although I still hope to catch up with more Canoandes team members for fact checking and more enriching detail. That makes 8 chapters in draft.
In an odd coincidence, as I’ve been researching and working on Torrents, including my Chapter 6 about the Colca Canyon, two young indie filmmakers, Sonia Szczesna and Adam Nawrot at Sourland Studios, have also been hard at work documenting that same, forty-year-old story. Their excellent, lighthearted film, Godspeed, Los Polacas! has won numerous awards at film festivals, and it is just now going live on streaming TV. They intertwine film shot on the expedition and on-camera interviews with animation and with archival news material to fill in the geopolitical context. Great fun! Same river, same expedition, and so very different from my approach. Check it out!
Next stepping-out will be a flight to Colorado next month to meet one or two of the filmmakers behind the iconic American Sportsman TV show that enabled many of the major river runs in the late 70s and 80s: the Arun, Stikine, Zambezi, etc. That was an aspect of whitewater I never had personal contact with at the time, so I’m looking forward to learning about a whole different facet of my sport.
Sucking in: Sometimes it’s all about the turbulence. With great reluctance I’ve cancelled my plans for a grand adventure travelling to Tiger Leaping Gorge in China to see the gorge and track down survivors of the Chinese 1986 run. I was delayed these last couple of years by the COVID, and now the geopolitical situation makes travel there unwise. If I am to do that chapter at all, I will have to find more accessible sources ...
When I first dreamed up this Torrents project years ago, the fantasy was to travel to and experience all these wonderful places. Perhaps with a fat advance from a big publishing house? Reality had different plans. The best part has become the trips to see, sometimes get to know for the first time, all the fascinating explorers who have been part of my whitewater world for all these years, but off on their own adventures just as I have been on mine. But … the canyons are calling still.
Bureau of Shameless Self-promotion: All the advice for wannabe authors says that in today’s publishing world, to be successful authors must be primarily responsible for their own promotion and marketing, and that almost inevitably means an aggressive presence on the web as well as leg work like appearances. My very limited experience confirms that – at least in the negative. When I self-published Goat Game in 2012, I shied away from publicity about my military experiences, and I had virtually no social media platform. And correspondingly few book sales. QED.
This time around I will try to approach it differently. I do hope people, paddlers and general readers alike, will read and enjoy Torrents, and it’s my ambition to contribute a bit to the permanent history and canon of our sport. It is still early days before actual publication, but I have started the first baby steps: reserving the web site wickliffewalker.com (nothing there yet; just starting to build it) and puffing up a bit my listing on Wikipedia and author sites at Amazon and Goodreads. Hope I can pull this off with a modicum of dignity.