Today, when I got home from work, I stopped in the lobby on the way upstairs so I could pick up a few days’ worth of mail that’s been gathering because of my neglect. Among the bills and junk and coupons I found a big white envelope with my name on it.
In the left top corner it said “Greystone Books.” I opened it up to find our signed book contract and my portion of our advance.
Yes, you heard that right! A book contract. An advance. Maybe it’s crass to talk about the advance, but as academics we do an awful lot of writing for free and the idea of an advance is so out of the range of what’s expected that I’m just chuffed every time I think of it!
I emailed Sam. Yep! She got hers, too. We had a pact that we would not officially announce anything until the publisher returned the signed contract to us. We have that now. So here goes!
We’ve been working on this book idea for over a year now. With just a sketch of a concept in the fall of 2013, I contacted an agent whom I’d met at a publishing panel back in 2006. On that panel, he’d described his agency, Garamond, as specializing in non-fiction work and said they liked working with academics who were venturing into the world of trade (non-academic) publishing. I approached him afterwards to get his card.
I’d had his card on my desk for seven years, waiting for the right project. I sent him an email, floating our feminist fitness book idea by him to see if it might be of interest. He passed this informal pitch on to his business partner, Lisa. She followed up by asking for a fuller proposal with a chapter by chapter outline. We didn’t have one. Over the next six months, she helped us write one, paying attention to every detail, making suggestions for revisions, revising some of the more marketing-oriented sections for us, to produce a proposal she could sell to publishers. I don’t know about all agents, but Lisa worked hard for us and we could not have produced the proposal we did without her editing, comments, and suggestions.
Lisa is based in D.C. and started shopping it out to some American presses last fall. But we were too Canadian for them. Then she met Rob and Nancy from Greystone Press in Vancouver at a book fair in Germany. Greystone is a wonderful Canadian trade book press that focuses on “high quality non-fiction books that appeal to regional, national, and international readers.” They publish the work of all sorts of Canadian authors, including environmentalist David Suzuki.
They’ve published other works about sports and fitness, including Feet Don’t Fail Me Now: The Rogue’s Guide to Running the Marathon, by Ben Kaplan and Eat, Sleep, Ride, by Paul Howard, about the Tour Divide (the world’s longest mountain bike race).
They saw the book’s potential and wanted to hear more. We had a chat. They didn’t just share our enthusiasm for the project, they had a good grasp of what we wanted to accomplish in offering our own experiences and our feminist critique of and approach to fitness.
Then came the offer. Lisa reviewed it with us and talked it over with them. A contract came our way. We signed. They signed. And yay!
Here’s an overview of the project:
Part fitness memoir, part reflection and commentary on fitness and dieting, and part inspirational text, Fit Over 40 [provisional title] moves past the latest fitness trends. What’s a beach body? It’s the one you take to the beach. Your yoga body is the body that gets you through your yoga class. And your runner’s body runs you to the finish line. Period.
It’s not easy to reject strong and pervasive cultural messages about losing weight, the obligation to diet, and the rejection of the overweight body. We also need to get past the idea that exercise and physical activity are joyless duties that we need to undertake to keep our unwieldy bodies in check. There are lots of good reasons to resist the mainstream view. Reason number one: why miss out on the fun you could have? We can reclaim play in our adult lives. Reason number two: medical and health research shows over and over again that the odds of losing weight and keeping it off are slim, far slimmer than a chronic dieter will ever likely be. So we can set that aside and look for other sources of motivation. That’s where fun comes into the picture. And the idea of being as energetic and strong as possible as we age is yet a third reason to take up an active lifestyle for people who are not already leading one.
The book makes a strong case–both through our personal stories and our critical spin on the received view–for our belief that the pursuit of fitness ought to be reclaimed as a worthy goal in itself, distinct from weight loss and the quest for that elusive slender (and youthful) body that our media and our society so highly prize. Anyone at any age can get more active, learn to accept and maybe even love the body they have, and stare down those milestone birthdays so many of us have come to dread. And they, like us, can have a great time doing it.
We’re not targeting high-level athletes or people who need a hard to sell to get off the couch and move more. We’re not going to spell out all the bad things that will happen if you want to sit still. We’re not going to provide training plans or outline food plans. This is not a “how-to” book in the formulaic sense of that genre. Instead, through our own stories of our “Fittest by 50” challenge and our reflections on fitness, dieting, body image, aging, attitude, competition, families and fitness, and our celebration of the idiosyncratic activities we each love, we aim to inspire others to embark on their own challenge, on their own terms, each of us in her own voice.
We haven’t settled on a title yet–suggestions welcome.
Sam and I have a standing commitment to get together every Monday and Friday for two hours to work on the book for now. We’ll step that up as soon as classes end so we can meet our June deadline.
Stay tuned for more information about the release date, sometime in early 2016.