Saturday, October 31, 2009

Dreams Do Come True

Submitted by Kevin Vaughan
Award-winning Journalist for the Denver Post

Every writer has thought, at some time or another, about writing a book. I was no different, and those years of thoughts and dreams manifested themselves this week for me and Jim Davidson.

We will be working together on a book about his harrowing 1992 accident on Mount Rainier that claimed the life of his good friend, Mike Price – and about Jim’s incredible climb to save his life and ultimately to inspire others by sharing all he learned about the human spirit in the worst experience imaginable. Here’s the official announcement from Publishers Marketplace, the organization that tracks deals in the book industry:

October 28, 2009
Non-fiction: Narrative

THE CORRIDOR, Jim Davidson's harrowing and inspirational narrative of falling through a snow bridge after summiting Mt. Rainier, surviving a 80-foot fall into the glacial crevasse that claimed his climbing partner's life -- and then having to find the will to make an almost impossible climb back out to safety, written with Kevin Vaughan, author of a five-part serialization of these events that was published by the Rocky Mountain News in October 2008, to Luke Dempsey at Ballantine, in a pre-empt, by Dan Conaway at Writers House (NA).

Now let me tell you the rest of the story...

First, some history: I first encountered Jim Davidson in April 2007 at the Northern Colorado Writers Conference in Fort Collins. I was a staff writer at the Rocky Mountain News, and he was our lunchtime speaker. I heard him talk about falling into a glacial crevasse, about losing his good friend, about making a nearly impossible climb to safety, and about learning to live and ultimately thrive in the wake of the ordeal.

I knew immediately that I wanted to tell his story, and I approached Jim about writing about the accident on Mount Rainier. The result was “The Crevasse,” a five-part, 30,000-word narrative. It was well received, and in the wake of it, Jim and I began discussing the possibility of collaborating on a book.

In December 2008, we had the great fortune to be introduced on sort of a literary blind date to Dan Conaway, a former executive editor at two major publishing houses who had crossed the street to be an agent. Dan had a vision for our book, and we had a long conference call (favorite moment: when Dan explained the process to us and concluded with: “Then we knock wood. I’m a big knocker of wood.”) and we all agreed to get hitched, in a publishing kind of way. Jim and I prepared a detailed proposal with much prodding, cheerleading, and editing from Dan, and he submitted it to a slew of publishing houses.

On Oct. 21, I got on a plane and flew to New York, joining Jim, who had gone out a day earlier for some business meetings. Dan had arranged for us to meet with publishers on two separate days and pitch our idea. So there we were, late on the morning of Oct. 23, in Midtown Manhattan, standing in the grand entry to the Random House office, parent of Ballantine Books.

The lobby was about the size of a racquetball court, and huge glassed-in bookshelves lined the walls on either side of us. On one side were thousands of books published by the company between 1900 and 1950. On the other were books published since 1950. I saw In Cold Blood and the Andromeda Strain and I had to remind myself to breathe.

Pretty soon, we were in a conference room with Luke Dempsey, editorial director for non-fiction and editor of the just-released Miracle on the Hudson, and a team of people that included Brian McLendon, who handled publicity for Into the Wild and Into Thin Air.

The meeting was really a get-to-know-you session – for all of us. Dan, Jim and I were trying to find the right publisher. And they were trying to find writers, and a project, they could be excited about. And about 10 minutes in I felt like this was the place we wanted to be. Luke reminded me of the editor and publisher at the Rocky, John Temple – an editor with vision and heart and energy. I told Dan after the meeting that Luke was the kind of editor I wanted to work for.

That night, after the day’s work was done, Jim, Dan and I went out for a couple of beers at a nifty little bar, but at the time none of us knew where it was all headed. We felt our meetings had gone very well, but until someone makes an offer, you don’t know. What we did know at that point was that we had a great agent who believed in us and believed in our book (knock wood!).

As Jim and I flew home the next day, we talked about one particular idea of Luke’s about the book – and it gave me a charge. It made me think, again, that this was where we wanted to be.

After a long, anxiety-filled weekend, Dan had conversations with the people we had met with, and the next thing we knew we had a deal with Ballantine Books. Jim and I are thrilled. We loved Luke Dempsey and his team when we met with them, and we keep pinching ourselves that we ended up with them.

A lot of details remain to be discussed, but we expect to turn in a manuscript sometime in mid-2010 and to see our book, The Corridor, on the shelves in early 2011. The whole thing seems surreal to me. A day after our agreement, Dan sent us the Publishers Marketplace announcement. It seems unbelievable.

We know we have a lot of work ahead of us. And yet, Jim and I feel so lucky to have come this far – lucky that we crossed paths, lucky that we work well together, lucky that we connected with a fantastic agent, and lucky that we found just the right house to publish our book. I can’t decide whether to pinch myself again or knock more wood.

-Kevin Vaughan

1 comment:

Patricia Stoltey said...

What a wonderful story of being in the right place at the right time, serious networking, and having a great book idea. I wish you guys all kinds of success!

And Kerrie, the new blog design looks great.

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