In 2002, after 15 years of freelance writing, I decided to write a book about the history of American women distance runners. After six months of research, my queasy gizzard told me I was missing a bigger story.
I found it in John Cumming’s Runners and Walkers, a 19th Century Sports Chronicle.
He barely mentioned the late 19th century professional women endurance walkers who from 1876-1881, dazzled America with their on and off track exploits.
Convinced I’d found something spectacular, I made the first of five trips to the Library of Congress. I also traveled to Brooklyn, Chicago, Fond du Lac, San Francisco and Sacramento. In Winchester, VA, I found Charlotte and Gerry Curtis, sisters and great-granddaughters of May Marshall, the most prolific pedestrienne. They gave me an invaluable scrapbook of their ancestor’s exploits.
All the artifacts and updated stories were giving the book substance to what would become The Pedestriennes: American’s Forgotten Superstars.
In 2007, I joined the DFW Writer’s Workshop; four years later, I enrolled in UNT’s Journalism School. That summer, I was named a charter inductee into the Mayborn Author’s Guild, my first national writing award.
The book still failed to generate agent’s interest.
At the same time, I saw several author friends getting raw deals from agents and publishers. Tragically, Charlotte Curtis died; I wanted Gerry, who is not in good health, to see the book come to fruition. Traditional publishing would take 12-18 months, at least.
I decided to self-publish.
Hoping to build on my Mayborn success, I entered it in three more contests, winning two.
It took 12 years, spending much of my savings, my son’s college fund, and lots of dead ends. But in the end, I got what I wanted, the first book ever written about the pedestriennes.
And we’re just getting started.