BY ANDREW MORKES, AUTHOR of NATURE IN CHICAGOLAND
It’s been a good year…at least for the owner (me) of a small book publishing company that does not have the power of the Big Four “digital-paper-industrial complex” publishers, who can sell tens of thousands of books in a matter of minutes with a perfectly-timed Tweet about a new celebrity’s tell-all book.
The world is full of small publishers like mine that labor to reach readers without having the benefit of massive advertising budgets; the cachet of a big name to sell books; and eager, hope-to-be-rising-in-the-ranks interns and entry-level workers who slave away late-night for the bosses. (I was there once; as a young publishing professional, I realized one day that I’d worked every hour of the day at the office during one deadline push or another.). I founded College & Career Press (CCP) in 2002 right around the time that the educational publisher I was working for as a managing editor was being sold. I founded Nature in Chicagoland LLC this year as an imprint of CCP. Publishing books and newsletters—as I’ve done for nearly 20 years on my own—is a joyful addiction (most of the time), and while my company will never join the Big Four, it’s been a fun ride.
In July, I published my book Nature in Chicagoland and then it sold, and sold, and sold thanks to some great media coverage, some supportive bookstore owners, and certainly some hard work on my part…until it didn’t. The sales river dried up sometime in October and it has flowed and ebbed (pretty much the norm for most books I’ve published) since then. Having published about 15 books through my own company, I’ve learned to never get too high or low regarding sales.
At year’s end, it’s time to pay back this support with some kudos to the people/media that helped to make or promote my book. I hope that you’ll support the people and organizations that supported me and Nature in Chicagoland. And buy a copy of my 306-page guide with 210+ photos that covers more than 120 great nature destinations in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan!
Dale Bowman, the Outdoors columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times, wrote a wonderful review about my book in his August 21 column. I’ve enjoyed his work for decades. Dale is a fine writer who provides comprehensive coverage of all things outdoors in Chicagoland. His writing makes me interested in outdoor activities that I’ve never tried. Dale never oversells a moment outdoors or an opinion. That’s an art in itself in our “hit you over the head with emotion or hyperbole” media sphere these days. It was a pretty special Saturday morning when I grabbed the Sun-Times from our porch, opened it to his column, and saw a thoughtful story about me and Nature in Chicagoland. Newspapers used to be as thick as 2 x 4s, but that’s changed due to declining print advertising, the “news-should-be-free” mania on the Internet, and other factors. But the Sun-Times and other local newspapers still offer value for a low subscription price. Things are only going to get better when Chicago Public Media completes (hopefully) its purchase of the Bright One, which will strengthen the paper and bring much-needed funding to fuel the quality and in-depth journalism that Chicago needs. Read Dale Bowman’s column and support local newspapers and nonprofit news organization such as Block Club Chicago and South Side Weekly.
Keith Lewis is the owner of Bookie’s New and Used Books in Beverly and Homewood. He has been a great supporter of Nature in Chicagoland. He looks like me a bit. I think we have the same sense of humor. He wears funny t-shirts that make me laugh when I visit the store. And I am grateful for Keith’s support because I know there are a lot of authors trying to get books into his bookstore. My other books have been in bookstores across the country, but one of the best moments I’ve had in life was walking into Bookie’s and seeing Nature in Chicagoland (cover out) prominently displayed in Beverly—my ancestral neighborhood. Every community should have a bookstore (that should be in the Constitution) like Bookie’s. Go to Bookie’s and buy some books! Support your local bookstores. Honorable mentions: City News, Sandmeyer’s Bookstore, and the Arboretum Store at Morton Arboretum, which also carry my books.
Susan DeGrane, a reporter for the Daily Southtown and Chicago Tribune, wrote an amazing piece about Nature in Chicagoland and me (which appeared in both newspapers). She interviewed me not on the phone or via email, but in the wilds of Cap Sauers Holding Nature Preserve, which I believe is the wildest nature spot in Cook County. We hiked more than 3 miles together on a warm summer day. We hiked to Visitation Prairie, which many consider to be the most distant spot from a road in Cook County and its rare glacial esker. She is an interesting person, and I thoroughly enjoyed our time hiking and talking about writing and the natural world. Click here to read her columns.
Kyle Garmes, the publisher of The Beverly Review, took the time to interview me about my book and published a great piece about it and my connection to Beverly. The Beverly Review has been published for decades. You should subscribe to this neighborhood gem if you live in Beverly/Morgan Park/Mount Greenwood, reside nearby, or are an expatriate like me who enjoys keeping up with news about one’s childhood neighborhood. And, if you don’t fall into any of these categories, subscribe to your local paper. Supporting community journalism keeps your neighborhood strong—and informed. You’re probably familiar with the slogan, “Buy Local,” but you should also “Read Local,” too.
Bob Dolgan writes the informative newsletter, This Week in Birding and is the director of Monty and Rose, a film about a pair of endangered piping plovers at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary that have captivated Chicagoans for the last few years. Bob was kind enough to interview me about my book at This Week in Birding, and I’m grateful for his support, excited to get to know someone with shared environmental interests, and looking forward to hopefully taking a hike with him sometime in 2022. Subscribe to his newsletter and check out his films. You won’t be disappointed.
And, finally, a shout out to Ted Glasoe, an old friend who is a talented nature photographer and graphic designer who designed the beautiful cover of Nature in Chicagoland and the maps in the front matter. His photographs of Lake Michigan and other subjects will make excellent additions to your home. He also publishes an annual Lake Michigan calendar; sells nature-focused greeting cards, puzzles, and photographic prints; and writes the Lake Lover blog. Click here to learn more about Ted and purchase his work.
Thanks and thanks and more thanks to the people who took the time to review, promote, sell, or create designs for the book. And who make Chicagoland a better place through their own work.
It’s been a busy 2021. I visited 36 nature destinations in Illinois and Indiana this year, and 22 were new spots—including Rock Run Rookery Preserve, Buffalo Rock State Park, Johnson’s Mound Forest Preserve, Casper Bluff Land & Water Preserve, Thorn Creek Nature Preserve, and Hegewisch Marsh Park. I’m looking forward to more nature adventures in 2022 and hope to see you out on the trails.
Copyright (text) Andrew Morkes
Copyright (photos) except the photo of the Chicago Sun-Times and Ted Glasoe calendar in the main article, and all images of publications in the main article photo collage
Looking for some great nature destinations in Chicagoland? If so, I just published Nature in Chicagoland: More Than 120 Fantastic Nature Destinations That You Must Visit. It features amazing destinations in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Click on the title to learn more. The book has 306 pages and 210+ photos and is only $18.99. Click here to order.
ABOUT ANDREW MORKES
I have been a writer and editor for more than 25 years. I’m the founder of College & Career Press (2002); the editorial director of the CAM Report career newsletter and College Spotlight newsletter; the author and publisher of “The Morkes Report: College and Career Planning Trends” blog; and the author and publisher of Hot Health Care Careers: 30 Occupations With Fast Growth and Many New Job Openings; Nontraditional Careers for Women and Men: More Than 30 Great Jobs for Women and Men With Apprenticeships Through PhDs; They Teach That in College!?: A Resource Guide to More Than 100 Interesting College Majors, which was selected as one of the best books of the year by the library journal Voice of Youth Advocates; and other titles. They Teach That in College!? provides more information on environmental- and sustainability-related majors such as Ecotourism, Range Management, Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Built Environment, Sustainability Studies, and Sustainable Agriculture/Organic Farming. I’m also a member of the parent advisory board at my son’s school. Stories about my work have been published in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Daily Southtown, Beverly Review, and Practical Homeschooling.
In addition to these publications, I’ve written more than 40 books about careers for other publishing and media companies including Infobase (such as the venerable Encyclopedia of Careers & Vocational Guidance, the Vault Career Guide to Accounting, and many volumes in the Careers in Focus, Discovering Careers, What Can I Do Now?!, and Career Skills Library series) and Mason Crest (including those in the Careers in the Building Trades and Cool Careers in Science series).
My poetry has appeared in Cadence, Wisconsin Review, Poetry Motel, Strong Coffee, and Mid-America Review.