Where did the three of you meet?
All of us met online, through our blogs. Michael and Sara were followers of Behan’s blog in the couple years before they each cast off. Michael and Sara met in person when their families rendezvoused at Wondertime’s homeport in the summer of 2011. Later that same year, they crossed paths again in La Cruz, Mexico and buddy boated for a while before Wondertime sailed to the South Pacific, and Del Viento headed north up the US West Coast. Neither Michael nor Sara have ever met Behan in person, but they’re pretty sure she’s real.
How, when, where did you come up with the idea of collaborating on this project?
Collaborating on this book was Michael’s epiphany, on a solo night watch powered by dark chocolate-covered espresso beans. He made a pitch to Behan and Sara, and it resonated closely. Each of us felt there was a gap in cruising literature for a book to help parents like us prepare to go cruising with their children. This is the book we wished we’d had during the years leading up to our own departures as well as when new challenges appeared once underway.
Once you decided to write Voyaging With Kids, how did you delegate the work? Tell us something about how you ensured this was a true collaboration.
Once we brainstormed and refined an outline, we took that list of chapters and divvied them up so that each of us became the lead writer for a particular chapter. We allocated based on interest, expertise, and, when necessary, the result of a coin toss. After a draft of any chapter was complete, it was marked ready for preliminary review and would be reviewed in turn by the other two authors. The first review was high-level—each of us weighing in on the order and flow of information, jotting notes for ideas of additional subject matter to cover, and identifying any thoughts we had for sidebars. But that was just the start. Once the author was finished incorporating that feedback and further refining the chapter, it would be again marked for review. Each chapter had several rounds of reviews, with each subsequent review focused more on specific content, specific language, and finally, details like punctuation. Oftentimes, we disagreed and debated a point before deciding how to move forward. Any disagreement highlighted the benefit of having three writers rather than two; whenever two of us disagreed, there was always a third author to break the tie.
As each of you was sailing in different parts of the world as you wrote the actual manuscript, how did you communicate and coordinate what went in to the final submitted manuscript.
We communicated regularly over email, and used a shared folder in the cloud to simplify sharing documents. Behan often had poor internet access in Southeast Asia, and Michael was periodically disconnected while cruising Mexico; using this system helped us keep organized.
How did you arrange to have time away from your family to write this book as you cruised?
Though the total working time to finish was about a year, the concentrated writing period that was particularly time consuming spanned only about six months. (This was another benefit of having three authors.) Each of us gave up a lot of family time (and lost a lot of sleep to late nights) to get the manuscript finished. We each scaled back the writing we would have done for magazines during this time.
Did your children have any input as you wrote?
The topics for the book were often fodder for dinner conversation for all three families. Behan’s eldest son, Niall, wrote a sidebar for Chapter 11 – Teens on Board.
How long did it take to write this book?
From start to finish, we spent just over a year collaborating to produce the manuscript. Some months were busier than others!
One of the special features of your book is the plethora of contributions from other cruising parents, cruising kids, and former cruising kids. Did you start gathering these before you actually wrote the book? How did people react when you asked them to participate?
It was very important to us to demonstrate clearly that there is no “right” way to go cruising with kids. There are as many different ways to approach cruising as there are families, and from the start we felt it was critical to include a wide range of voices from cruisers with different perspectives and experiences. The first chapter we finished, Chapter 2 – Choosing a Family Cruising Boat, is a perfect example of a topic where people will have wildly divergent views and not one of them is necessarily right or wrong or appropriate for everyone.
Soliciting this input from other cruisers was a pleasure. People were willing and eager to help and we all had fun connecting with old friends and making new ones.
I understand you considered self-publishing this book. What made you decide against this option?
In today’s world, it’s important that authors understand the effort, expense, and wide range of expertise that goes into producing a quality non-fiction book. None of us have experience in book design, editing, e-book design, cover design, and distribution. Especially given the complexity of our book (more than three dozen contributors, dozens of sidebars, more than a hundred photos) self-publishing would have meant hiring out for these services. Being remote and underway and thousands of miles from our target market at the time of launch just added to the complexity of successfully self-publishing—not impossible, just difficult.
We decided to send our book proposal to almost a dozen nautical book publishers, gauge the response, and then make a decision.
In the meantime, Sara was cruising in New Zealand and met Lin Pardey and got to talking about the book. Right off the bat, Lin expressed interest in the project, offered suggestions, and even suggested considering her as a publisher.
In the end, weighing Lin’s offer against the others we received, we selected L&L Pardey Books to publish our book.
Though we all have a digital presence and relationships with marine magazine editors that would have allowed us to reach much of our market had we opted to self-publish, we soon realized that Lin’s particular intimate relationship with our readership and the publishing industry in general would be an asset we ourselves or any other publisher could not match. Days after we signed the publishing agreement, Lin had a promotional poster made to take with her to a librarian’s convention in the States where she began spreading word of our book. Since then she’s attended the Strictly Sail boat show in Oakland with more posters and has plans to attend the Annapolis Boat show to coincide with the book’s release. She has been in contact with magazine editors on three continents to arrange reviews and solicit blurbs. And, while our royalty percentage will be much less having sold our book to a traditional publisher than it would have been had we self-published, the time and money that our publisher is expending—for design, editing, and promotion—is all time and money we are not spending.
What’s next for each of you, writing-wise and sailing-wise?
Behan and her family are crossing the Indian Ocean in 2015, and will sail up the Atlantic in 2016; at this time, they’re still debating whether they’ll point Totem’s bow to the Caribbean or the Mediterranean. Behan continues to actively blog her family’s adventures afloat, and supplement the cruising kitty with freelance writing projects.
After successfully transitioning back to land life from their adventures afloat, Sara and her family missed cruising’s simpler lifestyle; they’re now planning to return to New Zealand to retain residency status they earned after sailing there in Wondertime. They plan to continue long-term family travel interspersed with working stints. While continuing to contribute to nautical periodicals, Sara is also broadening her writing market; a recent article about her life with type 1 diabetes appeared on TheAtlantic.com.
Michael and the Del Viento crew departed for the South Pacific in April 2015, and as of press time have no idea where they’ll point the bow next. He continues to write for sailing magazines and recently completed a memoir he’ll soon be shopping to publishers.