So ... How Do You Write a Book?

Written by Ken Leinbach
    Monday, 27 February 2017
So ... How Do You Write a Book?

Below is the story of how Ken wrote Urban Ecology: a Natural Way to Transform Kids, Parks, Cities, and the World. Click here for a short synopsis of the book.

The way I wrote a book was not traditional, but I doubt that is much of a surprise to most.

Wait, did you catch that? I just wrote a book!

It's called Urban Ecology: a Natural Way to Transform Kids, Parks, Cities, and the World.

This adventure started two years ago when Peter and Jean Storer offered us support for the purpose of writing a book. Without any request  from us, they felt that the Urban Ecology Center story needed to be told. What followed was a little bit of luck and some awesome opportunities.

A chance conversation with an old college friend introduced me to Difference Press out of Washington DC.

Difference Press is a one-of-a-kind group that is determined to only publish books that make a difference. I applied and got into their writing and publishing program. Encouraged by board and staff, last year I took a writing sabbatical and got the job done.

Four months later and voilà, a book!

Get the ebook now

In September, three weeks before my writing sabbatical was to begin, Stefen Anderson, the headmaster of Conserve School visited the Center for the first time. We hit it off immediately. By the end of a spontaneous tour he invited me to be the Author in Residence at their campus near Land O’ Lakes, Wisconsin.

In return for an all-campus assembly program, teaching a few classes and being a presence to their students, they offered me a cabin on Black Oak Lake. I was lent a mountain bike with which to commute through the woods to their state-of-the-art campus for meals, Wi-Fi, an office and human contact.

What an amazing place and a generous gift. I fell in love with their semester school program, thoroughly enjoyed the 63 juniors who were there from all over the country and fit in immediately with the staff.

Most of my time, however, was spent writing.

While I like to write, I have always had a hard time sitting still for very long. So I set up four writing stations around the property. I’d start at one, a hammock set up between two birch trees which caught the morning sun perfectly, write for an hour or so, and then mountain bike to the next station. This was a tensile tent strung up on a bluff between three trees. Think of it like a tree house made of a triangular trampoline with a dome tent on top. Super comfy with lots of pillows and sleeping bags as it got colder. After more writing I’d head to the cabin for lunch and more writing. My final station was a ridiculously stable kayak which I would take out onto the lake. This plan worked spectacularly and occasionally even produced a fish!

That is where I wrote, and how I wrote, now on to what I wrote.

The book writing process of Difference Press begins with identifying my ideal reader — a personification of someone who really needs my book. I created “Michael”, an assistant principal of a generic urban school. Then I had to outline a problem that was burning inside Michael’s heart, which in this case was a loss of hope due to the environmental state of the planet and his struggle with the urban area in which he lived. Each chapter then becomes a series of logical steps that takes Michael to his dream come true which, of course, is the Urban Ecology Center.

So, what’s in the book? Here’s a brief description:

With climate in the news, an urban core that has reached boiling point, and many children growing up without role models and only limited dreams – where is hope?
There is a quiet experiment in Milwaukee that is turning heads. It starts from the simplicity of getting a city kid exploring their neighborhood park.  How is it that so much life, community, and opportunity can grow from this unlikely soil?
This is a story of a group of ordinary people in a neighborhood who created something extraordinary. While reading this book you will discover…
The power of getting a city kid outside in nature.
That kindness works.
How to say no while following the yes.
The value of clarity and focus.
How to find abundance within your own diverse community by simply and humbly asking for help.
Ten tried and tested rules for raising money while having a ton of fun doing it.
A positive, believable, and very real vision for the future of our environment. We’ve got this!
And ... how to join our movement.

Cool, eh?

So ... want a copy of the book? Currently it is available only as an ebook on Amazon. On Earth Day, April 22, we will be offering it as a download for free! Then in May we should be getting our first print copies hot off the press. We’ll let you know more details as we go along.

While I was busy writing, the rest of my team was doing the real mission work of the Center. I am so grateful to Beth Heller who spectacularly served as Interim Executive Director in my absence.

She was joined by our stellar Leadership Team and all the rest of the staff who made this book writing possible.

It was great to be gone and even better to be back!

Ken Leinbach

Ken Leinbach

Ken is a nationally recognized educator and leader in community-based environmental education. He currently serves as the Executive Director of the Urban Ecology Center. With his contagious energy, Ken speaks on a number of topics including: urban education, community organizing, environmental issues, finding abundance, the power of story, sustainable design, the need for "near-by" nature, leadership, fundraising, and green living. Ken holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Antioch College in Ohio, a Masters degree in Environmental Education from Prescott College in Arizona and received an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the Milwaukee Instituted of Art and Design.

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