Today is the day that my new book, Divining, A Memoir in Trees, is released. What does that mean? Pre-orders are being mailed out, and the book is now available at most places that sell books . . . from the book’s publisher, Wayne State University Press to my favorite independent bookstore for the past eight years—Susan Murphy’s Pages Bookshop in the historic Grandmont Rosedale neighborhood—to Sidetrack Bookshop, the new bookstore in my hometown, to the online venues of (supporting local independent bookstores) and Amazon.

The Buzz

I’ve had some pleasant surprises recently including pre-publication reviews in the Library Journal and Foreword Reviews, and a fun interview with journalist Vladislava Sukhanosvskaya for an upcoming story in the online environmental journal The Great Lakes Echo.

In the future, I expect Divining, A Memoir in Trees will escort me to upcoming events including readings, book presentation opportunities, and writing workshops. All fun and very interesting. With my first book, I had many opportunities to talk to people who loved the Great Lakes as much as I do. In the months to come, I’m looking forward to meeting other people who have a thing about trees.

A Retrospective

I’ve been drafting this post on the eve of the day my book starts on its own journey, away from the desk we’ve shared for five or six years. How did this book come to fill the space between the two covers (covers so beautifully designed by Lindsey Cleworth)? How did this book become an object people will pick up in their hands to read or put down, to return to, or not? How will Divining, A Memoir in Trees affect its readers?

As I was completing the publication process for my first book, Great Lakes Island Escapes: Ferries and Bridge to Adventure, I knew I wanted to keep writing. I’m fortunate in that I enjoy both the drafting (the “getting it down”) and revision (the “fixing it up”). After the two-year publication process, from signing a contract to celebrating a release date, from May 2014 to May 2016, I was looking forward to a return to drafting, to drafting something new.

The Challenge

My challenge was that I didn’t know what the subject of that “something new” was.

Six months before the island book was released, as one of my birthday gifts, my oldest daughter, Meagan, and her husband, Jason, gave me an Ogami Professional 90 x 140 Millmetri blank-page journal containing 64 Repap sheets. The little notebook looks like a small black Moleskin journal with an attached elastic band to keep its 3.5 x 5.5″ covers (printed in Italy!) closed. But it’s what is between those covers that makes this journal something different.

The Ogami Professional 90 X 140 Millimetri


The pages of this journal are made of 80% calcium carbonate–CaCO3 that comes from limestone recovered from quarries and from building industry waste–and 20% non-toxic resins. The calcium carbonate and resins make a product called Repap which is a “tree-free,” paper that is “a resistant, durable, and waterproof paper as well as [being] smooth, soft and recyclable.” Before I collected islands as an adult, I collected rocks as a kid. It was a really cool gift for a writer who still picks up rocks.

That weekend or the next, the New York Times Magazine ran a piece that featured an artist’s 365-day project. I wanted in. I jotted on the first smooth page of my new little limestone-paged journal, “I have decided to use this journal to record a 365-day project.”

I listed seven possibilities for such a project in that same entry. From learning a yoga pose a day to writing a haiku a day to daily mailing a letter or card to a friend or family member. The journal would serve as a log where I could keep track of what I did on the project every day. But then at some point in time, I added an eighth possibility at the end of the list: “What is on my trail of curiosity today?” An asterisk precedes that one idea.

My Trail of Curiosity

Nonetheless, six weeks later, on the first of the year, a second journal entry records that I’ve started the letter/card project. But by the 16th day of the year, I’d only written a grand total of three cards, one each, to my oldest daughter, my first grandchild, and my dad. And then . . . almost 11 months passed. On, December 11, 2016, about seven months after the island book is released, I’m back in the journal, asking, “What’s on my trail of curiosity today?” What follows that one-question entry is pages (and pages) of daily questions. Eight months of questions. Often several questions a day. The subject of those questions, over time, became trees, exclusively.

Tonight as I flip through the little black book, I can see in these many tree questions the seeds for the 16 essays that became the book Divining, A Memoir in Trees, as well as its online accompaniment, the “More Tree Information” feature of my website.

Looking Forward

This Thursday, Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor is hosting the first reading of Divining. It’s going to be a “twofer”—a first reading for my book and a delayed first reading for the poet Alison Swan‘s fifth book, the magnificent A Fine Canopy (Wayne State University Press, 2020), a book of her poems that was released during the first year of the pandemic.

From the announcement for the Literati reading

Lakes and Trees

The first and most recent of Alison’s and my books share a few things in common:

Great Lakes Island Escapes: Ferries and Bridges to Adventure by Maureen Dunphy (Wayne State University Press, 2016)
Fresh Water: Women Writing on the Great Lakes, edited by Alison Swan (Michigan State University Press, 2007)
  • And, of course, both of our most recent books–A Fine Canopy and Divining, A Memoir in Trees–pay homage to trees.

An Invitation for You

Alison and I met for the first time at Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea on Washington St. in Ann Arbor this afternoon. She texted me that she was near the front window, wearing a hat. She was. We had a lot to talk about.

I’m looking forward to us sharing a reading, continuing our conversation, and having some fun Thursday evening at 6:30 at Literati Bookstore. I hope you’ll come and join us there too!