Genius loci

[Genius Loci] April 2023

1 April 2023


After some helpful comments from Reader 3 and Reader 4, I have finished Draft 15 of The Hill of the Skull (which I’ll refer to as THOTS herein).

The story/essay/travelogue/memoir section now has around 7,100 words. The story feels like it is going in the right direction, though it is deeply personal and ends on a dark note.

This all feels right — but I must say that I am also feeling a bit vulnerable, not just because of the personal nature of THOTS but also because of the public nature of the crowdfunding campaign.

Speaking of which, I’m pushing back the launch of THOTS until September 2023. I originally thought I’d launch in May, but I need more time.

I underestimated the amount of work the project would need, and how much emotional energy it would drain from me.

I can bang out a print-on-demand, self-published book on Amazon in no time. But THOTS is personal. It will use higher quality materials, and therefore it demands more attention and more resources.

In short, I want to deliver a tight, polished, and beautiful special-edition book. And these things take time. Its best not to rush.

A travel writing experiment?

I am beginning to realize how unorthodox this project is within the travel writing and photography landscape.

The book itself (the story, the photographs, the materials, etc.) is as unconventional as its publishing model (crowdfunding via Kickstarter).

It is an experiment in the genre; it is an experiment in publishing in the genre.

Will you play an active role in helping shape the trajectory of an unusual publishing experiment like The Hill of the Skull?

If you haven’t done so already, please sign up for an alert via Kickstarter or via my self-destructing email list when the project launches in September.

And please help us spread the word by sharing this link with your friends/social networks/newsletters:

Now, onto what you came for:

My work

My story “6:15 p.m. on the Hill of the Skull” was published in Off Assignment last month. The story is an episode in my book. Check out the story if you want a taste of what is to come.

I joined a photography syndicate in Bolivia. Sort of. Read about that, and about how photography projects are sometimes research projects in my other newsletter Drifting.


On March 16, the 2023 Stanfords Travel Writing Awards ceremony took place in London. The winner was Silvia Vasquez-Lavado’s In The Shadow of the Mountain. Read about the other nominees and winners here.

On his website Deskbound Traveler, Michael Kerr briefs us on some new books on travel and place.

An odd prize: The 25-year-old Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction names its shortlist for a special one-time £25,000 award for one of six previous winners, including Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis. Out of the six nominees, North America represents well with two Canadians and three Americas.

Read Snow Leopards and Slow Trekking in Dolpo, Nepal by Cal Flyn for the Financial Times.


Have you seen this wonderful Twitter thread featuring the portraits famous photographers have taken of their partners? (NSFW)

Enjoyed listening to this Beyond the Lens interview with Chris Rainier, TIME and National Geographic photographer. Includes a brief discussion of Tim Cahill.

Audio & miscellanea

I learned a lot about Norman Lewis from Ryan Murdock and Julian Evans on the Personal Landscapes Podcast. Julian wrote the massive biography Semi-Invisible Man: The Life of Norman Lewis.

Sophy Roberts interviewed Cal Flyn and Levison Wood in her podcast Gone to Timbuktu.

Back matter

That’s it for this month.

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