074 | The Making of Beyond Normal (book release) with author Heidi Dusek

Family adventure
Heidi Dusek takes us behind the scenes to unfold the book Beyond Normal: a field guide to embrace adventure, explore the wilderness, and design an extraordinary life with kids.

It’s May (when I am recording this episode) which might mean many things.  For us it means cramming in our school and spring kid activities, it means busting out the camping gear and preparing for the kickoff to summer, it means many more hours outside it also means budding blooms (ie pollen), and bugs emerge from who knows where.  For me it also means publishing my first book.  Beyond Normal: A field guide to embrace adventure, implore the wilderness and design an extraordinary life with kids launches on May 17, 2022.  

Book Description:

With big trips and everyday joys, a life of adventure awaits you. Whether you enjoy traveling or staying close to home, you’ll love this book. Soak up everyday adventures exploring new places, trying new experiences, finding fun in everything, and making play more prevalent than screens. 

You do not need to go back to normal. Beyond Normal is a field guide to help your family navigate an adventurous life filled with authentic experiences. Throughout this guide, you will find ways to assess your risk tolerance, stretch beyond your comfort zone, and find community. Venture forth!

Beginning May 17th you can purchase, download the free eBook (for limited time), or request a copy of the book Beyond Normal for your local library.  

Author Bio: Heidi Dusek is an adventurous working mom. She helps families connect through simple and authentic adventures on her podcast (Ordinary Sherpa), Instagram feed, and through speaking and community-building events. 

In all seriousness, I wanted to take you behind the scenes to share the development of this book from idea to publication and the addition of a published author as a part of my identity.  It began last year about this time a friend posted on social media, “If you were to write a book, what would the title be and what would it be about?”  I rattled off 3 titles and a sentence description.  The initial description was something like “create everyday adventures and live life on purpose.”  I received a couple comments from friends that said “please write this book”  and that was how it began.  

I knew the concept, but I struggled with figuring out what to write. I’m just an ordinary mom.  I didn’t really know what people would want to read about or what exactly I would write about.  I knew the topic of adventure parenting was likely the topic but I didn’t really have the concept.  Through a series of requests in the Ordinary Sherpa FB group, Everyday Adventure Challenge meet ups, and individuals who would buy me a coffee  I’d meet with listeners who connected with the Ordinary Sherpa mission to help families connect through simple and authentic adventures.  

It was through these conversations that I was able to dive deeper into who the book was for and why they were struggling with adventurous parenting.  I came up with 12 different reasons based on our conversations

  1. Think it costs a lot of money to adventure
  2. Not enough time
  3. Perceptions of success and constraints of work
  4. Mindset of “what adventure is” “I’m not adventurous” “I’m not outdoorsy” “I live in a city, I can’t adventure here”
  5. Fear, Adventure is risky, I am a parent and need to be stable
  6. Discomfort with uncertainty: Kids who adventure make parents nervous, unsafe
  7. Feelings of Joy: immediately followed by guilt, fear of losing the thing that led to joy
  8. Society norms of “settling down” you have to choose 
  9. Working against marketing and media (influencers, big brands)
  10. Activities send family members in different directions (sports, school, work, music, etc.) 
  11. Need ideas of what to do, don’t know how to do it themselves so not comfortable being the leader
  12. Tired/exhausted/overwhelmed,  adventure seems hard

From here I explored other books in this genre to see what else already existed to support parents with answers to these questions.  I’ll be honest, I found a lot related to family travel or an adventurous lifestyle without kids, but not many for family adventures specifically.  I bought or checked out anything remotely related to the concept and read the books throughout the writing process to have a sense of what those books offered and how or if my content would be different.  The entire time I was doing research I also began my writing without any expectation, but thoughts or stories that I would think of while reading or listening to other stories.  

I organized the questions or reasons why parents struggle to adventure into core themes which later became the three parts of the book.  

Part 1: Live Deeply focuses on the adventure mindset and the foundations of adventure as a value proposition to a fulfilling life. 

Part 2: Explore Bravely begins to put all the limiting beliefs and perceptions of safe and stable lifestyle into question.  I share research, walk through exercises as a guide to work through the process, and offer my own stories of adventure and parenting to offer context throughout the book as a guide to work through the process.  

Part 3: Play Wildly are examples of actionable steps to make adventure more accessible.  It is my belief that if we can build a life where everyday adventures create the foundation for a thriving life.  Even if we choose to travel to see new places and new people, we have the foundation of adventure built into our ethos so we are not continually using vacation as an escape.  

With the key themes established, the challenges readers face I began the writing process. I will say the first chapter was the hardest to write and the one that required the most edits.  I went into the writing process with the idea that I didn’t have to have it figured out, I was just going to sit down and write.  I had heard that an average non-fiction business book is 40,000-60,000 words.  So I turned on the word count and sat down regularly to write.  I celebrated word count milestones by sharing a story in Instagram or having a mini party of 1.  

I realized I wanted data, scientific evidence and sources to back up or validate my experiences.  This is just part of who I am.  I personally appreciate when a book is more than stories.  When I had a question or wanted to look into something I would use parentheses to indicate I wanted to come back to an idea.  This allowed me to write without the question to derail my progress.  For example:  I knew there was neuroscience data behind the power of pause, to create space but I needed to dive deeper into what was the source and was that relevant to the topics we were leading.  I knew there was child development data around risky play; I knew there was a conditioning process to dampen our curiosity.  These were concepts, but I made sure to come back to these topics and dig into the research.

I proofread my manuscript twice before I sent it to my editor.  There is a point when you get sick of your own writing.  After sending it to the editor I was a little burned out and took a break from it.  In fact, even after it was returned to me I didn’t look at my manuscript for almost a month.  I did start to garner interest along the way.  I invited friends and listeners to be members of the advanced reader team to pre-read the book.  In late January after almost 6 weeks of not looking at my manuscript I sat down and binged a few weekends through the edits.  I began to share bits and pieces of the book with my advanced reader team.  In mid-March I shared the entire manuscript with my advanced reader team and received an abundance of feedback.  I took 2 weeks sifting through comments, edits and questions.  I viewed each piece of feedback as a detailed gift they shared with me.  

Throughout the writing and editing process there were many times when my progress was stalled by my own limiting belief and desire for perfection.  I would compare myself to established authors.  However reading comments from listeners, or friends asking about the book helped push me through.  In mid-March I made a detailed list of all the things I needed to do to get the book into the world.  The list included

  1. Finalize the title
  2. Create Cover design
  3. Write the back of the book description
  4. Determine which Amazon categories to publish under
  5. Reach out for endorsements
  6. Write my acknowledgements page
  7. Complete internal formatting
  8. Get an ISBN number
  9. Design the graphics for inside the book
  10. Set up Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing)
  11. Create the sales page on my website
  12. Establish a book marketing plan
  13. Write an Amazon Book Review Tutorial

After another round of scrubbing I sent the manuscript and some detailed market research to my designer and publishing assistant.  In full transparency, the book releases in 6 days and a few items on that list are still not crossed off. 

This entire process has felt like a daring adventure.  While I have always been intrigued in writing a book, I didn’t really have a dream or vision of being a published author.  There is something special about the first and while I have given myself permission to update if need be I can be happy with the product I am sharing with the world and that it reflect the season of life we are in while hopefully encouraging and supporting other parents on this adventurous journey.  

I thought I’d end this episode by sharing some of the endorsements and feedback from advanced readers. 

“I love that you offer a glimpse of an alternative and adventurous parenting path. I think this concept is missing from many of the books I’ve read about nature parenting, minimalist parenting and Scandinavian parenting philosophies.  So many of our peers feel like they lose themselves when they become parents and your book shows how rich life can indeed be. Your concept of “a window closing” also resonated with me.“ – Tracy Phillippi 

“Great content and experiential examples from your personal life. As you told your story I got pulled into the big moments you share with us as readers. What an overcomer you are. You have used the trials and triumphs in each stage of life to build on, and add to, the qualities that make you no Ordinary Sherpa.” – Perry Gabbard

“It’s so easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day grind of life with kids that you lose sight of what it feels like to be adventurous and genuinely have fun. Heidi Dusek’s wonderful field guide on designing an extraordinary life does the remarkable: it brings this life within reach and gives you practical ways to build a little more fun and adventure into your family’s life.” – Brad Barrett, cohost and cofounder of the ChooseFI podcast

“Through vulnerability, insightful questions, and actionable steps, Heidi shares practical wisdom to generate adventure and joy for

your family and most of all, for you. With clarity, honesty, and humor, she brings the reader so many gifts at once using stories from her life and learnings by experience. You won’t wonder how to integrate the many unwrapped lessons into your own life, but rather enthusiastically try to figure out how many you might take on! And best of all, the path will be uniquely yours as it was for her and fueled with intention and courage. A must-read for anyone looking for permission to thrive and a foundational guide to getting there.” — Laurie E. Oswald, CEO of InteraWorks and founder of The Best Year Yet Foundation

If you would like to support me  through this you can purchase, download the free eBook (limited time), or request a copy of the book Beyond Normal for your local library.  All of the steps to do these things will be included in the show notes on the website.  

Key Takeaways

  1. Writing a book is a shared experience that was shaped through many interactions with listeners, followers and friends.  
  2. The content of the book was based on questions from the Ordinary Sherpa community.  I strongly encourage you to reach out to me with any questions or challenges you are facing in the world of family adventures.  While I’m not the expert I have been fortunate that the sherpas in this community have many insights to share.  
  3. While the content of the book will likely support anyone seeking an adventurous lifestyle, I wanted to give special focus to parents to question the narratives we hear about being adventurous with kids.  
  4. The energy flow from jubilation to burn out was experienced throughout writing the book.  Part of the benefit of self-publishing my first book was that I could establish my own timeline and be curious about the process.  
  5. Authors share years of experience for the value price of $15.  The book culminates key takeaways from this podcast, lessons from the Everyday Adventure Challenge and many other experiences into one easy to digest location.  While you probably could find this content by scouring the internet or binging every episode the book is nicely compiled all in one place.  The ROI on your time for someone interested in an adventurous lifestyle may be worth the investment.  

Beginning May 17th, you can purchase, download the free eBook (for limited time), or request a copy of the book Beyond Normal for your local library.  AND leave a written book review on Amazon.  Much like written reviews for podcast it offers new readers or listeners social proof of the contents value. 

Where to Listen

Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher,  Google Podcast, anywhere podcasts are played