Vakava Team Photo

Vakava Team Photo
Vakava Racers at the Mora Last Chance Race

Thursday, November 5, 2020


Back in 2004, I was a burgeoning cross-country ski racer. Fresh off my first ski marathons, I was inspired by my college club teammates with their head-turning names and finish places. Waiting for me when I arrived home from my freshman year of college was Pete Vordenberg’s newly minted Chasing the Olympic Dream, a gift from my mom. Wow, I was ready for a summer of ski training.

But there was one more thing I wanted to do, and that was write. For years I’d put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, but I’d yet to produce anything solid. Reading Pete’s page-turning book about him careening down a mountain at 55 miles an hour on roller skis and streaking naked across a stage at his college made an impression on me. I was ravenous to read more books like Pete’s. The problem was, there weren’t any. Wow, I could write a book about this summer in training!

But not quite yet.

Three years and a few character-building life experiences later, I penned an outline for a memoir. Over the next decade I wrote, and then painstakingly edited what was initially a 155 page single spaced manuscript.

I thought I had the perfect ending, something that happened when I was 27; but the real ending came when I was 31. It turns out that writing, just like life, can’t be forced.

All the while, I knew this whole publishing thing was looming on the horizon. It wasn’t really something I wanted to think about. Writing my book was the easy part. Publishing was the impossible part and totally out of my control. And I don’t do well with things out of my control.

And so, after a decade, I was ready to submit to publishers. Or was I?

See, the thing about a memoir, is that it’s incredibly private and personal. Sure, there are parts that lots of people already know about and that I don’t really care if people know about me. But there were other parts I wasn’t really sure I wanted to make public. Yet, for that decade, the goal, the purpose, was always to publish.

I sought a small outdoor publisher where I thought I had a decent chance. I spent several months tweaking my query letter, writing a synopsis, a chapter outline, and even a market analysis. I waited patiently for almost a year for that first rejection. I won’t lie, it hurt and took a while to rebound. I submitted to a handful more publishers over the next few months. I really wasn’t interested in self-publishing but several rejections later, self-publishing became the obvious thing to do. I simply didn’t think I had the time to keep finding and submitting to publishers with the same end result: rejection. It was amazing to me how successful I could be in many domains of my life and yet what a complete failure I could be at publishing my book.

So I decided to self-publish. I set a launch deadline and set out to edit my book for One. Last. Final. Time. I truly vowed that this was the absolute last time I could edit my book before I turned it over to a couple editors to get me a nice looking project. “Elspeth, remove the jankiness,” I told myself. Janky became my word of 2019.

And so I was in the midst of this final edit before selecting a self-publishing company when I learned Jessie Diggins was about to launch her book. To say this was one of the most disappointing days of my 30s would be an understatement. All the self-doubt and self-unworthiness flooded into my mind. Elspeth, just give up now and save yourself the 10 grand to self-publish. No one wants to read your stupid book anyway. You’re just a dumb copycat.

I’m never going to win an Olympic medal. Heck, I’m never even going to the Olympics. But I was going to write the book on being a female cross-country skier. And now I had failed at this, too. Worse yet, I got rejected by the same publisher that took on Jessie’s book.

It would be so easy to just quit now. To just leave the document on my computer. To keep the private things private. To stop editing. To not find the self-publishing company. To not edit the book with the publisher. To not fork over the dough to publish my book. To not advertise my book.

But I’m not a quitter.

But I wrote this book to get it published.

But my last chapter is called “Epitomizing Determination.”

But I want to validate others and help break the silence on the mental aspects of endurance sports, especially for our high school athletes.

But even though I’m not famous and don’t want to be anyway, my story deserves to be heard.

But...but...but...maybe this will be the biggest failure of my life. But I won’t know if I don’t try. It’s so much easier to say my mantra to someone else, but sometimes I have to say it to myself, too: sometimes we have to fail to succeed.

Our car full of 1,040 copies of my book! If I don't succeed, one of these copies will be coming to a Little Free Library near you!!!

So I wrote a book. A memoir at that. This is the before-story to my blog, if you will. It’s about my childhood and how I got into running and skiing. It’s not perfect but I couldn’t edit it forever. Some of my critiques say I write as well as Cheryl Strayed in Wild, but spoiler alert, there’s not enough sex or drugs to truly compare. But it’s not a pretty book. As a memoir there’s some skeletons that come out of the closet.

And the crazy thing is how good I feel about this self-publishing process. This was the right thing to do. Copyright 2020 couldn’t look better. And I got to collaborate with my mom on the most beautiful cover and subtitle. It's amazing how it all came together. I can’t thank my mom enough. It’s perfection! 


To buy:


Or support your local ski shop:

Finn Sisu

Pioneer Midwest

Gear West

Home Place

Or find me on your local ski trail this winter and I can autograph a copy for you!