Clues: Alex's Blog

Paddling Through History with Author Ken Weyand

Today I'm excited to introduce you to author Ken Weyand.

After receiving a degree in Journalism at the University of Missouri, Kenneth Charles Weyand worked ten years for the Kansas City Star, becoming Advertising Copy Chief. Later he published several publications, including Discover North, a monthly history and travel newspaper. After expanding the distribution from a single county to more than nine states, Weyand sold the publication in 2001, but continued to write for the paper, since renamed Discover Vintage America.

For the past ten years, he has written a monthly history and travel column for Discover Vintage America, “Traveling with Ken" and recently won a Gold Award in the Kansas City Press Club Non-News Column/Blog category.

Ken has recently undertaken the process of publishing at least a half dozen ebooks on his Kyakker Books imprint, in partnership with Caroline Street Press.

Fiddling with Friends in the 1920s: A Chautauqua Trouper’s Story is Ken's first book (available wherever ebooks are sold, including Amazon, Barnes & NobleSmashwords, Apple iBookstore and KOBO), capturing the life of his mother who, as a young woman, left her small town behind for a great adventure and a chance to get a first-hand look at a changing America in the early 20th Century.

A much larger book, An Unlikely Love Story (now available for preorder), tells the unique story of two people from vastly different backgrounds who overcame great odds to begin a new life in the country amidst the depths of the Great Depression.

The author's own remembrances of a country life are recounted in the upcoming ebook Dirt Road Diary: Recalling a Country Childhood. It picks up where An Unlikely Love Story leaves off, and includes a lot of country-style memories.

Weyand’s passion is kayaking, particularly in Florida. He is currently working on two non-fiction eBooks on kayaking and plans to release them this year. Lost in the Everglades and Other Florida Paddling Adventures recalls a harrowing experience, but is balanced with other experiences that were equally adventurous but more successful. If you’re a paddler or would like to be, you’ll enjoy reading this one.

A Florida Paddling Bucket List is currently being compiled for paddlers (and would-be paddlers) looking to make the most of their free time on Florida rivers, creeks and estuaries, with helpful tips on where to launch and take out, and what to expect at each location. Factoids of local history are included.

Another ebook, Early-Day Flying in Kansas City, based on a similar history published in 1970 and including material not in the original book, also is currently in production.

We caught up with this enthusiastic adventurer and writer and asked him a few questions about his life and work.

AG: Ken, Fiddling with Friends is only the first of at least a half dozen books you have set for publication this year from Kyakker Books. Were these books written recently, or have you been working on them long-term?

KW: They’ve been a long “work in progress.” I think the first one was An Unlikely Love Story, based on my city-bred mother, a classical musician, and her relationship with my father, a farmer. The other one was a kayaking book, A Passion for Paddling, that morphed into Lost in the Everglades after an ill-fated paddle on the Turner River in 2010.

The third book, Dirt Road Diary, had been crouching about in the corners of my mind for a while, but was finished about a year ago. A Bucket List of Florida Kayaking was another book that grew out of the original Passion for Paddling, but was rewritten as a “how to” book rather than a personal diary. Finally, the Early-Day Flying in Kansas City is a recent rewrite of a book I put together in the early 1970s when I was involved with aviation history. Ironically, Fiddling with Friends in the 1920s was written while I was spending the winter in Florida and wanted to share my mother’s Florida Chautauqua experiences with others in the state. Then I expanded the content from Florida to her entire career.

The books that involved my mother, Fiddling with Friends in the 1920s, and An Unlikely Love Story, were the result of her daily journals. She also corresponded a lot with her folks, and those letters were saved along with the journals. The journals helped a lot with my own recollections that went into Dirt Road Diary.

The kayaking books were based on my own notes that I made when I “discovered” kayaking as a senior citizen. I’m anxious to share my “paddling adventures” with others who might be curious about Florida kayaking. The aviation book was more traditional. It involved a lot of one-on-one interviews and old-fashioned research in libraries and museums. I’ve thought about converting it to an eBook for a long time.

AG: You seem to have worked in and around publishing throughout your career. Can you tell us a little about that?

KW: After ten years with the Kansas City Star, I realized I wanted to do something on my own. I did a couple of aviation papers, including an aviation history magazine, and the original History of Aviation in Greater Kansas City. Then I began publishing a small paper about local history that was distributed at retail shops. It grew from one county into eight states and I sold it in 2001. I still write a travel/history column, “Traveling with Ken” for the paper, now called Discover Vintage America.

AG: One of your upcoming books. Dirt Road Diary, tells the tale of you as a young man of adventure who, among other things, takes a one hundred-plus mile journey on foot with some buddies. Then, in Lost in the Everglades we see a more mature Ken Weyand taking up solo kayaking in the wilds of the Florida Everglades. Both books are compelling reading. Have you always been drawn to adventure and taking the road less traveled?

KW: I’ve always been excited about travel adventures. My grandfather left me with a large collection of National Geographic magazines, and I spent a lot of time as a young boy poring over the exotic maps. I think there’s a common thread between solving the mysteries of the “thin blue lines” that define Midwest streams and exploring the creeks and estuaries I’ve been able to discover in Florida.

AG: Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process? Do you draft longhand or use a computer? Do you write everyday? Any particular inspirations that drive you?

KW: I guess every writer has a different approach. Personally, I think about a story idea for quite awhile before I play with it on my laptop. Working from my mother’s diaries and old letters was a different process, but I usually visualize the outline in my head before typing it out. For me, the greatest invention has been the laptop computer, and I use it every day.

AG: Your books are released in ebook format on Amazon.com and Smashwords, which effectively makes them available at all retailers, including Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, etc. What made you go the ebook route?

KW: I’ve had a bit of experience early in my publishing career with print books, and the idea of self-publishing in that form was a little daunting. I personally read a lot of articles and books online, and reading a back-lit screen doesn’t bother me at all, although I like “real books” too. I just think I can put my thoughts and ideas into digital format more efficiently than on paper.

AG: I understand you have a talented cover designer working with you. Can you tell us about her and working with her?

KW: My daughter, Holly, has been working in graphic art for years, and was a natural choice. She and I think a lot alike, and we communicate really well. I think she’s done a great job so far, and I look forward to seeing the rest of her covers.

AG: Do you have plans to create paperback or hardback versions of your books?

KW: I think it would be great to see them in “print form,” whether it’s paperback or hardback, but that will depend on the economics. No definite plans now, but we’ll see.

AG: If you wanted to convince someone to read your books using only one sentence what would that be?

KW: All the books are different, but I have a passion for preserving my family’s unique history and sharing my own crazy adventures, and I think you’ll enjoy the results of that.

AG: Any new books on the horizon besides the ones we've talked about?

KW: I’ve had a few thoughts, but nothing definite. I’d like to learn more about some of my other relatives, especially my dad’s seven siblings, all orphaned in 1900. They kept in touch with a family “chain letter” and I’ve got many of the original letters. But it will take a lot more research. There are also some things I’ve written about in my monthly “Traveling with Ken” articles that I might like to expand on. But as I said, nothing’s definite.

AG: Anything we forgot to ask you'd like to touch on?

KW: I’m always happy to answer questions or compare notes with readers. I hope to hear from others who share my enthusiasm for the subjects I’ve covered in these six books.

 Click here to contact Ken.

Thanks, Ken. Paddle on!