Author Tags: Law, Outdoors
Born in England in 1961, Seagrave lives in Vancouver with her husband Andrew Dewberry and sons Jack and Sam. She holds a Ph.D. in criminology. Consequently she first wrote Introduction to Policing in Canada (Prentice Hall, 1997).
There were 11,000 camping spots to choose from in her Provincial and National Campgrounds in British Columbia (Heritage 1997). Her materials have been re-issued and revised for at least seven editions of Camping British Columbia: A Complete Guide to Provincial and National Park Campgrounds. The seventh edition was expanded with ten thousand words about 42 campgrounds in the Yukon. In 2013, most campers could still not reliably obtain internet access, making them reliant on the written word for campground info.
Whereas Jayne Seagrave's Camping with Kids: The Best Family Campgrounds in British Columbia and Alberta, published back in 2005, had only three campgrounds from Alberta and about twenty from B.C., and it was geared towards family with children under age ten, her follow-up, Camping with Kids in the West, ten years later, features 12 Alberta campgrounds and new information pertaining to camping with older children--plus new website info.
Her writing career took a detour away from the outdoors when she wrote From the Mind of the Marketplace: The Story of an Inventor, The Home Improvement Industry, His Wife and Her Lovers (Heritage 2005). It recounts how Seagrave and her architect husband Andrew successfully spent nine years marketing the Caulk-Rite and Caulk-Away home improvement tools that he invented in their East Vancouver basement.
BC's Best Camping Adventures: Northern, Central, and Southeastern BC
BC's Best Camping Adventures: Southwestern BC and Vancouver Island
Introduction to Policing in Canada (Prentice Hall, 1997)
Jayne Seagrave’s Camping British Columbia: A Complete Guide to Provincial and National Park Campgrounds (Heritage, 1998, 2001, 2004, 2005)
Camping with Kids (Heritage, 2004)
From the Mind of the Marketplace: The Story of an Inventor, The Home Improvement Industry, His Wife and Her Lovers (Heritage 2005)
Camping British Columbia and the Yukon. 7th ed. (Heritage House 2014) $19.95 9781927527597
Camping with Kids in the West (Heritage 2015) 9781772030402 $19.95)
Time to Take Flight: The Savvy Woman's Guide to Safe Solo Travel (Touchwood 2016)
[BCBW 2016] "Outdoors" "Law"
Camping with Kids: The Best Family Campgrounds in British Columbia and Alberta (Heritage, 2004) / Camping British Columbia (Heritage, 2004)
from BCBW Summer 2004
The conceit that creativity is more important to society than practicality is deeply entrenched. Consider, if you will, the lowly guidebook author. Ineligible for grants, he or she generally spends more money, and takes more time on their work, than sedentary poets or novelists, but their useful work seldom garners press or praise. Even cookbooks get more hype. The business of helping people not get lost, not get prosecuted, and learning how to do stuff for themselves, is considered too déclassé for anyone to offer a Best Guidebook Award, and yet hundreds of thousands of British Columbians depend on guidebooks every day—such as Jayne Seagrave’s camping guides.
Newly pregnant in 1998, Jayne Seagrave was asked by her publisher if she’d consider writing a follow-up book about camping with children. After spending five nights in a tent with an eight-month-old in 1999, she told him such a book would consist of one word: DON’T.
“For ten years I camped in B.C. with only my spouse,” she says, “and occasionally the province’s mosquito population for company. Since having children, there are times when I wonder if the mosquitoes would be preferable to my two young sons. As a mother I know you are not supposed to say that children radically change your life—but they do.”
Now, after five years of camping with two kids, Seagrave has come to appreciate the joys and the economics of get-away-from-it-all experiences with her family. Sleeping in the same tent under the stars beats the latest violent Hollywood blockbuster, but she’s not a camping purist. She says camping with a rented motorhome is highly recommended if children are under age three.
Her commonsensical Camping with Kids: The Best Family Campgrounds in British Columbia and Alberta (Heritage $17.95) has fuzzy family pix, down-to-earth advice and plainspoken site summaries. With a Ph.D in criminology, Seagrave isn’t out to impress anyone. There are historical bits and an emphasis on rainy-day activities. Only 21 full service sites are included; just three of these are in Alberta. But Seagrave’s combination of hokiness and smarts provide the boost some families might need to get off the sofa and into the woods.
Simultaneously she’s released Jayne Seagrave’s Camping British Columbia (Heritage $19.95), the fourth edition since 1997. It comes with cooking and preparation tips, maps, camping rules and websites to consult. She points out BC Parks has produced a map that details all provincial parks and their activities, available for just $2.95. She also recommends the 4th edition of the 140-page British Columbia Recreational Atlas. She provides a handy list of the 69 provincial campgrounds that take reservations at 1-800-689-9025.
The appeal of Seagrave’s books is that she’s not an outdoors snob. For her family, it’s not about tackling the mountains, finding the most remote waterfall or buying the best boots. It’s about roasting wieners on a stick. Seagrave began her camping career with a tiny tent and a 1974 Ford Pinto. Unprepared, she and her partner didn’t have an axe so they had to scrounge unused wood left by predecessors.
“One of the tremendous joys of camping is learning how to do it,” she says.
Part of that learning curve (don’t forget the toilet paper, the candles, the garbage bags, the bug spray, THE MATCHES…) is learning the ropes of the new provincial parks system that has curtailed free firewood, free parking, interpretive programs for kids and campground hosts. If you go down to the woods today… you can stay up to 14 nights in one spot. Fees range from $9 to $22 per day for provincial sites, and up to $24 for national parks (GST included).
Don’t forget the corkscrew. Seagrave points out it’s legal to drink in your open-air hotel site.
“I had camped for years before I learned it was okay to consume a glass of wine with our dinner,” she says. “I guiltily hid my drink from the park attendant [who] I thought would expel me for my transgression. On one such occasion, discovered and expecting to meet the full wrath of the BC Parks employee, I cowered and apologized. All he said was, ‘You can drink here. This is your home away from home. It is only in the public sections of the park that alcohol is prohibited.”
For the more adventurous camper, Kathy Copeland’s Camp Free in B.C., Vol II (Knowbotics $18.95) has directions to 260 free Forest Service campgrounds, accessible by 2WD cars and RVs.
Camping with Kids 1-894384-55-5
Camping B.C. 1-894384-54-7; Camp Free 0-969801-66-1
from Jayne Seagrave
It’s often said that 5,000 copies sold in Canada constitutes a bestseller. Jayne Seagrave’s Camping BC: A Complete Guide to Provincial and National Park Campgrounds is approaching 50,000 copies sold since 1996, entering its seventh edition. Seagrave won’t win the Giller, but it’s solid “backlist” titles like hers that make the B.C. publishing industry stable. We asked her to recount the story behind her success, largely because it contradicts the standard impression that authors are frequently at odds with their publishers.
I am not a classic outdoors type. In comparison to many, I actually know very little about camping. And as much as I would love to admit to lonely years of struggle and dedication, and a lifelong ambition to write, agonising hours spent over each carefully constructed sentence, prior to writing Camping BC I never dreamed about success or even felt the need to convey information to the camping fraternity.
Having seven editions of my book is largely the result of two individuals recognising a gap in the market, recognizsing a sales opportunity.
In 1995 I published the first Canadian textbook on policing. It was a very boring book, the result of my criminology Ph.D thesis with the imaginative title of: Introduction to Policing in Canada. The publisher, Prentice Hall, put a picture of a manhole cover on the front of the work. No one ever strolled into a bookshop, looked at the manhole and exclaimed, “Wow, that looks so interesting, I must get a copy for my mum/brother/boyfriend.”
A lot of work went into the 400-page text, for which royalties are still received, but no one really wanted it. The Ph.D taught me how to write and edit, but more importantly it forced me to learn about book proposals, how to approach publishing houses and the idiosyncrasies of publishers, all valuable lessons, but it was not personally gratifying and gave me little satisfaction as a writer.
At the same time this book was being completed I was taking camping vacations as there was no money to spend on other more luxurious alternatives. Upon discovering numerous provincial park campgrounds among BC’s breathtaking scenery, I became hungry for more information. I recognised a gap in the market.
Without having written a word on the subject, a three-page book proposal was formulated and dispatched to four potential publishers. Within a couple of weeks Rodger Touchie, the new owner of Heritage House Publishing, called and we arranged to meet in a coffee bar below the new Vancouver Public Library.
I do not think Rodger really knew what he was doing and I certainly did not. We met in September, 1995 and, despite not having written a word, I told him I could get a manuscript to him by Christmas. We may have had a contract—I cannot recall—but we did get on, and, although he may be reluctant to acknowledge it, I think there was a rapport. For the next ten weeks Camping BC was researched, written and finally delivered. One by one the three other publishers who had received the proposal rejected it, the final one conveying his dismissal almost six months following receipt.
Early in May 1996, I drove to a remote location south of the Fraser and, after thirty minutes touring the back roads, located the unheated Heritage House warehouse behind McDonald’s. There I was unceremoniously handed ten complimentary copies. I was as excited as a six-year-old at Halloween.
The first edition of Camping BC hit the bookstores in May, 1996. All 5,000 copies were sold in the following four months. If there was a quick “down and dirty” way to write and release a guide book, this was it.
Now I see there are two components to becoming a “bestselling” author: firstly, the text should be relevant and appealing to a wide audience; secondly it must be successfully marketed and sold.
Significant sales of the book were in Costco, whose customers I thought were more interested in cheap, large packs of meat than camping, but this was obviously not the case. Rodger recognised anyone shopping at Costco would be spending large amounts and may well be likely to impulse buy a book. His hunch delivered.
I was asked to undertake book signings in Chapters whereupon no one attended (except ten of my friends and the Chapters staff on their breaks), but which, Rodger explained, enabled the book to appear in the shop window for weeks along with the announcement of a forthcoming author signing and consequently promoted the text above others.
CBC radio interviews were solicited and suddenly I was The Camping Queen, a crown I continue to hold, now earned. Heritage House employed one roaming salesman for the province who seemed to stop at every BC community, no matter how small, to tout their inventory. On camping trips to small BC towns I continue to find the book in the most unlikely places, on small racks in angling stores, in family restaurants and gas stations.
In one of our early meetings Rodger confided to me that one of the most difficult things about dealing with first-time writers is they always wanted to have input into the cover and interfere with the layout of their book. Now Rodger and I meet about once a year. He owns a very successful publishing company, issues contracts over eleven pages long, has numerous staff, hundreds of authors and a number of locations. And I have taken his advice. I only supply the text.
Life of the Alternative Travel Writer
Here is an personal essay written by Jayne Seagrave in conjunction with the release of Camping With Kids (Heritage House, 2015)
When asked to define the perfect job many sight that of travel writer. What could be better than being paid to stay at the latest designer hotels, check out gourmet restaurants, partake in lengthy spa treatments, review new museums and travel to foreign countries all fully paid for by someone else? Add to this the bonus of seeing your articulate, well worded accounts appearing in weekend editions of prestigious national newspapers and within the pages glossy magazines and it is nor difficult to see why this career is sought after. While creating fascinating reading material I would suggest the majority of these accounts do not address the vacationing needs of the majority. Most of us do not have the time or finances to consider spending our holidays in these designer environments. Most of us have mortgages, lines of credit, kids, ageing parents, limited vacation time and pressing day to day commitments which negate against the recommendations these travel writers endorse. While in a perfect world blowing $2,000.00 a night on a spa hotel in the Bali would be nice, for now and the foreseeable future our vacation budget must bend to more practical alternatives. This is where I come in. Open the door to the world of the 'alternative' travel writer.
I write books about camping in British Columbia, Alberta and The Yukon. For twenty years I have been checking out provincial and national park campgrounds and offering advice to individuals like me who have limited finances so go camping. I give practical information over such things as the quantity of goose shit found on the campgrounds beach, the dryness of the firewood, the bear/cougar/skunk/mosquito population and the smelliness and cleanliness of the pit toilets. As an alternative travel writer, I am at the bottom of the travel writer food chain. I have never had to write “The writer was the guest of the campground. The campground operator did not review this article.” because I have never had a campground offer to pay the $20.00 – $35.00 fee, nor have I asked to be compensated.
Last year my publisher suggested I look at extending my camping experience and write a book about the best family campgrounds in BC and Alberta. I have extensive knowledge of BC but had not camped in Alberta for a number of years and to undertake this task needed to travel and if not camp, at least revisit a number of the Albertan campgrounds I knew. I chose the second week of September to undertake this research.
It was minus two degrees and snowing when my plane landed at 9.00am at Edmonton Airport on September 7th 2014. I collected the rental car and headed to Elk Island National Park, a mere 45 minute drive. There were no staff when I arrived at this park. The visitors centre car park, adorned with a thin layer of snow was devoid of cars. The hanging baskets were still on display as were the information leaflets, but the “largest concentration of hooved mammals outside the Serengeti” for what the park is famous, were nowhere to be seen. For almost three hours I drove around the park looking for staff and bison as the snow turned to sleet. I found neither. A sign on the notice board stated alcohol was prohibited in the campground as a result of previous rowdy behaviour. This information meant Elk Island may not be suitable for the guide and I decided to move on.
After driving for another three hours I found the wonderful Whitney Lakes Provincial Park and spent from 3.30pm – 6.30pm exploring this campground, all by myself, trying to ignore the 'beware of bears' signs as I accessed trails by climbing over the yellow gate barriers which signified the campground was actually closed for the season. The weather was improving and the evening was stunning. At 8.00pm just as it was getting dark I pulled into Wainwright, which the Alberta Accommodation Guide informed me had ten motels. I tried the first commercial chain motel only to be told by “Dawn” the RCMP Musical Ride had been in town and consequently there was not a room to be had. Dawn telephoned her friends in other reputable establishments and other than the spa suite at a brand new hotel ($275.00 a night plus tax) nothing was available. I left and cruised slowly out of town calling at every motel. The quality of the establishments along with the street lighting declined the further I drove. I eventually found a motel on the edge of town. Mine was the only car in the car park, all other guests had large, dirt encrusted trucks. An empty coffee tin was placed outside each motel room for cigarette butts and the owner, after telling me I was his only female guest, presumed I was a geologist as the only women he gets staying are geologists. I left as my fellow guests did, before 6.00am after collecting breakfast, like they did, from Tim Hortons. The moose and foxes crossing Highway 41 as dawn broke and I headed south lifted my spirits. It did not start to snow again until 10.30am. Day two as the alternative travel writer started very similarly to the first.
The freak snowy weather persisted so photographs of campgrounds had to be supplemented by internal shots of visitor centres. Signs telling me to beware of bears were replaced with warning about cougars and then rattlesnakes as I explored lonely paths and deserted campgrounds, many miles from the main highway and cell phone service. During my week of research I drove 3,500 kilometres, pulling into Tim Hortons for coffee and WiFi, staying in motels in small Alberta towns I never knew existed, talking to enthusiastic park staff who, as I was their only visitor, gave me undivided attention and far more first-hand information than I could cram into the proposed guide book. Without exception they were delighted a book including what they loved about their campground was being written.
During my travels many things were discovered: the awesome Highway 11, every bit as spectacular as the Icefields Parkway but without the tour buses; Writing in Stone Provincial Park with its Hoodoo Trail and Tipi shaped visitors centre; William A Switzer Park, a stone throw from Jasper but without the crowds, and the crystal waters of Aspen Beach. My experience as an alternative travel writer is that it is always the unanticipated that proves the most rewarding. The task now is to do justice to these provincial parks in 1,000 words and document my research in a guidebook which will be used by regular guys who need an affordable family vacation. This audience no doubt reads about the spa hotels in Bali and dreams of a time when their lives will be different and this exotic holiday will be on their agenda, but for now they look to the alternative travel writer for practical guidance.