Matthew Bettelheim: Wildlife Confessional

Cover: Wildlife

Cover: Wildlife


The Wildlife Society Western Section
Eds. Matthew P. Bettelheim (NASW Member) and
Thomas A. Roberts, illustrated by Ivan Parr
Quill, Dec. 10, 2019, $16.99
ISBN-10: 194784878X; ISBN-13: 978-1947848788

Bettelheim reports:

I first conceived The Wildlife Confessional in 2014 after running into fellow local writer/wildlife biologist Thomas A. Roberts at an event for our local chapter of The Wildlife Society (TWS). I had been kicking around the idea for an anthology after reading Tom’s self-effacing anthologies Painting the Cows and Adventures in Conservation several years earlier, so it seemed right to approach him as a co-collaborator.

Matthew Bettelheim

Matthew Bettelheim

At the time, I had been researching what would become the titular story, “Kick It in the Ice Hole,” by ground-truthing a tall tale a professor once recounted to me about a bear biologist kicking a purportedly tranquilized polar bear in the heinie. That rabbit hole eventually led me to ghostwrite the life story of late renowned bear biologist Charles Jonkel, co-founder of the Great Bear Foundation, for inclusion in the anthology.

After broadcasting a call for submissions throughout the wildlife community, Tom and I waded through over 45 submissions, several by TWS members, to curate the final 15 stories. But in late 2016, Tom stepped back after a yearlong battle with Parkinson’s disease. He passed away at the age of 70 in November 2017.

In early January 2018, the print-side of the project launched through the crowd-source publisher Inkshares, and was successfully funded by backers through pre-orders at the end of February.

The Wildlife Confessional is a collection of biologists’ adventures, misadventures, revelations, reflections, mishaps, and pivotal experiences with wildlife. The authors whose stories we’ve collected represent men and women from all walks of wildlife biology—State/Federal biologists, consultants, students, professors, and interns—and take place across North and Central America, from the Gulf of Alaska to San Ignacio, Belize, from the tropics of the Hawaiian Islands to the deserts of Arizona, and in the desert springs, coastal bluffs, national parks, stock ponds, pick-up trucks, traplines, doctors’ offices, roof tops, outhouses, and bombing ranges in between.

The anthology also includes contributions by authors Marcy Cottrell Houle (Wings for my Flight, One City’s Wilderness, The Prairie Keepers) and J. Drew Lanham (The Home Place: Memoirs of a Colored Man’s Love Affair with Nature).

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Dec. 11, 2019

Advance Copy

For this column, NASW book editor Lynne Lamberg asks NASW authors to tell how they came up with the idea for their book, developed a proposal, found an agent and publisher, funded and conducted research, and put the book together. She also asks what they wish they had known before they began working on their book, what they might do differently the next time, and what tips they can offer aspiring authors. She then edits the A part of that Q&A to produce the author reports you see here.

Publication of NASW members' reports in Advance Copy does not constitute NASW's endorsement of their books. NASW welcomes your comments and hopes this column stimulates productive discussions.