Local author’s book due out this fall
For most 19-year-olds, taking a wrong turn means a figurative deviation – perhaps dabbling in substances, or falling in with the proverbial wrong crowd.
But when Methow Valley resident Julie Tate-Libby took a literal wrong turn on a high mountain trail in the Himalaya in 1996, it meant navigating a path of surprising reflection and self-discovery, instead of following the prescribed path that she had previously thought was blazed for her by faith and family.
Ultimately that wrong turn and the events that followed it led to Tate-Libby writing a memoir in 2012, “The Good Way: A Himalayan Journey,” which is due to be released later this fall.
Raised in and around the Methow Valley, Tate-Libby says she “had a wonderful childhood.” Her parents, particularly her father, were passionate outdoorspeople, and helped instill a love of backcountry travel in Tate-Libby and her sister.
Although she grew up in the Nazarene faith and fell in love with India and Nepal as a result of serving as a missionary in those countries, she ultimately left the church, choosing instead to seek wonder, awe and forgiveness through introspection, intimate relationships with wild and unfamiliar places, and authentic connections with the people in those places, rather than through her Christian faith.
Writing “The Good Way” was a spiritual journey itself, says Tate-Libby, who has published scientific papers as an anthropologist, but has far less creative writing experience. “I learned a lot about being vulnerable,” she says, alluding to the intimate soul-searching she shares in her memoir, as well as to the eating disorder that played a key role in the Himalayan trip around which the book is centered.
Publishing a memoir is intimidating, even more so for someone living in a small community like the Methow Valley, and Tate-Libby is understandably apprehensive about public reaction to the book, her writing and her story. But she accepts the discomfort with grace, acknowledging that through both her Christianity and her work as an anthropologist, she has spent significant time “justifying my life.”
Tate-Libby adds, “Writing this book has been pivotal for me because I needed to tell the story, but I also think it could be useful to others. As a teacher, I’ve encountered so many students with similar backgrounds, whose struggles are similar to my own. Maybe they can learn something from my experience.” Travel can be hugely transformative, Tate-Libby says, noting that she is beginning to encourage her 13- and 16-year-old daughters to embark on travel adventures. “At the right age, travel is very defining.”
Tate-Libby’s treks through the Himalaya were largely solo, but the process of writing and editing her memoir was decidedly not. “Writers are too close to our material,” she says, “especially when we’re writing about ourselves. We need others to help shepherd our work.”
“It’s truly a collaborative endeavor,” Tate-Libby continues, acknowledging the help she received throughout the process from her former English teacher, Jane Orme (who now teaches Tate-Libby’s youngest daughter in seventh grade at Liberty Bell); late Methow Valley resident and counselor James Donaldson, who helped Tate-Libby to “find my voice” in early drafts; Diana Hottell, who provided invaluable feedback; and Tate-Libby’s husband, Todd Eberline, who lovingly pushed her to publish the memoir seven years after she wrote it, “because life is short.”
Tate-Libby is an adjunct instructor of sociology and anthropology at Wenatchee Valley College, as well as the program director at TwispWorks.
“The Good Way: A Himalayan Journey” releases Nov. 25.
Fittingly, Trail’s End Bookstore, which Tate-Libby owned from 2011-2013, will host the book launch, from 5-8 p.m. on Dec 8. This free event features a reading, book signing and snacks/wine provided by Arrowleaf Bistro. For more information, contact Trail’s End Bookstore at 996-2345.