We were delighted to “meet” Boston-based author and Personal Historian Marjorie Turner Hollman and ask her about her excellent books on walking trails throughout Massachusetts and beyond…
Marjorie, how did you get the idea to publish your Easy Walks books?
I have written for local newspapers for the past 20+ years. Ten years ago I wrote a short series of articles on local places to walk, which my editor titled “Naturally New England.” After publication, I had a sense the information was of continuing value so I created a blog on my writing website, MarjorieTurner.com for “Local Walks.” Pretty soon people found their way to my blog, and the most common search term was “where is Joe’s Rock?” (It’s in Wrentham, MA and offers a nice view).
After about the 500th “hit” on my website, I recognized a need, researched available sources, (found none) and realized I could fill this void. This was 2013. What began as idea for a newspaper column has grown into the “Easy Walks” brand because of the multiple Easy Walks in Massachusetts books I have written. The first three are trail guides to over 130 trails in 37 contiguous towns in south central Massachusetts. The latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are, offers a broad overview of methods I used to find these (and other trails in our travels throughout the country), strategies that others can put to use, and basic “outdoor” tips for how to dress to keep warm, stay safe on the trail, find walking partners, and more.
Why Do You Focus on Easy Walks?
Well, I only take Easy Walks. Twenty-seven years ago I found myself unable to even walk across a room. Surgery to save my life left my right size paralyzed. In the years since as I have regained a measure of mobility, I now walk, with support, so I look for trails with not too many roots or rocks, relatively level, with something of interest along the way.
I learned to define Easy Walks clearly so others can understand, and help me when asking about local walks when visiting a new area. Lots of folks need Easy Walks, not just those of us with mobility challenges. You may be older and less active, but realize you need to get outside more. Where to start? With Easy Walks, of course! Children and adults with special needs of various kinds also appreciate finding Easy Walks. Parents (or grandparents) with small children in strollers also need places to get outdoors on trail surfaces that are not too bumpy.
Our family has traveled across the country, to the Canadian maritime provinces, and western Ireland (a pretty rugged landscape, for sure!). We have found places to enjoy the outdoors safely even in the most challenging places, and have learned a lot in our travels. I share many of those lessons learned in Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. One of the most important lessons was to simply tell people you are looking for Easy Walks. (It also helps to clarify what we mean by “Easy.”)
What trails would you recommend for women sixty and older?
Women 60 and older have a wide range of abilities! Some of us are quite active, in great shape, ready to head out in any kind of weather, and any kind of footing. Others need more support, or would do better with a walking buddy, or walking group. Rather than point to specific trails I would recommend getting connected with walking groups through MeetUp, Facebook, your local senior center, or YMCA. Conservation groups like MassAudubon, Trustees of Reservations, Sudbury Valley Trustees, and others all have group events, and they can offer guidance on the level of difficulty for these outings. You will find people over 60 in many of these groups, but be selective, ask questions, and don’t apologize if a group does not feel like a good fit. It’s more important that you find people you feel comfortable with, who can help you enjoy time in the outdoors safely. Happy trails!
Marjorie, please tell us about your work as Personal Historian.
I probably would not have written the Easy Walks books if I had not first done the work to be a personal historian, especially learning how to take a person’s stories and put them into book form to share with family and friends. This work plunged me into the world of self-publishing, or independent publishing.
A personal historian’s work is to capture and record the stories of people who are still alive, (as opposed to genealogists, who often focus on records and search for clues about family members who have died). I interview my clients, record their stories, transcribe the interviews, then transform the transcriptions into readable written first- person narrative.
You end up with your stories, in your voice, which we then put into books to be treasured in the years to come. We may add family photos, family recipes, family letters, and other items of interest. Every project is different. Because the stories are printed in book form, they earn a level of respect that may not be given otherwise. Taking the time and effort to create a book places a different value on your stories for generations to come.
Some colleagues work strictly in audio, creating recorded audio interviews for their clients. Others work in video, providing clients both visual and auditory documentation of a life remembered. The work is labor intensive, a challenging undertaking, and a joy to be part of.