Monika's Orca Book

As many of you may know, my wife Monika has been writing a book about the Southern Resident killer whales: the life history, biology, researchers, community, and the politics surrounding these endangered marine mammals. She has worked on this project for the last 10 years, compiling historical information, scientific data, personal stories, and more, which is truly a massive undertaking.

It was three years ago when I first met Monika. I quickly discovered how deeply passionate about the whales she was, and that she had been working on a book that had been in the works for years. I have really fond memories of Monika reading her book to me aloud from start to finish. She would make edits along the way, finish a chapter and we'd discuss what I thought about it. It was a huge educational piece for me since I knew nothing about the Southern Residents (or killer whales in general), or the history of the people watching/studying them. It was when Monika took off work to spend time with me in Canada that she finished the complete draft of the book. Though we hadn't met when she first started the book, I could see the huge amount of effort that went into it, and it was a monumental moment to see the book reach this stage.

Two years ago Monika submitted her book to the University of Washington Press, and heard from them that they accepted the book for publishing. This was a giant milestone for her, and it was like she was finally able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Everything was moving at a steady pace until the end of June of this year. Monika sent in the final copy edits and was awaiting final proofs, but didn't hear anything back from the press after that. This was strange because members of the team she had been in contact with previously were very communicative. She decided to reach out to them, but it wasn't until the first week of October that she finally heard back. The update she got from them was devastating. After two years of edits, the transcript switched hands and the team decided that the book “didn't meet their editorial standards” despite having gone through rigorous review and revision, and would require the project to be pushed back 18-24 months. After trying over and over to get answers as to what happened, and why and how the book could possibly need to be pulled at this late stage, she was given no clear answers and the whole thing just seemed so off.

Her book was originally scheduled to be released in spring of 2019. This was a timeline that was important because the of all the recent happenings in the whale world that very much align to the topics of the book. After much deliberation, Monika signed a contract release last week and cut ties with the press. This was a logical thing to do because after the last two years of hard work, the book could not wait another two years, and this clearly was not the right team to bring this book to completion.

After a few days of raw emotion, she has considered all the possible options to move forward. Working with another publisher would mean starting back at square one, possibly waiting months for an answer to a proposal. With a manuscript that has already been polished by professional editors, she made the decision to proceed instead with self-publishing, the only route that would allow for the initial release date to still be met.

The last major hurdle to publication is final design for production. After a lot of research, Monika has found a pair of established graphic artists that are the right fit to make the final product the book she has always dreamed of. But these final steps – cover design, interior layout, and professional indexing – are not cheap to get done right. That's why I'm asking for help from friends and family to cover part of the expenses to help Monika reach the finish line on this timely and important decade-long project.
  • Rainer Wieland 
    • $50 
    • 36 mos
  • Donna Radcliffe 
    • $25 
    • 36 mos
  • Ana-Maria Brujban 
    • $50 
    • 36 mos
  • Alissa Elderkin 
    • $40 
    • 36 mos
  • Katie McLaughlin 
    • $20 
    • 36 mos
See all

Organizer and beneficiary

Jason Shields 
Friday Harbor, WA
Monika Wieland Shields 
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