Cindy Ross interview with David Alan Binder

posted Aug 30, 2018, 3:37 PM by David Alan Binder   [ updated Sep 1, 2018, 10:32 AM ]

Cindy Ross interview with David Alan Binder

Her (shortened) biography:  She has crossed the 2100-mile Appalachian Trail as a single woman penning and illustrating her first book, A Woman’s Journey on the Appalachian Trail, which has been in print for over 35 years and has become a hiking classic. Then she tackled the 2600-mile Pacific Crest Trail through the Sierra and Cascade Mountains with her husband, Todd Gladfelter and wrote and illustrated, Journey on the Crest. (The Mountaineers Books)

Her 6th and latest book, Scraping Heaven- A Family’s Journey Along the Continental Divide (McGraw-Hill) is the rousing adventure of a family’s incredible five-summer, 3100-mile trek over the rooftop of North America. They used llamas as kid carriers and packers to carry supplies and diapers across the Rocky Mountains. The entire journey took 5 summers, hiking 500 miles at a shot. The last stretch through New Mexico is all desert, so they traded their llamas in for tandem mountain bikes and pulled trailers full of 100 pounds of gear for the last 650 miles down to the Mexican border.


Her newest book, The World is Our Classroom- How One Family Used Nature and Travel to Shape an Extraordinary Education, will be published by Skyhorse Publishing, NYC in September 2018. One of Cindy’s passions is spreading the word on the role the natural world plays in educating our children, and how to get them outdoors. Cindy shares her expertise gleaned from 24 years of mothering as a writer, an outdoor adventurer and a home-school facilitator, through presentations and workshops.


Besides Cindy’s 7 published books, she has written over 1,000 magazine articles for such national magazines as Outside, Backpacker, Paddler, Gray’s Sporting Journal, Outdoor Life, Canoe & Kayak, Adventure Cyclist, Sailing, Wooden Boat, Scouting, Native Peoples, etc. Travel stories in newspapers include The LA Times, The San Francisco Examiner, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The Toronto Star, The Christian Science Monitor, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, etc.

Cindy has appeared on Philadelphia’s NBC “The 10 Show;” Philadelphia’s ABC “Sunday Live”; NYC’s CBS News “Up to the Minute;” NYC’s Channel 11Warner Bros., “The Morning News,” and Denver’s CBS. Her family and llamas were featured on a half-hour show on Animal Planet, called “Pet Story.”


Her links:


Book website:



1.     Where are you currently living? 

At the base of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary by the Appalachian Trail in New Ringgold, PA

2.     What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?

I am amazed at my much I love the craft of writing blogs and how much it has helped me be a better writer. Thinking about a point that I want to make in the piece, how to introduce it, use story-telling, circle back to my point at the end of the piece, etc., taught me important things like tight writing, staying on track, injecting humor, making the piece always be about heart. When I was stuck on my last manuscript for The World is Our Classroom- my one editor friend said, “Why don’t you treat the individual topics or lessons as a blog post.” I had been feeling overwhelmed with the amount of material that I had of twenty-five years of educating my children, but I was able to manage the huge amount of material by breaking it down and approaching it as a blog. It helped me get back on track and get the book published.

3.     What would you say is your most interesting quirk?

Cindy does not have a writing quirk but I did find out that she was a life drawing model for artists for many years.

4.     Tell us your insights on self-publish or use a publisher?

I would personally never choose to self-publish because I wanted to work hard enough and write well enough to produce a manuscript that a publishing house would want to buy from me. These days, a publishing house publicist does much less, than they did years ago as many companies are being stretched, so the writer must get out there and do their own work selling to a great degree anyway, but I wanted the help- with editing, with knowing the markets, having an in-house designer, a paid publicist, etc. They can reach markets that it is extremely difficult for a self-published author to reach. I have always known that authors have very little leeway in negotiating contract terms, but it is even worse in the 10 years since I published a book. A lot has changed. Many more people want to be an author and get a book published and with self-publishing they can, but there are even more writers than ever competing for the slots available that the houses will publish. This last book, The World is our Classroom was the most difficult out of my seven.


5.     Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

Two of my back list books that went out of print, Scraping Heaven- A Family’s Journey Along the Continental Divide and Journey on the Crest- A 2,600 Mile Walk were recently brought back into print and I was surprised to learn when I received my royalty statement that I sold more e-books than hard copies. We typically do not make nearly as much on an e-book but the numbers add up to surpass the hard copies.

6.     Do you have any secret tips for writers on getting a book published?         

Next to having a great idea for a book and some excellent writing (2-3 sample chapters) having an excellent proposal is extremely important, with all the components fleshed out.


7.     How did you or would you suggest acquire an agent?  Any tips for new writers on getting one?

I asked writers that I already knew if they had suggestions. I went with one that was a referral. It’s important that they really believe in your work because they have to work hard to sell it. You don’t want to be hounding your agent to motivate and keep plugging away and not quit. Some lose interest after they burn through the large publishers, and once they get down to the mid-sized ones, you have to wonder if you couldn’t have gotten through yourself. I would give an agent a time period to sell it- after that, the writer should maybe get it back and try smaller presses yourself.

8.     Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be specific and informational as possible)?

Be in love with writing. Write because you can’t live your life and be happy unless you are writing. You will get good at it then then, as long as you read while you write! My second book was edited by a friend’s husband who got a degree in journalism but was making a living as a postman instead, on the other hand, had my formal education in Fine Arts Painting (4 years of higher education at a professional art school), but was on my second published book. HE was the one who should be getting a book published yet he hadn’t picked up a pen. “A writer is ONE WHO writes.” That’s it. You gotta do it, and do it a lot. Also, write what you know the most about. That will be your best writing.

9.     What was one of the most surprising things you learned with your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?

It has been awhile since I learned this, but in college, I only had one writing course and I received a C grade. But I did something early in my life that was unusual at the time, I hiked the entire Appalachian Trail and got a book published on this epic journey, A Woman’s Journey on the Appalachian Trail. It has been in print for over 35 years and is considered a hiking classic. I became a writer because I had something valuable and important to share and did it in an unusual way- a hand written calligraphy book with 125 ink and charcoal drawings. I went on to become a writer because I continued to find unusual and moving things to write about and so, have become successful at doing something that I love- backpacking, hiking, traveling the world with my family and have used writing as a way of sharing and communicating, regardless if I went to school to be a landscape painter.

10.                     How many books have you written?

Seven published.

11.                     Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?

In a phone interview, I found that Cindy writes off of life experiences.  She goes through a self discovery, say a woman bikes past her with perfume on, and that causes her to think about that.  She says it is a personal evolution for her.  It’s a circle, something comes into her consciousness and she wants to explore it.  That exploring for her goes in a circle of until she discovers why it intrigues her.  That constant exploring and knowledge expansion is a huge factor in her work.

12.                     What are some ways in which you promote your work?

I work hard to find magazines that will excerpt, review or best yet, let me write a companion story to a topic in my book. That way, my audience reach is very broad, I get paid for the article and get my book in front of many eyes, as I mention it in the story. I put together inspiring author talks and multi-media presentations and speak at like-minded organizations, schools, groups, centers etc. It is much more than a simple author talk or book signing and I receive an honorarium at the same time. I purchase a large amount of my new books and can resell them at a considerable gain.

13.                     What saying or mantra do you live by?

"Anytime you have the opportunity to accomplish something for someone else and you don't do it, you are wasting your time on earth." Roberto Clemente

This is the reason why I have written my 7th book, The World is Our Classroom, to help parents raise and educate their children.


14.                     Anything else you would like to say?

She really did not have anything else to say but I found out that her son-in-law and her daughter (both Fulbright Scholars) had recently been to northern India for two reasons.  One was his exploration and discovery of Buddha stupas and, two; she is building artificial glaciers from a stupa like object.  So one can go inside this artificial glacier as well.  Interesting