The nature of Daniel Slager’s recent acquisition may mark an industry first. The Milkweed Editions publisher paddled in a canoe through a chain of lakes and rivers in northern Minnesota to meet with two wilderness guides and adventurers, Dave and Amy Freeman, to discuss a book proposal and negotiate a contract. Now, Milkweed will publish A Year in the Wilderness by the Freemans in the fall of 2017.
Slager said the Freemans had documented their camping trip over the past year in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (where motor vehicles are forbidden) to raise awareness about the environmental dangers posed by sulfide-ore copper mining. Several multinational mining companies have applied for permits to drill on state and federal lands near the BWCA--which divides Minnesota from Canada-igniting controversy throughout the region.
The Freemans traveled via canoe, foot, ski, snowshoe, and sled-dog team for 366 days, taking photos and blogging about their experiences. Their essays were published in National Geographic Adventure, Canoe & Kayak magazine and on social media. They were also featured in a segment on the Today show. A documentary film about their year, Bear Witness, will premiere on October 15 at the Fresh Coast Film Festival in Marquette, Mich.
Slager, who followed the Freemans’ adventure from the beginning, was intrigued by their undertaking and envisioned them writing a book about their experience. The appeal of such a book, Slager noted, is also helped by the fact that, over the course of their year in the wilderness, the couple's social media followers grew from 20 people to half-a-million.
“I didn’t want someone else to scoop me,” Slager said of his decision to seek out the Freemans on the trail, as opposed to waiting for them to come home.
Slager, who initially contacted the couple via email, drove 250 miles from Minneapolis to the small town of Ely in August. There, he met with half-a-dozen of the couple's supporters, who were there to supply them with provisions. Slager joined the group and paddled with them 20 miles to Nina Moose Lake to meet with the couple at their campsite.
“I’ve made house calls all over America,” Slager said, “But I had never paddled into the wilderness to get a book. It was fun; that’s why this is an interesting job.”