Read the first chapter of The Dinosaur’s Daughter, my memoir as an unqualified young woman who dug up a famous dinosaur on a Colorado ranch and in the process discovered herself, someone who, like most women, is so much more than what society expects. My 30-foot allosaurus now rules the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The manuscript is complete and 79,000 words.
The book will appeal to readers of women’s memoirs of transformation set in unusual workplaces and worlds, including Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren, and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, by Caitlyn Doughty. See below for the book summary, promotional plans, author qualifications, and illustrations.
I wanted to retreat from middle age, back to my teenage years excavating a dinosaur. My life at 47 seemed pointless: kids gone, my mom dead, husband orbiting, and work meaningless. My pen revisited an impertinent 12-year old who hunted alone for dinosaur bones on a friend’s Colorado ranch amid the smell of cow pies and wild junipers. Back in 1979 I found one big bone, then another, excavating joy and confidence far from my inept parents and any scientists. A ranch woman who made canes out of bull penises mentored me in fossil hunting. My older sister helped dig. By the time I was nearly 16 I had dug up 18 dinosaur bones, identified them as a huge meat-eating allosaurus, and stuck them under my bed. I didn’t think I’d found anything important, since girls didn’t find that sort of thing. Then, my family fell apart and my mother demanded I get rid of the dinosaur who anchored my life and I’d named Alice.
I dropped off a few bones at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science–a day that changed everything. They wanted my bones. I wanted a job and my dinosaur on display. So I excavated the allosaurus for two summers with a drunk paleontologist who was both mentor and lazy nemesis. His teenage son, hard-working and talented with both bones and boners, became my excavation partner and brief lover. But, like an overloaded miner’s donkey, I had baggage. I lived mostly alone during high school. While my mother threatened suicide I searched for intimacy and found only drunken sex and self-loathing. I wanted to be taken seriously as a scientist but was treated as a paleo pinup girl and put in People magazine.
A near-fatal car wreck, in a moment of despair about a sexual assault and the closed dinosaur quarry, made me realize I had to steer my life toward a career among people rather than long-dead animals. But I needed one last dose of dinosaur, my joy drug of choice, to get past a boozy first year at Dartmouth College. I managed my own expedition to the old quarry, found rare Jurassic fossils now at Harvard, and wrote a scientific paper. I then flew into a new life with a Peace Corps internship in Africa. Meanwhile the nearly-bankrupt museum dumped Alice’s bones in a closet–a disappointing end to my ambivalent paleo career. But then the museum called when I was 29, married, with a baby, and finishing an MBA at MIT. The museum had put Alice on display in their new hall of dinosaurs! Looking back on this high point in my life’s journey, I realize how full my midlife actually is, with an entire quarry full of purpose, love, curious joy, and wild places. I only have to dig.
I will promote the book through digital and traditional media and public events focused on dinosaurs, getting people outside, and women’s empowerment. Programs will include contests, giveaways, and cause-related fundraising. I will network with prominent paleontologists to obtain testimonials and platform mentions.
This story has a demonstrated audience and enduring appeal. Media coverage of the allosaurus story includes an article in People magazine and a recent public radio podcast. The Denver Allosaurus’s Facebook page, which I write, has a few thousand likes. The Denver Museum of Nature and Science (DMNS), which attracts 1,700,000 visitors annually, has assisted with the book’s development and will be a promotional partner. My allosaurus is judged one of the “coolest” and “most dynamic” dinosaur exhibits worldwide.
I have diverse marketing skills built upon an MBA from MIT. I have used social media posts, emails, and collaborative marketing with retailers and organizations to attract thousands of respondents to national artist surveys. Thirteen years as a keynote presenter and panelist at trade shows have made me an engaging public speaker. I built this website using WordPress.
- English Literature B.A., Dartmouth College, 1988
- Authored 12 nonfiction publications. Collaborated with experts, editors, and designers.
- Writing coach is Laura Pritchett, recipient of the PEN USA Award for Fiction.
- Completed four Lighthouse Writers workshops of 8-12 weeks each in 2014-2016.
The manuscript includes 88 photos and illustrations of the ranch, main characters, dinosaur bones, and vintage journal sketches. Many of the photographs are professional quality and were taken by India’s parents, Myron Wood and Nancy Wood. India has the photographic rights or can easily obtain them. Photographs are available as negatives or vintage prints.