Elisabeth Chretien knows nonfiction. With a decade of experience editing general nonfiction and memoir at the University of Iowa Press and the University of Nebraska Press, she is passionate about telling good, true stories, and is always excited to talk about story structure and copyright law. She also loves coffee, and her black cat approves all of her edits before they are returned to the author.
Elisabeth enjoys working on engaging nonfiction and memoirs that shed new light on the world, whether that’s through one person's experiences or through the larger frames of history, science, or culture. Above all, she loves being able to focus on authors, their voices, and their unique needs, rather than sitting through yet another meeting that could have been an email. Each person’s story is unique and important, and she loves being able to help authors realize their publishing dreams, whether that is self-publishing or publishing with a traditional press.
Some of Elisabeth's notable titles include Dan Gable and Scott Schulte’s New York Times Bestseller, A Wrestling Life: The Inspiring Stories of Dan Gable; Maggie Messitt’s The Rainy Season: Three Lives in the New South Africa, which was long-listed for both the 2015 Sunday Times Alan Paton Award for Non-Fiction in South Africa and the 2015 Foreword Reviews’ INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award, and another memoir that was long-listed for the INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award, Tim Bascom’s Running to the Fire: An American Missionary Comes of Age in Revolutionary Ethiopia.
Elisabeth’s select booklist can be found below.
“Like most ordinary lives, Ladette Randolph's has been secretly extraordinary - odd, difficult, beautiful, in its understated way heroic.” - Kurt Andersen, author of True Believers
Ladette Randolph understands her life best through the houses she has inhabited. From the isolated farmhouse of her childhood, to the series of houses her family occupied in small towns across Nebraska as her father pursued his dream of becoming a minister, to the equally small houses she lived in as a single mother and graduate student, houses have shaped her understanding of her place in the world and served as touchstones for a life marked by both constancy and endless cycles of change.
On September 12, 2001, Randolph and her husband bought a
dilapidated farmhouse on twenty acres outside Lincoln, Nebraska, and set about gutting and rebuilding the house themselves. The project, undertaken at a time of national unrest and uncertainty, led Randolph to reflect on the houses of her past and the stages of her life that played out in each, both painful and joyful. Weaving together strands of departures and arrivals, new houses and deep roots, cycles of change and the cycles of the seasons, Leaving the Pink House is a richly layered and compelling memoir of the meaning of home and family, and how they can never really leave us, even if we leave them.
“This is a lyrical chronicle, filled with nostalgia, longing, dignity and soulfulness.” - Da Chen, New York Times bestselling memoirist
Running to the Fire focuses on the turbulent year the Bascom family experienced upon traveling into revolutionary Ethiopia. The 16-year-old Tim Bascom finds a paradoxical exhilaration in living so close to constant danger. At boarding school in Addis Ababa, where dorm parents demand morning devotions and forbid dancing, Bascom bonds with other youth due to a shared sense of threat. He falls in love for the first time, but the young couple is soon separated by the politics that affect all their lives. Across the country, missionaries are being held under house arrest while communist cadres seize their hospitals and schools. A friend’s father is imprisoned as a suspected CIA agent, another is killed by raiding Somalis. Throughout, the teenaged Bascom struggles with his faith and his role within the conflict as a white American Christian missionary’s child. Reflecting back as an adult, he explores the historical, cultural, and religious contexts that led to this conflict, even though in doing so he is forced to ask himself questions that are easier left alone.
“The sensitivity and moral intelligence that Tom Lutz brings to his writing allows us to discover the unity to be found in our wondrously diverse world.” - Laila Lalami, author of The Moor’s Account, Pulitzer Prize finalist
Tom Lutz is on a mission to visit every country on earth. And the Monkey Learned Nothing contains reports from fifty of them, most describing personal encounters in rarely visited spots, anecdotes from way off the beaten path.
Traveling without an itinerary and without a goal, Lutz explores the Iranian love of poetry, the occupying Chinese army in Tibet, the amputee beggars in Cambodia, the hill tribes on Vietnam’s Chinese border, the sociopathic monkeys of Bali, the dangerous fishermen and conmen of southern India, the salt flats of Uyumi in Peru, and floating hotels in French Guiana, introduces you to an Uzbeki prodigy in the market of Samarkand, an Azeri rental car clerk in Baku, guestworkers in Dubai, a military contractor in Jordan, cucuruchos in Guatemala, a Pentecostal preacher in rural El Salvador, a playboy in Nicaragua, employment agents in Singapore specializing in Tamil workers, prostitutes in Colombia and the Dominican Republic, international bankers in Belarus, a teacher in Havana, border guards in Botswana, tango dancers in Argentina, a cook in Suriname, a juvenile thief in Uruguay, voters in Guyana, doctors in Tanzania and Lesotho, scary poker players in Moscow, reed dancers in Swaziland, young camel herders in Tunisia, Romanian missionaries in Macedonia, and musical groups in Mozambique.
With an eye out for both the sublime and the ridiculous, Lutz falls, regularly, into the instant intimacy of the road with random strangers.
“The Rainy Season is an essential history – not about those who redraw national maps, but those who persevere each day to fulfill the maps of their imaginations, of their own making.” - The Literary Review
Just across the northern border of a former apartheid-era homeland sits a rural community in the midst of change, caught between a traditional past and a western future, a racially charged history and a pseudo-democratic present. The Rainy Season, a work of engaging literary journalism, introduces readers to the remote bushveld community of Rooiboklaagte and opens a window into the complicated reality of daily life in South Africa.
The Rainy Season tells the stories of three generations in the Rainbow Nation one decade after its first democratic elections. This multi-threaded narrative follows Regina, a tapestry weaver in her sixties, standing at the crossroads where her Catholic faith and the AIDS pandemic crash; Thoko, a middle-aged sangoma (traditional healer) taking steps to turn her shebeen into a fully licensed tavern; and Dankie, a young man taking his matriculation exams, coming of age as one of Mandela’s Children, the first academic class educated entirely under democratic governance.
“Through his unwavering commitment to teamwork and using the hardships in his life to fuel his unparalleled work ethic, he has truly been earned his place as the godfather of Iowa sports.” - Nate Kaeding, former Iowa Hawkeye and NFL football player
What does it take to be an Olympic gold medalist and to coach a collegiate team to fifteen NCAA titles? In A Wrestling Life: The Inspiring Stories of Dan Gable, famed wrestler and wrestling coach Dan Gable tells engaging and inspiring stories of his childhood in Waterloo, Iowa, overcoming the murder of his sister as a teenager, his sports career from swimming as a young boy, to his earliest wrestling matches, through the 1972 Olympics, coaching at the University of Iowa from the Banachs to the Brands, life-changing friendships he made along the way; and tales of his family life off the mat. A celebration of determination, teamwork,
and the persevering human spirit, A Wrestling Life captures
Gable’s methods and philosophies for reaching individual greatness as well as the incredible amount of fulfillment and satisfaction that comes from working as part of a team.
Whether we are athletes or not, we all dream of extreme success and are all looking to make our future the best it can be, but along the way we will undoubtedly need time to recover and rejuvenate. Let these stories inspire you to find your path to strength and achievement along whatever path you take.
“The book’s scope moves from the micro to the human-scaled to the planetary, but it is all tied together to give a complete picture of the southwestern environment and the vital part water plays within it.” - Christopher Cokinos, author of Bodies of the Holocene
In a lyrical mix of natural science, history, and memoir, Melissa L. Sevigny ponders what it means to make a home in the American Southwest at a time when its most essential resource, water, is overexploited and undervalued. Mythical River takes the reader on a historical sojourn into the story of the Buenaventura, an imaginary river that led eighteenth- and nineteenth-century explorers, fur trappers, and emigrants astray for seventy-five years. This mythical river becomes a
metaphor for our modern-day attempts to supply water to a growing population in the Colorado River Basin. Readers encounter a landscape literally remapped by the search for “new” water, where rivers flow uphill, dams and deep wells reshape geography, trees become intolerable competitors for water, and new technologies tap into clouds and oceans.
In contrast to this fantasy of abundance, Sevigny explores acts of restoration. From a dismantled dam in Arizona to an accidental wetland in Mexico, she examines how ecologists, engineers, politicians, and citizens have attempted to secure water for desert ecosystems. In a place scarred by conflict, she shows how recognizing the rights of rivers is a path toward water security.
“If you’re looking for a book that conveys what it’s like to lead by continual experimentation and ongoing innovation in the midst of chaos, this is a must read.” - Frank J. Barrett, author of Yes to the Mess
It takes more than an excellent candidate to win elections, it takes an outstanding campaign organization, too. Campaign Inc. is the story of how leadership and organization propelled Barack Obama to the White House. As the chief operating officer of Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, Henry F. De Sio Jr. was positioned to view this historic campaign as few others could. In this fascinating behind-the-scenes account, he whisks readers into Obama’s national election headquarters in Chicago to glimpse the decision-making processes and myriad details critical to running a successful and innovative presidential campaign. From the campaign’s early chaos to the jubilation and drama of winning the Iowa caucus, to the drawn-out democratic nomination process, to Obama’s eventual election as president of the United States, De Sio guides readers through the challenges faced by the Obama for America campaign in its brief twenty-one-month lifespan.
Campaign Inc. allows readers to peek behind the curtain at the underdog organization that brought down the Clinton campaign and later went on to defeat the Republican machine, while offering lessons in leadership and
organization to innovators, executives, and entrepreneurs.
“Eclectic, entertaining, and surprisingly personal, On the Origin of Superheroes will grant new super-knowledge to scholars, fans, and casual readers alike.” - Noah Berlatsky, author of Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics, 1941–1948
Most readers think that superheroes began with Superman’s appearance in Action Comics No. 1, but that Kryptonian rocket didn’t just drop out of the sky. By the time Superman’s creators were born, the superhero’s most defining elements - secret identities, aliases, disguises, signature symbols, traumatic origin stories, extraordinary powers, self-sacrificing altruism - were already well-rehearsed standards. Superheroes have a sprawling, action-packed history that predates the Man of Steel by decades and even centuries. On the Origin of Superheroes is a quirky, personal tour of the mythology, literature, philosophy, history, and grand swirl of ideas that have permeated western culture in the centuries leading up to the first appearance of superheroes (as we know them today) in 1938.
From the creation of the universe, through mythological heroes and gods, to folklore, ancient philosophy, revolutionary manifestos, discarded scientific theories, and gothic monsters, the sweep and scale of the superhero’s origin story is truly epic. We will travel from Jane Austen’s Bath to Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Mars to Owen Wister’s Wyoming, with some surprising stops along the way. We’ll meet mad scientists, Napoleonic dictators, costumed murderers,
diabolical madmen, blackmailers, pirates, Wild West outlaws, eugenicists, the KKK, Victorian do-gooders, detectives, aliens, vampires, and pulp vigilantes (to name just a few). Chris Gavaler is your tour guide through this fascinating, sometimes dark, often funny, but always surprising prehistory of the most popular figure in pop culture today. In a way, superheroes have always been with us: they are a fossil record of our greatest aspirations and our worst fears and failings.
"The charismatic healer Francis Schlatter emerges as an unforgettable character, a mysterious man of deep convictions and troubling contradictions.” - Scott Zesch, author of The Captured
In 1895, an extraordinarily enigmatic faith healer emerged in the American West. An Alsatian immigrant and former cobbler, Francis Schlatter looked like popular depictions of Jesus, and it was said that his very touch could heal everything from migraines and arthritis to blindness and cancer. First in Albuquerque, and then in Denver, thousands flocked to him, hoping to receive his healing touch. Schlatter accepted no money for his work, behaved modestly, fasted heavily, and treated everyone, from wealthy socialites to impoverished immigrants, equally. He quickly captured national attention, and both the sick hoping to be cured and reporters hoping to expose a fraud hurried to Denver to see the celebrated healer. By November of 1895, it is estimated that Schlatter was treating thousands of people every day, and the neighborhood in which he was staying was overrun with the sick and lame, their families, reporters from across the country, and hucksters hoping to make a quick buck off the local attention. Then, one night, Schlatter simply vanished. Eighteen months later, his skeleton was reportedly found on a mountainside in Mexico’s Sierra Madre range, finally bringing Schlatter’s great healing ministry to an end.
Or did it?
“A bracing debut memoir...The stories Dostert tells speak for themselves.” - Publishers Weekly
Raised in a comfortable Dallas suburb, Mark Dostert crossed cultural and socioeconomic boundaries as a college student by volunteering as a counselor at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, Chicago’s infamous 500-cell juvenile jail, known locally as the Audy Home. Inmates there had been indicted on first-degree murder, rape, and carjacking charges, yet some enthusiastically met with him for weekly Bible-based lessons and discussions. Dostert formed friendly relationships with his students and envisioned becoming an even closer mentor to the legally troubled boys when he became an employee there after graduating from college. The juveniles’ attitudes toward Dostert change, however, once he begins working as a “Children’s Attendant” at the Audy Home, clocking in for eight hours every day to enforce rules and maintain order on the cellblocks. His colorblind, altruistic volunteer world fractures into a full-time, emotionally charged reality of white and black and brown. When the boys change, he must change too. From one man’s struggle to reconcile his humanitarian intentions with his actual job responsibilities in what, to him, is a strange new world, emerges a sincere effort to confront the realities of America’s persisting racial tensions and institutionalized poverty.
“Even as he recounts his escape, the high rugged home lives irrevocably inside Doležal, just as it will haunt the reader after experiencing this lush, transporting, and heartfelt memoir.” - Debra Marquart, author of The Horizontal World
A lyrical coming-of-age memoir, Down from the Mountaintop chronicles a quest for belonging. Raised in northwestern Montana by Pentecostal homesteaders whose twenty-year experiment in subsistence living was closely tied to their faith, Joshua Doležal experienced a childhood marked equally by his parents’ quest for spiritual transcendence and the surrounding Rocky Mountain landscape. Unable to fully embrace the fundamentalism of his parents, he began to search for religious experience elsewhere: in baseball, books, and weightlifting, then later in migrations to Tennessee, Nebraska, and Uruguay. Yet even as he sought to understand his place in the world, he continued to yearn for his mountain home.
For more than a decade, Doležal taught in the Midwest throughout the school year but returned to Montana and Idaho in the summers to work as a firefighter and wilderness ranger.
It took falling in love, marrying, and starting a family in Iowa to allow Doležal to fully examine his desire for a spiritual mountaintop from which to view the world. In doing so, he undergoes a fundamental redefinition of the nature of home and belonging. He learns to accept the plains on their own terms, moving from condemnation to acceptance and from isolation to community. Coming down from the mountaintop means opening himself to relationships, grounding himself as a husband, father, and gardener who learns that where things grow, the grower also takes root.