Thursday, August 27, 2009


It doesn't happen very often, but when it does, well, it's a good day. A very good day.

Like most authors I'll fret and worry over reviews, because many reviews, even very good ones, can miss the point of the book, contain errors or give the wrong emphasis. There is nothing one can - or should - do about this, but it can be frustrating.

Then someone gets it, completely and totally. Like right here, in a review from the online site for the Christian Science Monitor:

[Note: The image is of the ticker tape parade that greeted Trudy upon her return to New York]
For more reviews and information, see or visit Young Woman and the Sea on facebook.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


You write a book to entertain and, hopefully, inspire. And sometimes it really does.

Yesterday I attended a cookout on Lake Champlain with some friends. One of these friends, Todd, who I don’t know particularly well, had caught a ride to the cookout with my friends Scott and Ali and their family. While he was waiting for them to leave he saw a copy of my book, Young Woman and the Sea: How Trudy Ederle Conquered the English Channel and Inspired the World, sitting on a counter – I had given Scott and Ali a copy a few weeks before.

As Todd later told me at the cookout, he recognized the book but until that moment had not been aware that I was its author. You see, a few days before he had been visiting some friends, a woman and her teenage, hearing impaired daughter. The woman, a tri-athlete, had discussed the book with him. She had already purchased it and read it with her daughter – Trudy Ederle was hearing impaired, and her daughter immediately identified with the swimmer.

In this case the subtitle “How Trudy Ederle Conquered the English Channel and Inspired the World,” is proving accurate. Inspired by the example of Trudy Ederle, mother and daughter are now in the planning stages to swim the English Channel together.
[Note: I took this photo a few weeks ago on the east shore of Lake Ontario]

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Today Is The Day

This map shows the approximate route Trudy Ederle took when she successfully swam the English Channel.

Eighty three years ago today Trudy Ederle (aka Gertrude Ederle) stepped into the English Channel at Cape Gris Nez on the French coastline. Fourteen and a half hours later, despite a gale, she reached England, swimming the English Channel in only 14H 31M, becoming the first woman to swim the Channel and beating the men’s record by nearly two hours.

Today I’m pleased to announce that my biography of Ederle, Young Woman and the Sea, has been chosen as an “Indie Next List Notable” book for September. Nominated by staffers at Independent bookstores around the country, it is more difficult to make this list than to make a best seller list and ensures the book will be highlighted in independent bookstores all around the country.

But not as difficult as swimming the English Channel.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Op-Ed from The Boston Globe

Is it the suit, or the swimmer?

This is the question that is currently being asked of Michael Phelps and other world class swimmers today. Precisely how much of their speed in the water is due to their own innate abilities as opposed to the new high-tech swim suits currently in vogue is a question that vexes the swimming community. After all, Michael Phelps seemed once invincible in his Speedo LZR, last years’ hot swim racing fashion. But all of a sudden German swimmer Paul Biedermann, in his new, high tech Arena X-Glide suit, has left Phelps behind.

The ethics of these uber suits is currently the only topic of debate in the swimming world. But, unlike the suits, the debate is not brand new. In fact, in 1926 when Trudy Ederle became the first woman, and only sixth person, to swim the English Channel, beating the existing men’s record by nearly two hours, her success was due, in part, to her innovative swim suit.

The first swimmers of course, wore nothing, and this was more or less the norm until the nineteenth century when English men’s swimming clubs began holding competitions that sometimes included female spectators. As a result, to protect the virtue of these spectators, male swimmers wore one piece singlets, usually made of wool or flannel, and, later of silk. These “unitards” originally stretched from the ankle to the wrist but evolved over time to expose most of the leg and arms.

It was different for women. Repressive morality forced women to wear cumbersome swimming skirts or gowns with bloomers and stockings that covered nearly the entire body and made the act of swimming nearly impossible. Not until the Women’s Swimming Association was created in New York in 1917 and began sponsoring women’s swimming meets did it become acceptable for female athletes to abandon these skirts and wear less restrictive unitards that began above the knee and left the arms completely exposed.

Trudy Ederle worse such a suit in 1925 when she first tried and failed to swim the English Channel. During the journey, which ended halfway across due to both bad weather and the ill effects of something she had consumed, her suit had proven to be problematic. The woolen singlet had caused significant chafing around her arms and over the course of her swim had lost its shape. The neckline had gaped open like the mouth of the basking shark, creating considerable drag on Trudy as she swam through the water using the American crawl.
As she trained in France for a second attempt during the summer of 1926, Trudy and her sister Meg began experimenting with her suit. This time her suit was made of silk, which helped with the chafing, but during training she discovered that the scoop neck still slowed her down.

So Trudy and Meg took matters into their own hands. They removed a skirt from the original suit and with additional material Meg bought in Paris, fashioned a two-piece suit consisting of a brassiere that opened and closed in the front, and a bottom, akin to a pair of tight fitting briefs.
The result worked beautifully. The two piece suit gave her more freedom of movement. The tight fitting top caused comparatively little drag, did not chafe her skin and the clasps on the brassiere even allowed Trudy to make adjustments in the event the material stretched.

Although they did not realize it, some two decades before Louis Reard and Jacques Heim received credit for inventing the bikini, the Ederle sisters already had. Unfortunately, neither Trudy nor her sister realized they had created not only something brand new but something with such commercial potential. They never thought to trademark or patent the design and lost the opportunity to earn untold millions of dollars.

No matter. On August 6, 1926 Trudy entered the English Channel on the French shore and emerged fourteen hours and thirty one minutes later at Kingsdown Beach in England, the first woman to conquer the Channel, a evidence of success for the both the suit and the swimmer. Although she may have lost a fortune on her swim suit, she nevertheless won something far more important; the right for women everywhere to compete as athletes.

Glenn Stout is the author of Young Woman and the Sea: How Trudy Ederle Conquered the English Channel and Inspired the World, published last week by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


On August 6, 1926, Trudy Ederle (aka Gertrude Ederle) became the first woman - and sixth person ever - to swim the English Channel, beating the existing men's record by nearly two hours and proving, once and for all, that women could compete as athletes.

To celebrate the 103rd anniversary of her success, a brief excerpt from my new biography of Ederle, Young Woman and the Sea: How Trudy Ederle Conquered the English Channel and Inspired the World, just released by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and available everywhere:
[Note: A larger excerpt is available on the books' page on, ]

Cape Gris Nez., Aug 6. (By the Associated Press) Gertrude Ederle, the American Swimmer, started at 7:09 o’clock this morning in an attempt to swim the English Channel. The weather conditions when she took her plunge were fine.

“…Please God, help me.” As her head left the air Trudy tried to think of nothing else – nothing important, nothing that mattered, and nothing that didn’t touch her at that instant. Nothing but the water and the air, the sea and the sky, her hands and arms reaching out, her legs kicking, her face turning toward the sky breathing in, then turning, under the water, breathing out.

The start, she knew, was the hardest part. As she plunged into the water and began to swim, her body, swept over by the cold, was still in pieces – her arms felt stiff, each stroke still uncertain, wavering, irregular, and as she kicked her legs she went at first too fast, then too slow, then back and forth, holding them too stiffly, then too relaxed as she tried to find the place where her arms and hands and legs and feet were all one piece, in harmony. She tried to find that special place atop the water and in her mind where she did not feel the cold or the spray or the difference between the air and the water, lightness and dark, day or night. A place where there was no time at all.

In … out… In… out… this was the worst. In shorter swims – one hundred yards, two hundred yards, three hundred, she hardly ever thought of breathing, and never thought of anything but going fast, breathing fast, reaching out and kicking and breathing. Then all she did was pull with her arms and feel the water slip away as she churned her way for a minute or two or three, taking deep breaths and exhaling, one after the other, until she moved through the water like running downhill, so fast that it was over before you started, before she even felt tired, before she even had time to think..."