In this next installment of our Local Authors Series we’re talking to Erin Eichenberg. In case you’ve missed previous articles, we’ve learned that there are nearly two dozen authors locally here in town. But, there doesn’t really seem to be a way to easily find the books they’ve written or any local source for them to promote their work. We created this series to share the authors stories and to let all of you – perspective readers – get to hear about their works. (If you’ve missed our previous columns, we’ve got links for you at the bottom of this page.)
Please share a short bio to introduce yourself.
My interest in archaeology, history, and the outdoors began at the age of six while growing up in El Cajon, California. My early interest in Egyptology switched over to Southwest archaeology after hearing about field trips and presentations my aunt attended through local archaeology clubs in Las Vegas, Nevada. After graduating high school, I moved to Las Vegas to attend the University of Nevada, Las Vegas to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. After graduating in 2007, I received an archaeological technician job with UNLV’s Public Lands Institute (PLI) to work for the National Park Service at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. While working at Lake Mead as an archaeologist and museum specialist, I received my Master’s degree of Archaeology and Ancient History through the University of Leicester, United Kingdom. My many archeological and museum adventures at Lake Mead throughout the years led me to write the pictorial history book, Lake Mead, in order to share the park’s historic images with the public. I now work at Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument as the Integrated Resources Program Manager, where I manage the natural and cultural resources of the new monument.
Tell us about the books you’ve written and a short synopsis?
After the completion of the Hoover Dam, the waters of the Colorado River began to flood the river valley and form one of the largest man-made lakes in the United States. The Bureau of Reclamation soon realized the vast recreational opportunities that Lake Mead would provide. Through a memorandum of agreement, the National Park Service was tasked with managing the first national recreation area, formerly known as the Boulder Dam National Recreation Area. The book, Lake Mead, is a 128-page book featuring 148 black-and-white pictures depicting the early history of the national recreation area.
What inspired you to write?
Working with Lake Mead National Recreation Area’s museum collection was a unique experience in which I was able to view rarely seen artifacts and archives up close. The museum collection was not readily visible to the public except for when researchers made requests to study artifacts or use the archives for publications. A few years prior to writing my book, the authors who wrote the Arcadia Publishing Images of America books, Hoover Dam and Lost City, made requests to use historic images from the Lake Mead archives. I assisted the authors in selecting and scanning images for their books, while learning about the format and process for writing that book series. My familiarity with the books series and knowledge of the park history and museum archives inspired me to write Lake Mead.
What do you hope your readers will experience or learn from reading your work?
I hope that my readers will learn more about the history of Lake Mead, while being inspired to help preserve our local history. Many people do not realize how Lake Mead National Recreation Area came to be, and how the construction of Hoover Dam changed the landscape. After the construction of the dam, Lake Mead became an oasis in the desert that turned into a major tourist destination for boating, camping, hiking, skiing, and more. Today, park visitors enjoy the amenities of the visitor center, marinas, restaurants, boat rentals, and lodging. It is important to appreciate all the planning and work that the National Park Service has put in to providing diverse recreation opportunities to the public while also preserving the natural and cultural resources of the park.
When and how did you publish your books.
I became interested in Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America books after helping researchers select and scan images for their books within the series. The format of the books provide the reader to view historic images based on various local history subjects. Arcadia Publishing contacted staff at the Boulder City-Hoover Dam Museum to see if they knew anyone who would be interested in writing a book about Lake Mead. After signing a six month contract with Arcadia Publishing in 2014, I was provided with their structured template for organizing the images and creating the photograph captions. I began to write Lake Mead during our busiest archaeological fieldwork season while working on the Shivwits Plateau in northwestern Arizona. In order to complete the book in time, I spent many nights writing the book inside my tent after long days of hiking. Lake Mead was later published in February 2015. You can purchase the book on Amazon HERE.
What events in your life contributed to your becoming an author?
I loved to read as a kid, and my parents would often find me reading by flashlight when I was supposed to be in bed. My passion for certain topics left me unsatisfied once all the books at the library were read, so writing enabled me to express my imagination and develop new stories. I was not inspired to write again until I began working at Lake Mead as a museum specialist. At Lake Mead, we conducted a large-scale historic photograph scanning project in conjunction with the Boulder City-Hoover Dam Museum and the Lower Colorado Region Office of the Bureau of Reclamation. At the time, these images were rarely seen unless a researcher visited the Boulder City-Hoover Dam Museum to view them. By scanning the historic photographs, we were able to make them available to the public by posting them on the Lake Mead Virtual Museum’s website and later in my book, Lake Mead.
Did you take informal or formal classes or seminars in writing? What would you say to other would be authors about the process of writing?
I did not take special classes in writing besides mandatory English courses taken during my schooling at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. However, I believe my work experience I received at Lake Mead was beneficial to my writing. Scientists are used to writing technical reports, and it is difficult for them to write in a way that is easily understood by the general public. It is crucial to understand that readers have very different backgrounds, and they are not equally knowledgeable about certain subjects. When writing history books, it is important to write to a wide audience so that the majority of your readers can better understand the subject. I tried to keep this in mind when selecting images for the book in order to give the public a diverse perspective on the history of the area.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this visit with Erin! If you’ve missed any of our other interviews in this series, you can see all of these authors stories here: