I spent most of the weekend with a new tripod, a mic and a stablizer for the iPhone that I checked out from work, practicing my video-making skills and spinning out my thoughts about the new book. We're making a bigger push as visual storytellers at the Asheville Citizen-Times and newspapers nationwide, trying to keep print journalism relevant in the world that Steve Jobs made with iPhones and iPads and other nifty devices.
The same pressures bearing down on the journalism industry are of course revealing cracks and crevasses in the publishing industry and how we buy and read books.
After you spend years and even decades on a piece of fiction, I still find it fun to go back and remember those first images that triggered that avalanche of words, the seemingly endless drafts, and the long round of edits to bring a book into the world.
"The Half-Life of Home" makes its official debut on April 1, fittingly April Fool's Day. I won't say that writing a novel is a fool's errand in the 21st century with our culture's attention deficit disorder, but it helps to have a sense of humor and perspective.
As I say in the video (to myself and the camera's eye), I didn't come from a long line of garrulous storytellers eager to spill all the beans and family secrets to an impressionable child. I grew up in a protective silence, with all the juiciest stories going on just out of earshot, for adults only after I had gone outside to play or been sent off to bed. But in that silence, the seeds of the imagination were planted. Growing up, I had to fill in the blanks, to imagine what I didn't know for a fact, feeling in the dark for what is unseen.I think that's why I was so ripe at age 15 when I discovered the novels of Thomas Wolfe, who wrote about "the buried life," what it was like to grow up in a provincial, hillbound town like Asheville, NC, about a century before Asheville became such a cool little burg for hipsters and the creative class. Wolfe knew something about breaking out of silence, even if it was charging headlong into overwritten purple patches at times in his novel.
But reading Wolfe, I knew for the first time that, yes, I wanted to do what he had done, to write a book that told the truth about what he felt and saw in this strange, amazing life we share on this planet. I didn't realize it would take me another 35 years before I would publish that first book, but the time spent with all those words was worth it.
Novelist, journalist, backpacker, aficianado of all things Appalachian.