Small Floyd Frog Survives Bigger Pond: SEJ2013

Looking Off The Cumberland PlateauSome of you know I have been away since Wednesday to attend the 23rd annual conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists in Chattanooga. I am home now and my brain is full: may I be excused?

At these gatherings of “real” writers, journalists, investigative reporters and academic types, I feel like a pretender. I am not treated as such. Even though my reach is short and my voice doesn’t extend very far, I was more often validated than pitied when I told people about my “beat.” Telling the story is what it’s all about, and you can make ripples that reach the shore, even in a very small pond.

Although my money (what money?) does not come from my local writing about our relationships with the natural world as an economic, political, practical and essential relationship, my head and heart have been there for long before there was an SEJ–an organization whose members champion these ends through countless professional, deep, objective but not impersonal stories in print and image.

My notebook is full of asterisks: pursue this, find out more, tell this so that others know. In the seven years of having the tiny news column feature in the Floyd Press, I had an audience for such fleshing-out. On the drive home yesterday, when not one minute went by when I was not thinking about the conversations I had (or had hoped to have) and the things I had been exposed to, it occurred to me that I have an obligation to find outlets for the kind of writing that has become a necessity for me this past decade.

So, with the flush of zeal and empowerment of this meeting still putting wind in my sails, maybe I’ll try to find my audience. Some compensation would be nice.

Meanwhile, I am meeting with the BMHS students again today and the topic is photography and the stories that pictures can tell. I need to get my head back into all that, so maybe more about and from SEJ later in the week.

And I have already committed, provided the funds are there, to go to New Orleans for SEJ2014.

FOOTNOTE: the “related link” below –How to Tell the Biggest Stories– was written (apparently at the conference on Saturday) by my new friend from Sri Lanka, now a correspondent at the UN. What an enjoyable and wide-ranging conversation we had on the bus trip to and from Suwanee on Thursday. See image (click to enlarge–not a suggestion. I mean it. Gotta click) from the edge of the Cumberland Plateau and boundary of the Appalachians looking northwest over the fertile soils of the Highland Rim towards the Nashville Basin.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. I hope you find a large audience, I think you have much to contribute. How nice to be inspired, may it carry you far.

  2. I had no idea such an organization existed–can’t wait to hear more about what you learned on your trip! Were there a lot of other environmental bloggers there or predominantly print media types?

  3. I hope you locate local media outlets that want a weekly column from you! I would think the time for your input is much riper now than even a year or two ago. Our country’s thinking is evolving rapidly, I believe.

  4. I concur with Chris, Fred. You have much to contribute and the old “Imposter Syndrome” that shows up occasionally can be banished from within, I hope. I really enjoyed reading these last two posts – it’d be nice to hear more from the SEJ Conference sometime.