All Shook Up

Hindman 2007 Staff

First, before I forget and especially for any folks that might come here looking for it, here’s the link to the gallery of images from the 30th Appalachian Writers Week at Hindman Settlement School. I haven’t gotten back to label or tell anything about them, but those who would like to can leave comments on the gallery itself or on individual images.

For the most part, it is the evening speakers whose portraits I grabbed, while it was the writers in the trenches, the school secretary, hopeful english major or highschool teacher and story-telling grandmother from whom I learned the most.

Second, I’m not being coy or closed or cryptic about the week away. I’m still processing, still debriefing, still transferring “action items” and terms and author’s names and must-save nuggets to “permanent” storage, setting alarms, making lists of folks to email, ideas to follow through on, setting priorities high-medium-low.

There were no earthquake epiphanies, but there were dozens of emotionally and intellectually significant temblors that only become evident looking back at the traces on a quiet morning back in my chair, at my desk, in my space and time.

I will tell you that my internal dialog during the week was not always positive. The hardest part was the interminable sitting. I groused not a little under my breath. I haven’t felt such fanny fatigue since my bass fishing days at Auburn when we used to speak of similar pain, fatigue and prickly heat we called “boatman’s butt.”

And I was often at a loss for what to do with myself, in between scheduled events, caught in a cluster of people telling inside stories that did not and could not involve me. I’m gregarious at some moments in these group events overall, but there are times I am also very reclusive and miss my private space. That said, I will go back. I must go back.

The week has carried me (fleetingly?) back to the writer I once was or aspired to be. He lives after all. He’s been smothered by the very riches he sought to obtain in his earliest writing, what with newspaper columns, coffeehouse readings, the civic presentations and the everyday blinking cursor of the blog demanding to chase six hundred words toward the word PUBLISH. What he must do has held captive and demanded less of those things he would do.

Ten minutes. That is the sum total of exposure of my words and images to this wonderful group. It is not the kind of meeting, what with 130 participants, that gives the entire group a significant sampling of the work of anyone with the exception of the evening presenters who get only fifteen or twenty minutes each.

Ten minutes: the five I expected as a “participant reader” in that daily 4:00 to 5:30 slot; and five I had not expected. And while the audience responses to and later comments on my reading from the preface and early part of Slow Road Home were quite positive, it is the second five minutes that for me was most significant.

The short of it is that I had an opportunity to show some of my narrated PowerPoint “visual essay” to the memoir class on Friday. It got a very good response indeed. And this gives me the external validation I so needed (though a negative reaction would also have been useful) before I give this presentation at least three times this fall to various groups. Thanks to Joyce Dyer for inviting me to show this, then insisting that I do so when I tried to back out at the very end of Friday’s final hour of class and the writing week.

So. You see, it’s a slippery slope, this writing from the wellspring whose waters bubble so much closer to the surface here a few days after Hindman 2007. And my question, the tough cud I chew on today is: what does the man do to put legs on his dreams? If the upcoming full-color book (Working title: A Hundred Feet From Home — A Grownup’s Nature Companion) really is top priority, what needs to happen, what needs to change?

And more immediately for anyone actually having read this far, what role, if any, might the blog play? Is it an aid to writing or a hindering obligation? Can I escape the gravitational pull of short, terse blog-length writing even while it is a more complete, more personal and hopefully more important vein of writing I see out there for a different audience entirely?

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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 hate to say it, but I fear that blog writing really is a distraction from writing other, more difficult things. I hate to say it because it could mean that you will stop writing Fragments.

  2. Will I know when the blog is more of a distraction than a generator or writing? At this point it is both. My writer/blogger friend Patry, from Simply Wait, has only posted twice in the last two months. She has has taken the summer off from blogging to write her second novel and enjoy life otherwise. I really admire her ability to do that. Her readers continue to check in for her occasional post, which is never a disappointment. She also “talks” to us in the comment section and is available to her readers via email. I think she’ll be back when she’s ready.

  3. Your blog, and Colleen’s, are inspirational for those of us trying to sweep aside what we believe are necessary chores to do what we actually WANT to do instead.

    I’ve started blogging only recently, but find it a window to the world outside (or in Floyd?). Still, my priority has to be a short play I’m writing for a local playreading group. Never having attempted a play before, I’m just jumping in and going with it.

    When I’m not actually writing it, I am working it over in my head, making changes, adding a character.

    It will be very short (which helps) and hopefully humorous..

    OK, Fred, I do hope you can continue to blog, but do understand the need to focus on a current writing project…your new book…instead.

  4. Except for the time it takes, I should think that writing the blog would be helpful. You could write a short essay here and then flesh it out for the book, after comments and critiques are given. I surely would hate to see you stop here.

  5. tough questions that probably only you can answer. i find blogging is sometimes inspiration for me….and sometimes distraction. and i try not to ever feel “obligated” to it.

    sounds like an intense week you had in many ways, but that it may have given you the spur you’ve been needing. i’ll look forward to the end results of this new phase, no matter what means they come by.

    and i’m always a willing ear and participant to pass ideas by if you ever need to….. 🙂

  6. It has been my experience that blogs can either create or destroy a writer’s works. Not so much the act of blogging but the way it is approached and used.

    I have had numerous blogs over the years and have finally settled on what I hope to be a workable solution. I have opened a series of interrelated blog sites and am seeking co-authors to contribute their works in conjunction with mine. It sure takes the load off of being the only “go to” guy in town. It is slowly taking off and that is ok, too. I have realized that the world does not stop turning if I don’t post. lol

    Another thing I did was to mod the themes and missions of these blogs to coincide with the types of fiction and poetry I write. This provides me with the double luxury of being exposed to my writing interests from my works and the works of co-authors and also the research I need to do for these blogs gives me needed information for the types of material I write. I’ll leave the rest of the universe to the blogs of others better equipt than me.

    I do a fair amount of freelance work and am working on several larger works as well. Anyone who writes knows that everyday is just not a “novel” day or an “essay” day, etc. But the important thing is to write something, even if it is just a simple blog post. It helps keep your pencil sharp while you mull your creative juices over in your head until they are boiling again.

    Well, there you have it: the wacky wisdom of another wayward hillbilly. It works for me…well most of the time…sorta, I guess.

    Mike aka kyplowboy

  7. Fred without his blog is like is like a reporter without his notepad. Shush Fred. Get back to work.

    I will say that there is less introspection here than there was in the past. As you set goals and got to acheiving them, your blogs became more “active” than introspective. While goals and the acheivements are good and critical to producing a product that you can share with others, it can and will sap the creative side…

    It was the introspection that you poured into this diary in the early days that became the well water for your book. Can you say that about the writings of the past year or so of blogging? I think that may be what is missing… if I may be so candid as to suggest it… Perhaps it is time to fold up the umbrella for awhile, and let the rainwaters percolate and replenish the acquifer.