One Brick Shy

Oh joy–to reach a goal and have it behind you is such a fine feeling. And often, a cruel joke when you read the fine print. Or in this case, find it missing entirely.

I took excerpt pages of the book by Kinkos in Christiansburg yesterday–located flat in the middle of Malfunction Junction and I had never noticed it before. A friendly and efficient young lady took my thumb drive and three minutes later came back with some very acceptable color pages. I got three sets for about $12 per set of 25 pages. I was set to go! Ah, the heft of those pages, those hours, those words, those lived moments turned to text. How gratifying.

This morning I relished the final steps of signing the cover letter, putting pages in the desired sequence and in triumph addressing the folder to the publisher. One reader of the sample suggested “Better Without Batteries” as a good lead piece, so I pulled it out to look at it. And for reasons I cannot comprehend, in the very first paragraph, a half dozen words were missing. White space where words should have been. Aacckk!

Stop the presses. I’m crestfallen. But in the grander scheme of things, it is a small defeat that I’ll have to make a 50 mile round trip to get this one page repaired. Couldn’t I wait? I dunno. Just heard the weather forecast on NOAA radio and we have freezing rain in the mix for the next few days. I think I’ll just do it.

This setback is no stranger. This month two years ago, I was discovering the same kind of horrible surprises in the files that would finally become Slow Road Home. I lived through it. I have the scars, they only itch now. The book happened. And I largely forgot those petty aggravations for the greater satisfaction of holding that slice of my life in my hands.

Still, it is to be nibbled to death by mice. Pesky wrodents of the writing life.

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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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