Slow Road Home: A Year Old Today


April 26, 2006, and there they were at last.

Ann and I watched as the delivery truck lowered the burden at the back door, just as it began to rain. Then there it sat: a plastic-swaddled pallet of 28 cardboard boxes, 48 books per box: my books, finally born, real and shrink-wrapped in threes. Very quickly the first case was opened and a few books spread out on the table in front of me.

And in that first hour, I knew both the beaming joy of a new parent and the utter terror of someone who has just realized he may have bought the Brooklyn Bridge.

I do not exaggerate the ambivalence or the extent to which, on that first day, I was not quite sure what I had done. Or why. Or of what to do next. But mostly, that moment brought relief. I had never seen more than a half-dozen proof pages of the book before April 26. In this leap of faith, this was the very first time I held the completed cover-to-cover book in my hands, and I could almost weep I was so relieved. They didn’t look cheap, didn’t feel slick-quick or second-rate like some of the earlier “author subsidized” books you see around. But now what?

In that first hour on a rainy April afternoon, I began getting books ready to mail to those of you who had more confidence in me than I had in myself. Dozens had sent PalPal orders and checks even before the book reached final draft! On April 27, I carried three heaping boxes of books to the post office with satisfaction and a sense of completion, finally having accomplished a goal that for almost three years I suspected was nothing more than a fantasy, a self-deceit, a pipe dream.

But more than ever, I was naked before the world now, exposed and public. To have invested so much time and so many dollars in this project would let the world know that in my opinion, there was something here worth the effort. The book seemed a kind of boast and I was both embarrassed and proud.

Was this what they meant by “vanity press”? Was Slow Road Home the ugly baby only a father could love? I had bared my soul in some of the passages now between the covers of this book, made myself vulnerable in ways I had not felt with the free-and-easy weblog and its forgiving and tolerant audience of readers who just blew off the many times at bat I struck out as a new writer.

April 26, 2007, and that slow road still goes on.

Yesterday, I received word that Forever Resorts (in Arizona) is interested in the book for distribution at their facilities along the parkway. This includes the store at Crabtree Meadows, but most importantly, Mabry Mill here in Floyd County. The Park Service will carry it at other concessions like Peaks of Otter and Rocky Knob Visitors Center (also here in Floyd County.)

Some few of you will appreciate how formidable is the task of getting a self-published book “out there”. This is beginning to happen, and it has taken a full year.

Why does this matter to me? It certainly isn’t about the money. I could add one day a week in the clinic and double my year’s income from the book.

I think it’s the fact that, when the memoir does find resonance in a receptive and appreciative reader, there is the satisfaction that my message and story has been heard. Something at the gut level has been shared:

Slow down. Open your senses. Appreciate the ordinary. Suck the marrow out of life, as Mr. Thoreau encouraged us to do. Tell your story. Say YES To the beautiful parts of this world just outside your door. Care.

Thanks to all who have shared this journey with me, some few since the very beginning, and also at anniversary this week: Fragments from Floyd is five years old! And here we go!

Share this with your friends!

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.

Articles: 3013


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Your fans are SO GLAD you published Slow Road Home. It is a delight. Best self-pubbed non-fiction I read in 2006!

  2. Happy Anniversary to FFF and happy Birthday to SRH. I am rereading Slow Road Home as the book of days it is, happily spending a bit of time every few days revisiting the book at lunchtime. I haven’t been around for the whole journey Fred, but I’m glad I stumbled upon FFF when I did.

  3. Consider me as a most appreciative and receptive reader. Congratulations on your first year as a publisher. I echo Gary when I say I’m glad I stumbled upon FFF when I did!

  4. wow…. a year already. doesn’t seem like it! i guess it was this time last year, then, when the weather bagan to warm, that i sat out on my porch in the mornings with coffee and opened the pages of “slow road” while my son played outside. it was something i looked forward to each morning….reading one excerpt at a time and savoring the words and images.


  5. It’s a book that I’m proud to have in my library. I can share its content with in-laws and grandchildren alike without any concern for censorship…what a plus…not to mention the pleasure I have from reading it.