June 20, 2003

Conundrum in a World of Fragments

Hear me out. Look over my shoulder as I think out loud. The dog won't listen to me this morning, and I need to talk.

An old bromide says that "if you do what you've always done, you'll get what you've always got". I need to do something different, even though I am most grateful for 'what I've got' over the past year of sitting on this side of Fragments front page.

Before I started writing in the weblog every day, I wrote nothing. I amused myself with thoughts about what I might write if there were anyone to hear, but did not write at all. Fragments for the first time gave me an audience. My small audience gave me some degree of accountability to write something remotely worth reading (not to claim I have delivered such) and this daily routine, if nothing else, has taught me discipline in the craft.

I can see some changes in my writing, a year and many thousands of words later. Now I have a better idea of what I think because I see what I say. There is less hesitancy to just write, gagging the infernal editor, and words come more easily having eliminated to some degree the 'middle-man' between feeling and reason and the words that represent them on the page. When I started, I could write a fairly tight paragraph, and no more. A year later, I have a few 800-1000 word 'essays' that I am not ashamed of, and some degree of confidence that I can go beyond this length to something of more bulk if not substance, and maybe consider 'doing something' with writing.

And herein lies the conundrum. I can't imagine not writing to the weblog. Writing something that will just sit in binary fashion hidden on my hard drive perhaps for months or years is a difficult concept for me, frankly. But on the other hand, if I don't spend more of my time writing for purposes beyond the weblog, I'll get what I've always got.

I feel the need to move out of my comfort zone. And so yesterday, I met with a local publisher to examine options for getting a couple of things in print, in maybe a year. This is something I would have to grow toward. Having a clear idea of some larger purpose may help me to reprioritize my time and energies in a way that will challenge me to do more than I am doing. I don't yet know how important this impulse really is, and I'm hot one minute, cold and discouraged the next. Have you been there?

There are the options of self publication, co-publication and standard publication with greater proportional investment on the part of the publisher with more confidence that a market exists for the work. All of that needs to be looked at carefully.

Here's my thoughts, for both of you who are still reading this.

1) Consider that there may be a market of readers in the two million visitors that travel throught Floyd County and southwest Virginia on the Blue Ridge Parkway every year. Can I put together a small book (Volume One) consisting of basically an improved form of the prose poems, nature essays, granpa tales and dirt road discourse as appears from time to time in Fragments that would give interested travelers a 'slice of life' from Floyd County? I envision a 5 x 7 softbound book of maybe 75-100 pages, with a half dozen small inset color images (some of which have been seen in Fragments past) and cover art also from my images. Expectations: break even. Then after that, from what I have learned, go on the the next thing, or find another mountain to climb.

2) Work to facilitate getting my son's book in marketable form. Consider co-authoring the book, with me writing the parent's perspective of his travel by foot from Maine to Virginia, and telling the details of life of parents who 'simply waited' here on Goose Creek for Nate's adventure come to a happy ending; or just work with the publisher (since son will be up to his elbows in academic alligators for the next several years) to get the book in print. Expectations: this book could actually go somewhere if put together cleverly; it's a great story, I think.

I'm not necessarily expecting a referendum on this. I've learned that the a weblog, at least my weblog, is not a place to engage in gut-level dialogue. This is more monologue, made public, with my apologies. I'm just wondering what to do with my days here. While the pay stinks, writing seems to be the thing for which I have passion, but it seems more should come of my efforts than the short, superficial pieces that fill the archives of Fragments From Floyd. And I'm wondering: what will I do when I grow up?

If you've read this far, I really don't know what to say about you. People are strange except for thee and me, and sometimes I wonder about thee...

Thanks for listening. Mom.

Posted by fred1st at June 20, 2003 07:41 AM | TrackBack

Hey, that's Ms. Mom to you, bub. Yes, I have been (and still am) there too. I want to publish in 'the real world,' but would be reluctant to give up the fresh, ephemeral, and instantly gratifying medium of blogging.
I don't think there's any way around it: if you have other, serious work to do, you just have to make time for it.

Posted by: peggy at June 20, 2003 08:30 AM

I don't see a problem with using the weblog as a "first draft" for something that eventually ends up in print. Wil Wheaton just published a book that is mostly a collection of stuff he had originally published online, although he says its all been edited and improved since he is a much better writer now than a year ago. He sold out his first 1000 print run of books.

Posted by: Chris at June 20, 2003 08:41 AM

hi fred,
i vote for option 1 first and work on option 2 soon as option 1 is on the shelves. only i vote to have lots of pictures in it. tourists driving through floyd are there because it's staggeringly beautiful. i think a series of rambles about living in floyd supplemented with photos of the staggering beauty would be a-ok as a seller in say blue mountain mercantile or those parkway shops or the floyd general store etc. i say go for it! (don't forget pocahontas press either in your considerings. i don't know them but i think they're my neighbors here where i live. rita riddle did a poetry book with them a few years ago i know.)

seems book writing is in the air around these parts too....

Posted by: bud at June 20, 2003 09:08 AM

Hey Fred, this makes three!

GOOD FOR YOU for going through the agonizing process of starting to make a real plan for your work. Yes, I have definitely been there. Speaking selfishly, I'd miss your blog a great deal. Why not use it as a journal of sorts to figure out your subjects? This kind of process has worked well for me -- I'll be writing along in my journal or blog, and realize eventually, "hey, this is something I should expand upon for an essay" -- but by then I've got the core and some key phrases, maybe, if I'm lucky. You can use us as guinea pigs, and some of us will even squeak back!

I'm voting for the first idea, not that the other one isn't good - but I think you probably need to do your own book too, in any case. And I want to read it.

Posted by: beth at June 20, 2003 09:12 AM

having recently visited floyd, i would certainly encourage you to write about it. i was enchanted, quite purely, by the green hills, the kind people, the falling down barns that dotted the landscape. i went to look at a piece of farmland, to be chased suspiciously by the neighbor down the lane, followed closely by squinty-eyed questions about my land intentions. at the words "organic farm" his eyes brightened and an hour later we were picking along a trail with spring rains beneath boots talking about how he would probably be willing to "pitch in some money" since he always wanted a farm next door, just wanted to make sure the land didn't go to those developers always knocking about. i learned about how the land was under a questionable deed, about 'coon hunting, and a good lesson in neighborlyness. here in new york city, these are good lessons to remember. here where you are packed tighter than sardines and invisible to most of the other fish in the sea. that trip changed my life, made me quit my office job, re-register at the farm i've already logged two years into, give up business school, and set out to change and save a small piece of the earth. it is a good choice, and one that finally resolves an internal split between urban and rural. yes, the grass is always greener on the other side -- but in this case it's really true, since there is only concrete where i'm standing. all this digression is to say, you write about place and your place is unusual. revel in it, love it, and if you have a chance to do it justice through writing, then take that chance. i'm giving up the hefty salary to follow my bliss and am mighty pleased to remember that you can be paid in sunshine, dirt under the nails, and good friends far more than green sheets.

Posted by: Hope at June 20, 2003 09:39 AM

Fred, I'm with Beth and others. Option 1. You need to tell your story, and Nate needs to tell his. Personally, I don't see a conflict with moving writing from the blog to the finished product so long as you keep the blog in perspective. Perhaps if you think of the blog not only as a testing ground, but also as a way of building an eventual readership for the finished project.

Posted by: Kurt at June 20, 2003 09:45 AM

i have forgotten all the options but whatever it takes is whatever it takes. Write the book...Iwill a. buy one and then go door to door among my learned friends and say hey you buy one two...

after all I like writing myself and perhaps Ill start a book review here in the university town I plan on moving to within just a few days...get it down..bukowski said...lay the lines down...

Posted by: steve gunter at June 20, 2003 12:29 PM

I'm with the rest. You have an eye for how things look and the words to convey the scene to others. I have often felt I could see - to some extent - what you see. Go for your own book. I think it will give you invaluable experience for helping with your son's book, even if you don't become a world-famous nature writer, and even if your own book makes no ripples.

Posted by: Henry IX at June 20, 2003 12:32 PM

If I can elbow my vote in with the rest, chalk up another tally alongside Kurt's, and Beth's, and Henry's and Bud's. As nifty a father-son experience as it would (and might one day) be to co-author a book, I hope you'll at least pursue yours first. I'd hate to see you sequestered to the puny, limited role of "parent who simply waited" on his punk kid, when you're so in your element now, and have so much worth saying. Anyway, if you'll loan me twenty bucks, I'll buy a signed copy!

Posted by: nate at June 20, 2003 01:00 PM

Firstly, congratulations to you for identifying and pursuing your bliss, for recognizing the sacrifices involved with change, and for having the discipline to write regularly.

The more I read writers' blogs, the more I think that blogging is a valid and valuable writing tool. I point this out, in part, because I enjoy your blog and hope you don't stop, and in part because I believe it's true. Certainly there are those who use blogging to *avoid* projects, but I think that once you have a deadline, you'll quickly find your balance.

I would very much enjoy your first project, and it sounds quite viable to many markets, such as travel, environmentalism, anthropology, adventure, poetry, photography, etc. I've never been to Virginia, and I'd buy it.

As for the second project, my vote would go to just working with the publisher to get the book in print. I don't clearly see how your story dovetails into your son's, but perhaps it depends on the target market.

Good luck to you, and of course, whatever you decide will be for the best.

Posted by: lyn at June 20, 2003 03:56 PM

Fred I agree, number one is a great idea. It is not high handed or outrageous. Your writing style is good and I would bet there are folks who would like to read what you've written who do not have access to this great medium we are using. Also, think of the lure for descendants of the area where you live. I dabble in some genealogy, and such books like you describe are a treasure trove of information.

Please do!

Posted by: Amy at June 20, 2003 04:37 PM

A hearty second to Amy's plea comes your way from Kansas.

Posted by: Cop Car at June 20, 2003 09:31 PM

Well, Fred, looks like there were more than two people who read your post to the end!

Posted by: beth at June 20, 2003 09:52 PM

I'd love to read your son's story...and yours...as you waited. Seems that we all are waiting for something, especially with our children. I mean, the growth of our children is a journey in and of itself. We can offer guidance and support...yet, we're mostly "waiters" once the early years are gone.

Posted by: Da Goddess at June 21, 2003 05:28 AM

Nate pretty much said it for me.

Posted by: bogie at June 21, 2003 06:25 AM

I like option no. 1 as well. It looks like I will have to stand in line to get a signed copy. :-) I hope this doesn't mean the end of your blogging days.

Posted by: Jeff at June 21, 2003 02:05 PM

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