It's the best Saturday postal delivery ever!
In a small brown box, six copies of North Georgia Moonshine arrived via my postman in his little red Jeep. The first copies to see the light of day. They were all mine.
Surely, I would rip open the box, but no. It was a slow, savoring process. Securely wrapped in brown paper was the dividend of my last year. I touched, and as any book lover will do, I smelled. Then, I turned to my favorite parts. True, there were sections I wrote because I had to, but then there were the sections I wrote because it was the natural story. The narratives that painted a picture of a man and his legacy. A memory. A history. A story. If pushed, I probably could recite the entire book; I can't count the times I have read the finished book in one sitting. However, my favorite sections still give me chills. As a writer, you know when you nail a line, when the words are balanced in order and time. I nailed quite a few. I still read and ask, "Did I write that? Man, that sounds good."
It was just about this time last year that I switched from low to high gear and began working night and day putting words on the page that would tell a man's life story. It was a real test. This time, no procrastinating would be possible for I had signed on the dotted line. I had to do what I had never done before - finish the book.
I interviewed scores of people, recorded thousands of hours of interviews (and then transcribed them all), read dozens of books, drove thousands of miles to find experts, scoured through archives and captured thousands of photographs - all in the hopes that each little tidbit would contribute to the final story. Some did. Some did not. To this day, evidence of work remains: a tower of books sit on the floor beside my desk, a crate of notes and rough drafts shoved underneath the far corner of my desk, hundreds of files remain on my hard drive. What do I do with them now?
I am proud of the story and the finished product. It was hard work, probably some of the hardest work I've ever done. I hope those involved will feel the same; if not, I still have to be proud of myself, happy with the chapters I wrote, the stories I told, the photographs I captured of a family whose story is fleeting. The story, both the good and bad parts, is complete. And that's all any writer can hope for - a complete story. I have come full circle, and I am a better person that I was a year ago. Not that I'm a better person, but I have fulfilled something that was nothing more than a dream before. I finished the book.
I am a writer; better yet, I am an author. I did it. Yes, Judy, you did it. Enjoy this moment.
I love what I do. I travel. I discover stories. I weave tales that allow lives of complete strangers to become an active part of our lives, to change us, to inspire us. Sometimes for the bad, most of the time for the good. Last weekend, we visited the Smoky Mountains. They aren't my North Georgia Mountains, but darn sure close. The temperature drop in the air awakens a dreamer inside me, releasing excitement, evoking memories and charting courses.
We were scheduled to experience a first: synchronous fireflies. After one bump, there came another which shocked me more than the first. Let me set the scene: a curvy, muddy mountain trail after dark when even the sight of your hand is impossible. It's a touch thing. At the beginning, it's a flashlight thing.
We maneuvered our way towards the trailhead, Len with a headlamp and I with a flashlight. We quickly realized the headlamp was a no-no, so dark it went. My flashlight remained on, steadied on my feet, lighting the path until we move some 100 yards further, find a spot, plant our gear, and enjoy the show.
Holding on tightly to Len to avoid a face-plant, my eyes picked up on a woman darting toward me, reaching for my flashlight. "I know you can hear me," she said with such anger. "Turn that thing off." Len quickly pulled me back from her, and without saying what we wanted to say, made our way into the night.
We were excited, and at that moment, I allowed that woman to deflate my experience. Such anger and bossiness from a woman who was the self-appointed firefly queen. We knew the lights had to go off, but let me get to where I'm going without injury. It's not like there's only ONE firefly for ONE moment, and for sure, we're weren't the youngest whipper-snappers on the trail. Did she chastise everyone? Did she grab for other lights? She was rude, disrespectful, and I'm sure the fireflies thought so, too. She was a blemish (on the Park, on the community, on the experience) that needed to be popped!
I thought about her the next day as we toured the historic buildings along the Roaring Fork River Trail in Gatlinburg . . . seeing carvings, permanent marker script shouting "I've been here" . . . all you're leaving behind is proof of your ignorance.
Be polite. Be respectful. Especially when you're not on your home turf. You leave a scar with every word and mark you leave behind. In essence, when your hurt someone else - when you mouth off at someone - when you deface property - you hurt yourself. There doesn't have to be an ugly side. Forget about that . . . I know you heard me, firefly queen.
Whether it is exploring this amazing world or being content on my own piece of real estate near Athens, Georgia, I'm spinning stories and fashioning tales from a Southern perspective. As an editor and writer, I get to meet incredible people and share their stories. As a photographer, I get to cement these moments in time. As a wife and mother, I'm always excited to see what's around the next corner, For it's anything but ordinary.