Monday, August 31, 2009
I got home from my North Carolina editing trip last Wednesday. There simply are not words to describe all that went on. What a wonderful feeling listening to Aaron Johnson read from the manuscript! And then visiting Willard, NC where Aaron grew up was a 'charmed' experience. Thanks, Aaron and Mattie for your graciousness and hospitality.
Well, one more week of polishing and the manuscript, MAN FROM MACEDONIA, will be ready for review by the publisher that has requested it. I brought home a couple of hours of video of Aaron, Willard, and other stuff as well, which we are working into a promotional book trailer. That's going to be way cool!
As this book winds down, my fingers are itching to get started on my next project-- a novel that's been stewing around in my head for a year or more. While working on MAN has been a labor of love, I am looking forward to working on fiction now. It feels so freeing to be able to make it all up and not adhere to all those pesky facts. I'm gonna make up people, locations and events. If I want it cold and rainy one day and sunny the next in my novel, then so be it. Don't have to check with the Almanac to see what the weather was doing back on a certain day in 1960. If I want my character to have a car accident that breaks his left arm and as he rides in an ambulance where he suddenly gets beamed up by aliens for a joy ride in their starcraft, then there it is. No checking if it's true. It's true if I say it's true. Can't wait.
I won't be able to start the new book until sometime late September. First, I've got to get caught up in my real life. I've got kitchen cabinets to finish painting, flower beds to prepare for winter and...well the list goes on. But until then, I get my edits done. I kiss this baby good-bye, and leave it the editors and marketing committee to do their thing. Wish me luck!
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Well, my time in Fayetteville has come to an end. Yesterday, our little party traveled to Willard, North Carolina to finishing up filming for the book trailer and some good photo ops. Dennis and Debbie Walsh, the folks who started us on this journey, Aaron and Mattie Johnson, and me.
To hear Aaron tell it, Willard is God’s Country. Back in his day, Willard was a southern, segregated farming community where his parents sharecropped. They worked on the land owned by the family, the white Johnsons, who owned their ancestors as slaves. Today, a smattering of both sets of Johnsons, black and white, still lives there.
We visited the house where Aaron was born. It has electricity and running water now, but it didn’t in 1933. We sat on the weathered-stain back porch of the small schoolhouse he attended until the eight grade. It was a ‘colored’ school back then, with a wood stove for heat and an outhouse. Paint is peeling off the sides of the modest building now as broken windowpanes flash you a toothless-like grin. But for Aaron, this little building it was a shining star of his past.
We visited the segregated graveyard where his parents and most of his siblings are buried. As I walked through this sunny, but hallowed ground, I felt like I had known all these folks. Aaron had told me so many stories about Miss Cassie and Wille Johnson, his parents, his Aunt Annie, his brothers, Tommy, Lennard, RV and James, and his sister, Bertnita—they’re all there. And, finally, we lingered awhile near the trees where his neighbor, Doc Rogers was killed by the Klan. It was a special day.
Today, I fly home weary but filled up with such gratitude for this experience and this opportunity. I can’t wait to introduce you to Aaron through the book, MAN FROM MACEDONIA- a tale of hope. You will be blessed… trust me. But for now, I pack my bags hurriedly and anxiously await the first sight of my hubby, the love of my life to welcome me back home with tight hug. I can’t wait to step back onto Wisconsin soil and the three little acres of South Moon, our home. It’s time to get back to my family and loved ones. I believe I have some grandbabies coming to visit me this weekend and I can’t wait!
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Today was a Golden Day!
As I sat listening to my friend, Aaron Johnson, read aloud for the first time the book I’ve worked on for three years about his life, tears filled my eyes. The emotion I felt as Aaron spoke the words off the page, took me by surprise. And suddenly, it ceased being my book. Yes, I’ve spent hundreds of hours writing it, researching it, and agonizing over it, but as I heard Aaron’s deep, honey-coated voice read about the events that shaped his life, it became very clear to me that our collaboration was a God-thing.
How else can you explain why a middle-age, white woman from Wisconsin ended up writing the biography of a elderly, black gentleman from North Carolina? We grew up on different planets. Yet, our love for God and our respect for the humans He created melded Aaron and I. And because of God’s grace, our relationship and collaboration has produced something pretty wonderful.
Again, what I’ve written isn’t my story. It never was my story. However, for the last three years it felt like mine. I wrestled with the words like an Amazon warrior. I dissected hours of interviews, stacks of news clippings, and pages and pages of reports. In the end, as the vowels, adjectives, nouns and pronouns settled around me, only the clearest, most meaningful ones were chosen to tell this amazing story of hope and triumph.
I’ve written a story. But my friend, Aaron, lived it. It’s his story. And today as he read it out loud, the words, emotions, and memories all returned back to him, like children who had slipped under the fence for an adventure, only to return home when the porch light came on.
In just a few days, the edits will be complete and Aaron’s story will be ready share. You’re going love this man!
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Yep, the book has been completed. It’s all over except for the last bits of edits. This week, I’m in North Carolina sitting with Aaron Johnson as I read to him, line-by-line about his life. Tonight, for three hours, with hard copy in his hands, and computer in mine, I read as he listened and made a few marks on the page. It is so gratifying to finally been at this stage of the book and see the emotion on Aaron’s face as we revisit his childhood and the many people who helped form his foundation.
I have been honored to graciously be allowed into Aaron’s precious memories. And, to be a witness, through Aaron’s stories, of some of the most transforming events in this country in the last sixty years.
I’m a white girl, writing about the Civil Rights Movement, the Ku Klux Klan, The Black Panther’s, lunch counter sit-ins, Martin Luther King, Jr., and The Wilmington Ten.
I’ve never been interested in politics, yet, through the writing of this book, I’ve been introduced to President Ronald Reagan and Governors Terry Sanford, Dan Moore and Jim Martin, as well as Jesse Helms and Charles Colson.
I am not a hero, but through this project, I have met an authentic one and am humbled to call him friend.
This week is going to be very, very sweet, as Aaron and I put the finishing touches on his story. Tomorrow, we edit Section Two. I can hardly wait.