Wytheville and Fred First


Last Friday, I drove down to Wytheville with a writer friend of mine. It was the 26th annual Wytheville Chautauqua and writing contest. Both my friend and I placed in the essay contest. I was a little concerned about the title of the essay I submitted, “Balls,” because I know the sensibilities of some of the people who coordinate the contest. But, since this had nothing to do with testicles and everything to do with juggling the various balls of life, I said, “what the hell” and sent it in. Took honorable mention.

The highlight of the day, of course, was getting to hear Fred First talk about eight years and 1,000,000 (yes, that is one million) words of blogging. Fred started with stray thoughts and images about the place he lives in Floyd County, VA. Very rural, gorgeous, and Fred’s own special place. He read an essay from his first book, Slow Road Home, about how he hated canned, embalmed asparagus when he was a child. — Hate to admit it. I still like canned asparagus, cold with wasabi mayo on a boat-nic. (That’s a picnic on a boat.)

Fred’s book is a direct result of his blog. He dumped his blog, formatted it for print, and self-published a few years ago. It’s a hit and he’s a wonderful speaker.

And I scored a promise to come to Roanoke and speak to the Valley Writers in 2011. Maybe I can get him on the same program with Jim Minick, who was also at the Wytheville event. What a day.

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