We did it:
Thanks to our friends, family, and supporters, we crossed the threshold for funding this project on Monday, April 22. I can't express how thankful I am for everyone's support, but I'm trying.
My dad, though, taught me not to quit until the game is over. We still have a few days left, and we're into the stretch goals now. Our target is $12,000.
My promise with this project was to write a book worthy of the region, and to get that in the hands of as many folks as possible. To do that, I'll need the help of some hand-picked talent:
- Development Editor: This editor will work with me at the beginning and end of the writing process, ensuring that I have written the story and not my story.
- PR Firm: I'll contract with a small boutique firm to get review copies into the hands of the people who are influential in getting the word out.
Thank you, thank you, and thank you!
A little bit more about the book:
Before we get started, there are some things that you will need to know. That's the problem with big stories.
This is the story of my family, the Bakers, who came to America in 1604 from northern England. They provided guns to the colonists during the Revolutionary War. They foraged and trapped with Daniel Boone. They mined the salt mines of southern Kentucky. They battled the Rebels in the Civil War. They even battled the National Guard, sent to bring order after the feuding between the Bakers and the Whites nearly bankrupted the town of Manchester.
This once proud family descended into one of the bloodiest feuds in the Appalachians, devolving until the last remnants of my family escaped into the far reaches of the United States. Behind, they left a town and a region that has never fully recovered.
However, the more I've worked on this story, the more I've come to realize that this is bigger than just the Bakers and Clay County. This is also the story of the America that we make fun of today. This is the story of hillbillies and mountain folk, the story of small towns, and the story of how we as a country ended up the way we have.
This is a memoir in the loosest sense of the word in that it will not only tell the story of a family that came to America and helped settle the frontier, but also the story of how that story - like so many stories - ripples through the modern world.
This is a story about the mythology of a family, of a region, and of a country.
Why did I write this book?
Ten years ago, I was finishing the final edits on my first book, Dungeons & Dreamers. As writers tend to do, I decided to take a break from words and watch television.
I flipped on the History Channel. As it happened, there was a documentary called "Vendettas: Clay County War", a long and bloody feud between two families: the Whites and the Bakers.
Knowing my family was part of the Baker clan, I called my dad.
"Hey, I'm watching this documentary on the Baker feud of Clay County. Are we related to them?"
There was a long pause.
"I guess we should talk," my dad said.
I was 30 at the time, and I was about to find out a great deal about my family.
(As a sidenote: years later I would read Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers. Part II of that book is all about the Bakers. In particular, it's about how my family passed down its cultural anger from generation to generation. I won't say that I was mad, but at the moment I couldn't really disagree with Gladwell.)
How is this going to work?
My proposition is simple (although the execution I expect to be less than simple).
I plan on writing 1 long-form magazine length feature a month for 12 months. Those who back the at $50 or more will have access to those pieces before the book comes out.
At the end of the 12 months, I will gather up those articles and craft them into the book: So Far Appalachia: An American Mythology. We'll publish that book through Lulu, an on-demand company, and you'll be able to purchase it through most major online bookstores or the book's website, www.sofarappalachia.com.
Along the way, I'll write behind-the-scenes blogs and record podcasts for those backers who have contributed more than the $50 level. I'll also assemble a photo book of Clay County that explores the history of the region.
That's about it: micro-publishing for an extended period of time. You're own little Appalachian magazine.
How do you know I can pull this off?
I've been making my living as a writer in one manner or another since 1995 (although I became far more successful at after 1999).
I started writing at a little alternative weekly, Cincinnati CityBeat, in 1995 before I packed my bags for Austin, Texas. I freelanced a bit here and there for the next few years, writing for publications you've never read about people and places you didn't want to know or visit.
In 1998, I was accepted into the UC Berkeley's graduate school of journalism. From there, my writing life got much better, much quicker. I worked at Wired magazine for a year before moving to Wired.com, a daily version of the magazine that was owned by a different company. (Those were weird days.)
My life is and always has been about writing and telling stories. And I've been itching to tell this story for nearly a decade.
What do I plan to do with the funds?
I've already spent a good deal of money doing the basic research for the book so the funds will be used for:
- A trip to Portland to interview one of the last living relatives from the feud;
- A trip to Arizona to interview several children of my great uncles;
- A trip to Clay County to spend time in the historical society (which houses many of my family's papers) and Berea College (which has a special collection dedicated to my family);
- Money for cover art, book layout, editing, and photographs for the book; and
- A small budget for promotion and marketing.
Risks and challenges
The foreseeable risks fall into two major categories:
1) You may hate my writing, or I may turn out to be a crappy storyteller; or
2) Production may get delayed as I wrangle copy editors and designers to help produce the book while trying to maintain my teaching job.
I've spent 15 years crafting my professional writing voice so I'd like to think that I can spin a good yarn that is going to keep you interested. One sure face we know, however, is that past performance with writing is no indicator of future success.
I may lay a big, fat egg on this one.
It's also possible that my teaching duties will get in the way of my monthly production cycle. My goal is to spend 3 weeks each month reporting, gathering my notes, and writing a chapter while spending one week each month designing, copy editing, and tinkering with the narrative.
I'll be doing that while balancing a full teaching load at Ball State University. Fortunately, I have some flexibility with my schedule so I am hopeful this won't become an issue; however, I may miss a deadline or two, which would push the actual production of the book into late 2014 instead of August.
Whatever obstacles come up, though, I'll be open and honest about the production cycle, and I will happily engage with this community to make sure that this project gets completed.
The unforeseeable risks are a bit more dodgy. For instance, I might get hit by a bus, struck down by an illness, or some such. All I can promise is that I'll look both ways, I'll keep eating healthy, and I'll not text when I drive.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)