I’m not quite sure why I did this.
I don’t fish. I don’t hunt. I write, and have for a long time.
I had written countless feature stories. I had written a couple of novels with no success. My cousin was a 20-year Navy man, and had worked in hardware sales at Sears for a long time afterwards. I decided to write a book about him. I knew at his advanced age, if I was ever to do it, then was the time.
He got such tremendous enjoyment from the book, that might have oiled the wheels in my mind, and allowed them to start turning.
I’d compile a book of high school memories and lives beyond high school. I called upon three ladies who had attended my same high school, and who had extensive email lists of those who had attended as well, and sent them an email. They put it out on their email lists.
My journey had begun.
Many people responded, saying that was a good idea. Surely this was indicative of a sufficient number of people sending in their stories to do the book. Never rely on indicatives.
A few stories trickled in. If you interpret trickled in as being slow, slow that down some more, and you have the first response.
The magic words I had in my first email turned out to be ordinary, and ordinary doesn’t get it when I’m trying to overcome people’s initial inertia.
The breeze of compiling the book turned into a grind. Not an easy and totally pleasant experience by any means, Over the course of two or three months, I sent out seven or eight emails, and at times doubted there would ever be enough stories for a book. There’s Facebook, and other social media where people can recount their lives or whatever. They seem to enjoy the spontaneity of that method of transporting words for others to read.
I remember stalling after about the fifth email. I can’t imagine I said anything different in my sixth email and beyond. And, believe me, I reflected on what I wrote and analyzed each word, mainly to see if I could motivate people to transfer stories from their brains to the computer, for I was sure they had thought of them. Nothing stood out in those emails, but whatever cobwebs and reluctance existed in others’ minds seemed to have disappeared. I had a flood of stories. That just shows you when a writer writes, sometimes they have no idea what they’ve written.
I finished the book, and wound up sending out 112 of them. No great publishing success, but those 112 were in the hands of people most affected by stories in the book. Some stories about good memories in high school. Some about lives after high school. Some philosophies about life. That last one is important because our folks had ranged hither and yon, and had encountered many facets of life we all needed to read about.
They tore down our old high school in 2009 (1930-2009), and put up some bricks and mortar for other educational purposes. Only the ghost of our high school remains. If there were any ghosts roaming the halls, they have now been evicted. I have no idea where homeless ghosts go.
There only remains a book to remind everyone now of what we loved.
I received tons of nice emails about the book. I thank them for that. Perhaps most gratifying were their own stories they told me, stories they remembered as they read the book.
I’m also pleased about the fact many told me it couldn’t be done, and, not me, but 33 loyal souls did it. Thirty-three terrific people who contributed stories for the book.
I don’t think in my own mind I was ever actually challenging the idea it couldn’t be done as much as it became a day-to-day job, and I didn’t have time to think about what others thought about that. When the light finally showed up at the end of the tunnel, and I looked down on what the light was focusing on, it was the finished book. After the books were mailed out, I had to take a couple of days to realize I had no more to do.
If someone at your high school hasn’t compiled a book, start it yourself, or find someone who will, before the years come and go, and take away the energy of doing it, and time itself takes away those you liked and loved at your old high school. Alumni will buy the book. You’ll still spend a few dollars of your own money, but that’s money well spent.
I think of the cherished book on a table in the living rooms of those I knew in high school, and those I didn’t. When they choose a walk down memory lane, they only need pick up the book and read or reread a story or two. There is comfort in knowing those memories are close by.
Was the book worth the time and effort? You betcha.