When the first proof of my new book with Everett Rau arrived, I took it over to the nursing home to show my father. Somehow the images of early farming pierced the fog of his Alzheimer’s and he said, “I think I’m going to enjoy this.” As word spread that I had actually written a real book, members of the staff sat down and began to read – every page – and then look at me like I was a magician or alchemist.
After years of being the client, it’s been humbling to be the creator. For a year and a half, I visited Ev’s farmhouse kitchen once a week and he narrated stories of his childhood with stunning clarity. I transcribed the tapes and shaped them into stories, which he patiently reviewed. I spent a lot of time on internet research and with local newspapers to fill in gaps in his memories and to place his stories into context. Ev’s parents embraced the Brownie camera, even as they struggled to pay other bills, so we have a rich documentary history of early years on the farm.
After 96 years in a small town, Ev has an astonishing number of friends and acquaintances. Nevertheless, a book like this is destined for a small publishing audience. Though I'm used to working with teams of really smart people and fabulous designers, I decided to do the whole thing myself – from start to finish. I produced the book through CreateSpace, an on-line publishing service that prints with Indigo presses. Along the way I taught myself Photoshop, InDesign, and the gnarly world of tweaking photos for print. I learned that, among other things, I’m a lousy copyeditor – as I found a few glaring errors in what I thought was my final proof! I also gained a new appreciation for on-demand publishing . . . . No inventory. . . . No upfront costs. And experienced its limitations . . . . Every printing is different. . . . Don't they have quality control?
But though I’m a little shy of sharing the results with my exalted designer friends, I’m so happy to bring Ev’s story to the world. As a child of peripatetic parents, I’ve always been fascinated by those who choose stay in the place where they were born. In many ways Ev’s story is typical of his generation, as he dealt with the wave after wave of changes that shook the twentieth century. Yet his dogged connection to the land and ability to conceive of ambitious new projects well into his nineties is an inspiration to me and, I hope, to others as well.
Stand Tall: Against the Odds by Everett Rau and Laura Shore is available on Amazon.com and through the CreateSpace web store for $20.99. To keep the price down, I've chosen not to sell through book distributors but hope to sell directly to our local bookstores.