About me: My official bio says I’m a veteran journalist, teacher, author, musician, student of folklore, and creator of Elder Mountain Press, a venue for publishing stories relevant to Ozarks culture and history. It makes no mention of my absence of mind or my widely known penchant for confounding myself and others, and collecting scraps of mostly useless knowledge. I could create a paper mache Volkswagen with the paper this generates.
People who don’t know me believe I’m a storyteller. People who do say I’m just windy. But both kinds will stop for a moment to listen to my little essays on public radio, either because they’re interesting, or because they’re short. You can too, at ksmu.org, if you click on the sidebar where it says “These Ozarks Hills”
In 1986, 25 years after I started college, I received a BFA degree from Missouri State University in graphic arts and photography, with which I became a journalist (!?!) In 1995 I received an MA from Antioch University in creative writing, which enabled me to go back to my journalism job and teach English at night school, the income from which has not yet enabled me to pay off my student loans. At this rate I may make my last payment when I’m 112. On the good side, I did reap the benefits of a $5,000 grant from the International Press Institute enabling me to spend six weeks in Central America doing stories on Costa Rica and Panama and their records of natural resource management. You can find photos and story excerpts elsewhere on this site.
Right now I’m up to my ears in the fallout from the movie Winter’s Bone, in which I’m the featured singer and music consultant. Somehow it didn’t occur to me that people would a) watch the movie closely enough to notice me, b) recognize me on the street, or c) insist on knowing where they could find the music from the movie, or more just like it. Ok, I’ll confess. I made the movie without one thought that I might want to make a CD as well – and soon. Who knew? I didn’t feel so bad about my lack of preparedness after Winter’s Bone producer Jonathan Scheuer heaved a sigh over the same subject and said “We really didn’t expect this.”
The “this” he’s referring to is “Winter’s Bone,” winning best picture and best screenplay at Sundance, more honors in Berlin, and hefty distribution deals with Roadside Attractions (North American rights) and Fortissimo (overseas). Suddenly this little low-budget tale shot in the Ozarks is getting some impressive international buzz. And much to my surprise, so am I.
Now here we are as another year begins, and so much has happened it would be impossible to tell it all at once. Instead, I’ve told it in fits and starts throughout this blog, which was begun in May of 2010 and which to date has received more than 33,000 hits from folks like you, who were moved by the movie and mused by the music, and came calling, some just to drop in for a minute, others to sit a spell and visit, as we say in the Ozarks. It’s been wonderful to meet you, even if briefly, and I hope you’ll stop by again soon. In the meantime, I’m about to begin another semester teaching English, while arranging songs for another album and doing research on a story that might be a movie someday. Oh, and coming up with “big windies” for telling on my little radio show.
Life is full of wonder and surprises. Some of them way more satisfying than one might expect. The lives of us hillbillies is generally slower than this, and this hillbilly is having a time getting used to it. That will happen all in good time, I expect. In the meantime, drop me a note or send me a song if you’re so inclined. Happy Trails, you’uns. Come back when you can stay longer.
Next to me is, I think, Teresa Schuster and her sister, whose name I can’t recall. We were living in what had been officers’ quarters in a suburb called Plainview, that has since been absorbed into the fabric of greater Wichita. It was my first and only glimpse of early 20th century urban life, as our apartment was outfitted with a coal furnace that my dad loaded from a coal chute in the basement, an icebox filled by the iceman twice a week and milk, butter, cottage cheese, etc., delivered daily very early in the morning. I include it because of the memories, the age of the cars in the background, and our stances. At eight years old, we were already who we would be, already up to sumthin’.
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