Monday, December 16, 2013

On the subject of writing.

Writing is writing, right? When I was starting out as a blogger, I didn’t see much difference between this mode of writing and that which I’d experienced in TV. And I sure didn’t think there was much variance from writing as a blogger and writing as an author.

I was wrong… so wrong.

Photos I wished were in the book:
the Typewriters sign at Hugo's
in Fayetteville.
My second book came out last month. While my first book, Arkansas Pie: A Delicious Slice of the Natural State, was conjured up and pieced together from blog entries and articles in a span of just 30 days, Classic Eateries of the Ozarks and Arkansas River Valley took nearly nine months from conception and contract to completion… and that nine month time span was no secret. It really did feel like having a baby.

A postcard from Ozark Mountain Smokehouse.
See, when I blog at, what you read is usually what has come fully formed out of my head. I may add a few words as I’m patching in photos, but I conceived of my blog as a place where I’d put down those complete thoughts – the story as I’m telling it. That defines my writing style.

Interior shot at Taliano's Italian Restaurant in Fort Smith.
You can’t do that with a book. I mean, you CAN but whether you SHOULD is pretty much in the negative. There aren’t many people around here who can keep up a single-topic conversation for hours. So you have to take it in bites – and when you do, you have to make sure the bites aren’t too big or too small.

The incredibly pink brisket sandwich
at Jerry Neel's in Fort Smith.

The historic Potts Inn Tavern in Pottsville.

You also have to think really clearly on what you’re doing. On a project like this new book, I had reams of notes and months of research invested in the overall tome. I thought that, like the pie book, I could just write each restaurant segment and sew them together. However, that just doesn’t work when you’re talking about more than 100 different restaurants. My average piece is 1000-1200 words. My first manuscript, a larger piece entitled Classic Arkansas Eateries: A Delectable Tradition of Dining Out, was already at 120,000 words when I went pleading to my editor to please, PLEASE allow this to be more than one book. I hadn’t even started on Little Rock stories.

KJ Zumwalt of KJ's Caribe in Eureka Springs.
Then there are photographs. As you know from my blog, I like the connection between words and photography. There are some things that are better conveyed with each medium; together, they bring together a more solid picture (video does this more, and I hope to incorporate more of it into my future blogs). Problem is, with 100 restaurants – each with its own interior, exterior, historical shots, postcard, food shots and profile pictures – there’s no way to pack them all into a 60,000 word book with a 100 photo limit. I found myself fighting to get as many photos in as possible.

The Raccoon Bearclaw WaWa at
Wood's Old Fashioned Soda
Fountain in Mountain View.
I had disagreements with my editors. I fought on release date. I struggled to make the book as comprehensive as possible, knowing that there was little chance I’d be able to include everything. And then I handed it to my editors and made a wish… that I’d done a good enough job for the book to be readable and enjoyable. And I let it go.

When times are slow at these book signings, you might catch me reading my book. I’m trying to capture what you see when you open the book. I’m to the Russellville chapter, and I’m tempering the fact that I wrote the thing in my head. I think it’s all right. I see where I wanted to add so much more, but only I know that more was meant to go in those chapters.
A pie at Tommy's Famous A Pizzaria in Mountain Home.
So when you read Classic Eateries of the Ozarks and Arkansas River Valley, I’d love for you to give me your feedback. Sure, I can’t just go change a book, but I can blog about the places I didn’t get to cover, and I can expand on the shortened subjects. And I’m taking notes – because the next book, Classic Eateries of the Arkansas Delta, isn’t all that far away.

If you'd like to check out the new book, head over to  There's a tab for book purchases.  I thank you for your support.

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