A few years ago, I wrote my first book, "Chattanooga Radio and Television." More accurately, I put together a few hundred photos, then added some text and captions. Having no experience in getting a book published, I thought that once it came out, I would sit back and watch it fly off the shelves. I told my wife Cindy that since Chattanooga had so many notable broadcasters, the book had the potential to go national. She was skeptical.
Then one night, the phone rang. The caller ID display read "USA Today." I looked at Cindy knowingly as she answered the phone. "They want to speak to you," she said. I gave her that "I told you so" look as I intoned, "Yes, this is David Carroll. May I help you?" The caller asked, "Are you the David Carroll in Chattanooga, Tennessee?" "Why, yes I am," I replied as my head began to swell. "Great!" the caller said. "I'm Brad with USA Today, and we're starting home delivery in your neighborhood, and I can make you a great deal…."
So I didn't get any national publicity, but with the help of some book signings, it sold pretty well for a while. My life then took an enjoyable, if unexpected turn.
Some friends from a church invited me to speak at a luncheon. I asked if I could talk about my book, and bring a few copies in case anyone wanted to buy it. I put together a few pictures, some stories, and my usual warmed-over jokes. I had fun, and the folks seemed to enjoy it. One of the church members was in a local civic club which needed a program for their next meeting. This pattern continued, and I was soon involved in a multi-year banana pudding book tour.
You see, I spoke to more than a hundred church groups, clubs, and other organized groups. While I love speaking to all of them, I enjoy church groups the most. I know what you're thinking: it's because of the home-cooked pot-luck meals and desserts. Well, that might have played a small part.
Honestly, I don't know how I avoided gaining 50 pounds. Talk about all you can eat! Everything is made from scratch. At each stop, I was told, "We have the best cooks in the world." I couldn't argue.
But more than the food, I enjoyed making new friends. Each evening on the news, I talk about conflict, controversy and tragedy. It is refreshing to visit with folks who just want to share a few laughs.
At each of these events, they pray for their community, neighbors who are ailing or dealing with the loss of a family member, our nation and our world. Even when you're relaxing, you can't escape the fact that we live in scary times. Hearing their sincere prayers gives me a boost. They don't get much attention, but in every neighborhood there are hard-working people (even in retirement) who make our world better. They don't live their lives online. They stay busy helping their families, looking after their neighbors, visiting hospitals and nursing homes, and tending to their lawns and gardens.
After I tell my stories, comes the best part. They tell me about their lives and memories, and I leave knowing much more than when I came. They remember the first time they heard a radio, or the day their family got a TV. They tell me what their neighborhoods were like before the big stores moved in, before the traffic lights and four-lane highways. They tell me about the wars they fought, the children they raised, the grandchildren they adore.
I didn't expect to be do so many programs about my book, but I loved every minute of it. Occasionally, someone would ask if I would ever write another one. I didn't plan to, but it happened, sort of accidentally. I started writing columns online, and then in newspapers. The best compliment is when someone says, "I cut out your story," or "I printed your story, and I have it on my refrigerator." Now and then, someone would suggest their favorite stories be put into a book, so they wouldn't have to use their scissors, or their printer so often. I take that as a huge compliment.
I even had a few people tell me their eyesight was failing, but they enjoyed listening to books on CD. So I have recorded every word for them to hear. It took a few hours, but I really got into it, especially the funny stuff.
I am hopeful this new book, "Volunteer Bama Dawg," will bring as much joy into your life, as it has mine.
David Carroll is from Chattanooga, Tenn. You may contact him at 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, Tenn. 37405 or firstname.lastname@example.org.