Friday, October 9, 2015

Dwight Diller Biography: "Forthcoming"

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In early August 2015 I placed a copy of a manuscript about Dwight Diller in the hands of McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, of Jefferson, North Carolina.  In mid-August McFarland decided to take on the publication of this book.  I committed to get them a “final” manuscript by late October 2015. 

I just packaged up the version that I will put in the hands of McFarland, to be mailed early next week. 

Once the publisher goes to work on the project, it could take another 9 to 12 months before the manuscript moves through the editing and production process – including photographic work, and designing the artwork for the covers, and so forth - meaning that the estimated date of completion could be late October 2016.  At this point the “working title” is:


The Rhythm of Yew Piney Mountain:
The Life, Music and Teaching of Dwight Diller


How did the project first come about? 

Dwight had arrived at our home in northern Virginia a few days before a scheduled 2002 banjo retreat that I had organized for him.  We were sitting in my downstairs office, and Tess and Casey, my two Rhodesian Ridgebacks who always loved banjo, were practically sitting on his feet.  Dwight was playing tunes.  Periodically he would stop playing, as he often did when he recalled a story about old West Virginia fiddlers or remembered a moment in the life of a fine old West Virginian banjo player.  He told the story, and resumed playing. 

These old practitioners of traditional music that Dwight mentioned in these stories were in many instances people he had grown up with, neighbors, people whose children he knew in school. 

After listening to a bunch of such stories, I finally said, “Dwight, you’re going to have to face the facts.  At this point, you yourself are now one of The Old People, and you are going to have to tell your story.”

We talked about that possibility, and over the next few years flirted with various ways of accomplishing the goal, but eventually he became immersed in his work that in 2013 resulted in the release of the 4 DVD set, Across the YewPines, about the Hammons family.  I grew busy with my own writing projects, and the pace and scope of my responsibilities at work grew to the point that the idea for the project Dwight and I had discussed grew more and more remote.

Until that phone call in August 2015.  At that point, I put other projects and consulting work aside – I had retired from “The Government” in October 2010, and moved to Staunton, but my dance card had remained full.  I shelved much of this work, and focused on pursuing Dwight.

I learned from long talks with Bob Carlin that there are basically three types of biographies.  First, biographies that are the subject’s life story “as told to . . .” meaning that the writer renders the memories of the subject using the subject’s words.  Second, biographies that go ever so slightly further than this, combining the memories and the words of the subject with the analytical capabilities of a writer who assumes responsibility for documenting, verifying, and annotating the subject’s words.  Third, biographies where the words of the subject are only part of the story.  In this type of biography, the writer assumes responsibility for digging deep, uncovering evidence, teasing out the memories themselves – perhaps because they are only partially, hazily remembered, because of the distance between remembered facts and accurate facts. 

I borrowed from each of these approaches, to a certain extent, but in the end – as I viewed it – this was Dwight’s story, but it was my book. 

I’ll do my best to keep people apprised of the process, and I’ll use this channel to publicize the date of publication once that comes into view.

So, expect a “Blog” every so often. 

Thanks for your support.

Play hard,

Lew

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