Editor’s Note: This is the first post from, Nix Nootz. Nix writes an amazing blog, Corn, Coal & Country about life and agitation in the places where “Coal Crackers mix with Pennsylvania Dutch.” As he says about why he started his blog: “There’s a lot of powerful work going on to make cities better places. I’m sad that there’s not that kinda work going on in most rural areas. Especially my home, where we don’t talk about our problems as much…That’s why I started this blog. If you don’t tell your story, someone else is gunna tell it for you.” And that’s why we reached out to him and asked him if we could help by bringing his blog to you on Raging Chicken Press. I chose this post from June 1, because I thought it would give all of you a good perspective on his work. But don’t stop here. Get on over to Corn, Coal & Country and give Nix some love! And tell him that Raging Chicken sent ya!
I don’t remember doing well in high school English, but I’ve now been doing this blog for almost a year. There have been other writing projects, too. Just like this one, I’ve struggled through it with plenty of help, learning along the way.
I wrote “Quittin’ Time at the Factory” last June, and it’s still my favorite piece here. I wrote it the week I quit. I’d been telling those same stories to people over, getting lots of laughs and questions. That’s how I begin working on all these stories-conversations. I’ll talk about a subject plenty of times before I make it an article. I find out what people are into. I get their suggestions & opinions. I get a sense of how to tell a good story.
Some stories are too personal, and that’s why I haven’t talked about domestic violence or drugs yet. I’d like to. Other stories I come up with just don’t make it out of the cooker.
Research comes next. “Mine Fires & Gas Lines” and “The Bootleg Coal Rebellion” took months to research. I’ve got a method for doing it. Some googling to start it out, and see what’s already out there. I scout out some leads while doing it— Who can I talk to? What can I read? Then I knock those things out.
I love the libraries. I rely on local history sections and the Inter Library Loan. Libraries use ILL to get books from other library systems. For free. It’s a great way to find rare & old books. I’ve used it to find stuff you can’t buy, and I’ve even used it to get copied microfiche.
Interviews are the fun. I do them after I research so that I can ask good questions. I get to interview friends, family and all sorts of other people. It’s great. It makes people feel appreciated, and gives a great, human story. You get to hear how things feel. It’s the only way to learn about things like “Windows & Onions” or “Land of Distribution Centers.”
Somewhere in there I’ll make a draft, and add new stuff into it as I go.
Once everything else is done, it’s onto the hardest part: editing and revising. That’s where I get most of my help from other people. Usually, a couple people look over articles before I post them. That said— I know there’s typos. If you see one, leave a comment. I’ll change it and delete the comment.
Other writers tell me that everyone struggles with editing and revising. Even the best authors. They tell me it’s important to work on it every day, and to make a commitment to finishing what I start.
All in all, this blog takes time and work. I’ve done collaborations on the harder pieces, and that goes a long way. “Mine Fires & Gas Lines” was a collaboration. So is another big project, a sequel to “The Bootleg Rebellion” about what another rural PA area did in the depression.
I really appreciate all the comments, shares and positive feedback I get. It means a lot, and it keeps me going with this. Feel free to suggest topics you want me to write about. Thanks for reading.