A Great Story
I write poetry. I think poetry. I read poetry. That being said, I want to talk about how I’m working on a memoir, which is a person’s true story.
The subject of this memoir, Lee Roy Farrier, has a great story. Oftentimes, the subjects of great stories are the last to know their story is great. They simply don’t realize how powerful their story is, how it affects others who hear it.
Lee Roy Farrier has told bits and pieces of his story to his friends and family in Norfork, Arkansas, and beyond. Lee Roy is a storyteller. Give him half a chance, and he’ll tell you a story.
I, on the other hand, write poetry and edit, edit, edit until I think it’s right. Then I hand it off to someone else to edit. I do it this way because another set of wise eyes can see and hear what I cannot. The flip-side of that happens when someone hands me their poem, and I edit it. That means I tell them what I like about it and what I’m struggling to understand in their poem. It’s helpful to hear both, the pros and the cons.
Also, I can say that it’s quite satisfying when I’m able to help someone make his poem a tad bit better. It goes without saying that the poem remains his poem to do with as he pleases. After all, it’s his poem.
Well, I now know Lee Roy Farrier has a terrific story. I did not know this, though, until he turned his notebook over to me and said, “Would you read it and tell me if it’s worthy?”
Everyone’s story is worthy, I believe, but I knew what he meant. He meant: Do I have a good story?
His story, as I received it, in a blue notebook, was not organized. It was written in bits and pieces, sometimes lacking details, but MAN—did he have a story!
Lee Roy did not know what to do with it, but he had a story. This man had beaten the odds and met the challenges before him. Angels had surely taken care of him along so many paths.
Once I’d read all the pages in Lee Roy’s notebook, I told him that I would help him. I guess he thought I could do something with it because I’d won some poetry awards. But I was more drawn toward helping him because he had experienced a rough start as a boy: his mother died, he’d lived in an orphanage, then his father and siblings were lost to unknowns. Gut-wrenching stuff. And I could relate to those experiences in my own life. After reading his notebook of typed pages, I was hooked.
No question that this story would be about Lee Roy Farrier, though it would also touch on the lives of other people. I knew what I needed to do: get more acquainted with Lee Roy Farrier. That meant phone calls, emails, visits. His experiences fascinated me. He allowed me to print the basic bones of his story in my weekly blog, but I could see that it had greater potential.
As people read the blogs about this boy growing into a man, Lee Roy and I were both approached by friends, family, and readers. They commonly asked, “Will there be a book? We’d like it in book form.”
After the blogs were completed, Lee Roy and I talked. I told him that he certainly did have a great story. That was the same meeting where we decided I’d do more interviews with him, get more details, and we’d write a book together. That evening, Lee Roy handed me fifty dollars to give to an editor for an ISBN number. I handed that fifty dollars to Alathea Daniels. It now felt like we were standing on solid ground.
We were in agreement about co-writing the book. I began rewriting the blogs in third person to fit a book. As we made progress, I interviewed Lee Roy again and again. Our talks happened primarily over the phone and in-person.
Talking with Lee Roy was a pleasure. He is a gentle soul. No resistance in him. He opens up and shares his memories, sometimes with a tear in his eye. I am usually listening for any new piece of information. Also, I’m listening for sensory details not mentioned before.
Lee Roy’s writing fits him. His personality shines through. His notebook writings show his comfort level in sharing his story. He says, “You know, if I share this, it may help another orphan or troubled child.”
“Yes,” I say. “Your feelings are very human. We can all identify with them because we are all strugglers in this world. We all struggle on some level.”
As I read a chapter with Lee Roy, he pitches in and adds more. It’s Lee Roy’s voice that the reader hears in the chapters, not mine. I am rewriting but asking him to revise and correct anything that seems “off” in any way, any manner.
Lee Roy’s trust level showed when he handed me his blue notebook. That’s what I needed in order to see his full story. It was disjointed, but real. It had the snippets needed for me to hear the voice of the man telling the story. Sometimes his writings were heartbreaking, sometimes hilarious. There is no way a co-writer would want to change any of that.
So my job has been to listen closely, clarify, question, fact-check, dig, wait, proofread, nudge, and encourage him as he continues to tell me another morsel of the story.
This is what’s going on in my world. Lee Roy and I are working on Chapter 14 of Going Home right now. It’s a labor of love.
P.S. When this book becomes available, I will be selling it on my website. As always, I love to hear your thoughts in the Comment section below.
Lee Roy Farrier, Norfork, Arkansas. Photograph taken by Pat Durmon in the early spring of 2021, just before the daffodils bloomed.