Check This Out—Natchez Trace: Tracks in Time

Howdy! Yes, I know that this is Children’s Book Week. I will happily address the theme of this special week at length later. In the meantime, it’s fitting that on the blog today is the child of Roy and Linda Watkins—the always gracious Andra Watkins.

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You probably know Andra from her blog and from her books: Not Without My Father, a memoir of her historic Natchez Trace walk (click here for the interview post) and her novel, To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, both published by Word Hermit Press. She’s here to answer a few questions about Natchez Trace: Tracts in Time, the photo book of her Natchez Trace walk (March 1 to April 3, 2014). This book was published on March 15 (Word Hermit Press).

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As you undoubtedly recall, Andra’s goal was to be the first living person to walk the Natchez Trace—from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee—to promote her novel about Meriwether Lewis. Her father Roy served as her wingman. After I talk to Andra, I’ll tell you about a giveaway of Natchez Trace: Tracts in Time, which debuted March 15.

El Space: What made you decide to release a separate photo book of your Natchez Trace journey?
Andra: I finished my walk with hundreds of pictures. I took them to pass five-hour days, and I planned to share them online with readers. As I posted them, readers kept telling me I needed to publish them as a complete book. It makes the perfect companion to both my novel and my memoir. While I don’t plan to publish additional books of photography, it is a quality stand-alone collection for anyone who loves the outdoors. I’m really proud of it.

20735129  Not Without My Father: One Woman's 444-Mile Walk of the Natchez

El Space: You’ve been talking about making memories for some time now. (Click here for one of Andra’s blog posts on making memories.) When you look back at the photos in this book, which memory stands out to you most vividly? Why?
Andra: My last day walking alone. People do solitary things, and so much of the time, we wish it away. I streaked through fifteen-mile days to finish, and I missed the magic of a solo highway trek. Midway, I lay in a daffodil field and realized I was wasting the lessons of my Natchez Trace walk. On my last singular day, rain splotched my face. I realized I was spending my last five hours alone. The Trace saw my thoughts, because at that moment, I came around a bend and encountered a muddy field spangled with thousands of daffodils. I squished into that field, oblivious to mud and thunder. I snapped a selfie with what’s become my favorite reminder to slow down, to experience Life, to notice minutiae: the daffodil.

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Photo copyright © Andra Watkins

El Space: Your photos always have so much life in them. What do you look for in a good photo op?
Andra: I learned from my architect husband. My best pictures happen when I look up, even if that means I’m lying flat on the ground to get the shot. I also like juxtapositions of light and shadow. Clouds versus blue sky. I have no professional training, and I don’t know how to use Photoshop. My pictures are minimally worked with filters and capture the truth of what I saw. I don’t look for perfection. I’ll leave that to people who know what they’re doing.

blue-sky-with-clouds

El Space: Any advice for people who want to record their journeys through photographs?
Andra: Photographs are shorthand. Even when I decided to pen a memoir about my Natchez Trace walk, I used pictures to journal. I couldn’t stop to record conversations or deep thoughts, but I could snap photos. When I scrolled through them, I recalled the way my pinky toes turned into pulpy stubs. I remembered the hay fragrance that wafted from a field when a bull chased me. I felt the wind transmogrify my body into a funnel cloud. I don’t think people should experience the world by looking through screens, but they can capture memories they don’t want to forget. The key to the best shots, for me, is really seeing what’s happening around me, without first experiencing it through a screen.

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Thanks for stopping by, Andra!

If you’re looking for Andra, she can be found at her website, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

Natchez Trace: Tracts in Time can be found at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com. I’m giving away a copy of Natchez Trace: Tracts in Time to a commenter. So, you know what to do. . . .

Winner to be announced on May 7.

Author photo courtesy of Andra Watkins. Natchez Trace cover from her website. Other book covers from Goodreads. Daffodils from brokenbullhorn.wordpress.com. Camera image from freepik.com. Sky photo from publicdomainpictures.net.

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64 thoughts on “Check This Out—Natchez Trace: Tracks in Time

    • Charles, I just took the pictures and worried that none of them were good enough. Ha.

      But seriously, several things were different. First, it took more rounds of proofs, because the first run proof’s paper was sub-par. Next, it was harder to swallow the required price point. As a book’s author, I always want my titles to be as affordable as possible. This one is more expensive due to its odd size and better paper, and I worried nobody would buy it. Finally, this book doesn’t have a digital version, which is also scary. While my paper-to-digital numbers run about neck-and-neck, not giving people the electronic option still frightens me. But the book is meant to be held in one’s hands and savored. I hope people will enjoy it as much as I do.

      • Interesting point on the digital version. I don’t think a lot of eReaders can work with picture books, so maybe that’s an area that needs some development. If anything, I could see such a file being massive. Great goal of having it be something to hold and savor.

      • I know what you mean, Charles. Yes, this is an area that could be improved. I’ve seen many beautiful picture books on an iPad. Yet many parents I know prefer books they can hold or their child can hold and flip through the pages.

      • I actually prefer my son interact with a physical book than a Kindle or iPad. I think have something like that has more of a tactile element. Also, it teaches him to be careful since books are easily torn by little hands.

      • It is nice to able to interact with pop-up books that have different fabrics and slots and doors so kids learn the differences between rough and smooth and other characteristics. Bu yeah, books are easily torn–by bigger hands too. I have some nice pop-up books the pages of which I accidentally ripped. 😦

      • No kid can resist Curious George. I was at a party for a little boy. One of his gifts was a Curious George book. Does your son like the show?

      • The current trick is to stop him from bringing the expensive ones to school. He doesn’t always remember to bring toys home. Also, one time in Pre-K, he gave his favorite hat and stuffed Mickey toy to his new friends. Might have been a third thing he gifted to someone too.

      • For the most part, the paper-only version has challenged everyone on my team to think differently. We’re going after outlets that actually carry books like this. Targeting specific locations with a geographic connection to the book. And trying to position my three published works as a set.

      • I’m sure they will. I’m one of those people who like to savor over books, especially those with lots of illustrations or photos. I can look at them again and again.

    • Good question!
      I’m reminded of some of the books I have like The Art of Avatar: The Last Airbender, and The Art of DreamWorks Rise of the Guardians. I love books that provide an extra look at a journey I’ve already taken and enjoyed. This book is a nice window on Andra’s walk.

  1. This title caught my eye because I’m from Louisiana and have driven part of the Natchez Trace. To walk that beautiful path must have been a very fulfilling – but long – trip! So glad you were able to capture the beauty in pictures. Can’t wait to read both books. ~Elle

  2. This little lady keeps popping up on my viewfinder. We met briefly as table-sitters at the Author’s Expo the beginning of this year at the Florence (SC) Library. And I mean briefly…but enough to meet her dad and absorb the compelling nature of her project…really cool family. ( I was with the Camden Writers, Andra)
    This one’s not coffee, but close enough to deliberately comment for the ‘contest.’

    FYI-I don’t need a contest to comment or read your posts…yours delivers consistently quality content, L. Marie. 🙂

    • Hey, Laura. I remember you. You’re lucky to have met Dad, though I’m sure he talked your head off. Ha. He was in rare form that day.

      I hope I’ll see you again at a future book event, Laura.

    • Thank you, Laura. I’m glad you had the opportunity to meet Andra and her dad! I had a wonderful opportunity to finally see Andra when she came to the Chicago area. Oh that was a great time!!

  3. Thanks for the interview. I read, “Not Without My Father” and enjoyed it. You other books are on my reading list, hope to get to them soon.

  4. My first time here…cause I’ll follow Andra anywhere. Nice to meet you L. Marie…always nice to read what you’ve written Andra, see where you’ve been, and read your insight. Lovely.

  5. Terrific interview! I wasn’t aware that you published the photo book, Audra. What a wonderful idea. Sometimes when we can’t find the right words, a photo is perfect. I love the daffodil photo. 🙂

    • Jill, it’s pretty specialized and came out while I was touring Not Without My Father. No big launch. Just another title. The pictures were my journal for writing NWMF. I made words with them. Then published the pictures after the memoir came out.

      Daffodils play a huge role in two of my three books. And now in my life. 🙂

    • Thanks, Jill. As they say, a picture can be worth a thousand words. A photo can sometimes take you somewhere quicker.

      I’m a big fan of daffodils. They’re such cheerful flowers.

  6. I love the way Andra describes her photos. For me, photos are memories- a way to capture a moment and revisit it later. I also like the realization that being in the moment has value. Thank you for that.

    • I agree, Naomi. Photos are memories. I think some of my earliest memories exist because my mom took pictures and showed them to me every day. Some would argue the photo is the memory, but I remember distinct things surrounding the photo, too.

  7. I really enjoyed the interview and the chance to get acquainted with Andra and her books. Thank you for the opportunity.

  8. Pingback: Writing for Children: “Real” Writing | El Space–The Blog of L. Marie

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