Thursday, August 30, 2012

Bill Truesdale

If it wasn't for Bill Truesdale's constant encouragement, I would've never thought of my zany email letter to him as a possible prose piece for House on Via Gombito: North American Women Writing Abroad (A broad!). (I had just returned from the USSR; I was abuzz, agog, as well as jet-lagged.)

Bill rejected my Peru travel piece and said—work on the letter. My flabber was ghasted. My shell was shocked. What letter? My email? So, from my emails, I drafted a train piece about traveling across the Russias. First big prose piece I'd ever tackled. Something like 10k words, it went through many drafts, and it also opened up the doorway to writing prose. And here I am, right now, writing prose....

Bill believed strongly in supporting emerging writers, and founded New Rivers Press in an old barn in 1968; Bill picked up lead poisoning from setting type as he set the first books by hand. The legacy press, with some 300 titles in print, is oldest continuously publishing press in the country. It was also the first book publisher to obtain a 501(c)3 nonprofit status, thus changing the role of small publishing forever.

So, yeah, I Bill, New Rivers Press editor extraordinaire. Bill died in 2001, after a long illness. Wherever you may be, Bill, riding that great zephyr in the sky, thanks for reading my zany eleventh-hour emails and seeing a potential story in them.

Nearly fifty women writers from North America contributed to the House on Via Gombito, an extraordinary anthology, published in 1991, long before the likes of Cheryl Strayed, Elizabeth Gilbert, and other women traveller-writers came into the limelight. These women writers (and myself) were pioneers exploring the inner emotional landscape of travel, as well as the outer landscapes, in a genre stolidly set in a male-dominated world of heroic adventure writing.

My memoir about traveling across the USSR, Night Train to Moscow: Waging Peace was reprinted in Writing the Rails: Train Adventures by the World's Best Loved Train Stories—by a subsidiary of Workman Publishers, Black Dog & Leventhal. It was a great line up (of mostly dead writers), Paul Theroux, VS Naipaul, Edith Wharton... I kept thinking they'd made a mistake including me.

Sadly the book was stood up and remaindered after 9/11. I never did get to do an author reading or book signing at Barnes & Noble. Alas, I do not have an electronic facsimile of my story, it's on the ever-growing 'to do" scan pile.

C.W. "Bill" Truesdale

See my other posts:
House On Via Gombito
Letter from New Rivers Press 5/10/2001
Writing the Rails: Train Adventures

Expanded from a Facebook post with Howard McCord, added 8/17

Howard McCord said Yes, Bill Truesdale's very nice press. He was a sweet guy. Thank you for liking my work!

New Rivers Press marks 40 years

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