Fred First writes like he speaks: laid back, thoughtful and thought provoking. In recent years, the Floyd County resident has penned columns for the Roanoke Star-Sentinel and Floyd Press, and has voiced pieces for WVTF Public Radio. First recently released a second compilation of his work, entitled “What We Hold In Our Hands – a slow road reader,” published by Goose Creek Press.
First often writes through the prism of his life in Floyd, alongside Goose Creek, and has separated “What We Hold” into 10 categories. Some entries are more topical, like one written for the Star-Sentinel after Appalachian Power was accused by a Roanoke County resident of spraying dangerous weed-killing chemicals near power lines.
“Some of them do go way back,” said First, adding that most were written after the release of “Slow Road Home,” three years ago.
First whetted his appetite for writing with a blog, fragmentsfromfloyd.com, where he also gets to show off pictures snapped of the Floyd countryside.
“It was the first opportunity I ever had to put words and images together,” he said of the blog; “I’ve wanted to do that since I was in my twenties.”
Schooled in biology and zoology, First grew up with a healthy curiosity about what lurked under rocks. The former teacher still leads field trips into the woods.
“That’s what the blog is in a sense, and so are the books,” First said.
The very first chapter details the hair-raising story of a wayward snake he brought home to study – one that got away and “scared the dickens” out of his then-new wife.
“It still gives me the creeps, and I’m not a snake-phobic person,” chuckles First, who has several book signing appearances scheduled in the next few weeks, including one at the Bent Mountain Public Library.
First writes, “it’s risky to expose yourself as a writer to the readers, to lay out emotions and feelings. But I have found that I haven’t been punished for that.”
He has also realized that the more he “tells the truth,” about his own life, the more readers understand that everyone is pretty much in the same boat.
“There’s not them and us – there’s only us.” Even what First calls “hyper-local” storytelling uncovers commonalities – one of his new books was just shipped off to England.
“I still continue to explore how we relate to the places we live,” said First, who feels modern society has loosened the bond between people and their immediate environment.
“I have the luxury … to write about anything that seems to me to be significant or worthy of further study,” said First, who has been collecting story nuggets for years.
Visit fragmentsfromfloyd.com for more on First’s “Slow Road” readers.
First appears at the Bent Mountain Public Library (inside the elementary school) Thursday, June 18, 7:00 pm. He will also appear at the Floyd Public Library this Saturday (June 13), 2:00 pm.