I follow writers like other people trail musicians. When I like a writer, I read everything he/she writes. Many times, I’ve emailed a favored author for guidance on writing for my classes and been thrilled with a response to pass on to them. I’ve searched out where the writer speaks so I might have a chance to meet them.
One writer whose groupie I’ve been for years is John Philip Colletta, author of the amazing family history, Only a Few Bones: A True Account of the Rolling Fork Tragedy and Its Aftermath. This book is an amazing work of research used to solve a mystery that had been part of family lore for generations. In the last year or so, John has come out with a revised version of Only a Few Bones, which includes an appendix filled with articles about how he wrote this family story.
I think John Philip Colletta is a rock star!
I always seemed to be where John Colletta had just been. I spoke at genealogy groups he had visited the week before. I served as faculty for genealogy conferences where he had been the keynote speaker the year before. This went on for years. I was on the trail of John Colletta but always left in the dust.
When I learned a professional organization with which I am actively involved, the Association of Personal Historians, needed a keynote speaker, I knew just who to recommend. If I couldn’t track down John Colletta, I’d bring him to me, and that’s just what we did. Emails and phone calls flew from me to the organization to John back to me to John to APH for several weeks, but we worked out the details, and I finally had the chance to meet my hero when he spoke at our conference in late October.
My husband Bob and I enjoyed dinner with this wonderful man the night he arrived in Fort Worth, and his keynote address and workshop were packed. John Colletta did not disappoint. He was knowledgeable and entertaining, funny and enthusiastic—the perfect mix for a keynote speaker. I felt so grateful for the chance to sit at the feet of a writing and research master, and I learned so much. Thank you, John.
Unfortunately, John had already left town before our group visited the largest honkytonk in the United States, Billy Bob’s—three acres under one roof, filled with cowboys riding bulls (real bulls, not the mechanical ones), dancers quick-stepping, and us wannabes eating barbecue and pretending to be cowgirls for the night. John, we probably could have taught you a few things at Billy Bob’s that night.