Ten years ago, I began writing about the Mississippi River. Yes, it’s been ten years! As you may or may not have followed every step I have taken in the past ten years, here are a few highlights:
- I share stories of the people and places along the Mississippi, like the story about the University of Iowa professor who called Iowa’s river towns “skuzzy.” Part of my response got picked up by CNN.
- I write for people who are traveling to the Mississippi River, but I steer visitors to experiences that help them connect with people in Mississippi River towns and with the river. I supplement my on-line river town profiles with additional articles to give visitors context for what they’re seeing and experiencing. When someone drives through Keokuk, Iowa, for example, I want them to see through the present difficulties and look at what the city has been (and could be again).
- I also write for the people who live and work along the Mississippi. Every now and then I nudge river town residents to wake up and smell the river and to explore ideas that could turn their communities around.
- I tell three-dimensional stories about the people and places of the river—triumphs and disappointments, warts and all. I do this by being on the ground, by visiting each community, talking to people in cafes and bars, and researching in libraries.
- I’ve written six guide books for travelers and two Frank Dodge mysteries set in river towns. I’ve built a growing directory of river town profiles on this website. I’ve shared hundreds of photographs that span the river from Minnesota to Louisiana.
- I’ve driven the entire Great River Road at least once, and parts of it multiple times. I’ve been lucky enough to ride on the American Queen as a guest lecturer and to paddle from New Orleans to the Gulf of Mexico with John Ruskey and the Quapaw Canoe Company.
And I want to keep going. I want to bring you more stories about the history and culture of the Mississippi River Valley. I want to continue to offer tips on how to have the best possible experiences when you’re traveling along the river (like finding a paddling outfitter or the best riverside dining).
I need your help, though. As part of my plan for the new year, I have set up a Patreon site, which is a place where followers of artists of various stripes (including writers) can show their support by pledging a monthly contribution that can be as little as one dollar a month.
Supporters are eligible for rewards that include gift cards (with original photographs of the Mississippi River) and previews of works in progress. Right now, for example, I’m working on a book that will take a fresh look at our history with the Mississippi River; I’ll be sharing early drafts of some chapters, but only with Patreon supporters.