In 1991 Bill Trogdon, a Kansas City native, published “PrairyErth.”
The book, eight years in the making, detailed all things Chase County, Kan. — its towns, farm fields and history, both ancient (the origins of the Kaw Indian nation) and tragic (Knute Rockne’s plane crashed there in 1931).
The book was greatly anticipated, as it was a follow-up to his 1983 best-seller, “Blue Highways,” both written under the pseudonym of William Least Heat-Moon.
So it was with considerable patience that Trogdon, upon receiving a distracted reporter at his Columbia Mo., home, listened to an inordinate number of questions not about the second book but the first.
Did he really, at age 38, walk away from his Columbia life to spend several months in 1978 driving 13,000 miles through 38 states, coaxing personal stories out of strangers?
Did he then spend four years writing the manuscript, at one point earning about $50 a week laboring from 2 a.m. to dawn on the loading dock of the Columbia Daily Tribune and persevering through several rejections, not to mention many personal moments of doubt and anxiety, before finally seeing his book published?
Yes and yes, he said.
Today I can comfort myself in knowing I probably wasn’t the only one curious about Trogdon’s methods and inner resilience, and Trogdon perhaps figured as much.
He now has answered all such questions in his new book, “Writing Blue Highways.”
One revelation: Trogdon employed an interior strategy when doubt crept in regarding his sentence structure or choice of words. He imagined he was writing for a group of like-minded readers whom he referred to, formally, as the Secret Society of Readers.
“It gave me the confidence to elevate my style,” Trogdon said recently.
“It meant I was talking to people who would have a similar mindset. It meant that, if I ever wanted to use a certain word, I could use it because I was writing for a certain reader and there was no point in trying to appeal to everybody.”
Trogdon also describes his personal moment of triumph when he got his first look at his bookstore-ready book on Dec. 3, 1982.
“The memory of that is still very clear, when I opened the box and there it was,” he said. “I don’t think that, until that moment, I ever had cried out of sheer relief.
“But that’s what happened.”
Trogdon speaks at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Central Library, 14 W. 10th St. For more information, go to kclibrary.org.
To reach Brian Burnes, call 816-234-4120 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.