Writing The Great American Banjo Novel

Neurological issues have made typing difficult, so I am writing my next book by hand. In this video Dear Old Dad and I share how we are getting the words out of my head onto the page with the tools available.

I write in pencil on legal pads and Dear Old Dad transcribes my Phoenician hen scratches onto the computer.

We are posting edited handwritten chapters on Patreon for our sponsors.

Pumkin Patch!

My garden ended up becoming home to a rouges gallery of critters. I’m cool with that as long as they leave my pumpkin patch alone. For the first time in my life we stand a real chance of having not one but several home-grown pumpkins for Halloween!

Our pie melons, black krim tomatoes and Cherokee moon and stars watermelon are also doing well. Life is good.

New on Patreon: More Episodes of The Down Neck Gazette!

Exclusively for our sponsors we have uploaded more episodes from the archives of The Down Neck Gazette – a video folk music magazine Dear old Dad and I published between 2000 and 2003.

This time we have Mark Cosgrove, Christina Harrison, The Blue Ridge Music Makers Guild, The Charm City Klezmer Band, Andy & Denise and Beard Guitars.

Interviews run from fifteen minutes to an hour.

Tune in at https://www.patreon.com/Dobro33H

If you are not a Patreon sponsor you can still get a taste of The Down Neck Gazette with this clip collection I put together way back in 2002.



The MRI went okay.

There was a guy in the waiting room just as scared as I was. Turned out he was born on Smith Island, just off the shore from Crisfield. We talked about home and prayed together.

Some folks seemed uncomfortable seeing us silently pray together, so we invited them to join us. Nobody took us up on the offer. What a shame.

The test itself was uneventful. Now the restless and fearful wait for the results. I’m not scared for myself. I just worry about my folks.

One the way home I got Dear Old Dad to stop so I could get groceries to make dinner. I made vegetarian lo mein. Dad went back for seconds!

Winding down now. Back to writing tomorrow.

Goodnight and God bless,


Chapter Four!

Chapter four of my book in progress is ready for our sponsors to download on Patreon!
I am writing this book in pencil because neurological issues have made it difficult for me to type. This is the first drat written by me, given a quick edit by Dear Old Dad and posted for your enjoyment.
Dear Old Dad will be giving these chapters a more through edit as he transcribes my Phoenician hen scratches to Word. He will also be recording the audiobook!

We are numbering the chapters as they are written. They will probably appear in a different order in the finished book.

Once the book is finished we will make the ebook edition available to all of our Patreon sponsors.

This chapter is about how I discovered the power of music, and decided to let the Tao carry me like a leaf on a stream to wherever I was supposed to be.

If Patreon is not your thing, there are other ways you can sponsor our work.

A-Writing We Will Go!

Work is going well on the new book. I finished another chapter yesterday!

For reasons my neutologist is trying to sort out, I am having difficulty typing. Rather than give up, I am writing this new book entirely by hand.

I write on Amazonbasics legal pads in pencil. I start out with a large quantity of sharpened pencils point-up in mugs and jars. As they go dull I drop them point-down in an empty container.

I use a shitajiki writing board under the page as I write to keep the pencil point from making an impression on the pages below it.

MUJI erasers work really well for someone who writes with a heavy hand like I do.

The Blackwing sharpener actually makes a difference. It is not fast, but the slow pace adds to my Steinbeckian morning ritual of sharpening enough pencils to get through the day.

Field Notes and Write notepads help me keep my thoughts in order when I have to step away from my desk.


When I finish a chapter I pass it over to Dear Old Dad. He gives it a quick edit and passed it back to me for scanning.

I scan the chapter to post for our Patreon sponsors. They get the raw unprocessed data that will eventually be organized into a complete work.

After I post the chapter I give the pages to Dear Old Dad for transcribing to Word, editing and recording for the audiobook edition.

Dear Old Dad's work station

Pooka has the hard job of keeping me company while I write.


Pooka: “I don’t know what USB is, but I’m going to kill it anyway!”

My infamous Dobro 33H guitar is always close at hand while I am writing. This instrument played such a huge role in my life that it is practically a character in the book!

If this book is ever made into a movie they will probably get whatever is left of Johnny Depp to portray my Dobro 33H guitar.

Dobro 33H

It’s not all pencils, all the time. When I am writing someone directly I like to use my Montblanc pen. The pen was a gift from a friend, and it writes like a dream. I use Mystery Black ink on Tomoe River paper.pen

I have been fighting my computer for a while now, and it had gotten deeply frustrating. Working by hand this way has been liberating. To make things even sweeter, I get to do this with my dad!

The chapters we are posting for our sponsors is a window to the work as we create it. We are inviting you to experience the creating of this work as it happens. We are not hiding Dear Old Dad’s edits or sending out Instagram samples of calligraphy. This is a book in the raw.

If you would like to get involved in this project signing up for Patreon, you could always send us some supplies instead.


  • AmazonBasics Legal Pads I was pleasantly surprised by the paper quality of these pads. I write on them all day and they are just perfect for the way I work.
  • I burn through note pads and notebooks. Field Notes and Write make nice things . Amazonbasics makes a nice Moleskine knockoff for under ten bucks.


Other Stuff

  • AA batteries (for our Zoom H1)
  • Micro SD cards (for out Zoom H1)
  • Seltzer water
  • instant coffee
  • Catnip for Pooka
  • pencil erasers
  • Red pens
  • Post-it Notes
  • Stuff from Archie McPhee

It doesn’t have to be something on this list. Use your imagination. Sent it to the address on our contact page.

Whatever you send, be sure to include your email address so that I can keep you up to date with chapters we have shared.

When the book is finished our sponsors will receive the completed eBook as well as the audiobook, We have to wait until the book is finished before we make definitive printing and publishing plans.

I wish this neurological mess was not happening. I had to stop and come back three times to put this post together, The computer keyboard has gotten so frustrating.

In spite of that I have people helping me work with my father to create a different kind of music book. Even though we encounter new obstacles along the way, we are still on the adventure that began when I accidentally wrote The How and the Tao of Old Time Banjo back in 2003!

Thank you so much for your support and encouragement.

God bless,