Finding His Way
Southern Indiana author Wilson
explores his ‘Pathways of Life’
First-time author says
he wanted to show a simpler time
(July 2014) – Driving south on Indiana State Road 7 into Madison, Ind., it’s easy to miss a sign for a nearly uninhabited town called Wirt. From the road it looks like just one more of the many open fields between Madison and Columbus, Ind. But in the words of author Elbert Wilson of Indianapolis, “It used to be an active little village before they straightened out the highway. Bat your eyes going through there, and you’ll hardly notice it now.”
Wilson, 75, is no stranger to change. He was born at the tail end of the Great Depression in 1935. “Pathways of Life,” his first book, describes his experience growing up on his parents’ southern Indiana farm in a series of autobiographical articles.
“I wrote it to capture a time in history when things were quite different than they are today,” said Wilson. “My grandkids will read it. If some younger kids read it, they’ll have more of an appreciation for what times were like back then.”
A couple of articles are dedicated to Wilson’s brother, a World War II veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He also recognizes his brother-in-law, a 90-year-old Madison resident who also served. Wilson said he has a great deal of respect for World War II veterans, saying, “If there ever was a war that was justified, that one was.”
Wilson’s nostalgia is evident when he speaks of the times “Pathways of Life” reminisces: “We didn’t have electricity until I was in the fifth grade, so my parents were good at improvising. We were self-sustained on our farm, with our own cattle for milk and hogs for butchering and chickens for eggs.”
He tells of Dr. Cristy, who stayed in his family’s home for a week when Wilson’s father was stricken with a heart attack. “Could you think of a doctor doing that today?” he asked.
His stories also run toward humor, such as an unfortunate incident involving his brother, a wad of chewed tobacco and a white 1947 Ford. But the history Wilson’s book covers – war and hard times included – is something that the author believes people should know about.
“Oftentimes when we talk about our country, people take it for granted that we’re always safe. That’s not always true. That was my impetus for writing the book.”
As a first-time author, Wilson chose to navigate the complicated world of publishing with Author Solutions, a Bloomington, Ind.-based self-publishing company and subsidiary of Penguin Random House. Author Solutions released “Pathways of Life” on Sept. 11, 2013. The book is available from Amazon as a paperback and a Kindle e-book.
Village Lights Bookstore in downtown Madison also sells Wilson’s book. Owner Nathan Montoya noted that books published by a small press or through a self-publishing company rarely meet the quality of books that have been through traditional publishing, which perfects a writer’s manuscript before it reaches the public, at least in commercial terms.
Wilson’s book, however, “is charming. It’s not overwritten. His descriptions are full of feeling. He tells of times that were simpler than they are now, and he writes accordingly. We don’t hesitate at all to recommend it.”
Montoya has operated Village Lights for more than five years now with his wife, Anne Vestuto. As managers of an independent bookstore with limited space, they must be selective with their inventory. Although books by local and regional authors are not uncommon sights on their shelves, Montoya said a good book is often difficult to find. “There are a ton of writers, but not a ton that are very good at it,” he added. The storeowners hope Wilson will take part in a local author fair during the Madison Chautauqua weekend this year.
Wilson’s experience with “Pathways of Life” has been sufficiently positive to make him considering writing another book. For now, he looks forward to seeing how readers will connect to his writing.
“I hope young folks as well as old will have some kind of identification with it,” he said.
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