By Dixon Hayes
GADSDEN, AL (WBRC) - Rick Bragg wants young people to talk, not text. He says everyone has a story and young people should appreciate them.
Bragg spoke to high school students in Gadsden this week, part of the "Gadsden Reads" community literacy project. His 2008 memoir, "The Prince of Frogtown," is the project's community read this year. The book is about Bragg's father and his life in nearby Jacksonville, a 30 minute drive from Gadsden.
Bragg told the student that he comes from a long line of storytellers and he's not even the best one...despite his best selling books, and his Pulitzer Prize.
Bragg says he was honored Gadsden chose his book as a community read, saying, "They say that nobody ever recognizes a poet or a writer or someone in their own backyard, the fact that folks in my own backyard have found something good in my books, tickles me to death."
Bragg says he hopes the people who read the book find value in the lives of the people who worked in cotton mills and steel mills, like Gadsden's now-gone Gulf States Steel. He hopes people see value in his father who he describes as a good man, despite being an alcoholic.
"A lot of these lives didn't last very long, my dad's life didn't last very long," Bragg recalls. "And it was tortured and troubled, but there was good in him, and I hope that people see that."
Bragg's career spanned from his time at the Anniston Star and New York Times to his books. He encourages young people to read everything they can, and to talk to each other. He encourages real conversation and told his young audience not to let texting interfere with that.
He also told aspiring writers to start writing now. "Don't wait like I did, until it looks like it's going to be easy."
"Everybody does have a story, and even if you just capture it writing it down on a piece of notebook paper that you stick in a Bible, then it's worth telling."
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