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Balancing busy with passion

Let's talk a bit about Beyond The Trestle and what's to come for us in the next few weeks and months


Insomnia is a funny thing.

You see, I haven’t slept terribly well since the beginning of the pandemic. Unending anxiety and existential dread can do that to you. And, while the restless nights often left me dragging in the morning, those middle-of-the-night hours where I’m awake do wonders for helping you think creatively and get organized for the day ahead.

It was one of those sleepless nights last June that I got the idea for this website.

Having returned to my writing roots as a freelancer, I was busy thinking of all the stories I wanted to tell but hadn’t been able to for so long. At the top of the list was compiling an oral history of a 1995 boys high school basketball game between Thomson and Westside. For 25 years, I have relished in being able to share that story with folks, talking about how I was one of 5,000-plus people to watch four future professional players duel in a double overtime game with a berth in the state tournament on the line between two nationally ranked teams.

One wins and makes it in. One loses and the season is over.

It’s a funny thing, though. It promised to be a compelling read, but you wouldn’t believe the responses I’d get when I was pitching a 3,000-word oral history on a high school basketball game in Augusta, Georgia from a quarter-century ago. Most folks weren’t even interested in 500 words.

Well, the more I thought about it, the more I thought “I’ll just publish it on my own personal site.”

And then, the more I thought about that, the more I began to think about all these great sports stories that really had no home. Stories about the places, moments and culture of sports in the South that surely were interesting, but didn’t fit neatly into most of the existing platforms.

That next morning, I pitched the idea to Joe VanHoose, and he loved it. He wanted to write about dirt tracks and racing in small towns. Then, I pitched it to Marc Lancaster, and his response was a lengthy email full of story ideas and a closing line of “if you can’t tell, I like this idea … a lot.”

So, we built Beyond The Trestle.

We’re a little more than half a year into this venture, and we’ve enjoyed every minute of it. From the beginning, it’s been a passion project for Joe, Marc and I, and it’s one we don’t intend to give up. And the modest success we’ve enjoyed has directly been connected to your response to what we’ve been doing.

We’ve got more than 270 free email subscribers, as well as more than 30 Patreon supporters. Our desire to keep sharing interesting stories, essays and interviews is all because of the kindness and appreciation you’ve shown us. We’re grateful for it.

You’re probably waiting for a “but …” here, right?

Well, there is one, but it’s not as bad as you might think!

As the past few months have progressed, the three of us have just gotten busier. The thing about passion projects is they’re about passion, not about profit. The latter has started to come to us through a variety of professional ventures we’ve been able to explore both collaboratively and independently.

One of those collaborative initiatives has been something that Joe and I have cleverly named the Trestle Collective, which is a network of creative folks who can “plug and play” to help with any projects. When the pandemic fell upon us and I was confronted with a job change last March, I’m not sure I had “start your own communications shop” on my Bingo card, but here we are.

(Inserts shameless plug for being available to help out if y’all need it.)

And we’ve been busy, which is great! But busy with Trestle Collective means less time for Beyond The Trestle, which has been a challenge for us. We’re taking steps to address that because, more importantly, we have no plans to get rid of it. 

We love the site. We love writing. And we love y’all.

It will, however, require us to re-examine how we manage it moving forward. So here are a few potential changes coming your way during the next few weeks and months:

Some modifications to publishing 

As of now, we’re been striving to publish an original work every Monday, with a newsletter for our Patreon supporters going out on Thursday. With an increasing workload for all of us, we’re considering modifying that to an as-needed basis. It doesn’t mean we’re quitting. Instead, it means you’ll get something original from us published at various times throughout the month. 

This enables us to put our focus on using our free time to develop interesting pieces for you rather than the three of us scramble on a Saturday afternoon with frantic text messages that center around “Holy crap, are you writing the story for this week.”

Think quality over quantity.

Some changes to the type of content being shared

This has overwhelmingly been a site focused on the craft of writing. However, as the pandemic begins to recede, the opportunities for storytelling begin to change. As such, we’ve had some conversations about sharing video content in the coming weeks. We’ve kicked around ideas that focus on visual storytelling for some of Georgia’s most iconic sports venues, a closer look at the importance of municipal golf courses in the South and possibly a podcast (though, yes, we know lots of folks do podcasts these days).

Videography also would enable us to bring in some new storytellers to the mix, which is exciting for all of us. Speaking of that …

Some new voices in the mix

One thing we’ve wanted to do from the beginning is be a place where writers can write (though perhaps we should clarify that to be a place where storytellers can tell stories). We’ve had some conversations with some folks who are interested in sharing essays on what it was like to be a reporter during the pandemic, and the stresses and pressures it caused. We also have some story ideas that align with some of the folks we’ve worked with in the past few months and want to work with in the coming months.

More voices means more perspective, more context and more richness in our storytelling, so we’re looking for folks. Thanks to the support of our Patreon community, we’ve got a little bit of money put aside to make it marginally worth your while, so if you’ve got an idea, feel free to pitch us!

So, what’s next?

Well, we’re going to keep on doing what we’ve been doing. When we have time and a great story, we’re going to share it. If we’re busy, hopefully we’ll have a contributor who can share their thoughts and stories with you. 

And we do have some interesting things we’re working on. I’m currently compiling an oral history on the Trail Creek spill that happened in Athens, Georgia a little more than 10 years ago. I’ve got a few Q-and-As and profiles I’m hoping to work on in the next few weeks. With shots going into arms and cases coming down, Joe’s eager to get back out and start writing about the state of racing in Georgia.

It’s been a fun journey so far, and just because we’re changing a few things up doesn’t mean the journey has come to end. We’re still making our way, and everyone knows that’s really the best part.

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Johnathan McGinty has worked in sports journalism and sports public relations for the past 20 years. If there's an opportunity to put together an oral history on something, he'll find a way to do it.