Taking a look into a region’s past can be as important as looking toward the future.
Eric M. Smith of Tylersville realized this while working as a reporter for both the Williamsport Sun-Gazette and the Lock Haven Express.
He said that as a reporter, he enjoyed getting to know the people and places that are the make-up of central Pennsylvania. Learning this history eventually led to the inspiration of a recently released Arcadia postcard history book, “Images of America: Clinton County.”
“Much of what I had covered had to do with the local history, and I found compiling this book and opportunity to learn more about Clinton County, and to share what I’ve found with others,” Smith said.
Smith said that he got his start in writing with “terrible poetry in high school as a hobby — mostly moody teen angst ramblings.”
“I continued to write terrible poetry as an English major at Mansfield University. Perhaps by that time, it wasn’t so terrible as much as it was just plain awful,” Smith said. “Stubborn, I transferred to Purdue University and became a creative writing major.”
After realizing that poetry was not what he wished to pursue, Smith said he started to focus on fiction. After college, he decided to try and use writing as a career, and headed down to his hometown newspaper.
“I was essentially laughed out of the office for having a creative writing degree and not a journalism degree,” Smith said. “But as fate would have it, a reporter at a branch entity, the Westfield Free Press Courier, quit with no notice, leaving a vacancy that had to be filled immediately.”
Smith explained that six months later he took a job with the Sun-Gazette, where he served mainly as an education reporter, and then began freelancing for other daily papers in Pennsylvania and Indiana, including the Lock Haven Express.
“I had the chance to get to know many of the county’s residents and became familiar with the places and general history.”
Smith said that with “Images of America: Clinton County,” he was contacted by local author and former Sun-Gazette staffer Robin Van Auken, who had planned to write a book on Clinton County history but found the travel back and forth difficult because she had other projects going on.
“Robin encouraged me to write a proposal, and after I did and submitted it to Arcadia Publishing, it was accepted,” Smith said.
Wanting to reach a broad audience, Smith hoped the book would be valuable to those looking to start an acquaintance with the history of Clinton County, and have value for the people who have an immense historical knowledge of the county.
Smith formatted the book so the chapter introductions are thumbnails designed for familiarizing the reader with the county’s history, but he said the photos also should be useful for documentation on a deeper level.
Composing the thumbnail chapter introductions was the most familiar and favorite part of the process, he said
He found that the hardest part of writing, compiling and organizing the book was finding the time and maintaining a discipline to stay focused.
“I think that writing a book can be something that you pace and enjoy, but when you have a contract and a deadline before the book is written, you have to keep a brisk pace in order to make it to the finish line,” Smith said. “For me, this meant giving up my weekends and some weeknights.”
Smith hopes the book will create an appreciation for the hard work and efforts of the area librarians, curators and historians.
“(I hope) it will be an appetizer for a full-course meal best served up at Annie Halenbake Ross Library, Lock Haven University’s Stevenson Library and the Clinton County Historical Society,” Smith said. “Without these places, there would be no book, and it is the work of the librarians, curators and historians that made my job easier.”
He also hopes the book will serve as a resource for understanding a general historical framework of Clinton County and that it will answer some of the questions about why things are the way they are and what life was like in other times.
“I hope it will contain significant images that will find it a place on the bookshelves of those who will treasure it,” Smith said. “But, I mainly hope it will foster a genuine interest in Clinton County, its history and its people.”
“Images of America: Clinton County” retails for $19.99 and is available at the bookstores listed above as well as online at barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com.