As a child, Dale Forrester was drawn to paper and pencils as if writing had selected him instead of him having chosen to write. His debut novel, “Dime Stores & Dirt Roads — A collection of short stories,” is proof that Forrester, a captivating storyteller, was meant to write.
His sense of humor and heartfelt short stories has drawn comparisons to another Southern writer made famous by his columns for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Lewis Grizzard. Translation: If you enjoy reading Lewis Grizzard, chances are you will love Dale Forrester’s “Dimes Stores & Dirt Roads.”
Like Grizzard, Forrester holds nothing back. He speaks his mind with a sense of humor while challenging the reader to keep up with his wit and commentary that started with a blog about his road trips and ended with a thought-provoking book.
When asked about where his collection of short stories might rank in the homes of book collectors with other literary works, Forrester smiled and responded, “I don’t have visions of coffee tables. I have visions of the back of toilets, and that would be fine. What I’m proud of is that I have produced something that will outlive me. My great-grandchildren can read stories about me, things that happened to me — my thoughts on this and that — there are several stories I wrote that are very deep. Some are humorous, some are sad, some are reflections, some are nostalgic, some are my political views and the way my views have changed over the years.
“My attention span is about 60 seconds at the most. For me to actually read a book is very difficult. But I can read short stories — 700, maybe 1,500-word stories — that’s pretty easy for anyone to read. So the way I see it is I have 36 chances to impress you with my short stories. That’s how many stories are in the book.”
According to Forrester, the book is the result of a blog he started years ago, which was to be “nothing more than an online journal — in essence documenting a road trip I was taking with some buddies out West to lovely Sheridan, Wyoming. The name was actually derived while I was lying in a hospital bed, looking out the window. It was January of 2011 and I was recovering from a 99 percent blockage of the widowmaker — yep, an honest-to-goodness heart attack. I would soon learn that from a medical point of view, I was not supposed to still be here.”
Reflecting long and hard on what had happened, Forrester confessed, “I was at peace, but I felt I had let myself down. I had simply toyed with the gift of life and never took advantage of what it could be. Yes, you can be alive, but not live. Now, I had been given a second chance, a do-over, and this time I wanted to do it better. I had known so many people in my life that did not receive that opportunity. ‘Living My Days’ would be my mantra now. Anything I had put off in life, I would put off no more.”
A few weeks after his heart attack and rehabilitation, Forrester said he took his first road trip, to Birmingham, Ala., for a wedding. Now, the 55-year-old Georgia native travels quite often, explaining, “I don’t say ‘no’ as much as I used to. In the old days someone would say, ‘Hey, let’s go to Nashville!’ I’d say, ‘No. I’ve got to get up early tomorrow.’ Now I don’t say no as much. I started traveling and seeing things I had always wanted to see, also seeing things that had been around me my whole life, but for some reason I had never really seen them before. I tried to talk less and listen more. I tried to be a better person — to just enjoy the moment.”
Forrester said he designed the online blog and made his first entry the night before he and his friends left for their big road trip to Wyoming.
“We set a goal to take a road trip every year,” he said. “We went to Wyoming on a hunting trip. The next year we flew to Chicago, rented an SUV and drove the entire length of route 66 and ended up in Santa Monica (Calif.)! Last year we went on a road trip to Nashville for a Tennessee Titans game. We drove to Memphis and DID Memphis. I love Memphis! I had never heard the blues played live. It will change you if you hear it played live! It was a dirt cheap long weekend. That’s what I now enjoy.”
Thanks to his new book, “Dime Stores & Dirt Roads,” readers can sit back and enjoy a piece of those road trips with Forrester and his friends. But according to Forrester, who owns an advertising agency and graduated from the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga with a bachelor’s in marketing, his book has so much more to enjoy. It is also a collection of what he has done “on and off since the sixth grade.”
“At times, it has eased burdens and helped bury sorrows, when tears just would not do their job. It has brought me joy and brought me laughs,” he said.
The popularity of his blogs along with a reoccurring theme from comments through Facebook, personal emails and messages left on his website made it abundantly clear what his next step was. Everyone was saying, “You need to write a book.” So he did. In its debut just four weeks ago on amazon.com, “Dime Stores & Dirt Roads” shot up to no. 1 in its category, outperforming its competition.
Forrester, however, remained the same. His humility, humor, and wholesome brand of connecting with readers in poignant, poetic and often perceptive ways demonstrates potential for another great American writer to emerge on the literary scene. With a second chance at life, Forrester, also has a second chance to write. His recent road trips may be just the thing to inspire writing about more visits to dirt roads, dime stores and more short stories.
Forrester said he realize he was given a second chance to live his life and determined not to live a life of regret. When asked how he would like to be remembered, he replied that he wants people to know that, “I took advantage of my do-over. I fail some days, but I’m a better person having gone through what I went through. I’m not suggesting everyone should have a heart attack. But for me, I have not gotten over the gift that I was given — a second chance! I hope people will say at the end of my days that ‘He took advantage of his second chance’ — a guy who still finds himself with a childlike sense of wonder has been gifted with the opportunity to keep living my days.”
For further information about the author, visit livingmydays.com. For a copy of “Dime Stores & Dirt Roads — A collection of short stories,” visit amazon.com. A copy can also be purchased at Laura Lou’s Bake Shop at 117 Gordon St., Chickamauga, Ga.