Small Towns, Publicity and Privacy

“Oh my gosh, you’re that lady!”

“I read about you in the newspaper.”

“Hey, you’re a local celebrity.”

“Can I have your autograph for my granddaughters?”


After 5 interviews in a row, some front page coverage and a TV news spotlight, I had become a local phenomena, a celebrity.  Suddenly, people knew who I am and what I’m doing.  In the past, I have been a public spectacle a number of times and occasionally a local celebrity, but I have never been asked for my autograph or treated with such regard.

I’m not sure what to think of this.

On the one hand, I want people to know about Walking Home and join in the fun. On the other hand, I don’t want publicity to radically change the project.  I am worried that a lot of publicity or big national press could take away some of the sweetness I’ve experienced so far. I am afraid that people might help me because they saw me on TV and think I’m famous.

One of the most impressive and wonderful things about this project is all the random kindness from strangers.  People help me because I am a stranger in their town, because a friend called them and asked if they could host me, or because I am a lone woman out on a hot day.  People help me because they are kind and like to help people.

I suppose this won’t change just because of a little publicity.  I suppose I shouldn’t worry over something that hasn’t even happened yet.

But worry I do. This was  a week of worries.  Having a bigger audience has made me self-conscious. Up to now, I’ve felt like I was flying under the radar, floating along, only worrying about where to sleep each night.

Suddenly a lot more people were watching. As my hosts opened up and told me about their lives, passions, and beliefs, I realized that we weren’t in private, that I’d invited an audience into their living room. Their neighbors might be watching and could find something they said to be objectionable.  In the morning, I’d be moving on to the next town, but my hosts wouldn’t.  I’m glad that people feel comfortable telling me about their political beliefs and personal lives.  Now and then, I remind them that we are on camera.  I hope that my being there doesn’t create problems for them, or, at least, that it opens more doors than it shuts.

After all, this project is about hearing people’s stories, about seeing what america is like in the 21st century.  So far, I’m impressed. There is more diversity of ideas, beliefs and peoples than I expected to find in the middle of the country.  Instead of worrying about other people’s prejudices, it seems like it is my own I need to worry about…



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4 Responses to Small Towns, Publicity and Privacy

  1. Elizabeth Miller says:

    Success and celebrityhood are both two-edged swords, and often connected. It’s another way the journey affects the journey, and to an extent, transforms it. Little you can do about it, except keep writing honestly, as you have all along. I admit the concern occurred to me early on; as you are more successful, those who shelter you and exchange stories also become more exposed. I have successfully (!) dodged a number of such encounters, and, being a private person, realised just after you began this endeavor that I would not be able to be a part of it, which made me a bit sad. I have one question for you: Has anyone ever declined on those grounds?

  2. Linda says:

    As I was traveling south of King City, MO this afternoon we saw you as you were traveling on northward. I had read of you in the morning St Joseph Newspress and was able to tell my 11 and 9 year granddaughters about you. That conversation lasted for several more miles. We wanted to know if you were coming in to Stanberry? If so we would be honored to host you. Take care.

  3. Roxanne says:

    We will all continue to watch over you, Laura. My dad asked about you, where you are, and how you are. I brought him home from the hospital today, so I too had a worrisome week but both my daughters were home for the weekend and that made me a very, very happy momma!

    I will call you soon!

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