The latest and greatest on CNN iReport, brought to you by Team iReport.
Ashley (pictured with her brother, Brantley) poses at a recent piano recital.
Eight-year-old Ashley Taylor thinks a big fuss is being made over nothing about the hurricane behavior rules she left for her stuffed animals.
Taylor lives with her brother, her parents, her fish and about 50 stuffed animals in Mandeville, Louisiana, which was in Tropical Storm Isaac’s path. She just wanted to make sure her plush pals were safe while she and her brother and mom rode out the storm at her grandparents’ house in Alabama.
“I love my stuffed animals,” she told me. “They’re like the only friends that I have on my block.” (She has plenty of friends, just not nearby, according to her mom.)
Ashley's dad, Greg, stayed behind during the storm and found the white board with the rules when he went into her room to feed the fish. He shot a photo, posted it on iReport, and from there it became an Internet sensation, getting reposted on Yahoo, AOL and other sites.
Lots of people (especially Team iReport) thought the rules were adorable. A few people questioned whether she actually wrote the rules (she confirmed she did) and a few (including Ashley and her mom) wondered why CNN cared about such a silly picture.
I talked to Ashley this morning from her Gammy and Pawpaw’s house in Mobile, Alabama. She said the rules "just came to me." I asked her why she prohibited parties (Rule #4) and she told me, "Because they’ll mess up my room and then my mom will get mad at me." She said she thinks her friends are behaving, and she's a little bit embarrassed about all the attention.
As of Thursday morning, she was doing well at her grandparents' house. The family is waiting for the power to come back on in Mandeville.
"I wish my fish was here and my dad was here and my animals were here."
Due to a technical malfunction this afternoon, the page views on recently uploaded iReports are not updating properly. Our tech team is aware of the issue and working to fix it. So if you see an iReport that has comments but zero page views, that's why.
We hope to have the problem resolved soon. As always, if you have a question or concern about iReport you can email email@example.com.
UPDATE: [9:45 p.m. ET] The issue has been resolved. Thanks for your patience!
Thanks to everyone who attended Thursday’s Facebook chat/roundtable on astrophotography! It was great to talk to so many of you interested in shooting images of space and stars.
Our special guest, Jay GaBany, had plenty of advice for iReporters. Here are just a few of the highlights:
1. The basics
“The basic equipment needed for astrophotography is a good tripod and a DSLR camera or a camera that enables you to take long exposures (at least 30 seconds).”
2. Astrophotography is best outside the city
“Light pollution is a big problem and I recommend that you drive away from the city if possible. If that is not practical, then aim for the highest part of the sky. This is where light pollution is at its lowest. Neutral density filters will not remove light pollution. In fact, it will make the stars appear dimmer to the camera sensor.”
3. What about iPhones?
“iPhones are great for taking pictures of people and places you visit, but iPhones are not capable of taking long enough exposures to capture stars. However, it should be possible to hold your iPhone up to a telescope eyepiece and take an image of the moon.”
4. Top telescopes
“I recommend Meade or Celestron telescopes for beginners. They have (relatively) inexpensive instruments that can track the stars as they move through the heavens. You can attach a camera and take pictures of the planets!”
5. When to practice what you’ve learned next
“Here's some night sky events that are coming up.
“October 20, 21 - Orionids Meteor Shower. The Orionids is an average shower producing about 20 meteors per hour at their peak.
“November 13 - Total Solar Eclipse. The path of totality will only be visible in parts of extreme northern Australia and the southern Pacific Ocean. A partial eclipse will be visible in most parts of eastern Australia and New Zealand.
“November 17, 18 - Leonids Meteor Shower. The Leonids is one of the better meteor showers to observe, producing an average of 40 meteors per hour at their peak. The shower usually peaks on November 17 & 18, but you may see some meteors from November 13 - 20."
And one more thing…
“Here's a tip for composing your next sky picture- include something on the ground such as a tree or building. It results in a very interesting picture because it gives people some they can recognize.”
Thanks to GaBany for all the great feedback! We look forward to your future shots of the heavens!
Join us (as well as the CNN Light Years blog) today at 2:30 p.m. ET for a special Facebook edition of our roundtable, with R. Jay GaBany, one of the world’s leading amateur astrophotographers.
Jay will answer your questions about celestial photography and share his tips for how to get the best brag-worthy snapshots of meteor showers, the Milky Way and the night sky using minimal equipment.
Once again, we’re trying our roundtable on Facebook this week, so go there to take part. Also, we’ll be focused on space photography this week, so if you have any other questions, please post here in the comments or send one of us a private message. See you on Facebook!
When CNN Radio's Embed America got its start the idea was simple: let's cover the election from the vantage point of the people and the issues that really matter. Simple enough. Then came the task of narrowing down the important issues and also finding voices that bring them to life. That's where the iReport community played a huge role.
iReporters gave us both the issues and the voices. This is a community that knows what they care about and can explain why complex issues like energy policy matter.
ENERGY IN HOPEDALE, OHIO
One night, after hearing yet another disparaging comment made about coal miners, iReporter Amanda Sedgmer sat at her computer and penned a passionate letter. "The real story is the 'war on coal,'" Sedgmer wrote, "and it needs to be in the spotlight. It affects everyone."
The nearly 9,000 comments on our report featuring Sedgmer's family brought the divide on coal and energy policy into sharp focus. She was right; this is an issue that impacts a broad swath of America.
Sedgmer and the five other iReporters we visited were from diverse backgrounds and scattered across the country. They all cared about different things but they all shared an excitement and a desire to be heard.
PARTISANSHIP IN AURORA, COLORADO
Jessie Fraunfelder and his family have faced tough economic circumstances recently and have had to cut back. But Fraunfelder won't give up staying informed and contributing to iReport. We visited Fraunfelder at his home in Aurora, Colorado, the day after the deadly movie theater shooting. This election year, Fraunfelder is concerned about partisanship. He rattles off recent votes and issues that illustrate his point. "If we worked 5% of the time and 80% of the time we said: 'We're either not going to vote, we're going to scream at each other or not do our job at all.' What would happen to us?" he asked, referring to his view of our elected officials. “Would we be fired? I think so." Fraunfelder said he hoped the shooting would prompt another opportunity for people to come together. Community, or lack thereof, continues to define this election cycle.
EDUCATION IN EAST ST. LOUIS, ILLINOIS
In East St. Louis, iReporter Louis Jones told us about another issue facing his community: the lack of decent education. Jones went to private school but many of his peers attended schools that he said seemed like little more than a "day care center." Education has not been a big campaign issue, and that bothers Jones. The way he sees it, there are many small things that could improve education, like allowing students to evaluate teachers. "I feel like teacher evaluations by the student, and looking at their academic record, I'm pretty sure you can tell a good teacher from a bad teacher."
SMALL BUSINESS IN MURDOCK, MINNESOTA
Jannet Walsh's issue has been on the minds and lips of many Americans this election cycle. She's concerned about small businesses and jobs. Walsh is no stranger to CNN. She participated in the iReport Awards and she's been interviewed by Clark Howard, but having CNN come to her was a completely different experience. Life is different in small towns like hers and she thinks it's important that people know the unique challenges people around the country face. Walsh has hung her shingle in her family's hometown of Murdock, Minnesota, and urges the candidates to think about new ways to structure the economy and make sure people across the country have what they need to be successful.
INCARCERTATION RATES IN ST. FRANCIS, SOUTH DAKOTA
Rose Bear Robe also lives in a small town, St. Francis, South Dakota, but her issue is way off the candidates' radar. Bear Robe wrote into iReport hoping to save her son from what she sees as a broken judicial system. "We need to make our voice heard about the disparities in the federal/state judicial system," she wrote. "Please consider this article a plea for help." Visiting the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, many problems are readily apparent. Over 80% of the community is unemployed and locals trade tales of abuse and neglect. Despite all these issues, Bear Robe and her family choose to share their stories and open their doors in the hope that things will change on the reservation.
HEALTH CARE IN MAYFLOWER, ARKANSAS
Janet Copeland also shared a very personal story with iReport. For her, the big issue is health care. She wrote to iReport about how she's draining her life savings to pay insurance premiums, "This is far from right," she wrote. For this reason, Copeland supports President Obama and his signature health care overhaul. But visiting Copeland's household illustrates how the issue is playing out on the campaign trail. That's because Copeland's household, much like the nation, is divided on the issue of health care. Richard Copeland, Janet's husband is opposed to the law and the will vote for Mitt Romney. "I did not like the way it was shoved down our throats," he said.
Working with and interviewing iReporters enabled us to tell complicated stories about health care, partisanship, small business, education, energy and incarceration rates. The combination of their passion, their stories, and our ability to visit with them and report on their issues in-depth made for an Embed project that covered many pressing topics left off the campaign trail. But we're not done! Let us know what’s on your mind this election year. Share your stories and concerns with iReport, and you could be part of CNN’s continuing election coverage.
- Post written by CNN Radio Associate Producer Emma Lacey-Bordeaux
Dear friends of iReport,
Allow me to call your attention to a small but important update we just made to the About Us page. You’ll note that the name at the top of the “Meet Team iReport” list is now Katie Hawkins-Gaar. That’s right! She’s running the iReport show, folks, and she’s going to be fabulous.
Meanwhile, I’ll be turning my attention to a new gig that has me looking after all things social for CNN. iReport naturally will be part of that, so I won’t be very far away. And let’s face it, I probably won’t ever be able to resist joining the latest iReport photography challenge.
Here’s to good things for iReport and beyond.
P.S. That's me (left) and Katie in the photo, beaming and ever-so-slightly crazy-eyed at the iReport Awards ceremony this spring.
Last week, we closed the iReport Political Ticket Contest, which invited people to send in submissions explaining why CNN should send them to Tampa or Charlotte for the 2012 political conventions. In total, we received more than 200 entries from people all over the U.S.
We have now received the judges' votes, and are ready to name the six lucky winners -- very soon. CNN's Brooke Baldwin will introduce them on TV this Friday during her show (barring any unforeseen breaking news) and the CNN Press Room blog will also publish the winners that day.
We can't wait to share the exciting news. Stay tuned for the big reveal!
UPDATE: Big congrats to iReporters Alex Anderson, Matt Sky, and Elizabeth Lauten, who will report from the Republican National Convention, and Omekongo Dibinga, Melissa Fazli, and Willie Harris, who will join CNN at the Democratic National Convention. We can't wait to see your stories!
Byron Thomas seems like an unlikely political lightning rod, but the polite, soft-spoken Southerner has a knack for stirring up passionate debates here on iReport.
When Thomas argued earlier this month that it was wrong to call gold medal-winning gymnast Gabby Douglas an African-American because she represented the United States and not Africa, the conversation quickly spread around the Internet.
His iReport inspired writers at The Washington Post, BET.com and other blogs to publish columns challenging his views. Thomas hadn't seen the articles, but said he wasn't surprised that they disagreed with him.
Thomas said he's always been outspoken – last year he fought with his college housing department for the right to hang a Confederate flag in his dorm room. "People have died for me to have my freedom of speech, so why shouldn't I use it?" Thomas asked.
He says that a lot of people assume that he's studying political science, because of his strong views, but he is interested in a different kind of storm. The 20-year-old student at the University of South Carolina Beaufort, plans to be a meteorologist and then get his doctorate in climatology so he can study global warming.
"I've always wanted to storm chaser," he said. That's always been a dream of mine."
That important question was at the heart of a Q&A on the New York Times’ Lens blog yesterday, and is the focus of the blog I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist. It’s also a question that undoubtedly affects iReporters and citizens around the world.
The short answer in the Times' piece is no, it’s not a crime in the United States. Regardless, it seems more and more often we hear stories of photographers being arrested or stopped from capturing images in public. In particular, such incidents occurred during the Occupy Wall Street movement last year, when photographers – professional and amateur – documented the protests and clashes between demonstrators and police.
Press freedom is, of course, incredibly important to us here at CNN iReport. We believe that anyone should be allowed to document the news that's important to them, and share those images with others.
The Q&A with Mickey H. Osterreicher, general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association, includes some important tips on photographers’ rights and how best to protect yourself if you’re part of an encounter with officials. We’ve highlighted some of the best below:
You have the right to take photos in public. However, it’s always a good idea to stay out of the way of action, especially when dealing with police or tense situations, explains Ostereicher. “You want to be invisible. You get in, you get out, nobody gets hurt,” he advised. “You do your job, and that’s what your main responsibility is. It’s not to become the news story. Be respectful, be polite, act professional.” iReporter David Fowler did an excellent job of following this rule when he documented a police standoff with a knife-wielding citizen in Times Square from afar earlier this week.
If you’re stopped by an officer, stay calm. Osterricher encourages photographers to be cooperative and respectful with police, and try to find a different angle to capture the scene. “The last thing you want to do is stand around arguing with somebody while the images you want to take disappear.”
It’s okay to take photos of people in public. “If you’re in public, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy,” Osterricher explained. That said, it’s always a good rule of thumb to respect people’s privacy. If someone asks to not be photographed, try and oblige them, he adds. And here on iReport, we don’t approve identifiable photos of minors unless the photographer has obtained permission from the parent first.
You can check out the rest of the Q&A on the New York Times’ Lens blog. And be sure to let us know what you think about the piece in the comments below. We’d love to continue the conversation.
iReporters made their wishes known last week about whom GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney should pick as his running mate. Since then, we asked those same iReporters to share their thoughts on the decision to go with Rep. Paul Ryan. Most agree that Ryan has changed the campaign, that he will energize the Republican base, and quite possibly the Democratic base as well.
Sam Otto got exactly what he wanted. The 16-year-old Romney supporter was pulling for fellow Wisconsinite Ryan to run for vice president, the only iReporter to do so last week.
“[Ryan] brings with him experience and ideas to appeal to voters and to help present himself and Mitt Romney as a clear alternative to Obama. Thus hopefully turning this into a substantive debate.”
Otto, of course, is a few years younger than the bloc of voters that the GOP hope to recapture from President Obama in November with Ryan.
Geoffrey Phillips was one of several iReporters to make a public plea with Romney to pick former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Phillips even took part in a debate with Otto over Skype, so he took the time to research Ryan beforehand.
The political moderate from Cotati, California said that he saw Ryan’s Medicare reform as a possible drawback, but the more he looked into Ryan, he was impressed with his tenacity.
“I love that, that’s exactly what we need,” he said. “He is the Obama attack dog.”
Phillips said he is ready to support Ryan.
Others like conservatives Kathi Cordsen of Fullerton, California, and Vernon Hill of Morehead City, North Carolina – Rice fans both – were on board with the Ryan candidacy.
Cordsen described herself as “fired up” after hearing Romney speak on Saturday, at the first event where Ryan was introduced.
“I am not into politics so what he said really got to me,” she said. 'The Romney/Ryan ticket could give us the chance to get America back to its glory.”
Hill was also excited for Ryan, calling him a “different breed of politician.”
“He is honest, does not play games, and his ego does not lead him.”
Rick Huffman of Saint Joseph, Michigan was hoping that Sen. Marco Rubio might be on the ticket. Despite that, he was heartened to see Ryan get the nod.
"With him next to Romney, my hopes are even higher that Romney will win this election,” he said.
On the other hand, the more left-leaning Matt Sky of New York felt Romney’s smartest pick would have been former Gov. Tim Pawlenty. The choice of Ryan, he said, “changes the conversation.” (It’s a feeling shared by independent iReporter Gretchen Essenmacher of Punta Gorda, Florida, who theorized that Ryan could drive some voters to Obama: "I think people may fear what they assume Romney/[Ryan] would mean.")
Sky said that Pawlenty would not energize Obama’s base as much as Ryan. At the same time, he said that Romney’s base is also energized (and the pro-Romney iReporters seem to bear that out).
“We have very articulate, intelligent candidates across the board, so I think we can expect a fascinating, very unique election year, not about personality or popularity points, but one of substance.”
Check out more views on Ryan here, and join the conversation.
How do Olympic photographers get those great shots?
For two days in London, budding sports photographers got the chance to learn tips of the trade from professional photographers in iReport's "From Human to Hero" master class, in association with Nikon. More than 200 people attended the classes, held over at the Getty Image gallery as the city buzzed from the biggest sporting event on the planet: The Olympic Games.
I was lucky enough to tag along to see how the class came together, to get some tips and to spread the word about iReport! The attendees hailed from diverse backgrounds – I met a local school librarian, a pair of Formula One racing enthusiasts and an IT developer who, as a former athlete, was keen to cover the sports he had once enjoyed competing in.
In the class, expertise levels ranged from enthusiastic amateurs to skilled participants armed with the latest technology.
Many of the participants had already sent in wonderful pictures to our master class iReport assignment, capturing events as exotic and far ranging as triathletes in San Francisco to four-by-four mud racing in New Zealand.
Photographer Tom Miles, who conducted some of the sessions, said he was "really impressed" with the level of expertise and willingness to learn among the students.
"I hope they take away an increased skill base in sports photography and will be happy with the results they produce," he said. "Some could go on to do stuff that could be used for sites such as CNN in the future."
Miles stressed the importance of preparation, such as researching events from access to lighting needs, checking weather conditions and preparing the right kit. He said above all, it was important to be completely prepared to take the shot. If you're not, he warned, you miss the story.
He also emphasized the importance not just of the technical side of photography, but of the professional ways of behaving that will serve enthusiasts better when it comes to producing quality sports photography.
"The technical side you can learn quickly, but attitude is different, that will take you further than being good at handling a camera," he said.
As attendees swapped tips with each other and asked Nikon experts on hand for advice, I managed to secure a few promises from attendees that they'd send in some great photos to iReport. We're looking forward to seeing them!
Are you a shutterbug or sports photography enthusiast? You can also still send in your submissions to our sports photography master class assignment, which closes August 15th.
Submit your best shots and CNN sports photography experts will provide feedback on a selection of iReports. The most compelling images will be featured in a photo gallery for CNN.com
This week we put out a few fixes and changes to the site that you should know about:
* Share buttons restructured: We're introducing a new way to share your favorite iReports on the emerging G+ network with a Google plus sharing button. To give it some breathing room, we moved the Facebook recommend button just underneath the headline.
* iReporter info module redesigned: Profile pages got a nice nip and tuck in the area of iReporters' avatar and personal info. The change makes the area more concise and compact so you don't have to scroll so much -- you're welcome, fingers.
* Our embeded video player also got some love on this round of tech updates. Now you can see a higher quality thumbnail preview of the video before you decide to play it. No more blurriness!
We're also looking into a few things on the site:
* Upload issues: We're taking a good hard look at how to make the upload process faster and more reliable.
* Disappearing comments: We've been alerted to the fact that some comments appear to be disappearing from stories and blog posts. We're looking into the cause and hope to have a fix soon.
As always, we're all ears on how to make your experience better on iReport.com. Let me know in the comments if you already have something in mind or if you come across a brilliant idea later, shoot me a PM.
London has been the most extraordinary city to live in for the past couple of weeks.
The atmosphere has been remarkable, a city so focused on drive, on speed, on "go go go" has taken a step back, breathing in what it is like to be an Olympic city.
London streets are filled with Olympians, fans and tourists. Right now, it's a perfectly normal sight to see athletes from scores of different countries. They proudly wear their team tracksuits on the Tube, share buses with nationalities from the Netherlands to Nigeria and give directions to fans wearing elaborate costumes of their homeland. In my case, a Dutch fan dressed inexplicably as a banana!
iReporters are also experiencing the action, documenting the sights and sounds of everything Olympic. Needless to say, it has been the perfect opportunity to reach out to the global iReport community. It has been incredible to see established iReporters and newcomers to the site rise to the occasion and the spirit of the games by sending in photos and videos of the events, celebrations, commiserations and the sheer joy of being with hundreds of different nationalities.
It's impossible to pick favorites from so much quality content, but it was great to see iReporter Misael Runcon send in the most wonderful images of himself, his son, and his colleagues celebrating Dominican sprint sensation Felix Sanchez's 400m victory. New iReporter Richard Gough sent in a beautifully contemplative interview with a Methodist pastor ruminating on art and the Games. And Nigerian superfan Ebube Ahiarakwe sent iReport a delightful image of himself in the famous "Bolt" pose after the Jamaican wonder sprinter Usain Bolt. iReport's Open Story on the Olympics features these stories along with other great content from almost a dozen nations, and has more stories coming in everyday.
The famous 18th century English writer Samuel Johnson once wrote that "when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life." At the moment, with the city pulsing with the energy of the Games, it seems like he was on to something.
When Kyleigh Kuhn looked upon the horizon while visiting her family in San Rafael, California, she couldn’t believe her eyes.
“I was watching the white plume of smoke get larger than normal. I pointed it out to our family and friends and right then was when black smoke began billowing out. The big black plume started to look almost like a mushroom cloud,” she described. “We were uncertain whether something exploded or not. My brother's eyes got very red even though we were quite far away from the smoke.”
Smoke from the fire, which began at a massive Chevron refinery in Richmond, California, could be seen from many vantage points in the Bay Area and iReporters shared their views of it.
Susan Coopersmith got several shots from the view of a kayak from nearby Richardson Bay. “I couldn't smell or feel it. I didn't know what had happened but I knew it was big because the plume was huge,” she said.
Jason Wells was photographing a house in Novato, California, when he saw a dark cloud in the sky out of the corner of his eye. “I took another look and saw thick black smoke rising from across the bay. I know that's where the Chevron oil refinery is so I grabbed my camera and took a shot.”
iReporter Jordon Nesbitt got a closer look at the smoke plume, which he described as a “black cloud of hell.”
“I took this photo minutes after 6 p.m., when the first big cloud rose in the air. If you look close, you could see the balls of flames jumping in the air.”
There might be long-term repercussions for California’s economy, and Chevron itself has faced harsh criticism from Richmond residents according to CNN affiliate KGO. Richmond mayor Gayle McLaughlin has demanded an investigation into the incident.
Thanks to all of the iReporters shared on-the-ground images and first reports. Is there breaking news near you? Share your photos, videos and stories with iReport.
iReporter Matt Zieminski caused quite a firestorm last week when he announced, "I'm gay and I support Chick-fil-A."
Zieminski's essay explaining his point of view on the Chick-fil-A same-sex marriage controversy, which erupted when CEO Dan Cathy made public his views against same-sex marriage, received 145,000 page views and nearly 700 comments. A follow-up piece got almost 150,000 views. What was it about this 19-year-old's proclamation that hit home for so many people?
For one thing, he disagreed with the two main camps. "I've noted that many liberals frame the issue as Chick-fil-A [supporting] anti-gay hate groups and the conservatives frame it as liberals and gays attacking an organization's right to freedom of speech merely because the company doesn't share the same beliefs," he wrote. "In a sense both parties are wrong."
Zieminski's message to both sides was simple: open your minds and pick your battles. "I fully support same-sex marriage... Yet for all my support, I do not try to force someone to believe in my lifestyle or my goals," he wrote. "The only thing that I ask for, and that I hope people realize the LGBT movement asks for, is acceptance and understanding."
The teen, who describes himself as liberal, encouraged people on both sides of the Chick-fil-A battle to remain civil and try to see the other side's point of view. He said that even though he disagrees with Cathy's stance on same-sex marriage, he's never been treated badly in a Chick-fil-A restaurant, so he'll continue to eat there unless he is.
As commenters debated Zieminski's argument, we continued to receive floods of iReports from people with a wide range of views on the Chick-fil-A controversy. From supporters of the restaurant insisting it's a freedom of speech issue to dissenters saying they have a responsibility to confront bigotry, iReporters weren't afraid to tell us what they thought. Thank you for making your voices heard!
Have opinions on other issues you'd like us to hear? Join the iReport Debate and sound off on everything that's important to you this election season.
We always love when iReporters issue their own challenges to the community. And this week, we had a great one.
On Monday, Atlanta photographer Dan Smigrod shared his photo of a couple relaxing on a beach in St. Simons Island – as a waterspout headed towards them.
It was a perfect “caption this” opportunity, and Smigrod jumped in the comments to invite iReporters to offer their suggestions.
As captions trickled in, he stayed on the site, engaging with the commenters in a fun way with an impromptu and might we say, spout-tacular caption writing conversation.
He even offered his own: "Who is dumber? The couple watching this dangerous force of nature or the photographer over our shoulder taking our picture?"
Here are a few of our favorites:
“Uh, honey I’m not sure this is really the best way to get back to Oz.” -- realityczech
“We got one of the nicest spots on the beach and we ain’t leaving for NOTHING!” -- Aeromechanic
“Let’s sit back and enjoy the show.” -- 1winky
Which one won the contest? Place your vote in the comments, or offer your own caption suggestion.
World traveler Neal Moore let us follow along with him on iReport when he made his solo canoe trip down the Mississippi River in 2009, so we were really excited when his new book about the journey arrived in the mail.
"Down the Mississippi: A Modern-Day Huck on America's River Road" chronicles Moore's five-month journey from its source at Lake Itasca in Minnesota to New Orleans, Louisiana. He made the trip because he wanted to find and tell positive stories about the people living along the river.
Mark Twain and his iconic character Huckleberry Finn were a big influence on the project -- his co-author Dr. Cindy Lovell is the executive director of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum in Hannibal, Missouri.
Moore's been living in Taiwan, but is back in the United States to promote the book. We were able to catch up with him by email to ask him about the project.
What are you doing now that your book is out? Are you doing book tours or anything like that?
Yes, my co-author, Dr. Cindy Lovell, and myself are currently out promoting the launch of the book here in the States (as a bit of a mini-tour). I did a book release in Oxford, Mississippi. We just launched the book in Hannibal, and we'll be taping a segment for NPR/St. Louis Public Radio.
Where do you live these days?
I'm moving back to Cape Town, South Africa, this coming week, a gem of a city I've lived in, off and on, for the past twenty years.
How long did it take to write the book?
The book took two years to complete from the time my co-author and myself began, just following the completion of my Mississippi River canoe journey in late 2009. In the book, Dr. Lovell conjures up Twain's words directly into the text. So you've got the physical journey, the stories of the towns, and Twain, who encourages, reprimands, and comments on the characters encountered all along the way.
What part did iReport play?
iReport has given me the platform to share my stories with a worldwide audience. The challenge of approaching a story scenario through video, still images, along with a written report was something that I saw as a challenge and one that excited me as a storyteller. The Mississippi River sojourn was planned and plotted as a solo journey -- but one in which I would take iReport, and with her, an international audience, along for the ride. Villages, towns and cities along the expedition were proud to see themselves on television and featured in online reports, their positive stories of struggle and economic survival encouraging their neighbors, near and far. At the end of the journey, I began work on my book, and looking back at my footage, found a wealth of images and transcripts - stories ready to be told. I can't say enough about my experience with iReport. It has been a positive ride and I am proud to call myself a citizen journalist.
Where did you write the book?
I wrote my portion of the book in some of my favorite locales along the Mississippi River journey: in Oxford, Mississippi, a literary-minded village; Hannibal, Missouri, Twain's hometown; and northeast Iowa, on a rambling family farm. I then flew on to East Asia where I completed the writing of the final third of the book, late last year.
Where can people buy the book if they're interested?
The eBook version is now available via Kindle. A print edition of the book is available at the Mark Twain Museum and will soon be available at leading independent bookstores nationwide - to be found on http://moderndayhuck.com/.
What's your next big adventure?
I'm currently gearing up for the next big adventure to take place in South Asia. I'm intending to set it up as a rambling, roving report similar to the Mississippi River expedition, but with a different twist.
Congratulations Neal! We can't wait to see your stories from South Africa and around the world.