One writer, eight short stories, eight designers—it is a rare thing when two art forms come together in such a powerful manner as presented in “The First Time She Fell.” Caleb Ludwick’s debut as a writer brings both graphic art and emotional, articulate writing into a volume of short stories that’s simultaneously inspirational and heart wrenching. As a bonus, all contributing artists and the author live in, or have lived in Chattanooga.
Eloquent writing permeates the book. Ludwick is a writer who gives his heart and holds nothing back. In his story “The Houses Under the Sea, The Dancers Under the Hill,” he makes an acute, desperate observation about childhood: “I carried her out to the bus stop, to the hospital, her forehead hot against my cheek. Thinking for the first time that there isn’t something good and pure that children know. There’s a fear shaped hole in their minds, in their hearts, waiting for life to fill it up.”
Other stories reek of Southern culture. For anyone who has played in sluggish, stagnant creeks during the humid summer months, “Patete” literally hurls itself off the pages and into our psyches. Adolescence, sex, puberty, first kisses, unrequited love—it’s all within the pages of this story that will leave readers longing for the innocent pain of childhood.
“It’s all about what it’s really like to be a child turning into a young man,” Ludwick said.
Ludwick came of age in both Nashville and St. Louis. After going to college in England and earning a second master’s in English at the University of Nottingham, he found himself in Chattanooga.
“My wife is from Chattanooga and it seemed to be a place where one person could have a voice and make an impact,” he said.
Ludwick found himself doing everything from typing dictation for a lawyer to writing for local publications. Now he works hand-in-hand with graphic designers to help them give their new brands an identity. He is partnered with Widgets & Stone, where he “develops the studio’s understanding of clients,” and chose their director, Paul Rustand, to design the cover of his book. Ludwick also heads his own communications company, 26 Tools.
His passion, however, lies in creating stories. Ludwick spent the last 18 months working on this self-published labor of love. He initially printed only 100 copies, but the book is in demand, he said.
Readers will also find themselves engrossed in the artwork that sets the graphic tone for each story in Ludwick’s book. Most of the artists and designers have since left Chattanooga for bigger cities to pursue their craft. One such designer is Michael Hendrix, who contributed his work for the first story in the book, “What Marinela Didn’t Say.” Hendrix relocated to Boston and is an associate partner of IDEO, a global communications firm that helps organizations build business and develop ideas. Other artists whose work is featured in the book have moved on to Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Philadelphia and other major cities to further develop their careers.
Ludwick chose each artist to display their artwork in his book using a variety of criteria. First, they had to be less than 40 years old. They also had to have spent part of their career in Chattanooga, and, of course, talent was also a deciding factor.
“To choose which artist’s work I wanted for each story, I interviewed each one on the phone and asked them questions about what their personal interests were,” Ludwick explained. “Based on those interests, such as what they like to read, I chose each artist to work on a specific story.”
One artist, Beth Joseph, who works with the custom publishing firm True North Publishing in Chattanooga, found the story “All the Way to LAX” a perfect counterpart for her watercolor talents.
Ludwick finds creative connections in both his professional pursuits and avocation.
“I’d call myself a writer if I lived in a bigger town that could better accommodate such a job title,” he said. “I help people tell stories about their work and find a voice. I help them make their voices more powerful. I’m more of a graphic design commercial strategist—a verbal voice for a company.”
“The First Time She Fell” By Caleb Ludwick
Designed by: Michael Hendrix, Ben Horner, Mandy Meredith, Nick Dupey, Liz Tapp, Roby Isaac, Joseph Shipp and Beth Joseph
$4 - 26 Tools Press
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