Joseph E Bird

Let's talk about reading, writing and the arts.



If you want to be a better writer, read these books.

I’ve always read a lot. Maybe not voraciously, I’m too slow for that. But I’ve read a wide range of books. When I began writing, Joe Higginbotham gave me books. Books that he bought for the sole purpose of sending to me so that I could experience good writing.

He was a big fan of Kurt Vonnegut so he sent me some of his books.  Slaughterhouse Five. Breakfast of Champions. Vonnegut is so different, so unique, it’s hard not to be influenced by his work.

He also introduced me to one of my favorite authors, Chris Offutt. Offutt is from eastern Kentucky, close to my neck of the woods, and his stories connect with me for that reason alone.  There is also a simplicity and directness in his writing.  The characters in his stories are not overly complex and their journeys are not epic, but they’re real people. Joe mailed me three of his books, The Good Brother, The Same River Twice, and No Heroes: A Memoir of Coming Home.  I’m glad he did.

He encouraged me to be a better business person and said I should read Fierce Conversations, by Susan Scott, Never Eat Alone, by Keith Ferrazzi, and Selling the Invisible, by Harry Beckwith.  I did. As well as many others that he recommended.

And the first book he said I should read – well, study really – was Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology.  Heavy stuff, man.

But that was Joe.  He knew what he was talking about and challenged you to be better. That’s a good friend.

Joseph Higginbotham

From the Charleston Gazette-Mail is this:

Joseph Higginbotham, 62, of St. Albans, died Friday, June 2, 2017. If you are a family member or know the whereabouts of any family member of Mr. Higginbotham, please contact Bartlett-Chapman Funeral Home, St. Albans (304) 727-4325.

Joe was a friend for many years.

We had so much in common; we had very little in common.

At one time we shared a common faith.
And he taught me.
He taught me about theology.
About church history.
About caring for other people.
He was a great mentor, teacher, friend.

Things changed.
I don’t remember how or why.
We were all young and when you’re young,
life is constantly changing.
He moved away.

After many years, he became
whatever happened to?
I found him living in Lexington.
He had married.
He had divorced.
He had changed.

Our views of faith had diverged.
He no longer believed
as I believed.

Nonetheless, our friendship persevered.
I was writing a novel.
So was he.
And he taught me.
He taught me about story structure.
About voice.
About having something to say.

He moved back to St. Albans.
I was involved in community development.
He had been involved in Lexington.
And he taught me.
He taught me about the dynamics of community growth.
About seeing things from a different perspective.
About looking beneath the surface.

He was always doing that.
He had a great analytical mind.
He could provide so much insight.
He could be funny.
He could be maddening.
But he would always be your friend.

In his last years, we had diverged too far.
Conversations became more stilted.
So we just quit trying.
Maybe we shouldn’t have.
He deserves more than an obituary
that says nothing.

While we wait,
I’ll tell you about
Joseph Higginbotham.





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