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Interview with Daniel Ray Norris, March 26, 2008 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Daniel Ray Norris, March 26, 2008
March 26, 2008
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Norris, Daniel Ray Interviewer: Diesenhaus, Doug Date of Interview: 3/26/2008 Series: SENC Writers Length 60 minutes

(crew talk)

Diesenhaus: I'm Doug Diesenhaus and today is March 26, 2008, and I'll be interviewing Daniel Ray Norris for the Randall Library Oral History project on creative writers and usually the best place that I start is to ask people how they have got started. How did you get started in photography and design?

Norris: Well, photography was way back when I was about--I guess I had a little 110 camera my daddy got me way back when I was about 8 years old. I played with that and when I got 10 he--my daddy bought me a Nikon F2AS Photomic. That's a long name for a big, heavy camera for a 10-year-old and it was a professional camera, and my sweet daddy bought me the entire setup, everything, all the way from a wide-angle lens to a 50 to 300 zoom that weighed about 16 pounds, very nice of him to do that. And after that I just--I shot so much film that my poor, old daddy had to pay for so much pictures being developed at the little local drugstore, and back then it was really expensive. And I took it as a very serious hobby, never really looked in to it as a career. I never really thought of it like that back then. It always was ancillary to anything I was doing. It helped me with my schooling when I went to graduate school and undergraduate. I would use it for term papers and so on, a lot more than other students, because back then--and I know it wasn't that long ago but there wasn't really a digital camera and people had to scan stuff on a scanner. Well, back then you got Kodak CDs. That was a little thing for a while and I had a scanner, one of the first scanners in Wilmington, and I really took to the scanner and the camera combination more than most people. I think I probably had one of the first personal flatbed scanners that was to be had by the individual that wasn't a professional, and that really--the HP Scanjet is what I had and that and the photography together and lately I've been doing some work in the past ten years that people actually thought was good enough to buy and I always put in Photo Shop. Now it's my Photo Shop accessory really. It's really an accessory to Photo Shop so everything I do goes through Photo Shop and Photo Shop's my darkroom. I used to play with the darkroom stuff, me and my cousin. My cousin was a student here as well, Chris Vale, and we would play in his darkroom. I never got a darkroom of my own. I guess I didn't see--I was a little young and he was a little older than me and he was better at it obviously, but he had the darkroom. I went through the whole stuff. We even developed color way back, 20-25 years ago, and doing that at home was quite on the cutting edge.

Diesenhaus: When you talk about using the scanner, are you saying you're putting those photos in to various kinds of documents and playing with layout?

Norris: Oh, yeah. That was my hobby. That's just kind of a crazy hobby for somebody when they're 18 years old. Usually you go out drinking and stuff and I didn't even drink back then and people were going out drinking and doing stuff and I was at home playing with my scanner, which is kind of pathetic when you get right down to it but I loved it. Whenever I finally got a word processor I really loved the word processor. Word Perfect is what I used. I think it was actually Personal Word Perfect and--when it was his own company. I really liked playing with that, taking the text, laying it out on the page. I would print numerous--Oh, I bet I printed 25 drafts of a little, simple English paper just so I could make sure it didn't get--I didn't really trust the disks to save it and back then it was saved on little 3-1/2-inch disks. I didn't have a 5-1/4-inch disk. I went right-- I had the first IBM computer that used 3-1/2-inch disks and I didn't have an IBM very long. I went straight to the Macintosh. As soon as I got a taste of the Apple I got--went right straight in to it and from there on I blossomed if I don't say so myself. I blossomed considerably when I got a Macintosh computer.

Diesenhaus: I want to come back to that, but just want to go back first to when you got the camera was your dad responding to the interest you've already developed? What was going on?

Norris: My daddy would eat dookey on a stick for me honestly. I would say that in front of--He would do anything for me. If I wanted to be an astronaut, he'd buy me a space shuttle if he could. He's one of the few parents that I think that I've ever met that show that much interest in their children, my mama too, but he was very instrumental in getting me the camera because he saw that I loved it so much and he--I guess he figured- and I remember him telling me this. He was "Okay. This camera is set up" 'cause it was really expensive especially back then. "It's either this or maybe a car. Now when you get 16 you're going to want a car. Now if we get this we might not get you a car." I got a car too so it all went out very fine so--I think he got it just 'cause I was interested. He would support anything that I did regardless of his interest.

Diesenhaus: When you got it, you talked about how many pictures--

Norris: Oh, my God, everything, just goofy stuff. I tried to be kind of conservative with taking pictures but I would get somebody and say, "Well, okay. Sit down and let me real--" I had a 16-millimeter fisheye and that was really unusual for a 10-year-old to have, a fairly expensive Nikon 16-millimeter fisheye, and I'd get right up on your face and take exaggerated facial feature pictures. I'd take pictures of the moon, lightning. I tried so many times back then to get a good lightning picture. I really didn't know what I was doing but I was going by this huge Nikon book that came with the system. It was like the Nikon bible and I guess it kind of told you- and I'd read Popular Photography, all that stuff back in the--God, this was in the 1970s. That's a long time ago. And I never did get a real, real, real good lightning picture because you really had to take a lot of pictures to get it and I got one about five years ago finally 'cause it was digital and you could leave the--you could take a lot of pictures and all, but that was the deal with the camera.

Diesenhaus: Was there something about capturing where you live--

Norris: Yeah, that had a lot to do with it. I was always interested in the way things change as a kid and still today even more. It's almost an obsession with me. I don't like to see things change. It makes the hairs on my arms stand up when I start thinking about all the buildings that have gotten tore down, the places that are no longer like they were in the past, and that was pretty much it. I wanted to stop time. It was my- the opposite--I guess it was a time machine so you could go back in time later and it made me nervous when things start to change, just--even like Long Leaf Mall. That's the first place I remember shopping. Well, actually Hanover Center was the first place I remember shopping for school clothes and stuff and then Long Leaf Mall and I just hate just, I can't stand it. I can't stand seeing things fall apart and go in to the past and get remodeled and built up into something else but I always eventually fall in love with whatever they turn into like Long Leaf--like Independence Mall. That supplanted Hanover Center just as an example, not that I shop a lot, but I was just oh, the new mall and I don't want to see the old one go away and all the nice people that run it and all the- the way that the counter is set up and I'm used to the way you walk to it and the way the parking lot's laid out, but then I fell in love with Independence Mall. And I still think it's my---I still love Independence Mall so.

Diesenhaus: It sounds like it's a kind of attachment you develop but over time you can develop a new attachment, you just don't want that shift.

Norris: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. I'm horribly sentimental, I can't help it, even with other things like TV shows and music. All my music comes from the 1970s, my favorite music, 1975 to 1980. Anything outside that range I don't particularly care for I guess. Yeah, I get pretty attached to things and the camera helps me do that and book--doing--making a book or making a document, text and images together. That's really my favorite thing to do is put text and images together.

Diesenhaus: I want to obviously talk more about that and your book, but just in this earlier part, developmental time, was there anybody in addition to your dad who was influential or guiding you in certain ways?

Norris: I guess do--well, that's a good point. Well, when I was--

Diesenhaus: Teachers or--

Norris: Yeah. When I was at school working with my English teacher, Mrs. Norman, Joyce Norman, she would have us do little exercises where we would- in English class I suppose where we would write about a subject and then probably try to bring in a photograph or something and put it all together And she was influential in doing that. And even at UNCW when I came here for undergraduate we were doing term papers and I went to Appalachian State as well and I--my English teacher there had us do some work, some short stories where we would try to describe something, and I felt a little confined by just using text perhaps because I'm--I don't consider myself to be on the same level with people that write works of art that are just text. I have to throw in some pictures in there like icing on the cake a little bit, sweeten it up.

Diesenhaus: This feeling that you described as either like sentimentality or sometimes it sounds like nostalgia, do you think that has anything to do with this particular place, where you've grown up and where you're from?

Norris: Yeah. Oh, it definitely does. I don't have kids and I don't see that I ever will have kids. I don't really care about that part 'cause all people say, "Oh, I want my children to be able to--" I don't have that. I think it's just people in general. I think it's just the whole world. I know that we have a unique place that we live that has a lot of positive features and the geography's great, the weather's great, the people are great, and I feel like if we can just record that, stop it in time and put it on paper and on the internet and in video, any kind of projects--I used to work at WECT and when I was there I really relished dragging out some of the archival pieces of video that they have over there so yeah, I guess that's the long and the short of that.

Diesenhaus: Is there a difference do you think between the still photography and video or do you--

Norris: To me there is a gigantic difference. I just feel like I like video but I still feel--maybe I'm old fashioned. I kind of prefer still images and text on the page. The ultimate format I think to me is that. Even the web doesn't count. I love the web. Web is-- I jumped on the internet as early as most people can- could have done because- again because of my cousin, Chris. He definitely helped me out with that. He worked here at UNCW. He helped start the first web server in southeastern North Carolina or something like that, something kind of quite laudable. It was one of the first ones. And the web's great and I think the web has a place in everything today especially and probably going to supplant a lot of things in to the future but text on the page--It's been around a long time and it's tangible in a unique physical way that just nothing else can match- nothing can match, even the feel of the paper, the cover of the book. Everything about it is excellent I think.

Diesenhaus: Do you have any preferences for color or black and white?

Norris: Oh, I played with black and white for a while especially with my cousin, Chris, because we--he had the darkroom that was black and white and I shot some black and white later and you shot some infrared way back when you got things developed at Colorcraft I think it was and Cape Fear Camera so black and white's fun and I like messing with it but I prefer color. I'm a very bright, colorful person and black and white is nice and artistic and it looks good on the wall in a nice frame but I- and a great black and white image is hard to beat but there's--color is the best. I like color. I love color.

Diesenhaus: How did the idea for the first book and then now it's really a series develop?

Norris: Yeah. It's a series. The first book I kind of put it on the bottom of my website. I didn't really think about it when I put this down there. The footer of my web site, the, I put on there "It all started one boring summer." I don't really ever have boring summers but when I worked at WECT it was seven years of working there and I had to work in the summer and it was the first time I really had to work in the summer. I didn't really like that. I loved working at WECT. Gosh almighty, it was a fun place, exciting, colorful, nice, nicest people I've ever met. I learned a lot too about--even the book was part--I launched myself out of some projects at WCET in to doing the books but yeah. Ooh, the difference between video and still, it's hard to say. I just prefer the. One boring summer I was at home, the first summer I had had home- the second summer maybe. The first summer I was- started cleaning out my garage. I put some nails on the wall to organize some things. I hit myself in the eye with a hammer really bad. I almost blinded myself. I didn't have to go to the hospital but it could have been worse and then the rest of that summer was okay and the next summer I'm like I got to do something instead of clean up and organize so I figured well, you've got all these pictures and for years I had been collecting images with no real thought other than hoarding them, but I felt they're not going to do anybody any good. I need to do something with it. I had put some on the internet. I started a little web site called which--I have since sold that domain name and developed the web site for the Carolina Beach town- the town of Carolina Beach. I was glad to let them take it and they didn't have to pay much for it so it had got a lot more use that way so I still had these- this little archive of images and I said, "Well, what do I do with these images? Well, I'll just keep them. Maybe one day somebody will make a book about Carolina Beach, not a cheesy book, not a crappy, little, tacky book" is the word I guess I'm trying to get to. I want something that would be worthy of the history and the culture of Carolina Beach to me and I would--I kind of talked around to some people and nobody really--a couple people had some notions to do it and somebody kept saying they were going to do it and I'm "Okay. Cool. If you need some help, I've got some images. I can help you out but I'm just glad you're doing it 'cause I'll be the first one in line to buy it." I waited five or six years and nobody, and I know it takes a long time but I'm impatient and I figured well, if they're not going to do it I guess it's okay if I do it. So in I think it was May or June-it was very early in the summer but not quite the beginning of the summer I said, "Well, let's do--I want to do a book. I know it's going to be expensive but how much does it cost?" And I have the skills, the mad skills as they say on the internet--I'm learning some of these new words--S-K-I-L-Z, to do--to make a book.

I had made some stuff for the Azalea Festival, some booklets and some brochures, and I've made calendars and oh, gosh, all kinds of stuff at WECT and I guess I have to give credit to WECT for letting me and allowing me the freedom and the opportunity to do some of these print projects that you don't normally do in a TV station. I was just thrilled to death with Carl Davis, recently passed in a motorcycle accident. He was just very, very, very up for anything that I wanted to do as long as it would look good and make money for the station or at least do something for the community as well, and he allowed me to volunteer my time at work, work time that they were paying me to work, to work for and with the Azalea Festival folks especially the Azalea Princess Pageant. And doing that booklet and stuff kind of got me interested and I'd never done a hardback book. I'd only done booklets and calendars and four-color-process things got me used to the lingo and to the tools. A lot of this I learned at home also 'cause I always have maintained a stable of Adobe products like Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, Pagemaker in the old days, Photo Shop of course, Dream Weaver for the web, and I love those Adobe products and I always use them on my Macintosh computer.

I am a Macintosh poster child and an obsessive Macintosh collector. I have over 30 Macintosh computers by the way but anyway after all that I had that boring summer. I didn't know what to do so I said in June, "Let's think about doing a book," and I talked to my father-in-law, my neighbors, and I said, "Well you know," 'cause he had connections with Asia and that might be where I was going to get it printed, didn't know for sure, figured the value was there and the cost was good but it's kind of nerve wracking to deal with an overseas company especially if they're not in the United States because you don't have any recourse if they don't give you what you've paid for, but I lucked up and found a good company I thought. I didn't know 'cause I hadn't done anything with them. And so I started assembling the book and I started in June with the notion and then got it kind of semi put together and I started thinking well, let's--got to set a goal of when do you want to get it done I think and well, it'd be nice to have it done by Thanksgiving.

Diesenhaus: What year is this?

Norris: Oh, gosh. 2006 I think. Was it 2006? Yeah, it was 2006 because it all started in the summer and got here and out by Thanksgiving, which I was- the early part of November, November 7th. To me that was just kind of getting on it and get it- getting it done, as they say get'r'done, but I've asked the other. They were "Well, that's insane. You did that in a very fast amount of time and very quickly" and I was "Well, I guess so. I guess I did." And I only had me. It was just me, myself and I doing everything, any kind of photography, scanning, the layout, dealing with the printers, customs, shipping it to me and all that kind of stuff. I didn't have no idea it involved all those things so--

Diesenhaus: I think I read there was a customs problem.

Norris: That was this year with volume 2. That was horrible. I didn't like that. I lost faith in a lot of things at that point. I heard that--I knew that the printers were a little kind of wishy-washy on well, if it gets over there to America we're kind of done with it. I'm "No. You're not done with it until it gets delivered to my--" And they kind of acted like they were responsible for the delivery but there was just that little interim between when the ship lands and it gets on a truck and gets to me. I knew there was a little time in there that looked like it was kind of a gray area. I know why there's a gray area in there now. It's because if customs decides to hold on to your stuff and look through it for drugs or Chinese people in a box or something--I guess they could put people in a box I suppose from China 'cause that happens occasionally. We'll get shipments over here with people in them but big old- little old boxes this big with plastic wrap around them can't be any big deal and that happened in volume 2. They held my shipment. They decided to charge me per day for storing it and then they charged me to inspect it. I was very upset.

Diesenhaus: How long of a delay was that?

Norris: It delayed it almost a month and I was trying to get it out by Thanksgiving and I think that came in just before Thanksgiving, definitely missed Thanksgiving. And it went way on in to the middle of December so I probably missed a very large number of sales because of that and I'll--I guess I'll pick them up this coming-up season but I was very upset, had to pay money for that.

Diesenhaus: For future stuff does that mean you're looking not international?

Norris: Nope. Nope. Well, I did--I take that back. I did make a cursory exploration of local--not local, domestic printers and I'm still looking. I don't think I'll change because the quality that I get from these people is immaculate. The colors and the paper quality, everything, is as good as I could ever imagine. I can't ask for better and the price is right I reckon but then again I don't like the--I'm like a person that's only been married one time. You don't know any better. I really don't know any better to tell you the truth. I may change one day but I'm not that big of a deal quite yet so I'm going to stick with these guys. They're nice. They seem to be nice and I'm dealing with the same fellow the whole time and they could actually call me on the phone. The most exciting thing that ever happens is when they call me on the phone. I got a phone call one day when I was walking down in Wilmington at a camera shop. They said, "This is So and So from So and So Company in Hong Kong." I'm "Really? You're calling me from Hong Kong?" And that was before we had struck a deal so they were really hungry for my business. I was shocked and a couple other companies were trying to flirt with me and deal with me and get me to go with them but I just decided to go with the first one I met sort of thing and it worked out really well. I'm happy.

Diesenhaus: Can you talk about the actual process for the first book let's say?

Norris: The first book, yeah, kind of groping in the dark. I was groping in the dark.

Diesenhaus: You say you had this collection and--

Norris: Yeah. It's modest. Okay, it was--well, much organization but it was a modest--the book isn't that well organized I'm afraid. It's more like a scrapbook. Now the second book I kind of got my act in gear, a little bit better organization, but it's such a large project. You have to really plan out all the volumes at once in order to get the chapters properly aligned. My brain doesn't work that way. I'm sort of scattered. I have to kind of do things in an organic fashion. I just kind of do whatever feels right and that first book it was just whatever felt right and not knowing exactly what I was going to do. I put volume 1 on it just because. I really didn't think there was going to be a volume 2 but then when I did the volume 1 I'm "Well, there's more stuff. I've got some stuff left over," and people started coming out of the woodwork with images and stories and people and things, objects, just all sorts of stuff. I became, for lack of a better term, the historian for Carolina Beach and I know there many more capable historians. I'm a member of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society and those people in that group are the historians. I'm just maybe the pop historian if you want to put it that way and my book's kind of a pop history book if you want to look at it that way as well.

Diesenhaus: Can you talk about vague percentages? How many were your images and how many were people who come with their own?

Norris: Oh, that's a good point. Well, when I worked at WECT we had people come in for the Carolina in the Morning show, CIM we liked to call it. I worked--I just started out in the morning working with Shirley Gilbert and I remember her, rest her soul. She had guests come in. Her and Bob Townsend had guests come in and they would bring images sometimes or they would tell me about somebody that had so and so and I was always nosy. I liked to talk to people and I was the graphic designer and the web master at WECT when I first started, not the production manager which I became later, and just doing it that way and actually meeting so many different people, even people that came in for the night cast, for the 6 o'clock news. And I'd ask them, "Do you mind if I scan that, might- maybe use it for another project, and I'll get back up to you later for permission to use it to work?" And they said, "Oh, sure. I don't care what you do with it," and I'd scan them and we scanned some stuff for some WECT projects as well and I kept them on my hard drive. I sort of considered myself the--I don't know--archivist at WECT 'cause they were throwing stuff away. They'd throw stuff in the trash all the time not thinking it was going to be valuable but to them it really isn't. It's not going to make them any money. So I just didn't--I even kept little, old WECT brochures in this. I put them in my file cabinet. When I became the production manager I had a little more control then and they started out I would say in the first book, Lord have mercy, maybe a fourth were all mine right off the bat, already be on my hard drive, and they had come from various sources, even some library fiddling that I had done and just decided to get scans of them. And then I went back to the same--the New Hanover County Public Library, went back to them and got better copies of those same images and more. Beverly Tetterton, bless her heart, was a tremendous help in getting me some very key images and access to other people that had key images and key stories, not just--you do need the stories to go with the images although my book's not very heavy on the text. The second book is and access to an honors thesis. I was lucky enough to have permission from a lady from Kure Beach to use her honors thesis for some text, especially that first chapter in the first book, and that was very, very, very convenient 'cause I couldn't have written that any better than she did. And Bobby Nivens at Ritz[ph?] Donuts of all people said, "You--Daniel, you need to go talk to this girl" and I did and she was very, very generous to allow me to use that text.

Diesenhaus: When you're talking to people about stories what is it like to hear those stories or have conversations--

Norris: Oh, it's the best part of doing the book I think. It's just like going back in time and reliving it because hearing it right from their mouth, there's nothing better than an oral history of something. One of my favorite stories is the second book, Captain Rick. He's very old. He's--I think he's close to 90 and he's still in good health and he and his wife live between Monkey Junction and Carolina Beach and I was wanting to do some stuff on him because I figured well, that would be--he's a great subject to begin with and I get to tie in some of the Sea Breeze aspect of it 'cause we're so close to Sea Breeze. It feels like they're our neighbors and I live right across from Sea Breeze, on Carolina Beach diagonally. And I went to his house. Marsha Taylor took me there and she was a big help as well and I started talking to him and used a little recorder just like that that you can pull apart and MP3s come out of, loved that thing to death. It was a Christmas present. And I started talking to him and he was telling me all kinds of stuff. His hearing's a little off, he can't see very good, but his stories were wonderful and it might be--about half--about 30 minutes in to the talk he turns to his wife who's sitting right beside him and I'm sitting over here and he says to his wife, "Who is she?" to me 'cause I've got long hair, and I said, "Oh, that's so funny" 'cause my hair is kind of long. I just love that story. "Who is she?" I said, "Captain Rick. I'm Daniel. I'm doing this interview on you." He says, "Oh, yeah." He's not really that confused. He--I had just been talking to him a long time and I was coming at him with all kinds of questions and it kind of addled him a little bit but it was a sweet story and he was very sweet to give me that information.

Diesenhaus: Especially with photos, how do you deal with permission? Do you get it up front or do you--

Norris: I get it up front. I have them sign a release form and usually it's a release form that says they allow me to use photos from their family collection and that seems to be specific enough and generous and general enough at the same time. And I'm so nervous when I get them from folks because my nightmare is to take pictures from somebody, take them home, scan them and then not be able to acquire--get them again or damage them or a fire or a mouse--mice and rats and stuff could bite on them. You never know 'cause I've got photographs that have been damaged by rodents here and there in shoe boxes. You put them in your garage. That's my nightmare but I'll scan them at a high resolution on a flatbed scanner probably 1200 DPI for small stuff and that's just one of the rule of the thumb, 1200 DPI for small stuff, and you get an 8 by 10. You can do that at 400 or 500 or 600 DPI in color even if it's black and white. I want the nuance of the image. I want all the pixels, all the data, so that's what I usually do.

Diesenhaus: That raises two questions for me. You said you were a little disorganized or scattered but how are you managing--

Norris: Oh, well, just ask my students.

Diesenhaus: How are you managing all that data? That's a lot of stuff.

Norris: It is a lot of stuff and I don't throw anything away. Whenever a hurricane comes I have a little plastic box with the little things like you get from the storage store and I used to put SyQuest drives in there. There's these little magnetic-- Macintosh people would use them a lot. They were 44 megabyte, not gigabytes, megabytes, and then I graduated to CDs and DVDs and now it's pretty much--even the DVDs are kind of going away and people are starting to put it on a solid state device to some degree, at least a hard drive with a platter in it. And I would make folders on my computer. Lately I've been doing this since hard drives are finally big enough, they're commodious enough--I guess that's the word to use, commodious, yeah--enough to hold almost everything. I've got a 1-terabyte drive at the house that I got for Christmas about a year ago. It's my time machine on the Macintosh OS X. It just backs everything up so that's just my backup and then I'll save everything else on a 250-gigabyte drive and I'll make folders. It's called Image Bank or whatever and in there right now I've got them by project for the actual books themselves. Whenever I open up a--I just scan stuff somebody brings me and oh, here's a good picture of the hermit. You can use it. I've got permission to use it or whatever, scan that image. I'll put it in just the general Image Bank, hermit pictures, go in there and look and find what I want. Then I open it up and I'll modify it to the size that I need. Then I'll save it in the format that I need, whether it's a TIFF or--usually it's TIFF. TIFF's the best format to save stuff like that and I save it as a four-color CMYK TIFF if it's color. Even if it's black and white I'll do it as a grayscale TIFF and save it at the size I need it in the projects folder that I'm going to use it in. If I start at a document, an InDesign document, there's always one that's called Images and they're all in there, kind of just plopped in there.

Diesenhaus: When you get to the point where you want a single image, are you just going over everything you have?

Norris: Well, that's a good question.

Diesenhaus: You may not know if--

Norris: Generally, I can look at the folder headings and find what I need or I can do a little search--what is that called on the back? I just hit the spacebar--spacebar. Spotlight. Thank you. You know. I use Spotlight. Spotlight's the way to go 'cause I don't really put key words in my images. I ought to. If I was-- I used to use-- What's that crazy, little program that everybody used to use for just accumulating databases of your images? Extensis made it. Another company bought Extensis. I like to follow the Extensis--Portfolio--I used to use a program called Portfolio and I would actually--oh, I tried to put key words and I can't do it. On the Apple operating system it's making it so much easier now to thumb through things. What's that one? Cover Flow works so well now and the OS. It's all right in the OS and I can really go through my images kind of quick without having to use something like Portfolio. I never did like Portfolio. It was kind of unwieldy.

Diesenhaus: I want to talk about this move from the first book to the second. Was anything in response to how people reacted to the first one--

Norris: Oh, Lord, yeah. It pretty much defined that entire book. They were-- main complaint justified completely out of my ignorance: Captions on the pictures that are--I tried to do the captions as well as I could and in that first book I did not have access to some of the people that knew exactly who were in the images so this time any time I got an idea for an image I'm "Okay. I know you might have an image but get me the names of the--make sure I get all the names of those people and please help me identify them." So I made sure I captioned everything and in much more consistent fashion in the second book, made sure, and I tried to be creative with the layout too. I started tilting some images to the side and I just love that kind of stuff. When I'm looking at a book or a magazine I love when they start doing funky things with the layout.

Diesenhaus: Where there other things, even technical things, that you learned as you went on with the first one?

Norris: Oh, my gosh, yeah. I'm so proud of this one page. Not even in my personal authored books but in Skipper's Surfing on the Cape Fear Coast there's a page spread in there where I laid out everything in these little panels that kind of come out and there's--and you can see through to the background image. It might be a little distracting on some pages but I made the opacity where it's okay. Over here on the left-hand side-- I think that's the--I learned a new term last year, the verso and the recto. I'm so proud of myself. That sounds so smart when you say it, verso. The left-side page there's a swim mat. You all got it out there, the same one, the swim mat. I actually layered it on to the page so that it overlaps the panel where the text is and the panel wraps around it but the shadow in the background image goes behind it and it goes all the way through the panel. It's real simple and a person with more skills than I have would say that's nothing but it looks so pretty and I'm so proud of it.

Diesenhaus: Am I correct that the second book is a bit longer?

Norris: It's 190 printed pages.

Diesenhaus: Did it expand on its scope?

Norris: It did. I tried not to repeat too much so the general basic history of the- of Carolina Beach wasn't there of course in the second book. I went in to Kure Beach's history a little bit with the help of Punky Kure. Bless his heart. He helped me so much, Punky.

Diesenhaus: That's his last name, Kure?

Norris: That's his--yeah, Kure. Yeah, he's a descendant. He's the, pardon me if I don't really remember. He's the grandson of the founder and also with Sea Breeze and Fort Fisher to some extent and he--I went to his house one cold, rainy February, yeah, '07, February of '07, and was expecting to be--this is kind of a funny story; I don't think he would care if I tell it--expected to be able to haul all his giant collection of pictures back to my house so I could use my better flatbed scanner. I'm "Okay. See you later, Punky," kind of thing and he was "Oh, no." He literally grabbed the box. "You can't take these out of my house," and I don't blame him. He knew who I was and had seen me around but he didn't really trust me exactly. I don't blame him. So I'm "Oh. That's going to put a crimp in my plan" so I went back to my house and got my better scanner. I've got a little portable scanner but it's slow as molasses so I went back and got it my do in the rain and I hugged it up against me 'cause I didn't get it messed up 'cause you don't never want to get water inside of one of them things and I spent--he was nice enough to spend five hours on a Sunday afternoon letting me scan those things. That took a long time. It was really kind of awkward but--the cord was running across his kitchen table. His wife had to keep stepping over it and I always thinking she's going to step on it and yank the scanner off the table so, yeah. That was part of number two was people came out of the woodwork and I did change the way I did things. I was very up front about this- the release form, made sure people signed those. I made a whole bunch of them, kept them in my pocket, in my little book sack. I also went in to a little bit more on some-- The ultimate find so to speak--it found me really--was the first part of the book when I talk about the Ferrises and the rides at the boardwalk. They had that business by accident. My doctor--my general practitioner doctor--his office manager is their daughter, and my daddy of course drags my book around everywhere 'cause he's proud, left them a book behind my back and she saw it and was just "Well, I've got some pictures I know your son would love to see." I'm "Really? What are they, Daddy?" Daddy was telling me about it. He says, "He's--she's got pictures of the rides at the boardwalk" which I grew up riding and worshipping and then I found out that's the daughter and she had the most wonderful collection ever and I went to her house and she was nice enough to let me take pictures of the carousel horse and the tools her daddy used to clean and fix them and money they found in the seats and IDs and a patch off the jacket. That was the ultimate and that became my personal favorite part of the entire book and I really made a little bit more effort on that section than the rest, and I think I jumped right on that and got it done. Then all the other stuff just kept pouring in.

Diesenhaus: If I'm correct, the subtitle is Friends and Neighbors Remembered.

Norris: Yes. I'm so proud of that. It took me so long to come up with that. You have no idea. I had five, six, seven people working on that with me. I'm "Come up with a subtitle please, anything." My mom was "Donuts and Sand Dunes." I'm "Mama. That's terrible." She tries. She really tries.

Diesenhaus: Does that indicate that there's more of a focus on some local characters? Individuals?

Norris: I tried to and I think it does. I really would like to do a volume 3 that only focuses on local folks, people. That's sort of my goal. Volume 3 would be 90% people and just a little bit of places and things. The first book was mostly things, the second book was a mixture of both and the third would probably focus on people.

Diesenhaus: Can you talk a bit about the books that are forthcoming this year . . .

Norris: Sure. Sure.

Diesenhaus: . . .and then also possible future ideas like you just mentioned?

Norris: Books that are outside that? Well, volume 3 is definitely on the back burner. I have to rest a little bit. I got to work on my tan, get back in shape. I've lost all my tone. It really--it takes a toll. When I was working on volume 1 and 2 I would get up at 4 o'clock. This is in the summer when you can sleep all day if you want to, 4 a.m. My brain wouldn't let me. My brain would be active at night and I was just--when I woke up I'm "Four o'clock. I'm getting out of bed. I'm going to go in there and start doing stuff" 'cause that's my best time to do things. For some reason my brain, my creative whatever you want to call them, are going from 4:30, 5 o'clock until about 10. If I can get up and work in that time frame, I am just productive. I can do three days' worth of work in that time frame. Do it any time else in the rest of the day and I'm just distracted. There's a bird. I get distracted.

Diesenhaus: Talking about when you're doing it, is there a specific place? Do you have an office set up?

Norris: Yeah. Oh, totally. I've--actually, in the past few years I've been working on--that was always a goal of mine. When I was at UNCW going to school I had two little antique desks shoved together. One was a little lower than the other and I'd do my little homework for college here and I was "Well, this is kind of neat. One day I would love to have this room set up better." It was my childhood bedroom and I'd like to set it up better and when it became my home, more of my personal, own home, and my family didn't live there anymore, it was just me, I built with the help of a couple of friends a desk that--it was made of plywood and it's shaped exactly like my wildest dreams and it goes all the way around the room. It's only about this wide behind me but the other part's really commodious again from all my stuff, dual monitors. I have a 30-inch Apple Cinema Display, a old 22-inch Cinema, whatever they called it back then, Cinema Display over here, and my computer fits exactly--the tower, old silver G5 towers fits right under a shelf where a scanner is. I might change some things if I had to and it's all hanging by a steel cable. There's no legs. It's so awesome. There's no legs, which means no dust bunnies. I hate dust bunnies and I hate being able--not being able to sweep. My dogs lay over there and there's really no--there's just dog hair and there's no dust bunnies but yeah, I got my room so perfect. I got a color laser printer in the corner. It's all on a fast internet connection. I got a little--good color ink jet printer for proofing things. It's a dual layer, double-decker desk and the only thing--I never have bought a fancy chair. I bought a little $77 look-alike fancy chair, those Aeron chairs. I want an Aeron chair so bad I could die. They're a thousand dollars. I just can't justify that but if I ever get another chair it's going to be an Aeron chair.

Diesenhaus: Talking about the specifics of the workplace and when you sit down to work, are there any rituals or--

Norris: Oh, that's a funny question. That's a weird question that you asked that. Oh, gosh. I don't listen to music much but once in a while when I get hurting-- wanting to listen to music I listen to my iTunes and it's all disco and R and B from the 1970s. I'm ashamed of that. I can't help it. And I don't really listen to it that loud and I like to have it warm. I don't like it cold and the computer heats the room and all that equipment makes it hot in there. I guess it makes me--reminds me of working on my master's thesis in Guam. The air conditioner in the house I lived at did not work good at all and the house out--the room I was in the house was on the side that the sun was. It would be 98 degrees in that room sometimes. I would be drenched in sweat, sitting in my bathing suit, so really a warm room with no music necessarily going and I got these--I don't--and I hate fluorescent lights, no fluorescent lights ever anywhere near me. Halogen or incandescent are fine so I got that going on. I got little halogen lights hanging from the ceiling. I love it if my dogs are sitting underneath right in front of me so I can pet it with my feet. My dogs are my absolute favorite thing in the world and that's it and an open door and maybe I would alternate between working. My attention span's not real long so I work for a while. Then I might run outside and lay in the sun for a little nap to get a suntan or run down in the yard, play with the dogs, come back, but if it's early in the morning I'm working pretty hard for a number of hours all at once. I might have something to drink. Usually I don't. What else? I'll have a browser window open so I can check stupid stuff on the internet that I like like Dig, that little web site, and WECT's web site and then I'll have my e-mail in the background and I always have- Photo Shop's always running. There's always Photo Shop running, never goes away, and it's never off line, and then I'll have InDesign going and I'll switch between InDesign and Photo Shop and Adobe Illustrator, all kind of going at once. I love Adobe products. They are where it's at. There's nothing better. There's really no other tool to use. I can't imagine using something else although I have heard of people doing words in--books in Word. Ooh. I don't even use Word anymore. I have abolished all Microsoft on my computer. It's gone. As soon as Apple came out with numbers I got rid of Excel and I never use Word anymore so there is not one little scrap of Microsoft on my computer. I'm so excited. That makes my day.

Diesenhaus: I want to talk about some of what you just said and also you talked about your master's thesis. You have your BA from UNCW--

Norris: Yes, marine biology BS with honors. Don't forget that. That's on there.

Diesenhaus: And your MS from--

Norris: MS from the University of Guam and I started a Ph.D. with a cooperative--that's a really poor term to use--cooperative Ph.D. program that was NC State UNCW and I started that and got a year--it was a year of coursework and pretty much finished the coursework and was getting ready to start the dissertation work for the Ph.D. and kind of fell out of love with the whole idea. Nothing against UNCW at all, great school. Even NC State's a great school. Great people were helping me out but my cousin was really launching his internet stuff, WISE, Wilmington Internet Service Enterprises, and they let me be the web master when, and I swear, people make fun of me for saying this. I think we coined the term "web master" but don't quote me on this. I swear I think we did. I'd never heard that term before and it was on my business card, "web master." Wow. So that had really gotten started along with a couple of other little projects and I figured this is a lot more fun. I might not be able to make a lot of money at it but I'm going to do this for a while while I'm still young, and I'm glad I did. I wouldn't regret a thing. I would not go back and change a thing.

Diesenhaus: Even so, has the science training been useful to you in general and even in relation to the books--

Norris: Good question. I think it goes the other way around. I think my interest in the graphic design and photography helped me with the science stuff 'cause I was always the best term paper you have ever seen, the best graphs, the best presentation. I've given a few talks. I went to France to give a poster--you know how you do that--and that was a beautiful poster. It could have been better but anyway the Canadians--they did theirs all on one sheet of paper. I'm really jealous of the Canadians but you can do that now but back then you couldn't find a large-format printer that could do it from a file. And I've done a few--what you call it--slide show presentation kind of things for a few scientific conferences. Mine were always good and I was always kind of pulled in for helping out with that kind of stuff in graduate school so I think it went that way and- but other than that, the other way around, the science stuff helping--the actual science part helping the book part, I don't know, just an appreciation for biodiversity and some of the animals and plants we have in there like venus flytraps, pitcher plants and our marine habitats and things like that, fruit. I'm a fanatic of fruit. I love fruit and I've been studying--talking fruit a little bit in my little biology course that I teach at Cape Fear Community College so--

Diesenhaus: At the same time it seems like when you were very young starting in photography and . . .

Norris: Yeah. That was my interest.

Diesenhaus: . . .and coming in to college and graduate school, science base, and then . . .

Norris: Right, kind of go back.

Diesenhaus: . . .and now you're teaching so--

Norris: Yeah. I went back to teaching and pretty much I felt like I really should use my degree. I kind of got tired of being indoors all the time at WECT. It was always inside like and I did paint my office black. I guess that kind of gave me the cave, kind of made it more like a cave than it really should have been, and blocked the windows out for color, for doing work on the computer. It was really irritating to have a beige wall so I guess I did it to myself by painting it black. It's--I think it's still black. I hope it is. The whole--even my trash can was black and my file cabinet. That was kind of cool. So yeah, I went back to teaching because I like working with people so much. You work with people in a TV station but not nearly to the degree that I do at Cape Fear Community College. I get to work with students very closely and I feel like I'm doing something good. I know I'm not saving the world or anything but I'm- I guess I'm one of the--I guess I care a whole lot about my students' well-being inside the classroom and outside to some extent but mostly I want them to get an appreciation of biology and North Carolina in general. We have a lot of people that aren't from North Carolina and I like to show off the state and Wilmington in general to them and I like--oh, another very key one: I get my summers off. I have to say--I have to begrudgingly admit maybe that's 80% of it right there and then I can work on other projects 'cause again I have to jump around and do things. I can't stay totally harnessed to one thing at all times. I like--even at WECT I would get these invoices to work on something. I'd get three or four. I could never finish one. I had to jump to the next one and let that one sit for a while and cook. Then I'd do another one and let that one sit for a while and cook and just get them kind of all going at the same--that's how I do my books. I've got three projects going right now and I just jump between them so that I don't go insane.

Diesenhaus: That's kind of integrated with your teaching work too.

Norris: I think so.

Diesenhaus: --so you're kind of just shifting back and forth--

Norris: Yep, it does.

Diesenhaus: You've talked so much about the technology and--

Norris: I love technology.

Diesenhaus: Do you have any formal training in it or have you just taught yourself?

Norris: Well, that's a good question. I almost just taught myself, almost all of it. I've took a little Photo Shop thing where I got certified by Adobe so I am an Adobe certified expert, very proud of that. I got a little certificate and everything. I took the Apple basics course which is really nothing but reading a little book and talking to some people, taking a test. That was when I was a sales--I actually sold computers at Computer Land in Guam for two or three years. That was fun, my first job. I was still in school but it was a real job. I had to dress up, went to meetings, even went--even had some sales trips or I- business trips. I went to Saipan, of all places to go, on a little island not too far from Guam and yeah, that part of the technology. Gosh, I don't reckon I've had hardly any-- I always went out and bought books and go through them methodically and I would always find the person around town that was really, really good at doing that and really kind of picked their brain a little bit even in Guam. There was a photographer named Manny Crisostomo. He was a Nobel--not Nobel--what is that one, Pulitzer Prize, Nobel, I'm getting science and graphic design mixed up--Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer. He's a native guy from Guam and I would just go to his office and I would share some of my technical knowledge 'cause he kind of could use some help with that although he was very technically savvy. You wouldn't expect that necessarily. He was a fairly young guy. So I would trade off with him on that. So I always kind of go to the experts and just kind of "Can I mow your yard?" kind of thing, "Can you help you out?" a little bit, and that's what I did, really no formal at all. I really would love to have gone to art school. If I could look back into--maybe that's the one thing I would do. I would have maybe cut something else out and went right--went to art school 'cause that would have been great. I'd love that.

Diesenhaus: You have this passion of--I don't want to say "amateur" but it's just that--

Norris: Yes. It's amateur passion. It is.

Diesenhaus: --missing but obviously all the knowledge and--

Norris: But any time I actually have been thrown a project or actually worked with other people I never feel like I'm lacking, never ever, even with total pros who have done video or still work or graphic work or logo work. I always feel like well, I know exactly what they're talking about and I can rub elbows with them just like everybody else can. So I've never felt--never ever felt the real necessity for have gone to that but I know it would have been worthwhile.

Diesenhaus: Do you use the same skills and the same practice for keeping up with the changes in technology? You've talked about the series of things that have--

Norris: Yeah, always keep the most recent software, try to keep your hardware fairly recent. You don't have to go crazy with that but I--God, I lust after the newest, the shiniest, shiny stuff, shiny Apple stuff. I can't help it. Anything that Steve Jobs holds in his hand and shows me at his Mac World thing, oh, my God, I got to have it. I've got to have an iPhone. That's next. An iPhone is next and a MacBook Air. I want one of those so bad but it's about time. Maybe a year from now I can get a new computer and every time I want a new one it's always $9,000 when I finally price it out and that's okay. I've spent 10 grand before on a computer at a drop of a hat a couple of times but you get them, they're three or four years, they're worthless, not to me now. To me they're like children. I keep them around. Like I said, I have 30 little Apples, the little black and white ones of every description from the original 128k to fairly recent Intel-based MacBook Pros and so forth but it's hard to keep up with all that stuff. You got to read magazines. You got to stay on the internet. You don't go out and drink and play all the time. My hobby is just really learning about that. Honestly, that's my favorite hobby. I'd rather go to a conference or an Apple store up in Durham or Raleigh or go to a conference about the Macintosh or even just graphic design in general than anything I know of. I know it's crazy. It's so pathetic. It's like a complete nerd.

Diesenhaus: Just a few more questions I want to ask. One is if you could just talk a bit about going from publishing your own book and then taking on other people's projects.

Norris: Oh, that was a leap. That was a nerve-wracking leap. I wanted to do that badly 'cause I felt like that's my goal. I'm not going to keep doing my own books. I'm going to run out of topics. I'm going to run out of things I can contribute 'cause Carolina Beach history--I guess that's about it for me honestly and then again I've only done it--I've only scratched the surface of what I can do but I really like working with another author on projects and I think I can bring my vision to that and Skipper Funderburg, thank goodness, about a year ago, over a year ago, came to me and said, "Daniel, I--k" or in an e-mail. This was just e-mail and "I think I've got an idea for a book that--somebody told me about you and maybe we could get together and talk about it," and we did and it really snowballed from there. I looked at his manuscript and I thought okay, that topic, even regardless of knowing Skipper, that subject, wonderful idea for a book, needs to be done, somebody's got to do it, and he had already done many years' worth of work putting his manuscript together. He didn't really have a lot of imagery at all. It was basically a manuscript with a few postcards and I'm "Well, that's where I come in. You've got--you've sort of come to the right person I think. As long as you're willing to let me stir it up, make it pretty, put some color on it, we'll probably have a really nice book." And we sort of set ourselves the goal of at least 148 printed pages just like my first book. We'll do the same format but I kind of tasked Skipper with the notion "You got to go out and find me some images to go along with all this stuff and we're going to have to change some of your layout, the text, the orders of it- the order of the chapters. We're going to have to develop a couple of notions to make it more marketable." And I'm really thrilled to death with the way it's come out. I am just ecstatic with the result and it--we finished it. It went to bed. It literally went to Hong Kong two weeks ago and I've been kind of dealing with them a little bit and I will have the proofs tomorrow so I'm excited. I'm just--I can't stand it. And it's going to be a beautiful book and that process was very nerve wracking 'cause I'm--I know I can deal with my stuff but working with somebody. And I'm good with people. I'm a people person. I know you've heard that before but I do like working with people and Skipper has just been an absolutely a dream to work with. He's so willing to do anything I ask him to do. He's so get up and go, take the bull by the horns kind of thing, more than anybody I've ever met.

Diesenhaus: Are you using certain criteria to find new projects or is it also--

Norris: They've all come to me. I've got no criteria, no plan. It's all just like my name of the publishing company, Slapdash. That's exactly why I named it that. That term--I think I heard it--I know it's a British slang term and I heard it somewhere. Maybe I've read it. And I thought to myself well, that's a really neat term. It means haphazard and without planning and it's not necessarily got too much of a negative connotation to it and I thought well, that's a perfect name for me, for my publishing company, Slapdash, so it's kind of cute at the same time and I looked it up. There was really no other company named that and it's very slapdash but I'm beginning to be able to figure out what I need to do, to do, to get certain things done in a timely way. It's not totally random. It's just organic in a good way. It's organic. It sort of makes its own path.

Diesenhaus: Do you see, maybe short term or long term, it always being the kind of two parts of your life, maybe some teaching or something else?

Norris: Oh, yeah. That's a huge question. I've always kind of dreamed of just doing the publishing stuff but I think I'd get bored again. If I just do the biology teaching or just do the WECT commercial production manager, I would get bored. I have to do a little bit of both. That seems kind of wimpy but I can't do one thing. I can't. And Chris Fonville, thank goodness he came to me as well and I was just honored beyond belief to have him come up with some stuff for me to work on.

Diesenhaus: If you meet someone new at a party or something like that and they ask you what do you do, what do you say? Do you--

Norris: Oh, I don't know.

Diesenhaus: Do you tell a story or--

Norris: I just--

Diesenhaus: --kind of choose?

Norris: I know. I don't get that--I don't go to parties that much. I say I'm a biology teacher and a publisher and they say, "Well, what does that mean? Do you publish science?" And I say, "Nope, just local history, interesting subjects, lots of pictures, pretty cover, that kind of thing, Macintosh computer." As long as I can use my Macintosh I don't care what I'm doing. That's crazy I know but that's the ultimate tool and I just like using it, anything I can do with it.

Diesenhaus: You talked about your doctor and--

Norris: Yeah. That was great.

Diesenhaus: Have any other conversations like that led you to someone giving you information?

Norris: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. At the gym--there's always people talking to me at the gym. They recognize from some of the little interviews that I've done on channel 3. Channel 3's been real nice to me as well. They've interviewed me numerous times. And they'll see me on it and then they're "I didn't know you did that." I'm "Yeah, I do." I don't look like the person that would do that either. They always say I don't look like what I do, which is kind of weird, and they come with a notion for a book or a project or something and I'm "Well" and I just tell them honestly right up front, "SlapDash is me and my daddy's the delivery boy" kind of thing and I work with people on a one-to-one basis and usually if you can come up with your end of the deal with a little bit of funding to print the book you'll make a whole lot more money than you would if you went to a standard typical publisher and just let them fund everything. That way you've got more control over what's going on and that's sort of why I did my own. That's what, and I really wanted to do it all myself. I wanted to see all the nuts and bolts and everything and I hope that continues, people will continue to come to me for that kind of stuff. I'd love to just start--keep on doing it just like I'm doing it. I'm not dissatisfied at all.

Diesenhaus: Especially since we've talked about how many different things you're involved in and how you've taught yourself, I wonder if you have advice for aspiring writers or designers--

Norris: Oh, gosh--

Diesenhaus: --or photographers or computer 'cause really you seem to--

Norris: Get a Macintosh, get a camera. It doesn't matter what kind of camera, it doesn't matter at all, and go out and just play with the camera, get the technology understood, take a lot of pictures. The writing part is not my strongest suit. Now I can edit with the best of them and I can see what needs to be done but actually doing it's a little bit of a different thing, and if I really sit down and write it comes out pretty good. I've heard people say, "Well, that just sounds just like something you would say and it's really kind of cute and it sounds nice and we loved that part of your book" kind of thing. I'm "Oh, yeah, whatever," but get in to the writing, do some training. You actually go to school for the writing part, maybe go to art school for the graphic design part. I wish I'd had a little bit more of that but I still don't think I'm lacking. I've never ran up against anything. Maybe just in the speed at which ideas can flow out of my head and on to paper, I can get them out eventually and they sound pretty darn good eventually but it takes me a long time. So just do the technology first. I always take--do the technology first and then the writing and the layout and the graphic design'll come later I suppose. That's all I got.

Diesenhaus: Thanks very much.

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