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Help Driftwood Hit the Open Road

Help Driftwood Hit the Open Road


Last year, inspired by watching the film Milk, Nathan Manske launched I'm From Driftwood, billed as an ongoing online collection of "true stories by gay people from all over." More than 400 accounts of LGBT life, including some video stories, have been submitted and posted to the site since March 2009, but the 29-year-old native of Driftwood, Texas, wanted to expand the project's reach.

This September, Manske and a small team composed of video director Marquise Lee, who is gay, and older brother Nick Manske, who is straight, plan to begin a 50-State Story Tour that will take them to big cities and distant corners for four months, all in the service of telling real-life gay American stories. Nathan Manske, a former advertising copywriter who currently lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., talked with The Advocate about preparations for the project, which include a call for grassroots and corporate support, and an openness to wherever the road takes them. (Click here to help Manske raise funds for the 50-State Tour)

The Advocate: Why take I'm From Driftwood on the road?

Nathan Manske: The whole point of the site is to help gay kids or LGBT kids not to be so alone. So far, I've had to wait for stories to come in and hope people would become more proactive and aggressive and get these in front of as many people as possible. I just wanted to get out there. I went public two and a half weeks ago with the announcement. But I've been working on and planning this for about two months.

What's the response to I'm From Driftwood been like?

I launched it in March 2009. It's been great.Towleroad posted about it and it was that first jolt of life. I had no idea it was going to work. The first story was mine, and several were my friends'. The response was exactly what I was hoping it would be. I've had a steady flow of stories. I used to post two or three a day and a video story at the end of the week. Marquise and I work on them. He lives in Philly, so sometimes I go there or sometimes he comes to New York and we film that. I want to open it up soon so people can submit things from their Web cams.

I saw Milk on a Wednesday, and that is what inspired me. I thought of the idea Thursday, morning when I was just waking up, about to go to work. I got really excited. The next day I went in and I was laid off. It was a blessing in disguise. I don't have a day job, and this is all I do now. I'm in the process of turning the site and the project into a nonprofit. Right now I'm not making any money. So the tour timing is actually kind of perfect.

Was there a demand for you to take the project on tour?

There has been a little bit of, "I wish you could. I want to do a video story, but I live in Wichita." There does seem to be a need. A secondary goal of the site is for people to have their stories heard. It's therapeutic, in a way, to share your story. People like the outlet.

Who will go on tour with you?
It will be me and Marquise, the director, and a driver. That's it. I'm pretty sure I have one already. And it's my brother. We're roommates right now. He's straight, so that will be another interesting dynamic. We were going back and forth about who we wanted the driver to be, and when my brother expressed personal interest, we thought, Wait, this could be perfect.

Where does the tour start?

I'm starting from Driftwood, which seemed appropriate, and then heading east. We have a few anchors, which is five, 10, or 20 places where we know for sure we are going. Even though we are going to small towns, we don't want to miss opportunities to go to big cities and keep the media behind it. We'll head east to Houston. We'll keep going to New Orleans. We're going to go to Mobile or Gulfport. I don't know where we're going in Alabama yet. I think we're going to hit Florida first and then hit somewhere in Georgia. Then head up the Southern states and the East Coast and to Maine, then loop around the Great Lakes region.

We're going to do two legs: the eastern half of the United States, then take a week off. Then we'll fly to Alaska and fly to Hawaii. We'll be in Los Angeles a few days and kick off the driving, go up California and San Francisco and Washington to Oregon.

How much money do you need?
We're looking for $80,000. It sounds like a lot, but once we started going through, with either renting or buying a car and all the gas and insurance and tools and food and just surviving, that's not much. It adds up fast. We're looking to stay with people. That's going to save.

How much have you raised so far?

I created a Kickstarter page. That was pretty much the public announcement of the road trip. Through Kickstarter I'm going to raise almost $15,000, which is not going to cover anywhere near the full amount. I didn't want to ask for that on Kickstarter because it's an all-or-nothing thing, the way it's designed. If we were signed up for $80K and only got $79K, we wouldn't get any of it.

We're also going to be having fund-raisers. I'm hoping to have a least one a week, a combination of bartending things and house parties. On Fire Island they'll have one one week, and then somewhere in Manhattan. I'm trying to hit big areas and small areas. We're trying to work out the first one in the next week or so in the East Village.

I'm also looking for corporate sponsors. We're trying to get a van donated, flights to Alaska and Hawaii donated, a gas company to donate gas, hotel rooms, or just a corporate sponsor who just wants to give us a load of cash. Lots of advertising opportunities will exist.

Will you be documenting the tour?
The blog will be I'm From Driftwood Road Trip or whatever we're going to end up calling it. I really want to keep the site with stories. We're trying to make it as interactive as possible. I don't really care where we go. I want to continue proving that gay people are everywhere. I don't care where it takes me. I just want to show it. The blog will be more for my voice and opinions. I try to keep those off the sites. This will hopefully give me a way to communicate with readers and have them determine where I should go next and where I should stay. It's going to be pretty organic.

We are going to be filming a documentary, or we're going to try to turn it into a documentary. We're still working on that. We're not sure what we want the story to be or whether we want it to be just for the website. We're working out details of that, but there will be a documentary, and also I'm hoping to collect stories and really get a huge diverse group and turn it into a book.

What state are you most looking forward to visiting?

I said I have almost 400 stories, and there's till about eight or nine states that I don't have any stories from. I thought, All right, I'm going to get all 50 states. I know that Hawaii is one, and I think Rhode Island is one.

How are you going to prepare for your arrival in each city or town?

We're going to have someone who is going to call ahead about eight days before we're going to be there. For example, if we're in Driftwood, we're going to have someone call South Carolina or wherever and call their local media. We're going to have events in bars and bookstores and cafes and college campuses. We're hoping to have this growing wave of publicity. It's just perfect for the fall semester.

How can people help?
I would love them just to be a part of it, like e-mail me or message me through the site and tell me where they want to go. Somebody e-mailed me this story and said, "Whenever you're in Montana you should come to this town. There's this lesbian biker community and it's in this tiny little town in Montana." I'm looking for anything interesting, unique, and I'm looking for stories and I want them to be as diverse as possible, all the different communities and cultures. Send me suggestions.

Click here to help Manske and I'm From Driftwood with the 50-State Story Tour.

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