In 2006, Karen Valby spent four days in a tiny Texas burg called, all too perfectly, Utopia, reporting an article for this magazine. The residents of the town, notable for their almost complete lack of connection to wider pop culture, still managed to get their hands on a copy of the piece when it came out. When Valby returned to work on her book-length version, some folks weren’t too sure about the project. ”It took them a good month or two before the town warmed up to me again,” she admits.
But once they did, they opened up, and Valby soon found herself changing to match the town’s unhurried pace. ”I learned that you really can slow down,” she says. ”My obligation was to wake up at 5:30 and make it down to the general store. That was my whole appointment book.”