|Books by Richard Whitten Barnes||
Recently, one of my fellow writers at Wings Press blogged about how she got started writing, and lamented that she did not begin earlier in life. I can relate to that last sentiment. I got to thinking about my start, and how chancy it was that writing ever took hold.
When I retired I vowed not to sit around the house. In my work I played a lot of "business golf" and was a decent player, so I thought this was a great chance to lower my handicap. It soon became clear that what I thought I'd love became a burden. I lost interest in the game.
I did my share of volunteer tutoring at the Charlotte Men's Shelter, The Mecklenberg (NC) Jail, and the Gaston County (NC) Literacy Center. It was all rewarding.
The woodworking bug bit me hard. Got into that to the tune of some serious bucks, and made some nice things, including a coffee table and end table that presently grace our living room. I still enjoy the hobby.
Concurrently I took a night class at the local university just to keep the old noggin sharp. I took the only thing available that looked interesting for an ex science major, "The History of the English Language." Sounds dull, but it wasn't. After that, what next? A short story writing class was available and, on a lark, I took it. I think I wrote one or two stories for the class...and did okay, at least I thought they were.
The next term a class in play writing was available. The guy teaching it was a playwright that our community theater produced one season. I got to know him pretty well. In fact we became good friends, and he asked me to join his writing group.
And here is where things changed. I trotted out my short stories. Having serious writers critique your work can be intimidating, or exhilarating. In my case it was the latter. Positive or negative, I didn't care...someone was paying attention to my creative self.
An Idea I had for another short story was deemed too complicated. I was urged to make it into a novel. "A book?? Me??"
It never occurred to me that I had one in me. But I tried, and wrote a manuscript full of every error and pitfall known to literature. After 100,000 words, the story was told, an epic tale of WWII. I put the manuscript out to the publishing world to relish, expecting great things. Of course they didn't come for a long time. Not until Someone at Wings saw something in it they liked well enough to turn me over to a great editor who rapped my knuckles with re-write after re-write. What a great learning experience. And the resulting product was a book I am proud of.
Since then, I have not taught a class. Nor have I done anything of real substance in the workshop. Writing is the last thing I think of at night and the first thing in the morning. If that isn't a reason to live, don't know what is.