Me an author?
Eleven years ago I retired from my work as a parish minister. The first year was spent settling in to a new house and getting the garden into some kind of order.
A colleague advised me not to do any preaching for at least six months. I managed to avoid it for a year, but a shortage of ministers in the area soon had me being asked to take on some part time work. I did, and I even now I still find myself in the pulpit from time to time.
The one subject I was comfortable with at school was English. I had time to spare and when I saw an appeal for volunteer tutors to help with Adult Literacy work, I volunteered. After 6 moths training I eagerly awaited my first learner. Some months passed before the call came. I was not so confident. I met with the organiser and we discussed what would be involved. I was now really worried, but agreed to meet Gerry, the young man who had asked for help.
Gerry has cerebral palsy. He is unable to walk, unable to talk, but with one finger he can use a keyboard. He has a machine that translates typing into speech, and he is good on a computer. We were to meet for an hour each week.
We started with some basic grammar, but soon it became clear that Gerry’s problem was punctuation. He was keen to write a book. I suggested we use his writing rather than textbooks. Slowly, very slowly, a thrilling crime story began to emerge.
“Gerry, if you only write 100, 150 words a week,” I told him, “it will take years to reach the end, and I am not that young!”
He increased his weekly output to over 200 words! In desperation, one morning I wrote 1,500 words, the beginning of a novel. At our next meeting I showed it to Gerry.
“I did that in an hour and a half.” I told him. “I’m not expecting you to do the same, but in a week you have to write more than you are doing at present.”
He took the hint, and his novel took shape.
I had written 1,500 words. What was stopping me writing a novel? I continued with my story. There was no plan, just an idea. At one point I discussed what I was doing with one of my sons.
“Is there going to be sex?” he asked me in alarm.
“Not so far,” was all I said, but I was a bit worried myself. The main character appeared to be travelling hesitantly towards a certain destination, and I was a man of the cloth. Suddenly to my surprise, a minor character took charge. Everything changed!
After many months, and six drafts, ‘The Cost of Kindness’ was ready for publication. I had read everything I could about self-publishing, not believing the bit about all the drafts, but soon realising that it was true; at least six! The point came when I had to bite the bullet. I can still remember that moment when I pressed, “send”, and the file was on its way to become an e-book on Kindle. A few weeks later the paperback version was also published on Amazon.
Although sales were nothing to boast about, I had got the ‘bug’. My second novel was published a few weeks ago.
“Lost and Found” is based on the true story of a woman’s search for her birth mother. The ‘Marjory’ of the story, is the daughter of friends of my wife and myself. Names, places, and some personal details have been changed. I wrote the story and then got in touch with Marjory, which was perhaps not the wisest way to do it, but she was thrilled that I was telling her amazing story. She helped fill in some details I had missed, made some changes and did all she could to encourage me. Comments from readers have been extremely good.
And what of Gerry? We still meet once a week. He did finish his novel, ‘Kill or be Killed’ but instead of working on it and publishing it, he moved on to write a second and then a third novel, both sci-fi, a genre I have no interest in. They too are great stories. Gerry has now gone back to his first book and we are getting it ready to self-publish.
I became an author purely by chance. It was not easy, but seeing and holding the finished book makes it all worthwhile. Praise from readers is a bonus! If I can do it, so can you.
Written: by Alistair Dunlop
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