Monday, June 06, 2016

Swickard column: My time to talk writing

“Storytelling was the first human occupation beyond finding food, shelter and a mate.” Michael Swickard

by Michael Swickard, Ph.D.

 I’ve written weekly newspaper columns much of my adult life. A couple of months ago I published my first novel, Hideaway Hills. This Saturday, June 11th I will be signing my novel at the Coas Bookstore in the Downtown Mall in Las Cruces from ten to noon.
            I am a writer because I love storytelling. Luckily for me over the years I’ve been around many good storytellers. Some were just normal folks with an entertaining way around a story while others are professional storytellers.
            Americans are big on stories as is evident by Hollywood. The best part of being a writer is that whatever is happening to you, it might end up in a story. Example: lightning hit a couple of houses away and went through the cable lines burning out my computer and television.
            I took the dead cable boxes to the local Comcast office. The representative told me they were not going to replace my computer and television. I never even considered it. They said it was an “Act of God.” I said, “So I can quote you.” They nodded. Then I added, “Major corporation Comcast affirms there is a God.”
            Until now it hadn’t made it into a column. As a writer I have lots of scraps of paper with those kinds of oddball thoughts waiting for the right moment. The novel came about because over the last decade I daily took care of my uncle to keep him out of a nursing home. One year ago at age 89 he passed away.
            So from 24/7 care of a relative, especially every night, I suddenly had lots of time. Therefore, I started Hideaway Hills from story ideas I had while living in Lincoln County in the early 1980s. Every day I would write. Then came the happy day a couple of months ago when I typed THE END and set about to publish it which in today’s world is relatively easy.
            Hideaway Hills is the first book in a trilogy about New Mexico. It is set in 1985 in the Sierra Blanca area. People have told me stories all of my adult life. I have used some of them in columns and kept the rest in a box. This book let me use some of those stories.
            For instance: one day in a Lincoln County coffee shop one of the old men who told great stories was asked about the nearby Native Americans. He said, “They’re fine folks though when I was just a button on the Bonita me and three friends were attacked while we were camping. They were shooting at us and we were shooting at them. Then we realized we were running out of bullets.”
            The old man paused and sipped his coffee. One of the youngsters at the table impatiently asked, “What happened?” This old man smiled and said, “Son, the Indians killed us all.” He got up and left to our applause.
            Writing is interesting since once it is published it may last for generations or not. I like that I have captured a time in a small community. None of the characters are real but after a year of writing they seem real to me. I laugh with them and cry with them and in the silence of my head I listen to what they have to say.
            I have been asked how to become a novelist. The answer is easy and the work is difficult. You sit and write every day. Many people have told me of their desire to be a writer. They say they have a story but often they have a vision but sadly do not write it down.
            Augusten Burroughs wrote, “The secret of being a writer is that you have to write. It’s not enough to think about writing or to study literature or plan a future life as an author. You really have to lock yourself away, alone, and get to work.” Amen.
            If you are in Las Cruces Saturday, I’ll be at Coas Bookstore in the Las Cruces Downtown Mall ten to noon. Hope to see you there.

No comments: