Ten writers for children. All with something to say.

11/4/08

A Lifetime of Inspiration

*When I was in third grade Wilson Rawls, author of Where the Red Ferns Grow, visited my school and talked about the process that had produced what was, at the time, my favorite book.

*In fifth grade, each student in my class had to write a letter to an author. I chose Donald Sobel, author of the Encyclopedia Brown series. He wrote back, answering my questions, and included a sticker that read: Encyclopedia Brown, America’s Sherlock Holmes in Sneakers.

*Several years later, after my family had moved to Fairbanks, I got an after school job at a small local newspaper, the All-Alaska Weekly. During my four years there I met numerous regional writers and also earned my first publication credits, writing Police Blotter blurbs.

*In college, I took my first writing class. As Hans Ostrom, my professor, read the attendance list on the first day of class, he said, “Mark Roughsedge: what a great writer’s name.” It sounded good to me!

*By the mid-Eighties I was back in the Seattle area and the Elliott Bay Book Company began advertising author readings. A friend and I went to see Roberta Smoodin – and we were the only two people to show up! The three of us sat at a table and talked writing for an hour.

*As this “author readings” idea became more popular, the events soon became standing room only. I was there in the crowds, dozens of times, being inspired by the likes of Thomas McGuane, Jim Harrison, David Foster Wallace, Jim Welch, and many others.

*Back in Alaska for the Nineties, I made do with reading author biographies and interviews in the CLC and DLB collection at the Fairbanks library, where overstuffed chairs and a fireplace provided comfort and warmth throughout the brutal winters.

*After writing my own version of the Great Alaskan Novel (A Garden Path) my list of story ideas seemed more suited to MG or YA, so I began honing my craft in that direction. Workshops and residencies ensued. Over the last few years I have studied with authors ranging from David Greenberg and Stephanie Bodeen to Kirby Larson, Patricia Hermes, and Mel Boring.

*I joined SCBWI several years ago and now belong to a critique group that includes Stephanie Bodeen and Joni Sensel.

*Looking back, I can see how each of these experiences inspired me at different points in my life. With any luck (and more hard work) a young third grader might some day list my name as someone who encouraged his or her own aspirations of becoming an author!

6 comments:

Gottawrite Girl said...

Ahh, Where the Red Fern Grows, so good... it's precisely these kind of books that make me want to contribute!!!

Thanks for the post!

Christy said...

I like your voice, Mark. I look forward to being inspired by you through this blog and future books.

Edie Hemingway said...

Another inspiring story and a winding path to where we are now! How great to meet Wilson Rawls when you were in third grade. I think those very early books are the ones that influence us the most.

David LaRochelle said...

I loved the Encyclopedia Brown books when I was growing up. How very cool to get a letter back from Donald Sobol! And it's fun to see that kids are still reading those books at schools.

Lauren said...

I did not read "Where the Redfern Grows" until my son was in third grade. What a heart wrenching book. My son's teacher went rogue and would not read the listed books for the tests, but instead read the classics including Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. I still remember my son coming home with tears in his eyes from Wilson Rawls ending. How powerful it would have been for him to actually meet the author!

Stephanie said...

Oh my gosh, Where the Red Fern Grows had a huge impact on me when I was 10.