I am fully back into vampire status as my training is complete, schedules are out and I am at work. I have been making work travel plans for February and I told the lady at Corporate Travel that I feel like a new hire. I forgot to look at the flight schedules and know which flights I wanted. I forgot to look at the amount that FedEx has planned to pay for the airfare. I even forgot to have the trip itinerary with me. I walked into the office and realized that it has been almost two years since I scheduled a trip. Life was good, ha ha.
This past Sunday, a local author, Cat Pleska who is an editor/college writing professor/President of the WV Writer’s Organization/President of Mountain State Press was speaking at the Putnam County Library about all things writing. I was one of about 30 people at the event. This was the first time I have gone to hear an author speak. It was quite the learning experience.
I was smart enough to take some paper for notes. I was dumb enough to not think about bringing business cards or anything else to network with the local writers. It is all a learning process.
Here are my direct notes without commentary.
Writing is scary.
You will be published, it will happen when it is time. Everything is in the process, learn all the steps.
Find a writing rope? A writing group is a new pair of eyes. It is important. Not a social group but a group focused on the work. Community is important.
Expect to be edited.
Go to a writer’s workshop.
Need to outreach, give yourself the opportunity to be found.
Writing is a business. Are you worth the chance? The publishers are jaded, they have seen it all. But they want to be excited.
You will have to market your book, alone.
You will not please everyone, writing is subjective, it is not fair but it is true.
After listening to Mrs. Pleska, one comment stood above all the others. Am I worth the chance? After spending the night thinking about this single comment, I sent her this e-mail the next day.
I wanted to send a quick e-mail to you thanking you for taking the time from your busy life to speak yesterday to the Putnam County Library. Speaking for myself, it was a wonderfully moving experience to be in the presence of someone who honestly knows the mechanisms of becoming a published author. Many things you said validated what I have learned elsewhere but one statement reverberated through my entire being.
“Who is going to take a chance on me?” That simple statement is so true. I am currently finishing a second draft of an unread work of fiction. I am not a professional writer, I have never been published and when I was in college I slept through all of the required English classes. Today all I really have to illustrate this change in my life is a blog and a computer with 150,000 words on it. My only professional accomplishment is being able to pilot an airplane. No publisher in their right mind will ever take a chance on that.
Your words were so encouraging because that simple statement mentally filled in the missing gap in my quest to become the next Tom Clancy. I have always had another project in mind but I thought it would come after I was a published author. Until yesterday, I thought this project would have to wait because why would a New York Publishing house care about the story of 120 West Virginian’s deploying to Iraq in March 2003. This morning after allowing the idea to bounce around in my head, I clearly see it should be first along my path. Collectively those brave men and women have a story that is in keeping with the highest levels of honor. Their story will make you proud, it will change the way you look at the big gray airplane that flies over your state and it will make you cry as you know what they did on our nation’s behalf.
For me personally, telling their story will allow me to kick open doors that are currently bolted shut. I will not bother you again until I have something tangible to submit. I wish you and your family all the best. Once again, I thank you for taking the time to speak to a collection of folks on a relatively warm Sunday afternoon.
Her reply was very warm and encouraging.
Here is the newest plan of attack. I will finish writing the current draft of the book. I am very close, maybe 15,000 words. My brother and I have our plan already formulated. He is going to work his magic and afterwards we will send it out to some beta readers. After that phase is complete, one more hard edit and we will be submitting it to publishers. Hopefully, this will happen by the summer.
I was thinking that I would start book number two in the series but that will have to wait. Once Greg starts his part of the process, I am going to start a new project. One that I have thought about for a long time, but thought would not happen. I am going to call on my friends in my former Squadron and I am going to ask them allow me to tell their story. I have written about my experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan on this blog. I have had so many comments from my friends who enjoyed the walk down memory lane but this project will be about them, not me.
Mrs. Pleska’s publishing company, Mountain State Press is looking for just this kind of thing. Their mission statement is that they want “manuscripts throughout Appalachia with a special focus on West Virginia authors and those works set in WV.” I have no promise of anything, so this next step is being taken on blind faith in the project.
This is the real story of 120 West Virginians who deployed in support of national objectives. From 2003 to 2008, these men and women did some incredible things. They directly influenced the war effort, came into direct contact with some of the most well-known people of the Iraq War, Jessica Lynch, Lindy England, Kid Rock, Paul Beemer, Donald Rumsfeld. Numerous medevac’s, honoring the remains of fallen warriors, NVG landings at H1, Operation Big Drop, Air Medal Missions, exploding mortars, being shot at daily, and many more.
Humorous stories of sitting in filled up port-a-potties, Dookie Monster/Turdzilla, roaming the Baghdad International Airport, braking down in Jordan, Kuwait, P-SAB, savaging food from every AB in the AOR, MREs, the oppressive heat, the Extravaganza Departure, trying to put on a chemical mask while under scud attack, Jimmy Two Balls, garbage trucks on the runway and the list goes on and on.
Finally, these men and women have stories that will bring tears to your eyes. They lost loved ones while they were deployed; children born while they were on the phone halfway around the world, crew members getting hurt in the line of duty, nearly escaping death on a regular basis. Missing birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and every other important even in the life of a family.
Most people don’t know these stories, several of these stories I don’t know or have forgotten. My family doesn’t know except what I have told them mainly through this blog. I want my kids to know what their dad did at one point in life. Likewise I would like the world to know what a valuable resource we have based in the heart of the state. Every time I walk into a bookstore, I search the military/history sections looking for something about an Air Lift Squadron at war. There is nothing, but hopefully in a year or so there will be. My working title is “Tremendously Proud” and yes the title makes me laugh.
So, I am putting my friends on notice that I will be pursuing this project. It might be a couple of months before I get things going. But it will happen. I will be calling and not just my friends who retired or quit like me. There are so many stories from those who still serve. I will work with Jody and Scotty to make sure the identities of those who currently serve will be protected.
I will be calling on your guys and your stories. This means you Billy, Morgan, Mikey, Richie, Shy Dog, Paul S., Paul G., Paul D., Russ, Butler, Toney B., Seabass, Money Man, Stan “The Man”, Tracy, Deron, Gary, Bubbles, Yogi, RT, RB, Combat Barbie, KK, Sleepy, Harry, Pringle, Trooper, Gummy, Delbert, Bobby, Gerry, Crummy, Joda B., Adam, Steve H., Patrick M., Patrick B., the Switzer Brothers, Mark C., Chuck “The Nav”, Chuck “The Load”, Johnny R., Johnny C., John C., Johnny S., Jimmy “Cotton” T., Antony, Dennis H., DDT, Q-Tip, CDS, Gomer, Little Tacket, Bryan P., Mark H., Kevin R., Kevin M., Carlos, Julio, Bryan R., Bryan L., Bart, Bobby, Stevie D., Gota Hale, Chris W., DCM, JR, Cookie, Dave F., Hatfield, Bam Bam, Ron B., Robert G. I., Todd L., Dustin L., Jeff K., UN, Dewy, Mailman, RB, RT, and so many more. I know I missed naming several friends because I don’t have 120 names. But everyone has a story and a different perspective of what it meant to be a “Go-Home” or a “Leftover.”
Even the smartest guy I have ever known as a story. I think his name was John King, he worked in Life Support and was scheduled to graduate from Marshall University in May 2003. We were activated in March 2003. In February drill he got asked for a drug test on Sunday which he failed. He was kicked out of the Squadron and while we were doing our thing, he was smoking weed on the lake all summer. He is the smartest guy I have ever known. His story needs to be told as well so we all know what we missed.
Until next time, keep on rockin.