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May 03, 2018
My husband's long-time mentor and friend sat across the table from us at a local Mexican restaurant. After years of Ron mentoring my husband in business and sales, the tables were turned and Mark was now mentoring Ron, as an artist.
It is hard to believe that Ron is 80 years old because he looks 60 and acts 40; with ample salt and pepper hair cut in a shaggy Beatle cut, he leans across the table with a glimmer in his eye.
"If I could teach people how to write fiction, I would love it."
Ron is passionate about writing, and is an avid storyteller. His colorful life has been full of adventure, and he likes to say that he draws from the "junk yard" of his experiences to provide his characters with personality, backbone, and an exciting plot in which to live. After years of working hard as a top salesman, builder, contractor - you name it, he's done it - now he wants to share everything he's learned about writing.
It wasn't until he was 40 years old that he began reading fiction. He took a job to manage a construction project in San Diego. The company provided him with accommodations near the project, but he discovered he had no T.V. He also discovered a library located directly across the street. Exploring its shelves, he began some random reading and eventually looked forward to coming home from work every day to read another book.
He read Jack London and Ernest Hemingway for starters, but eventually found that his two favorite writers were women, Beryl Markham and Katharine Ann Porter.
Ron is the kind of guy who wants to learn everything possible about a subject and become proficient at it before trying to do something new. He had become expert at building houses, he knew that. When he decided he wanted to write, he purchased 30 books about how to write fiction and studied each of them. During our conversation, I learned a few tidbits about writing that inspired me too.
"I love fiction, there are no rules. There are strong educated suggestions, but you’re the boss when you write, do what pleases you."
"It's all about the characters, if you develop, believable characters with some depth, the plot seems to build itself. When I write from one of my character's point of view, sometimes I get in the zone and simply follow them. Sometimes they’ll make me laugh, sometimes bring tears, because I don't know what he or she will say or do, it just unfolds as I write."
Ron explained that most first novels are autobiographical, but that if you're willing to embellish here and there, a simple story can become compelling, can become a book you don't want to put down.
"If I had been talking like this 20 years ago, I'd just go for it without hesitation, but now I'm older, the rules are changing and I really don't know where to start," Ron confessed, with muted enthusiasm mingled with regret, and polished off his taco.
Mark continued to coach Ron in the steps he'd have to take to start a writing class, how to market it online, and gather an audience. I listened to the curriculum emerge in confident, clear bullet points, which ended in giving us an outline about what he would teach. I found myself buying into joining his class, and told him I knew some people who had published books who may be interested.
"Many people who have been published feel they don't need to continue learning. In my opinion, most of the published books out there are not really well written. I'd rather read a mediocre story that's well written than a good story that is poorly written."
The ring tone of a rotary phone echoed from his pocket as he let his flip phone just ring. There was going to have to be a learning curve to catch up on the technology side in order to connect with his audience, but there was no doubt that Ron would be well able to navigate the web. We agreed he may need to find a 14 year old to coach him.
"I'd like to teach a group of 10-12 people, sitting around a table, each working on their writing, and I would be the coach." He said he'd be willing to start with 2-3 students and let it grow.
So if you're reading this right now and you're finding yourself getting excited about the thought of getting some help with the book you've always wanted to write, please contact me and I'll put you on the list. I know it's going to be a great class.
"A story is like something you wind out of yourself. Like a spider, it is a web you weave, and you love your story like a child." Katharine Anne Porter
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