It began in primary school. I was a horrible student from day one – the only enjoyment I got from the educational system was when the teacher asked us to write a story. Most of my one page epics in those days started with ¨Suddenly¨ (seems I knew even then to start with the inciting incident)
Then one day we had a substitute teacher. I was deep into the writing assignment when I felt the presence of someone looking over my shoulder. It was the teacher.
¨What do we do with our eyes?¨ she asked.
Dumb question. I answered, ¨See?¨
No, we DOT our ¨I´s.¨
I guess the small dot over the lowercase letter ´I´ was of such great importance that it justified humiliating me in front of the class. That was the end of my pleasure from writing. Not all of my teachers were such douche-bags. I had one great English teacher in high school – Mr. McGregor. He gave me a lot of encouragement and often read my work to the class. Still, it wasn´t enough to set me on the path I should have taken.
Fast forward 40 years and numerous misteps …. I was a musician, a hairstylist, a cook, a security guard, a doorman, a salesman, and finally, (irony of ironies) an English teacher.
Then a few years ago at the peak of the Self Publishing revolution, I decided to try my hand at writing once again. I had always felt the call and had made the attempt to write a few time but never knew how it was really done. I read a few books on the methodology and then set down to write a memoir about the dogs in our family. This was largely inspired by the arrival of my dog Rose …. hence the title, ´A Rose by Any Other Name – Life Lessons from an Unremarkable Dog.´ I finished it and posted it to Amazon. It was received with UNREMARKABLE sales. Still, I had written a book.
I felt compelled to continue. I wrote a tutorial for teaching English to Spanish speakers and then sat down to the task of writing pure fiction. 6 months later I finished my novel ´LOBO.´ Again, unremarkable sales but I did garner some good reviews.
A half dozen other tutorials for English speakers later and I was ready to start another fiction project.
At that point in life I was diagnosed with Cancer. Wow. Talk about a shocker. If I had only 6 months or so to live, I figured I better write another book. The result was ´Mexican Mutts, Tequila Pups and Chili Dogs – True Stories of the Dogs of Mexico. I think it is the best writing I have done to date.
As you can probably guess, I beat the cancer and am still here. I have now fulfilled that nagging urge to write. People have read my work. I´m not on the NY Times bestseller list and probably never will be but I did what a ton of people strive to do and never get done …. I wrote.
So now I find myself at the turning point. I don´t reread what I have written since I figure I might just scare myself into not doing it again. I realize that my books are flawed in that the DO NOT follow most advice given in the HOW TO books I have read. I don´t really care since I have no interest in writing a forgettable pulp fiction bestseller. My favorite books in the grey genre of Dog fiction, such as ´Old Yellar´ ´Where the Red Fern Grows´ and ´White Fang´ don´t follow that formula either so I figure I am in good company.
Now I face the biggest challenge – Do it again. Get it right this time.
I have an outline for a story and I have been putting off getting down to the writing. I have set out a challenge for myself this time. To write the best possible novel or novella that I possible can without repeating any of the mistakes I made the first few times. So that will entail a lot more editing on my part. A lot more rewriting.
But regardless, I am a writer. I have trained my mind over the last few years to put writing into the first priority in my mental process, to look for inspiration in everything that comes into my life. This morning I noticed a pair of boxing gloves, tied together and slung over the telephone wires in front of my house. Right there I thought is the gist for a story about a young Mexican Boxer. That´s how my mind works these days. I am a writer.
The new project is to be called ´All About Sammi – A Week in a Stray Dog´s Life´ and is in part inspired by the hero dog books, TV series and movies we loved as kids. Canadian television had a series called ´The Littlest Hobo´ about a German Shepherd that went from town to town helping people. Another was a favorite movie I recently saw again on youtube ´Benji´ (couldn´t believe how awful it was ….. I saw it three times in the theatre as a kid)
So that´s my small victory. I am a writer. Somewhere, someone is reading one of my books (notice the use of SINGULAR … as in ONE person haha) But it is enough.
I hope to get All About Sammi written and into print before the end of the year.
David Gordon Burke
Find my books here.