Let us go forth, the tellers of tales, and seize whatever
prey the heart long for, and have no fear.
– Yeats, WB: The Celtic Twilight
We are all tellers of tales.
While it is true there are those among us who are gifted in this regard, every social interaction is about telling stories of things we find of interest.
Writing a story – going from an idea, crafting and nurturing it into something that, once recorded, has something to say. Telling that kind of story is a different kettle of fish.
A little context…
Last week, Molly, a friend, and I visited the Presidio Museum in Tubac, Arizona. Tubac is one of the older communities in the state, and has for any number of years been known as an artist community. One can find items from moderate costs to the extraordinary amongst the wide variety of artistic offerings.
In the museum was a working facsimile of the first printing press in the state. A video showed a historian printing a page of the ‘Arizonian,’ issued more than 150 years ago. The lead type was first set (backward in the tray), inked, then pressed against a large sheet of paper. That sheet (containing six pages) was proofed again before approval. Once the ink dried it was cut into individual pages for distribution. None of this mattered, of course, unless there was news of interest to the readers.
It was agonizingly slow.
That was then…
An extension of the weekly blogs I’ve have written has resulted in three self-published books – life in small bites, life around the edges and life along the way. In addition to selling a few of these on Amazon.com, family and friends have been recipients – willing or otherwise.
My friend Melinda, an award-winning author, and leader of a writer’s co-op I attend had been encouraging a longer narrative – a novel, perhaps. After deflecting her encouragements, with comments like: “I’m really NOT a writer,” or “I can’t find a narrative longer to write about,” I gave in and thought I would give it a try.
Total honesty? I was (am) afraid it would range from derivative to simply awful. I think I have a healthy sense of self, but this seemed too much.
Then I thought about my high school best friend, John. We have had little contact in many decades, but he remains deeply rooted in my psyche. AND so, a kernel of thought began to develop.
The comradery we had still resonated in the molten chemistry of my aging and faltering mind, so our relationship in those years became the basis for ‘Take the Shot,’ a novel I have been working on for a little over a year. In the briefest of terms, it is updated to the events of September 11th, 2001 attack on the Twin Towers.
The characters Hank Murdoch (loosely me) and Ben Miller (Loosely John) join the military in a moment of patriotic eagerness, become Army Rangers, and subsequently a sniper team in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The story begins with the murder of Ben’s wife and a man with whom she had a brief affair. The setting is in the town of Fairmont, West Virginia. The event leads Ben to contact and request help from Hank, whose life has been aimlessly drifting in California. The friendship, disconnected for five years, reunites the friends for an investigation of the murders.
The work is now ready for publication. Last week, seeing the printing press in Tubac, made me think a little about what it would have been like to try to get a book published in the 1800s in the deserts of Arizona. It also made me think about the process I went through at the end of my doctoral program.
Looking back a little…
When I was a graduate student, I had to outsource everything for my dissertation…someone to type it, a statistician to reduce the data, a graphic artist to do the figures, and a print house to whom I submitted the manuscript. All of this took several months. If there had been computers AND Microsoft Office, I could have done all of it myself and had it ready to print within a few days.
Today’s self-publishing environment is the equivalent of Microsoft Office as described above. Amazon.com has a subsidiary called Create Space (Createspace.com) that permits indie authors to do everything a publishing house can do but by oneself.
Creating a book requires only the ability to learn the formatting methodology, having a manuscript, getting a book cover, uploading them to Amazon.com, and ordering an on-demand printed proof – all done from the comfort of one's office and computer.
The first printing press by Gutenberg was an unbelievable contribution of technology. The Tubac press was, in some ways, light years ahead of that, but by today's standards, both are archaic. It’s easy to take for granted the electronic technology and the access available to publish practically anything. Someday, we may be able to create and print just by thinking.
There is, however, something that has not changed for the teller of tales – having good stories to tell. And that as it always has been, is a different kettle of fish.