Sunday, February 26, 2017

Writing the Words

“Can you tell us how you go about writing?” I’ve gotten that question many times over the past several years. It’s difficult for me to explain how I do the actual writing, how I put words down on paper, one after the other, to make sentences. Some of the process involves creativity, some of it tapping my memory, but a lot of it a mystery.

When my writing students ask how I spend my time as a writer, I tell them I spend a third of my time doing research, a third of my time writing, a third of my time revising and re-writing, and a third of my time marketing what I’ve written. I also fess up that my math skills were never especially good.

“It takes a village to raise a child,” is a common phrase. I’ve modified that a bit pertaining to my writing. For me “It takes a family for my writing to succeed.” Let me explain. Once I have some words down on paper, whether it’s this blog, columns I write for a weekly newspaper, a magazine article, or a chapter for a book--my wife reads it. If the material does not get past Ruth, it goes nowhere. As I jokingly say, my first reader is ruthless.

If the writing gets past Ruth, and the material is on its way to becoming a book, I bring in other members of the family. My daughter, Susan, an elementary teacher and a published author, is an excellent editor. She’s an expert at spotting errors in logic, inaccurate dialogue and overwritten description.

For big picture critiques, I turn to my Son, Steve, who is a photo-journalist. He helps me with the big ideas, the themes in my writing. If I’m writing something related to the environment, which is fairly often, I turn to my daughter-in-law, Natasha. She is a former environmental editor, trained as a journalist, and has an uncanny ability to spot dumb errors I often make. When I seek a business person’s take on what I’ve written, I turn to my son, Jeff, who is an investment counselor in Avon, Colorado.

I do all of this before I send my writing off to my editors, who put their professional training and experience to work on my words.

I also do joint projects with my kids. Steve and I have collaborated on several books. In the above photo, taken by Kathy Borkowski, Steve and I are signing a book we did together, Roshara Journal, at the recent Garden Expo. I did the words, Steve the photos. Sue and I have a new book coming out this fall, Old Farm Country Cookbook. I wrote the stories; Sue did the recipes.

THE OLD TIMER SAYS: There’s many a step between the first word written and it being published.

WRITER’S WORKSHOP: Patterson Memorial Library, Wild Rose, WI. Call 920-622-3835 for reservations. Limited enrollment. Workshop meets Nine to Twelve in the morning.


Wednesday, March 8, 7:00 p.m. Never Curse the Rain on all Wisconsin Public TV stations.

Saturday, March 18, Madison Area Master Gardeners, Goodman Community Center, Madison. Whispers and Shadows.

Wednesday, March 29, 10:00 a.m., Keynote speaker, Master Agriculturist Award Program, Oshkosh.

Saturday, April 8, 9-12:00 a.m. Writer’s Workshop, Wild Rose Library.

Purchase Jerry’s DVDS and his Books from the Patterson Memorial Library in Wild Rose, Wisconsin (a fundraiser for them):

The library now has available signed copies of Jerry’s DVDs:

Emmy Winner, A Farm Winter with Jerry Apps (based on The Quiet Season book.)
Jerry Apps a Farm Story (based on Rural Wit and Wisdom and Old Farm books.)
The Land with Jerry Apps, (based on the book Whispers and Shadows.)

Also available are several of Jerry’s signed books including: Jerry’s newest nonfiction book, Never Curse the Rain, and his newest novel, The Great Sand Fracas of Ames County. Also available are Wisconsin Agriculture: A History,
Roshara Journal (with photos by Steve Apps) and Telling Your Story—a guide book for those who want to write their own stories.

Contact the library for prices and special package deals.
Patterson Memorial Library
500 Division Street
Wild Rose, WI 54984

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