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Writing is more than a dark room, a desk and an idea

Community Editorial Panel with Bruce Graham
Community Editorial Panel with Bruce Graham - Contributed

Community Editorial Panel with Bruce Graham

You might picture a writer as someone sitting alone in a darkened room, struggling with page after page of creative effort. That's certainly part of a writer’s life but it is only one component. There is a bigger theme called thinking. Writing involves a great deal of thinking. You have got to figure out what you're writing about to get into the ebb and flow of a novel. It's your story and eventually that story and the characters in it become part of your life.

Besides figuring out your characters and what your writing about, there is the promotional work. You have to be out there plugging your book in stores, libraries, at book clubs and church basements. I've sold books out of the trunk of my car. Where there is an audience you plug your work.

I do less of the promotional work today but during my first seven or eight books I traveled this province plugging one book after another. Helen and I drove over Mount Thom in a blizzard because I had a speaking engagement where half a dozen brave souls showed up at the New Glasgow Library.

New challenges arise in a writer’s life. Publishers reject your story or if its a play you've written, you can't get it on the stage. Both those things have happened to me in the last year or two. My play, Our Feuding Fathers, the story of how Nova Scotia was pushed, shoved, placated and finagled into Confederation. It is a musical, lively and funny but filled with tension as Joe Howe and Charles Tupper square off against each other. Two theatre companies agreed to stage my play but then fell away from the idea, because of costs or the cast was too big, there are too many songs or it was too expensive. I hope to have some good news on that front very soon.

A writer’s life must be filled with optimism.

In the book world, my publisher who has been so good to me through nine books, will not touch my tenth book, The End of Dreams.

'Too American' he said, and he's never had any luck selling books in the States. Its true the major portion of my new book takes place during the U.S. Civil War, although almost all the main characters are not only Nova Scotian but from Cumberland County. I could have tried other publishers but I didn't. Instead I jumped into the biggest market in the world, the mysterious and frightening complexity of digital publishing. It is not for the fainthearted or the computer illiterate. Unfortunately, I belong in the latter category. I don't blame my publisher. Like all people producing books today, he is subject to the grand poo-bah of Canadian culture, the Canada Council. They want Canadian content. Yet Tapestry of Green takes place in England and China. But that was a few years ago and things change.

I'll have The End of Dreams on the market before long because writing is worth it. The greatest joy for a writer is when the characters take over the plot and write the story for you. You have been with them for several months or even years by that time. But it is a most satisfying experience. And yes, the weather is turning cooler and I have begun another book. As in years past, I have a winters writing ahead of me in a darkened room, struggling with page after page of creative effort.

I'm looking forward to writing the occasional column for this publication and I promise not to plug all the time, even if I want to.

Bruce Graham is a retired broadcast journalist, author and playwright who lives in Amherst. He is a member of the Amherst News Community Editorial Panel.

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