Tuesday, July 3, 2018

On Writing...a Bestseller

A couple of weeks ago, I received a call from my old friend David (he actually makes an appearance in my novel, haha). He wanted to talk about writing and publishing. You see, he's just published his first book: Comprehensive Applied Mathematical Modeling in the Natural and Engineering Sciences. And yes, it's a best-seller. He's pictured here at his retirement party with his co-author Bonni Dichone, who is a former graduate student, and her husband (gosh, won't these two make beautiful babies?)

David has always talked about writing a book, even when I knew him way back in college. But he's always had a heavy teaching load, along with his own research and students to think of, plus family. When I met him, I was looking for my own instructor, a graduate student who was teaching linear algebra, but he wasn't to be found. It was early in the morning and I'd hurried through my dishwashing at the lab so that I'd have some time before classes started. Walking through the empty hallway, I saw David sitting in his office, looking off into space. I said, "Since you aren't doing anything, you can help me with this." I've always been this direct and tactless most of my life. He could've lambasted me for interrupting whatever equations were going through his head or for being so presumptuous, but he very kindly helped me and no surprise, he was better than my instructor. So I went to see him whenever I was in a mathematical quandary and over many interesting discussions we formed an unusual friendship. I lived with him after my mother died--in the best room of his house, his library, with my pet chicken. (long story). He made sure that I ate (not the chicken, lol). But I digress.

Fast forward. After 45 years of teaching and research, David retired. That was three years ago. He told me he wrote every single day for 14 months for 5 hours. That's how long the writing took. Now, most nonfiction is sold based on a proposal. Everybody told him that writing a book first was not the way it was done. But David is David and he knew what he was doing. He brought half the manuscript to an academic book fair and although many editors didn't show any interest in his work, the one who did wanted it right away. Smart woman. "There is nothing like this." And so Springer published his book. David has put everything into it he knows about mathematical modelling. Anyone interested in this topic can now learn how to do it. Sadly, all that he built up at Washington State University is gone. But the world has this book. And he's writing another book with a much better title. And no, I'm not spilling any secrets :)  

I just finished a very good book: The Art of Slow Writing: Reflections on Time, Craft, and Creativity by Louise DeSalvo. And it confirms my observations on the creative life. Some stories can come in a flash and others can take years to make some meaning of. It might have taken David 14 months to write the book, but he's been writing parts of the book for the past 45 years, continually refining his ideas. Anything worth doing takes time and you have to stick with it.  

Years ago, a dear friend and mentor, Mel Boring (may he rest in peace), reminded me to keep on writing what I love. "Success will follow," he assured me. And he was right. I am so delighted that David retired from teaching to write the book of his heart. He's followed his passion and the world is richer for it. And so is he :) May we also cultivate discipline to focus on the books of our heart. You'd think it'd be easy when we love what we do, but oh well I procrastinate. 

A happy Independence Day to all. We're going to watch fireworks on Daniel Island tonight. Tomorrow, cook out. We have a ton of fat jalapenos and tomatoes so we're going to make ABTs (bacon wrapped jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese, onions, garlic, and pulled pork) and roast them on the Big Green Egg. Yes, we do love our pig products :) We've made mango-jalapeno kombucha and it's sooooo refreshing on these hot summer days. And I hope to share all the details on BOUND in my next post. Squeeeee!!! I hope you all can make me a best-seller too.      


Mirka Breen said...

I don't know about setting out to write well/best-selling books, because who buys what is out of my control. But like your friend David, I relate to writing what you really feel passionate about. And you know what? This is real independence to be celebrated.

Vijaya said...

That's the key! Writing what you love, what you're willing to suffer for (people forget the true meaning of passion). Happy writing, Mirka!