I got my latest issue from Writer’s Digest the other day. Back when I lived in Spokane going on three months ago, I picked up the mail from my PO box once a week. Now, the rural mail delivers my bills, advertisements and periodicals at the mailbox with red flag just up the drive from the road I reside from, and I walk 200 yards to that mailbox each morning without fail. Anyway, in this magazine was the gist of the month’s theme, “Writing for Change.”
In her letter Amy Jones, the editor in chief described how excited she was at this topic the staff discussed at this time last year. “It shouldn’t take courage to write about things that are important to you, but often those are the topics that take the most courage.”
Now here is the biggest gambit a writer embarks on in his journey, and sometimes, though quite by accident, the theme that comes to mind isn’t as apparent until later when I read the prose. I didn’t feel courageous at deciding to write A Man’s Passion, yet I felt compelled to write the one portion of this book that was most worthy of what I felt needed to be addressed, the sport of lynching Black Americans because it was a socially acceptable tradition in the South back in the days of Jim Crow in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
This was following a 60 Minutes segment on the Peace and Justice Museum that opened in 2016. I didn’t consider it a topic of controversy in today’s climate, yet we have Black Lives Matter. Why? Because there are certain individuals who carry in their suitcase of hate and fear the desire to surreptitiously shoot and kill young Black men in the name of justice.
Now, according to Amy, it is also looking upon not just controversial themes that a writer must look at with a critical eye, but also the concept of writing that makes the story come alive for the reader; making necessary revisions, condensing the text, the syntax, even the individual words that can make a story either exciting or not. I have a small novella and there is a reason for that. I wanted to get the book in such a place that there was no ambiguity about what this story was about.
A Man’s Passion is small and short because I wanted the readers, you, not to drown in unnecessary and cluttered prose or be awed by purple prose that does nothing to enhance the story. My book is about a journey from point A to point B, with very few detours along the way.
Quoting from one of the novelists whose work that Amy highlighted, Carlos Luis Zafon, who wrote The Shadow in the Wind, “Few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart.” If nothing else ever gets published, I hope that A Man’s Passion finds its way into your heart the same way I felt it affected me.