Friday, January 18, 2013

My Journey As A Writer. Meet Patrick Carr

Today it is great to welcome Patrick Carr as part of his Cast of Stones blog tour and he has kindly agreed to share with me the story of his journey as a writer. Over to you Patrick!

My freshman year at Georgia Tech I ran across a box set of “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant” in the campus bookstore. This was 1979 so the bookstore was still a spacious place that stocked a lot of books, magazines, and albums. The fantasy/science fiction section was sizable owing to the location and clientele. I opened my prize and for days I read during every spare moment I possessed, sometimes staying up until 2.

That boxed set introduced me to the world of fantasy. From there I read pretty much everything I could find; some good, some not so good. In my junior year, I decided to try my hand at writing my own fantasy yarn. I managed to squeeze out a few chapters before I got completely lost and gave up. The whole effort was thoroughly forgettable, but it did have one scene that my dorm mates all enjoyed.

After I graduated, I started work as an engineer, got married, had kids, lived life, etc. All of which to say my ambition to become a writer of high and low fantasy slumbered. But then my kids reached the age where I could read them my favorite stories. We must have read a whole library of books. Every night for 30 minutes to an hour, they would gather in the den as I endeavored to make a unique voice for each character and romped through scene after scene.

Then it hit me. Why not write a story in which my children (I have four sons) were the main characters. I approached the task with equal parts determination and trepidation. I had attempted to write stories in the intervening time before, but always with the same result: three or four chapters in, I would get stuck and give up. This time I vowed to finish a novel. So for six weeks I crafted an outline, character sketches, and scenes. Then I started the book and stuck to the outline.

A few months later, I had a book. My kids loved it so I tried it out on my Sunday school class who enjoyed it. That’s when the idea hit me that I might be able to get it published. The list of personal and professional mistakes I made in that pursuit would fill volumes. Yet while I was pursuing publication, I wrote two more books with that set of characters, each one noticeably better than the one before. But none of them really good enough to publish, though I didn’t recognize that at the time.

Then a friend at church suggested that I join a writer’s group to flesh out my resume. Evidently publishers look at that sort of thing. I found and joined MTCW in Nashville, headed by an incredible author and teacher, Kaye Dacus. The other writers in the group kept referring to a contest called “Genesis”. By happy circumstance, I discovered I still had time to enter. I promptly put the first fifteen pages of my best two books, confident that I would place in the top five.

Wow. It’s difficult to put into words the impact my contest scores had, but “sledgehammer to the gut” comes pretty close. I grieved (and ranted) for a while, but then I decided to use my membership in MTCW as something more than a line on a resume. Then next year, my scores improved. My best marks were reserved for a new story I’d been working on, a fantasy called “A Cast of Stones.”

Encouraged and determined, I kept writing and polishing and, with a lot of encouragement from Kaye and other members of the group, I decided to take the leap and go to the ACFW conference in Indianapolis. That was in 2010. One of my two appointments was with Dave Long, the acquisitions editor at Bethany House. For almost twenty minutes I chattered like a squirrel, a side-effect of the prodigious amounts of caffeine I’d consumed.

Dave looked at his watch and said, “Well, our time’s up. I have another appointment.”

Then he said “Send me your first three chapters.” A year later, I had a contract.

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