By: Vivian Duncan
Newnan and the surrounding area is home to many talented individuals, including several authors of novels and memoirs which have been well received by the public. These authors each have their own story and flair, as well as advice and tips for future authors.
Jerald Lee Watts
Jerald (Jerry) Lee Watts’ first book is Promises Kept, published 2009, and the second is Military Medicine and Cold War, published 2014.
Promises Kept is a memoir of mid-twentieth medicine in Atlanta, focusing on medical school and Grady Hospital experiences during a period of racial segregation and integration in the South. It reflects serious business admixed with an occasional bit of humor. The second book is about experiences as a military flight surgeon and general surgeon during the early 1960s during the Cold War period, ultimately resulting in the Vietnam conflict.
Watts wrote his book by recalling stories and assembling those stories with an intention of informing others of those experiences. He said, “writing is not necessarily easy, yet once a writer has the story or stories in his or her head, it seems to move along.”
His first book was published without an established publisher as he wanted it ready for my 50th medical school anniversary and reunion. He has made minimal effort to market his works, yet it has been well accepted. It was nominated for the Georgia Writer Association for GA Author of the year in the memoir category.
“I have always been a storyteller and thought I would simply put that practice in writing. It is an enjoyable pastime. I enjoy recalling certain experiences by putting those into words. I should like my grand children to understand their ancestors and experiences.”
He advised to just start writing what is in your head without corrections until you have completed your thoughts. Then you may review the grammar, spelling, syntax and what you feel has the greatest effect on yourself or possibly others.
“Writing, especially with others, such as in writing groups, leads to enjoyment of another’s work and thoughts and experience or in the case of fiction, imagination.”
If memoirs are not your taste, Coweta County is also home to fiction authors such as Sharon Marchisello and Angie Gallion, and William Ramsey.
Sharon Marchisello wrote the novel Going Home, published in 2014 by Sunbury Press. Going Home is a murder mystery that was inspired by her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease, which prompted her to wonder what it would be like to interview a witness or a suspect who had memory problems.
It opens when the heroine comes home to find her mother hovered over the dead body of her caregiver. Because she was alone, she becomes a suspect, but she can’t give a straight answer about what happened. The heroine is forced to stay in her hometown longer than planned to care for her mother, try to unravel the murder mystery, and prove her mother’s innocence.
Marchisello said, “I have always enjoyed writing fiction. This particular story came to me about a year after my mother’s death.” Going Home was her fourth novel and second mystery, the other books remaining unpublished.
She reflected on the process of writing the book and explained, “I was working full-time while I wrote this book, so when I was on a roll, I’d wake up every morning at 5 a.m. and write for an hour before I had to stop and get ready for work. I don’t write fast, and I edit a lot as I go, which I’m told one shouldn’t do. I’d often start the writing day by re-reading the last pages I’d written (and of course, editing) before putting down new words.”
Marchisello explained how getting traditionally published can be a very long process. “There’s lots of waiting, lots of rejection, highs and lows,” she said.
It was 10 years and 7 drafts from the time she started writing Going Home until she signed the contract with Sunbury Press.
Of the experience, she elaborated, “Getting the contract was a bit scary, because I didn’t have an agent. Luckily, a fellow Sisters in Crime author looked over my contract for me to ensure it was legitimate, and to make some suggestions for negotiation.”
Marchisello noted that she was surprised at how many people have known someone with Alzheimer’s disease. “So many readers have told me they could relate to the mother character and her situation, and they liked the way I handled her dementia in the story.”
Marchisello always been a writer and claims that it’s a skill that always came easy to her. “I enjoy writing fiction because it allows me to create a world where I’m in control. I can write characters based on people I don’t like and make bad things happen to them. I can make a heroine who has traits I admire and performs admirably in situations I might have bungled in real life.”
In addition to Going Home and her other unpublished novels, she has sold some travel articles, magazine pieces, and a short story for an anthology. She also self-published a personal finance e-book called, Live Cheaply, Be Happy, Grow Wealthy and writes a personal finance blog, Countdown to Financial Fitness.
In her job with Delta Air Lines, she wrote customer correspondence, training manuals, project management documents, and other corporate communications. She has done book reviews for Killer Nashville magazine, and I also post book reviews to Goodreads.
When asked what advice she would give to people who enjoy writing but do not know how to turn ideas into a book, she replied, “Take some classes that teach you about plotting, character development, suspense, structure, etc. Read a lot and pay attention to the way writers you admire have fleshed out a story. And keep writing. Join a writers group and share your work with others.”
Marchisello shared that being a successful author requires a lot of marketing and self-promotion, and most writers would rather be writing their next book.
For a book series rather than a novel, you may want to look to Angie Gallion.
Angie Gallion has published two novels in 2016, Intoxic and Purgus, Intoxic being a coming of age novel about a girl growing up in a dysfunctional environment and trying to find a path through the chaos of her life, while Purgus is a continuation of her journey.
Gallion’s first rough draft of INtoxic was written in her college creative writing class. “Over the years I brought it out and edited it and reworked it until a couple of years ago when I pulled it out and read it and thought it was finished. I wrote Purgus for everybody who asked “What happens next?”
She is currently working on the third book in the series and is very excited to see where her characters go in this one.
Gallion is a morning writer who tries to write 1600 words a day in a very rough draft fashion, a technique she learned when she wrote two books for Nanowrimo in 2008. Explaining the difficulties of getting the words out of her head and onto paper, she said “The hardest part of writing for me in quelling that voice in my head that says “nobody wants to read this.”
The process of getting her work out into the world seemed to just fall into place for Gallion. She met a fellow author who had self-published his work and he was very positive about looking over her manuscript and even sharing his editor with her.
She explained the joyous feeling of finally being done with the process, after nearly ten years. “From there, I researched self publishing options and chose the companies I wanted to launch through. That process was incredibly liberating. Of course I want my writing to be read, but there was something very calming about having finished it, in a real way.”
The hardest part of being self published, or even published by a small press, is that there is no marketing team promoting you or your book.
When asked what makes her want to be a writer, Gallion said, “I have always enjoyed creating something from the thoughts in my head and seeing other people enjoy those creations.”
Gallion had a couple of short works included in a college journal, and several years ago a short story won a contest with the Coweta County Magazine. She is also working on the third installment in her series, Icara.
Her message to aspiring writers was, “If you want to write books read books. Read a lot of books. The best advice I can give is to not critique your own work when you write. If you have a thought and want to write, just write it, editing comes later. I don’t even reread anything I’ve written until a couple of days later.”
Centered more around subjects fit for male youth, William Ramsey adds some variety to the area’s literature.
William Ramsey has written two novels, I’m from Dothan, published in 2014, and Safe at First?, published in 2015. I’m from Dothan follows a group of boys as they grow up. It covers typical things that happen to them and the lessons they learn, including family outings, dating, and responsibility. Safe at First? Is about a youth league baseball team and follows their season. Their best player had a hard time fitting in. While it is mostly about baseball, it also covers issues that come up off the field.
When Ramsey retired from banking, he had a lot of stories in his head and decided that it as finally time to put them on paper. Both books are fictional but are based on a number of actual events from his personal life.
He started writing I’m from Dothan around 2010 and eventually thought it was finished. The hardest part, he said, was getting it edited and published.
“I contacted various publishers and agents without any success. I had decided that if I got fifteen rejections then I would call it quits. I actually stopped looking after around the 13th rejection,” he explained. About two years later, Tate Publishing contacted him and agreed to publish his book.
He used CreateSpace.com to publish Safe at First? And believed it was a much easier process. CreateSpace offers a number of services for the process of printing a book. Ramsey acclaimed, “they were very easy to work with and always available to answer questions for me and my illustrator, who also did the cover.
The books have been received modestly by the public. The vast majority of his sales have been to people who know him personally or are from his hometown of Dothan, AL or the surrounding area.
“I started writing because I had a story I wanted to tell. I think everyone has something to share whether it is through poetry, art, music, oratory, or just how one interacts with people. I enjoy it because it gives me an opportunity to meet people that I would not have met otherwise.”
Ramsey has not written anything else and do not have any current plans to do so.
For young writers, Ramsey advised, “Talk to any English teachers or authors that you know. Attend any author book signings that you hear about, volunteer at events, inquire at libraries, bookstores, and cultural arts organizations about writing and meeting authors. Also, just start putting your thoughts stories down on paper and ask for some feedback.”
He stressed that it was important to not get discouraged and be open to feedback, because it may take some time to get something published.
Reflecting on his experience as an author, Ramsey said, “This has been a very rewarding experience for me. I have been able to meet a number of people and establish friendships with a variety of people, as well as has improved my grammar and writing ability. “