By Alton Gansky
Athletes have heroes. Business execs have heroes. Christians have spiritual heroes. So it’s no surprise that writers have heroes. But what makes someone a hero to a writer? Sure, there are successful writers we admire, but are they heroes? There are wordsmiths whose prose is so smooth, emotive, and powerful that any serious writer would be impressed. Does success or skill a writing hero make?
I suggest not.
The champions have in mind might not even be writers. Many of us, perhaps all of us, have at least one person who helped us down the road of publication. Perhaps the person encouraged us, or pushed us, or educated us, or (as in my case) put a boot to our fanny.
I’ve told the story many times. It’s a story that never fails to move me. I had written a novel but had no idea what I was doing. I got one rejection from a pay-to-read-agent (I said I didn’t know what I was doing) and shelved the project. I shelved it for five years. Half a decade!
Then the great Jack Cavanaugh called. We had a friendly competition going on. I won round one when a small magazine published a little article I wrote. He won the contest when he scored a multi-novel contract. The American Family Portrait Series would expand to eight volumes. Other books
would follow. Yep, he won in a big way. He kept trying when I had given up.
Then he did something. We chatted on the phone for a while and I was truly happy for him. Not so pleased with myself, but happy for him. He asked, “So, what are you working on?” I begged off by mentioning my pressing ministry work. When he asked again I mentioned family needs. He said he understood then asked again, “So what are you working on?” It was clear he wasn’t going to let me hang up, not until I picked up my pen again.
After reworking my first novel, I placed it with Victor Books. I’m now over twenty years and about fifty works—fiction and nonfiction—down the road. All because a hero called me on the phone.
I’ve been teaching at writers conferences for over fifteen years. There I meet wannabe writers, so of whom have real talent. I have also met those on the brink of quitting. Writing is difficult, challenging, learned over time, full of rejection, and, at times, able to cramp the little gray cells. Over the years, I’ve had a few people contact me to tell me they had been ready to chuck it all but stayed with it because someone said the right thing to keep them in the game.
I’m betting you have someone like that in your writing life. I’d like to hear the story. Did someone talk you out of giving up? Provided tricks of the trade that turned you into a real author? Did someone inspire you by their life story? Did someone tell you that you had the “chops” to be a writer even though you were sure you were just a hack? If so, then you have a hero.
The reminder here is that we all needed heroes and now we need to be heroes to those just outside the gate.
So, who moved you? Changed you? Empowered you? Kicked you in the fanny? Who helped push you down the path to publication?
Alton Gansky is a writer and podcaster and, hopefully, an occasional hero. www.altongansky.com