A Smaller Octagon

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September 11, 2010 by David Gillaspie

(Written for http://uphillwriting.org/ a place for “people who want to make their book a reality.  Make no mistake: there is no MAGIC word or bullet that makes it all happen.  In the end, it is you, and you only.” 

Sound familiar?

What does a writer do when they get national niche publicity?  Turn to their writing network, of course.  I asked my facebook, twitter, and email people.  I checked my linkedIn, craigslist LitFo, and Den people. 

A national amateur wrestling and MMA writer, Mark Palmer, read a link I posted to an amateur wrestling forum.  He wrote about the link on examiner.com.  He found me on twitter.  After a nice exchange, he decided to do an interview based on my wrestling background, my book, and my blog. 

I explained my background, my book, and my blog further and asked if he was still interested.

He was. 

The interview came out on a webpage with a large feature area and four smaller stories on the side.  It was either a slow news weekend, or someone went on vacation, but my interview ran in the feature slot for five days in what’s usually a one day turn-around.

With no advice, sage or otherwise, coming forward, I was left to stew on what to do, starting with the ingredients:

1.  Blog?  I write a blog that takes the wrestling metaphor as far as it will go, then a little further.  I also lash every other subject to wrestling.

2.  Book?  I posted a book on amazon.com’s DTP, digital text platform, based on my blog..  That’s the name of the self-publishing side of the business for their kindle reader.  Reasoning that my most popular posts had passed some sort of blog-test, I expanded them with additional characters and setting.  They became stand-alone creative non-fiction pieces with an original story at the end.  I used an image of one of my wrestlers as a cover.

3.  Background?  I was a state champion wrestler (top row second from left) and all-American in high school, had a college wrestling scholarship, and tried out for the All-Army Team.  Years later, wrestling came into play with my own sons, and my father in law who had Parkinson’s Disease.




Mark Palmer’s interview mentioned wrestling-writers John Irving, Terry Davis, Ken Kesey, and me in the same section.  Not the same paragraph, or the same sentence, but it’s great company to be around.   

With no one easy answer to ‘what to do’, I stewed. 

‘I need a new network,’ I thought.  Then the writer’s light came on.         

Why are creative writers called creative?  Maybe because they create?  With that in mind I rolled wrestling and writing and John Irving together some more.  Wrestling writer, or writing wrestler.  I remembered a comment John Irving made about his writing style, “if I’d read Hemingway before Dickens I’d be a copywriter.”

Is that a slam?  Close enough.  I invited wrestling-John Irving and boxing-Ernest Hemingway into the MMA, mixed martial arts, octagon.  They snipped and sniped, compared careers and personal lives, traded punches, and one of them tapped out. 

So far, John Irving has tried to fight Kesey, Herman Melville, and Edgar Allan Poe.  He is undefeated.  Ken Kesey, a Division One wrestler for the University of Oregon, talked Irving out of their fight and they teamed up.  Irving did the same for Melville, whom he likes.  Poe actually got into the octagon with Irving.  It didn’t go well for him.   

To avoid problems and hurt feelings, Irving only fights dead authors.  I sent the blog links to his reps in the UK, US, and Canada.  No cease and desist order in return.  I emailed the links to Terry Davis, a creative writing instructor and author of the great wrestling novel Vision Quest.  He wrote back and we’ve had a nice exchange.  He’s a former student of John Irving’s at Iowa Writers Workshop. .

Ernest Hemingway’s granddaughter Mariel got a link to Pappa’s latest fight.  He lost that one, but he’ll be back  before too long.

The octagon gets smaller

In conclusion, put stories together and take them apart until they make the sort of sense you aimed for in the beginning.  Use what you’ve got in front of you the best you can.  Is it a poem?  A blog post?  Flash Fiction?  A short story?  Novella?  Novel?  If it’s small, try to expand it.  If it’s big, try to shrink it.

If you have the material, get creative with it.  Write, then re-write until it’s done with you.  Make clear choices in your writing.  Help the reader understand the choices you make and they’ll see the word pictures you paint.

Then write more.


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