A panel featuring English professor Joseph Ward, J.D., Pasco Hernando State College student and author Taylor Gibson and local author Madonna Jervis Wise regaled a crowd of about 50 people at PHSC’s Porter Campus at Wiregrass Ranch about the process of writing and publishing at a seminar on March 23.
Each author shared their experiences in the field while the lively audience of diverse community members posed questions for the panel. The event is part of PHSC’s ongoing Community Awareness Series that aims to increase public awareness of resources available to community members at the state college.
Gibson, a native Floridian and a current student at PHSC, has written and published The Spark: A Phantasy Novel.
Taylor told the audience that as a child, he spent hours with books and movies, and conceived his fictional characters in his head before he began writing in high school. He explained that he was diagnosed with a high-functioning autism as a young child, and endured trials during adolescence which further inspired his writing.
Taylor hopes to write a movie script about his experiences and bring it to fruition after he graduates from college. His second novel in The Spark series is currently with the editor, and he has nearly finished the third book in a series of four planned novels.
Fantasy is a popular genre for twenty and thirty-somethings, Taylor said. He added that his characters transform as fantasy becomes reality through thought. Taylor’s self-publishing company is AuthorHouse.
Ward is a founding faculty member of the PHSC Porter Campus and he sponsors the Literary Artists and Scholars Troop (LAST), a creative writing organization at the school. He has published four true crime creative non-fiction novels under a pen name.
Having graduated from law school at Florida State in Tallahassee as well, and as a member of the Florida Bar, Ward shared his unique perspective about the world of crime.
“Writing a book was on my bucket list of things to do,’’ he said. “My first book began to take shape with a discussion I had with my father about a 1980s serial killer in the State of Florida.”
The professor gave some useful, if not sobering, advice to the aspiring writers in the audience.
“Don’t expect fame or fortune,’’ he said. “It is analogous to the adolescent athlete who dreams of the NBA. In reality, writing is a satisfying endeavor and brings some supplemental income in the monthly royalty checks.”
Ward went on to publish three additional crime novels, and currently is working on two sequels. He recommended that potential authors check out the book, A Guide to Literary Agents, for the process of developing a query letter and book proposal. He also recommended WritersMarket.com.
Ward humorously shared that mystery writer Agatha Christie had five years of rejection before her first novel was published, and J.K. Rowling was told by a publishing company that she needed to take a writing class during the 12 years she sought a publisher for the Harry Potter series.
Jervis Wise, who has published Images of America: Wesley Chapel and eight other books, shared the acquisition and publishing process of working with Arcadia Publishing/History Press of Mount Pleasant, SC. She also discussed working with Create Space for self-publishing.
“You need to surround yourself with words through book clubs, workshops and professional organizations,’’ she said, while encouraging locals to attend the Florida Writers Association of Wesley Chapel, which meets the first Saturday of each month at the New Tampa Regional Library on Cross Creek Blvd.
Jervis Wise also explained that creativity is not linear for most people. “My mantra is ‘write it now, fix it later,’” she said. “Even Ernest Hemingway said, ‘The first draft of anything is garbage.’”
During the Q & A with the audience, attendees inquired about the research process for crime and history books. Ward said that he often reads court transcripts and records from government sources, while Jervis Wise described her research, including extensive interviewing and mining the archives of historical newspapers.
Taylor described the process of self-marketing for his books.
All three authors were asked if they experienced writer’s block. The three agreed that writing was an intensive yet creative process that required stimulation and inspiration. They advised taking a break from the process to regenerate the creative juices anytime a writer feels blocked.
For more information about PHSC’s Community Awareness Series, contact Natalie Epo at 527-6629 or by email at email@example.com.