“A king is a king, but a bard is the heart and soul of the people; he is their life in song, and the lamp which guides their steps along the paths of destiny. A bard is the essential spirit of the clan; he is the linking ring, the golden cord which unites the manifold ages of the clan, binding all that is past with all that is yet to come.”
― Stephen R. Lawhead, The Endless Knot
Having published 15 books, numerous short stories, essays and magazine articles, songs, and some poetry, I wanted to share what I’ve learned in my journey with aspiring writers. I describe myself as the Bard of the South. A bard in the Celtic nations of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales was a poet, a storyteller, a composer, and a singer who travelled from place to place, from performance to performance, entertaining and educating his audiences. Bards were creators of legends, historians, and often celebrities of their day.
A bard’s life often proved to be a challenging life, as the bard experienced similar difficulties that authors face today: Making a living, building a reputation, dealing with difficult audiences, and finding time to improve their craft.
The bard’s life describes my own life since 2007. By the year before COVID, I had built up to 140 author/music events that year with book signings, school visits, libraries, festivals, markets, and music performances from Texas to Florida. Obviously, due to the national COVID shutdown, I was a bard who could not travel, and had no audience. I used the downtime to write another book, and create a music CD of original songs, Touched by Ghosts. Finally, after things returned to more or less normal, I’m rebuilding a busy schedule, and am back to living a bard’s life.
Here’s are some suggestions to help you on your own writing journey, that may help you find the bard inside yourself.
- Give thought to what genre you want to write: poetry, romance, western, fiction (novel, short stories, biographies), horror, science fiction, young adult, Christian, nonfiction, biographies, true crime, etc. Read your chosen genre constantly, and learn from each author’s techniques. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with experimenting in writing in different genres. In fact, I think it will help you discover your writing voice.
- This is the best book I’ve found on writing fiction: The Lie That Tells a Truth by John Dufresne. Remember, fiction writing is different from academic writing.
- Best Advice/Book on Marketing: Guerilla Marketing for Writers. I started with signings at libraries. Email me (email@example.com) and I’ll send you a comp copy of my PDF book, How to Market Your Book to Libraries. No matter who publishes your book (even if it’s the traditional route), you will be responsible for marketing it. Once your book is published, carry it with you. I’ve sold several books by displaying them on my table at a coffee house or restaurant.
- If you are eager to have a book published, consider using a POD (print on demand) company like Booklocker.com. They offer the best prices and services of any POD company. One selling point: POD will never go out of print! I have four books in print with Booklocker now and I was able to have a traditional publisher pick up three other books that I first published with Booklocker. A word of caution: Whatever POD publisher you use, don’t be in a hurry. You need to have your book manuscript read, edited, and proofed at least three times.
- Enter writing contests. Winning the 1994 Ernest Hemingway Short Story Competition is what gave me a jump start in my writing career. Every quarter, WritersWeekly.com sponsors a challenging but fun 24-hour short story writing contest with cash prizes. I enter this contest every quarter. Some of the stories I entered I later revised, and submitted to publishers and other writing contests.
- Attend Writing Conferences and other book events: Many of them sponsor writing contests, and provide a chance to interview publishers and agents. You can find many of these conferences listed online or in writing magazines.
- Read author biographies for ideas and inspiration. You will learn that there is seldom, if ever, instant success for any author. Many popular authors paid their dues, obtained battle experience, and struggled financially just like you and I have/will.
- Learn “how to” from Internet articles, author interviews, and YouTube videos. Many colleges and universities have excellent resources on writing. Build your vocabulary. Learn to spell and pronounce new words correctly. Learn the skill of writing introductions and conclusions. The Internet has made it possible for determined authors to become an expert in any topic.
- Use writers’ groups or writing buddies, or find a mentor. My mentor was Billy Dunn. He is also the one who steered me to Booklocker for my first in-print book, Red River Fever. Mr. Dunn created his own book with Booklocker, Remembrance: A Caldwell Parish Memoir, a fine book about a sheriff’s deputy who lived to be 107!
- Write every day. I always have more than one writing project in process so, if I hit a wall, need rest, or time for research, etc., I can still get in some good writing. When writing an essay, I teach my college students that they must spend time pre-writing and brainstorming. I think that’s true for any writer.
I hope these suggestions help you in your own writing journey. Don’t be discouraged. Believe in yourself and your words and you will find an audience.
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Rickey Pittman, the Bard of the South, was the Grand Prize Winner of the 1998 Ernest Hemingway Short Story Competition, is a member of the Western Writers of America, and teaches Freshman English Composition for two universities. Rickey is also a professional book editor who is endorsed by WritersWeekly and BookLocker. If you need an editor, you can request a quote HERE.
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