WHAT THIS SITE IS ABOUT
My name is Lamont Wilkins. I’m a writer and editor. I started this blog to help struggling fiction and creative nonfiction writers get their short stories, memoirs, or novels published. My blog’s title is inspired by Techniques of Fiction Writing: Measure and Madness, by Leon Surmelian. I like Surmelian’s book because it is about the creative process, and how to get your story onto the page. It is not a book for every writer, but I’ve learned a lot from it. My screen name, Drunkespeare, is to remind me of life as a raging drunk and an illicit drug consumer who often fantasized about becoming a great writer. It took years of sobriety to realize that greatness is not necessary. But writing is absolutely necessary. I now live comfortably with myself by accepting that I write the best stories I can. For any writer, that’s as good as it can get. With the exception of giving up altogether, I’ve experienced every problem a writer can have. I hope what I’ve learned will help you. If you’re interested in what I can do for you, how much I charge, and what I’ll do for free, check out my NEED AN EDITOR page.MORE ABOUT BLOG TITLE
MINI BIO AND A LITTLE ABOUT WHY I COULD HELP YOU
Decades ago, my mother told me, “You’ve always been a writer.” When she said “always,” she must have forgotten about the diaper changing, toilet training, and other uninteresting events of my preliterate years. She might have been thinking about the rhyming poems and humorous skits I wrote in grade school. To my mother, I was a writer the first time I wrote something that wasn’t homework. Because she was a chronic reader, and an unpublished poet, she hoped someday I’d make her proud by writing a novel that made the Book-of-the-Month Club. My mother had higher expectation for me than I had for myself.
Apart from my mother’s opinion, I didn’t become a writer until I was eleven or twelve, and a burning desire to write fiction entered my soul after reading Treasure Island. The story was exciting, the settings exotic, the characters fascinating. (No telling what would’ve become of me if Harry Potter had been available back then.) For months after experiencing my first novel, my mind was plagued with curiosity: “How’d he [Stevenson] think up all them people and write about how they looked and all that and how they talked and everything without making no kinda mistakes at all?” Getting a story onto the printed page seemed magical. (Creating fiction is magical, but I’ll get to that later in a post or article.)
Shortly after Treasure Island, I read Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. I can’t recall the third novel I read, but I’m pretty sure it was science fiction. Throughout my teen and young adult years, I was hooked on sci-fi and adventure stories. Those stories allowed me to escape the real world. (In my young adult years, I discovered African American literature and other fiction that made me realize I could never escape the real world.) I loved to read.
Fortunately for me as a chronic reader, I spent most of my teen years in California Youth Authority reform schools and jails at a time before prison guards discovered they could use TVs as babysitters. Back then, libraries and schools often used penal institutions as recycle bins for their old paperbacks and magazines. Reading was a common activity among the literate prisoners. Most of us especially liked pulp fiction by Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour, Earle Stanley Gardner, and Harold Robbins. In one reform school, I worked in the library and had first pick of newly arrived books. By my late teens, I was reading a lot of history, and books about social and political issues. No matter where I was doing time, I didn’t have a problem finding something to read. And before I turned twenty-one, I’d read well over 200 novels and short story anthologies; I also had read tons history, psychology, philosophy books. I wanted to know everything about where we (humans) came from, and why were treating one another the ways we do. I wanted to know about the good in us, as well the reasons for our meanness. The more I read, the more determined I became to write fiction. I thought of myself as a writer waiting to write something.
I spent a good portion of my adult years aimlessly traveling from city to city on the West Coast. During those vagabond years, whenever I was sober enough, I’d frantically scribble sentences on paper, or rhythmically tap sentences out on typewriter keys, without knowing how I’d make those sentences into a coherent story. My writing was like my life: heading to no certain destination, with no particular time to arrive, and no idea of what I’d do once I reached the right place to stop. Still, I considered myself a writer.
Being an alcoholic or addict is agonizing, even if you have no specific ambition. Being a drunken writer plagued by a continuous feeling of failure is pure hell. For a long time I wallowed in self-pity: “Poor me, poor me, if I could just hit a reset button for my life.” Then, in 1988, I settled down in Portland, Oregon, and started working a recovery program. A couple of years later I got a job at Hopper Detox Center. It was my first job that lasted longer than a year. After working at Hopper Detox a few years, and taking classes at Portland Community College, I became a substance abuse counselor.
Each day of working with addicts, alcoholics, and garden variety criminals reminded me of where I had come from and surely would return if I again started using or drinking. That seven years of working with addicts and parolees gave me a PhD in observing people. But I was not happy. I thought of myself as a writer. I didn’t want to observe people; I wanted to write stories about them. The love of my life, Sharon Reese, also wanted me to do something I loved doing. So, in 1999, with no clear plan, I quit working and enrolled in Portland State University’s Writing and Publishing program. That was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
I have a BS in Arts & Letters and an MS in Writing & Publishing. I started grad school in 2003, the year Portland State University launched Ooligan Press. At the time, Ooligan was one of the few university presses that provided practical experiences in every phase of the publishing process. Many of my classmates became literary agents, small press publishers, editors, magazine staff writers, book cover designers, freelance writers, and bloggers. I’ve stayed in contact with many of them.
In 2011, Sharon and I moved from Portland to Shelby, Ohio, so we could grow vegetables and have a few animals. In 2016 we moved to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Since we left Portland, Sharon has taught vegetarian cooking classes and she has written a monthly newspapers column. I’ve worked as a freelance content editor and grant writer. But even though I’m good at technical writing, it is not what I enjoy doing. I’m at my best when working on my own manuscript or editing someone else’s creative writing.
Today, considering myself a writer is more important to my self-identity than anything I’ve written or will ever write. The way I see it, if an astronaut is an astronaut before she gets locked inside a metal container on top of huge tubes filled with millions of pounds of explosive gas and is blasted into outer space, then why isn’t a writer a writer before she or he publishes a story? To put it another way, “If a writer writes a novel in the woods, and none of the bears wants to read it, is he still a writer?” When somebody tells me he or she is a writer, that’s all the proof I need. “You think you’re a writer, therefore you are one,” says Drunkespeare. The self-identity part is easy; the struggle to get others to accept you as a writer can be difficult.
Often the biggest problem emerging writers have is finding acceptance from friends and relatives: “Ain’t you ever gonna finish writing that book you’ve been writing forever?” And your best answer is, “I’ll finish it when it’s finished.” Accept yourself as being a writer and you can accept living in your parents’ basement while completing the tenth, and almost final, draft of your novel. After you’ve sold your book, all the doubters will swear that they knew you could do it.
One common problem among new writers is learning to accept themselves. Self-acceptance was a huge problem for me. And because I couldn’t accept myself, I created a host of other self-made problems. I didn’t know how to find good advice or how to accept good advice whenever I accidentally found it. Now that you know a little about me, I hope you’ll consider me when you need help hurdling over or maneuvering around obstacles on your path toward finishing your story and getting it published. I’d love to be a part of your success.
Wishing you the best future.
Awards and Societies:
Association of Writers & Writing Programs 2014 – 2015