“When I go into my office and begin to write, my husband just closes the door. When I come out, supper is on the table,” Carolyn Garriott said.
Jerry Garriott reads, edits and critiques his wife’s work.
“When I had my first block he said, ‘You have to do it. You won’t be happy until you do,” says the author.
Carolyn Garriott is 70. When you talk to her you can just tell that she enjoys her life. She attributes that joy to Jerry. They attended public school together and met again many years later. “With Jerry, I learned how to laugh again.”
How did this storyteller, and former teacher, reach her new plateau as an author?
“I lost my audience. I had become a teacher when my first marriage broke up. My own children were grown, and my school district had decided that I should be ‘given’ early retirement at the age of 60. Financially, I was not ready for a pleasant retirement and simply making a living became an all-consuming pastime.
"It was with the birth of my much-prayed-for granddaughter that I realized how frustrated I was. I was living several hundred miles away and regular visits were out of the question. I was 61 and my health at the time was precarious. I became convinced that I probably would not live to see Katie grow up. So I decided to write letters to Katie telling her the family stories about my grandparents and parents so she would have a family connection she would otherwise miss.
“The plan was to write a letter when I had a moment and collect them into a book that would be given to her on her 12th birthday. I very quickly found I didn’t need an audience in front of me. I also found that I would rather write on those letters than anything else I was doing at the time.”
Her first husband was an ecologist and wildlife expert, giving her some background into the nature of wolves. Research that she’d done during her college studies gave her the knowledge about the Huron people, Native Americans who populated the New World when the French and English arrived.
“I just wanted to tell a good story that made people think. I didn’t intend it to have some great message. If one is there, then let the readers find it and internalize it themselves,” she said. The story is “primarily a story of the Huron and what happened to them because of the European contact. The characters only reacted to the inherent challenges.”
About her writing process, she advises, “I think every writer has certain things that they must work out before anything can even hit the paper. For me there were two things: first and foremost, a writer must know HOW and WHEN they work best. Second, they have to find the time to do it.
“I’m a morning person when it comes to productive work, but I seem to do my most creative thinking right after I go to bed. For a long time when I was trying to write, I would sit down to write in the afternoon. WRONG. I tried to write after supper. EVEN WORSE. And even though my creative juices would be perking after I crawled into bed, I would usually tell myself that I would remember what I was thinking and write it the next day. THAT DIDN’T WORK EITHER. I took quite a while to figure out that a pencil and paper beside the bed would not ruin the décor of the bedroom. Now, when I have a particularly nice turn of phrase or radical idea, I simply turn over, jot it down and go back to sleep.”
“When I am working, I try to get up around 4 a.m. and usually write on the text. When I start to dry up and the ideas are coming more slowly, I simply stop. I also do not write every day. My writing pattern is something like this:
Day 1: Think about what happens next.
Day 2: Talk to myself to see if the actions make any sense.
Day 3: Research to make sure what I would like to say fits into the time/place setting of what I am doing.
Day 4: If all is still copasetic, I will write.
“Once I realized that this was the WAY I wrote, the frustration of not getting as much on paper as I think I should simply disappears.”
She and her publisher couldn't come to agreeable terms. Her attorney advised her that the only way she could control the property was to buy out the publisher. So, she did. She joined a small publisher’s association and formed her own publishing company, Driftwillow Press (www.driftwillowpress.com).
The first run of her book, Shadow of the Cross, was 1,500 copies. She’s presented a lot of book talks and signings and has to be her own marketer. “The process has made me a much better reader.” It also has made her much more publishing world savvy.
For writers preparing to sell their manuscripts, Mrs. Garriott emphasizes the importance of the moral integrity clause which gives the author control of the integrity of their works and the use of their names.
Garriott is at work on several manuscripts including her autobiography. To learn more about her, visit her web site at www.driftwillowpress.com.