Monday, July 1st, 2013
“Reading and writing Sixes provides a creative spark, as does commenting and conversing with the other Sixers. What a weapon against writer’s block it is. Seeing what other people do with words makes you a better writer.”
Name: Dick Peterson
Place: Kansas City
SMITH Member since: July 2010
Since Dick Peterson joined SMITH in 2010, much of his writing has been about…writing. From “Let it be written…and read” to “Don’t sit on it. Write it,” Dick has motivated himself and countless others to transform their thoughts into written words. Even his clever moniker pays homage to his beloved homeland and his yearning to write about it—Baton Rouge translates to Red Stick, he’s better known to the SMITH Community as RedStickWriter.
Dick lives in Kansas City, but explains he’s “a Missourian by employment, a Louisianan by birth, a Southerner by the grace of God, and a Tybee Islander at heart.” Currently writing his second novel, he says that his work in progress “is set in these places of intimate familiarity to me.”
While Dick has been selective with his submissions, we’ve noticed a steady rise in memoirs in recent months. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that come the end of July, Dick retires from banking after a career spanning more than four decades. With his own recent six words—“Banking career sunsetting, writing ideas dawning”—as inspiration, we’re so pleased to name Dick Peterson July’s Memoirist of the Month. Congratulations on the Spreadshirt T-shirt of your choice and, more importantly, on having more time to “write a Six, then a chapter.”
When did you start writing, and what have been turning points in your creative life?
I have always enjoyed writing. A cousin showed a manuscript-in-progress to me when he was in the sixth grade and I was in the fourth. His work was to be a sequel to the Baum’s Oz books. That he decided to write a book, especially at that young age, and actually got stuff down on the page made a huge impression on me. From that moment until I finished the last word of By the Light: A Novel of Serial Homicide, I wanted to write a book. The final version was probably the twentieth one I started.
When I was in the seventh grade, I wrote a book report. It earned an A. I earned A’s on other book reports before and after, but the reason that one stands out is that the book on which I reported did not exist. In that instant, I realized the power of fiction.
I tinkered with writing for years and learned more about the craft from my high school journalism teacher, Dorothy Tooke, than from any other person in my life. She taught me to love words, to vary them, to use interesting language, and to understand the power of the written word. For much of my life, I used the knowledge she gave me in professional writing in the banking industry. More than any other skill, I attribute writing for the early ascension of my career.
When I was courting my future wife, Suzie, I became more and more interested in reading fiction, after many previous years of non-fiction reading. She’s a reading machine and inspired me to try to keep up.
I’ve been a banker by trade since 1971 but will call myself a novelist and former banker after I retire on July 31. My blogging and tweeting will increase soon due to an impending absence of interference from the banking industry. I have a Kindle book at Amazon and am currently working on a second novel, both are murder mysteries. My plan is to keep spinning such yarns until my longevity runs out.
Can you share a favorite Six-Word Memoir of yours and tell us why it’s meaningful to you?
Of the memoirs I’ve posted at SMITH, one of my favorites is “Who dunnit? I, author, dunno yet.” It highlights one of my favorite things about my novel writing. Rather than outline, I let the story lead me where it will. This memoir is absolutely true. I haven’t decided who the doer is in the novel I’m currently writing, and I should add that I’m not at the beginning of the story at this point. With my first novel, it amazed me how the story took on its own momentum and sense of direction and how the characters ended up developing into something I didn’t originally imagine.
When I stumbled across SMITH’s Six-Word community, I was immediately enamored and soon addicted. The people who play in the SMITH sandbox are interesting, amusing, inspiring, provocative, creative, and fun. In addition to telling folks about SMITH, I highlight some of my memoirs on Facebook and Twitter, which has caused many friends to become aware of Sixing. Lots of them have become enamored and addicted, too.
Reading and writing Sixes provides a creative spark, as does commenting and conversing with the other Sixers. What a weapon against writer’s block it is. Seeing what other people do with words makes you a better writer. This is one of the reasons why SMITH is such a resource. That, and the general sense of community, make it writer central for me.
What authors inspire you or do you admire?
My favorite author is Pat Conroy. I’ve been in the Midwest since 1992, but my heart will always, at least partially, reside in the South. Pat’s stories, settings, and characters make me ache for the South. A couple of years ago, his South of Broad knocked To Kill a Mockingbird off its decades-long perch atop my heap of favorite novels. Its protagonist and narrator, Leopold Bloom King will remain in my heart and mind forever.
Michael Connelly’s The Poet might be the best suspense novel I’ve ever read, and Stephen King is perhaps the best storyteller alive today. His pure horror stuff I only do as movies, but when he gets into stories of humanity, there are no more magic words to read than those of the King. The Stand and 11/22/63 are among my top ten all-time favorites. And what a clinic in writing and creativity is On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.
Novels by two Mississippi writers, John Grisham and Greg Iles, spilled their stories across turf very familiar to me in the Deep South. Reading is so much more exciting when you know the real estate. We have a guy here in Kansas City named Joel Goldman whose legal suspense and private eye stories happen right here in our area. When I read my first Goldman novel, I thought it was pretty cool when the story placed the characters in the Hen House Market a block and a half from my house. I almost felt like I could walk over and watch the scene unfold in the dairy section. The idea of writing a suspense novel on familiar ground, especially in my beloved South, and delivering authentic local flavor appealed to me. It was the last nudge I needed to strike out on the novelist path.
Is there someone’s writing on SMITH that’s especially moved you?
Coleen Goodson, AKA ctgoods2 [Ed. Note: Coleen was April's Memoirist of the Month], was one of the first friends I found in the Six-Word community. As we got to know each other through comments and messages, I became very impressed with her. She shared some stories she had written, and I was blown away. She works hard at a job all day and finds time to squeeze great family time out of life while sometimes chugging out feature articles, and now she’s working on a novel. I can’t wait. This gal is going to take us for a ride on her words. Actually, she already has been right here at SMITH.
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
Bicycling, golfing, reading, Scrabbling, and swimming are among the activities that do it for me. As a Louisiana boy, it goes without saying that I enjoy good food and the socialization that surrounds it. Traveling is something Suzie and I enjoy and look forward to doing more often in retirement, especially visiting our grandchildren and their staffs.
Finally, Dick Peterson, what’s your Six-Word Memoir for today?
Six words can’t say it all.