Dudley Johnson, Storyteller

texas stories

“Big Magic” happened again.  If you’ve been following along, you know I’ve been participating in the Writer’s Digest October Platform Challenge.  Sunday’s assignment was to interview an expert for a blog post.  My initial reaction was, “On a Sunday?  Are you kidding me?  Where am I going to find an expert on a Sunday?”  Almost immediately, I dismissed the idea as impossible, at least as far as it happening on Sunday.  Even if I did pursue the idea, I was pretty sure I would need to define “expert” differently than most people might.  And that’s exactly where I left it.  Or at least I thought I was leaving it.

On the way to church I mentioned it to my mother.  Again, I questioned, “Where am I going to find an expert on a Sunday?”  She didn’t have an answer, of course, but she listened as I processed my idea of “expert.”  I didn’t think I was really ready to contact a writing expert, someone who earns a living in the writing/editing/publishing world.  That seemed far too intimidating, and I knew I would have a lengthy wait for a response.  If I was going to maintain momentum in this challenge, I needed it to happen quickly.  So, I shifted my focus.  Since my blog is really a “stage” for stories, maybe I could find a storyteller, someone local who could share something of interest with my readers and me.  I even had a couple of people in mind.  And that’s where I thought I was leaving it again, because, “Where am I going to find an expert on a Sunday?”

As I entered the sanctuary at church, I was greeted by a fellow congregant who eagerly announced to all who entered that another church member, Dudley Johnson, had written a book.   Exciting news to be sure, but then I saw the title, Collection of Texas Stories!  Not a novel.  Not a self-help book.  Not a memoir.  Stories!  I had found my expert.  On a Sunday, no less!

It was clear from the beginning of our conversation that Dudley was not comfortable with the idea of being an expert.  He made sure I understood this was his first book.  “Expert,” it turns out, is a relative term.  I reasoned that if he had gone through the process of telling those stories from first thought to hard cover, glossy dust jacket, name-on-the-front, book in his hand, then he was much closer to being an expert than I was.

While he was not too keen on his sudden elevation to “expert,” Dudley seemed just fine with helping out a fellow writer in need of material and graciously agreed to an email interview.  Here’s what he had to offer about his own storytelling, writing, and publishing adventure:

IBG: Tell us a little about yourself and your careers other than writing.

DJ: I was born in Karnes County, Texas.  Karnes County is about half way between Corpus Christi and San Antonio. I grew up in the farm and ranch business.  My father put me on my first horse when I was 18 months old.  Over the years I did just about anything you can do using horses.

My life in the petrochemical industry started at the bottom and worked my way up the ladder to being a pipeline consultant with customers in Europe and South America.  The last “big” contract was to commission an ethylene pipeline in Brazil. The line is 300 hundred miles long.  I hired a business friend of mine that developed a new process of commissioning ethylene pipelines.  We had no way of knowing if his process would work.  It did, and we were the first in the world to use it.  Today everyone in that industry uses that process.

IBG: Do you consider yourself a writer, a storyteller, or both?

DJ: At this point I consider myself as a story teller that cannot speak due to being a throat cancer survivor.  So I write.  It isn’t as pleasant as sitting around a warm camp fire with a good cup of coffee on a chilly night at deer camp telling stories.

IBG: How did you become interested in storytelling and writing?

DJ: It has been my ambition to write ever since high school.  There was never enough time to write raising a family and working.

IBG: Share a little bit about how you developed that interest into the beautiful book I held in my hands this morning.

DJ: I love Texas history and consider myself very knowledgeable about early Texas.  Also some of these stories are based on things that I have been involved in.

IBG: You told me you always write two books at once.  Can you tell me a little bit more about that and/or anything else about your writing process?

DJ: I decided early on in writing one story that when I would hit a time that the story just stopped, I would walk away and come back later then start again.  I compare it with working a jigsaw puzzle.  Sometimes you have to walk off and come back later to find the right piece. It is the same with putting words on paper.

IBG: What are you currently working on?  What can we look forward to next from Dudley Johnson?

DJ: The next book will have two short novels. They are longer than the short stories and more detailed than a short story.  I have completed another novel that is about finding a Spanish Galleon that is overloaded with gold and silver that sunk off the coast of Florida. The story starts with the beginning of the ship leaving Spain going to the “New World.” It ends with modern day treasure hunters looking for it.  I am also working on a historic novel about a family that came to America during the time of the American Revolution.  I have just finished the second generation and am planning on the third generation as the family moves across the American frontier.  Right now I am editing the last three books.

I enjoyed getting to know Dudley Johnson, and I am looking forward to purchasing my own copy of Collection of Texas Stories. You can get yours too at Xlibris.com, Amazon.com, or BarnesandNoble.com.  Hardback, paperback, and ebook are all available.

Don’t forget, if you have a story to share, please do so in the comments.  It can be short, long, sweet, funny, sad, with a moral or without.  Every story deserves to be told!

Stories

You should write a book!  People tell me that a lot.  I don’t disagree, but I also don’t write books.  Or much of anything, really.  I should.  Writing is something I enjoy, and other people seem to enjoy reading what I write.  I guess it’s like a lot of things.  When I have more time… When the house is clean…  When I retire…  Finally, in the waning days of September, just as October approached, the stars aligned.

I retired a little over a year ago which means I have more time, and my house is clean, or at least as clean as my house ever is.  To tell you the truth, I probably still wouldn’t have sat down to write except for two emails that showed up, one right after the other.  The first one announced a “platform challenge,” a month-long, task-a-day roadmap to creating a writing platform.  It sounded like the very thing I needed to get me moving from thinking about writing to doing writing.  The second email was an advertisement for 40% off the new Elizabeth Gilbert book, Big Magic.  Even though I don’t write, I do read about writing, and the subtitle, Creative Living Beyond Fear, was the second kick in the pants I needed to get me to this point.  Apparently, Gilbert is some kind of writers’ psychic.  She managed to list every single excuse, fear, doubt, and imagined roadblock I had ever thought or uttered, from, “I’ll write when I have more time,” to “I’m too old to start.”  Coincidence?  Serendipity?  One of Squire Rushnell’s Godwinks?  Gilbert’s Big Magic?  Whatever you want to call it, those two emails moved me to action like nothing else ever has.

So, there it is.  The story of how I became a writer of material for public consumption with encouragement from Elizabeth Gilbert and step-by-step instruction from Robert Lee Brewer of Writer’s Digest.  It is unremarkable, maybe even a little boring.  But that’s okay.  It is a story just the same. And stories are important.  They give us insight to others, ourselves, and the world around us.  They preserve our history, reveal our humanity, and provide shared experiences we might not have otherwise.  They entertain us, soothe us, and inspire us.   

I hope this blog will become a place for stories to live.  A place where those who need a story can find one to read and those who need to tell a story can do so knowing there will be an audience.  So, pull up a chair, grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine if you prefer, and let’s share some stories.