September 28, 2015

Ignition: How I Went Professional - Bruce Atchison

Stories were my childhood deliverers. The animals in Fables of the Green Forest temporarily led me away from the pain of my exile in Jericho. The Hobbit transported me into fantasy realms, the like of which I never dared hope for. Black and Blue Magic gave my soul wings during my sojourn in the tilted land. But we live in a practical world where money answers everything.

In the cold  wind of freedom, once my exile ended, my stories hid shivering in my heart. Inspiration went dormant as the struggles of public school and work ensued unabated. Nevertheless, a spark of my childhood fascination with the craft of storytelling survived deep within me.

Though I wrote on an amateur basis, I never dreamt I could be paid for my scribbling's. My abundant  supply of articles appeared in fan "zines" but payment seemed a total fantasy. Practicality held my muse prisoner so I only wrote CD reviews of electronic music albums and recycling tips for the work newsletter. Those utilitarian tear sheets bolstered my pride but remuneration seemed an impossible dream.

Out of the smoldering ruins of a lay off, I received a golden opportunity. The work counselor asked me about my hobbies. On the next visit, I presented him with a small stack of my photocopied tear sheets. Then he fanned my creative spark by telling me I could go professional. What had I to lose?

Certainly the magazine writing course helped me understand the value of my work but many editors rejected my fledgling prose. Then, of all publications, The New Age Journal purchased a Three-hundred-word article about a newly-formed choir of blind singers in Edmonton. I glided on air as I took that fifteen-dollar cheque to my bank. At long last, I became a professional writer.

But the path grew steep and rocky as I struggled to research magazine content and to write catchy query letters. I obeyed all the commandments of my teacher, yet few rewards arrived in my mail box for my arduous labours. In the swamp of despondency, I changed directions in the hope that the trail would grow verdant with remuneration.

So I mined the treasures of my life after taking an online course on autobiography writing.  Realizing my extensive manuscript was far too cumbersome, I divided it into memoirs. When a Man Loves a Rabbit was my first paperback. More than 200 bunny-loving friends purchased it and reported how much they enjoyed the amusing tales of my long-eared companions.

Success soon eluded me. Deliverance from Jericho was my second memoir. It bombed horribly. The sighted world couldn't relate to my narrative of being in a school for the blind for six painful years. So I racked my brain for a profitable and engaging topic on which to write.

How I Was Razed should have been a hit. I presumed Christians would be interested in how God led me out of a cultic house church to the sunlit land of his truth but few bought it.

So I turned my back on memoirs. God willing, I will write about who goes to heaven from the viewpoint of the Bible. I also hope to unleash those restless short stories pacing the back corridors of my mind. Slowly approaching retirement, my fear of being cut off from the pension I slaved so hard for is lessening. Even so, I'm learning to trust in the heavenly Father and to deal with today's evil. May my Lord be glorified by the work of my hands and this labourer be worthy of his hire.


  1. "Stories were my childhood deliverers." This resonated with me more than I was prepared for. I'd forgotten how God used stories and books to give me a reprieve from the pain of the real world. Fictional worlds and characters became the escape I needed until I could rest enough to face another day. We as writers offer that same reprieve to hurting children, teens and adults. What an important truth!

  2. "my stories hid shivering in my heart." There are many inspired metaphors in this piece Bruce. (And don't be discouraged!) god has certainly gifted you and called you to write, book sales or not.

  3. "I mined the treasures of my life." I've taken "Guided Life Writing" classes and dug deep inside of myself to find the treasures of my life too. With each new theme/topic, stories of my life came alive. Truths were revealed, hurts exposed and some humorous moments were remembered. We all have stories to share. Memoirs are some of my favourite books to read. Keep writing whatever God lays on your heart, Bruce.

  4. Thanks for sharing your story with us Bruce. Sounds like you've had some struggles but God can use what He lays on your heart so keep on writing.


Thank you for taking the time to join in the conversation. Our writers appreciate receiving your feedback on posts you have found helpful or meaningful in some way.