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Columbia College authors advise college writers

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Briana S. Davidson, staff writer

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Chuck Walsh, IT help desk coordinator, is turning one of his books into a screenplay, and Amy Reeves, Ph.D., English professor, will become a full-time writer and adjunct professor at USC next semester.

Reeves has written three books while serving as a full-time English professor. Walsh serves as a full-time staff member, a professor at Columbia International University and a published author. Reeves and Walsh offered a message to aspiring writers.

Professor Amy Reeves

Walsh believes, “Every book starts from an idea” and spoke about passion and depth in writing and the significance passion and depth have on the work writers produce. Walsh also spoke  about how life experiences, particularly his own, played a major role in crafting his novels.

Walsh began his writing career publishing his first book in 2013.

He began writing in his forties and plans to continue writing for the rest of his life. His role model is Cormac McCarthy, an award-winning author and screenwriter who delves into Southern Gothic, western and science-fiction genres.  

Some of McCarthy’s books such as “The Sunset Unlimited  has been adapted into film. This film adaptation stars Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones. Walsh admires McCarthy’s work because it is “tough” with deep subject material.

Similar to McCarthy, Walsh utilizes depth in his work, “I don’t want them flying through each page; I want them to be caught in each paragraph and sentence.”  According to Walsh, writing with depth and conviction is also why it takes him about two and a half years to write his books.

Although he wrote as a full-time career for five years and was able to devote anywhere from eight to 11 hours to his craft, now he reserves much of his writing for weekends, holidays, vacations and any time when he can have back-to-back days.

He ultimately plans to go back to full-time writing. Just as McCarthy’s work was turned into plays and movies, Walsh is having a book adapted as well.

Walsh’s first book “A Month of Tomorrows” is currently being turned into a screenplay. He spoke about both the disadvantages and advantages of this.  Walsh said movies follow formulas, which means the beginning of the book can’t start until 15 minutes into the movie. Following a movie formula has made the process of adapting his novel into a screenplay a challenge.

Chuck Walsh

Some advantages listed were his books possibly being taken to a new avenue and potentially encouraging people to read them. While it could help him financially, his goal is not to be a billionaire; he is more concerned with having people read his books because they heard about them or watched the movie. Walsh said that he “is a writer first.”

Additionally, another hard part for many writers is developing titles, so Walsh shared his secret to tackling this challenge. Walsh admitted that some titles come easy and some don’t, but he pulls inspiration for the titles from content in the novels, a walk on the beach or even by taking a shortcut home and coming across a creek.  

He is proud of each book because of what it represents and because he was able to write it, but he selected the book “A Passage Back” as his favorite. This book was written for his mother, “to show her how much he loved her.” This book  was created to honor his mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer. “A Passage Back” was his first book and is why he began writing.

He also had some words of wisdom for aspiring college writers. He said he didn’t get his start until he was 43, which allowed his life experiences to be translated into characters. He also said if a writer is creative go for it, but start by putting ideas down in a word document because “every book starts as an idea.”

Reeves published her first book entitledRipper” in 2012. Reeves is inspired by the Brontë sisters. The Brontës were part of

a family of writers in the 1800s. “I love their storylines involving twisty, messy relationships, gothic landscapes and strong heroines who are never intimidated by misogyny,” Reeves said.

Reeves teaches British literature this semester. While being a full-time staff member at Columbia College has shifted the amount of time Walsh devotes to writing, Reeves believes “teaching and writing are compatible;” therefore, she is able to balance both writing and teaching effectively. Reeves’s plotlines are often inspired by what she is teaching.

Reeves also shared her secret to developing titles: Once she stops obsessing about the title, it will come while she is doing something else such as cooking or jogging.

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Columbia College authors advise college writers