Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pamela Witter Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard): #233 Russell Rowland

Through his parents’ rough times, financial problems, and his father’s alcoholism, Russell Rowland, born 1957 in Bozeman, MT, was a shy child. He was often insecure and angry, and without a clue as to how to get along in the world. That frustration was a constant source of confusion and fear. People scared the hell out of him. They moved a lot. At 10, he attended a one-room school, then joined 125 sixth graders in Billings, MT. He got a music scholarship and received a BA in Music Education, which was not his calling. For a time, Russell did lounge lizard gigs. He played and sang mostly Billy Joel/Elton John covers. Like his dad, Russell drank. He stopped in 1985. That changed his life. After that, Russell fell in love with books. He started with Vonnegut and Salinger. Reading led him to Western literature. Authors Ken Kesey, Wallace Stegner, and Raymond Carver inspired him to try his hand at writing. Russell married and had a son. Despite parental concern, Russell got an MA in Creative Writing. That was his calling. He got divorced, struggled financially, joined support groups and got therapy. Russell lost his grandmother. He thought about her life; during homestead days, people had little support, or even telephones. He realized those people turned out to be incredibly optimistic. Russell decided to write a novel about that. During an Atlantic Monthly internship, fiction editor C. Michael Curtis read the first chapters of Russell’s novel, In Open Spaces. Though he did not get it published, the fact that Curtis thought it was good enough kept Russell encouraged. Around 1999, Russell wrote fortune cookies for a few weeks. That led to appearances on two of his all-time favorite game shows: “To Tell the Truth” and “I’ve Got a Secret.” His first novel was finally published, reviewed in the New York Times, and made the San Francisco Chronicle's Bestseller list. He turned down an offer for the sequel, The Watershed Years. Though that decision haunted him, it too was eventually published. After nearly 20 years as a single man, he married. Two months later, he was devastated. His bride’s only child, a 19-year-old daughter, was killed in a motorcycle accident. Not long ago, Russell met the woman now in his life at a book club. They share a huge love of books and read widely. She’s a social worker, cares deeply about others, and continually pushes herself to be a better person. That makes Russell want to do the same thing. Russell had prostate cancer. Last year, he went in for a 2-hour surgery that took 10 hours. Through this and other experiences, Russell learned to notice how his behavior affects other people. He works on improving himself every day. While completing the first novel’s prequel, Arbuckle, Russell is working on a western writers’ anthology. He also teaches writing, consults fellow writers, and is co-editor of an online literary magazine called Stone's Throw. Since he began writing, Russell has never suffered from writers’ block. Russell wants to marry his girlfriend. He knows he’s very fortunate to have people in his life that he loves, and who support and love him. He expects to focus on that.

Stone’s Throw Magazine


Shaindel Beers said...

Russell's book In Open Spaces is wonderful! If you have a chance, read it. This is a fantastic postcard life story; it completely captures who Russell is :-) said...

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