Last week I presented my Lakota Leaders talk inside the walls of the South Dakota State Penitentiary. I will admit, I was a little nervous presenting in front of 59, mostly Native American Inmates. When I talk about Spotted Tail, Red Cloud, Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, I do not approach them as Lakota Leaders, or as Legends or as Icons. I present them as Leaders -period. I also do not gloss over their weaknesses. I believe that presenting them as humans who make mistakes, elevates their accomplishments even more than just idolizing them. In a similar manner, when I create characters in my novels, I try to avoid making a character “all good” or “all bad.” It is easier to relate to someone who has weaknesses just like all humans do. Unfortunately, there are some who take this approach as an insult. I certainly do not mean any disrespect and I was hoping that the audience inside the walls would appreciate what I was trying to do.
The Inmates appeared to really enjoy my approach. I’m guessing that they have all made mistakes in their life which is why they were in prison in the first place. Looking at these great leaders from the nineteenth century as men made them more relatable. One of the most gratifying comments I’ve received since I started writing came after my presentation as, Mark the Inmate, leading the group told them to “Take the message the speaker has given us back to our Brothers who could not be here today. We can take what we learned and apply it to become better, more like these Leaders. Would any of you be willing to give up your life for your people like these Leaders did?”
I hope he wasn’t just placating me, but the body language of all 59 inmates there indicated that they were paying attention. I was taken by how little the Native American Inmates knew of their own history. Giving them information on the important Lakota Leaders of the past was a great experience. I appreciate the South Dakota Humanities Council Speakers Bureau for sponsoring me.
It is my intention to use this page for a weekly blog. I know that you are supposed to identify your purpose and strategy for your blog before you began. My purpose is simple: to express myself. My strategy: is to explore the topics that interest me. I am interested by a wide range of topics and nobody will enjoy them all. If you see something you don’t like, don’t read it! Hopefully you will see a new blog each Sunday night. Feel free to follow and comment.
You can’t be a dedicated Reader without thinking about being a “Real Writer.” Having been at this business of writing awhile, I’ve seen what it takes. Every prospective writer should know that you are never really “there” and you always have to continue stepping forward.
Phases of becoming a writer:
· Dreamer – Pictures himself as a writer, sits at a typewriter like Hemingway… Doesn’t write much or finish anything but talks and talks a good game. – Gets to drink a great deal and complain that there is never enough time for writing. (Personally, I was in this mode for thirty years.)
· Writer – Finishes a product that can be shown to other people or entered in a contest. Can claim to be tortured artist with far away knowing eyes. Gets to wear all black and complain that there are not enough enlightened readers.
· Unpublished Writer – Upon receiving first rejection slip, is immediately issued black beret. Gets to smoke skinny cigarettes and complain about how the Publishing Industry doesn’t appreciate innovative new (or old, or different, or ….) artists.
· Published Writer – Upon getting first work published. Gets to complain that readers never spend time on important literature. All the sales go to trashy writing.
· Semi-Professional Writer – Upon getting actually paid for a piece of writing. Gets to complain that the Publishing Industry doesn’t pay didlily doodle to poor writers and cares even less. Puts teeny-tiny royalty check on wall as a reminder.
· Professional Writer – Upon being able to scrape out a living writing. Gets to complain that all the big money goes to celebrity writers.
· Celebrity Writer – Upon picture showing up in People Magazine. Gets to complain that all the big money goes to movies.
It appears that Writers complain a lot (or perhaps it is just me!)