Bill Chisham puts his introspective thoughts into writing – first into the notebook he always carries, later into self-published books.
"My advice to my 9-year-old grandson who said he wants to write is to get beyond saying it and do it," he says.
"Get a notebook and keep it in your pocket to write down ideas. Listen to people around you at McDonald’s or Costco. You never know when one of those ideas can be used in a book."
Chisham wrote one of the plays performed at the Reader’s Theatre Plus last month.
"My Bounden Duty" is a one-act, two-scene play about a man who wants to live apart from society to think and write, but who must face the realities of family life.
"Our dreams must be tempered by reality. Once you’ve arrived at a position of success and respect, what’s next in your life? You can’t really drop out unless you’re at a time of transition.
"If there has been a divorce, death of a spouse, children leaving home, closing of a business, then that might be a time when you consider making a major change in your life," says
Changes bear poems
Chisham wrote the play not long after he lost his job, divorced his wife and watched his children leave for college. He moved to Alaska, arriving with $500 and a 20-year-old car to take a job with the state.
He was overwhelmed by the beauty around him and wrote a book of poetry, "Reflexions," not long after arriving.
"You don’t have normal things going on in your life like a house and family. You can take time to think. It was kind of an awakening."
Chisham kept a journal during that first year. It became his first book, "The Road North, Tales of An Urban Sourdough." Chisham self-published it as a gift to his children and family. He wanted them to understand about being in Alaska by himself and observing the life around him.
He lived on a 32-foot houseboat for nine years. "You are a lot closer to the realities of heat and electricity and a water supply. The stove would heat the boat up to 60 degrees on a winter night."
Journal begets book
Chisham turned an episode from one of his notebooks into his next book, "Photo Op." The novel took about 10 years to write.
"We rented a car once and found some film in the glove compartment. We started speculating over breakfast what might be on the film and taking notes on a napkin."
The story grew from there about a couple finding a roll of film in a rental car. The plot eventually leads to three murders and the couple’s hiding from the killer by melting into the Alaskan community.
Chisham volunteers with Habitat for Humanity and wrote his third book to explain what happens at each step of building a house. "Habitatin’ for Humanity" grew out of his helping build 20 houses.
"The book almost wrote itself. This book was to make new volunteers or potential homeowners aware of what was happening.
"If you came on site when a house is just started, you would be totally confused by people running around, the noises and the seeming lack of direction, which is all a well-orchestrated production. This book clarifies some of the things that are happening."
Chisham is working on a fourth book that focuses on a family coping with mental illness. He hopes the book will help people cope with such an illness, find support groups and deal with mental health agencies – as well as with doctors who write prescriptions without making firm diagnoses.
Fighting the stigma of mental illness, Chisham says, may be the hardest part.
"Over a period of time you learn to accept the illness. You understand that it is not the person who is at fault but the fact that there is an illness. It is looked on with a certain amount of stigma in the community. And that needs to be dealt with also."
Chisham has researched the subject so he is knowledgeable enough to write about it. Still, he says, "I don’t know if I am actually capable of writing this or not."
Chisham does not write every day, just when he has a idea or thought that he thinks will help his current topic. That’s why he always carries a notebook to write down ideas when they come to him.
"It is very difficult to discipline myself to sit down at the computer and type every day for a stated period of time. Yet if I am working on something, I might find myself working five or six hours a day, day after day."
But he always is taking notes.
Reach Dana Casey at firstname.lastname@example.org.