Stepping into his first book

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Sequim resident Robert Johnson's journey back through the 87 years of his life started with his daily walks up and down Bell Hill.

It culminated with self-publishing his autobiography "My Life" in late June.

"What got me started writing was encouragement from friends," Johnson said.

Before moving from Bell Hill in 2003, the tall lanky former ironworker would walk two miles every morning with his dog - he's owned three - along Ravens Ridge and Doe Run roads.

Then he would write short stories of all the people and things he encountered during these walks and send them to friends.

"They began telling me 'You write well. You should write a book, your family would appreciate it,'" Johnson said.

"My Life" runs 178 pages and includes eight pages of color photographs (as well as others interspersed throughout the book).

Johnson said he started writing the book in September 2008 and got it printed in late June by Fidlar Doubleday, a self-publishing service in California.

"You have to start somewhere so I started at the beginning."

So Johnson began writing, including many of the short stories he already had written, which speeded up the process.

The book doesn't have to be read cover to cover because it's essentially a collection of short stories chronicling his life experiences, he said.

The book didn't require a lot of research, but thinking back over 80-some years was difficult at times.

"That's the problem I had; I have a good long-term memory for names but not dates.

"The trouble is, everyone's gone. All of the people I talk about are dead; they can't help me," he said.

He did have numerous old photos tucked away, and his grandnieces had numerous photos stored through

That helped, Johnson said.

Ruth Marcus formatted the book for him before it was sent for publication.

"She told me, 'Don't worry about a thing, just write.' She does a fantastic job. I'm really, really appreciative of what she's done," Johnson said.

Marcus writes the monthly "Good Grief" column for the Sequim Gazette.

Then Diann Dickey proofread his 178-page manuscript - sort of.

"She said it was so good she gave up and just read it. Then she went back later and proofread it.

"Another person said it was interesting so that got me excited," Johnson said.

During the writing process, Johnson confesses to encountering periods of self-doubt and discouragement.

"I thought to myself, 'I'm crazy' but I kept going," he said.

Now whenever he reads back through the book, he still finds things he could change or add, leaving him with the feeling that it's never really complete.

"I thought I had finished but every time I did, I didn't. There's always something more to add.

"Anybody who grew up in my years would be interested in it. They would remember a lot of the same things," Johnson said.

He has continued his daily two-mile walks with his dogs - Sadie, a Northwest farm terrier and Lola, a silky terrier - since moving to "the flatland" six years ago,

But when asked about his second book, Johnson exclaims, "I don't think there's another one in me."

Reach Brian Gawley at

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