Leon A. Walker writes various forms of creative literature, and collaborates with artists and photographers worldwide on a variety of artistic images. He is a graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida, a native of Cleveland, Ohio, and has worked in both the public and private sector, plus he is a retired Officer in the United States Navy. Leon has two published collections of poetry and short stories, the first, “Work Wonders” became available in 2009 and the second, “Life Lines” released in 2011. A third collection, entitled “Equinox” will be available soon.
Q) I know you for your poetry, but you’ve written short story collections, too. Share the difference in your writing styles and how your voice has developed with these projects.
A) My first book, “Work Wonders” can best be described as an artistic memoir. I did not consider that I actually wrote this book in the traditional sense. First, because I did not initially set out to develop or present an organized collection of poetry and short stories. Secondly, because the purpose for writing all of the verse in this book was intensely personal to me and primarily, they were only intended to be preserved and later shared with my children and those closest to me in life.
Therefore, I do not consider this a simple collection. It is my way of describing transitions, life lessons, and a vast array of thoughts and reflections that shaped a son, a father, a brother, and a friend. The stories, poems, and quotes in this volume are in large part the story of a man’s cognitive and emotional life. At the end of the day, I realized that if making a gift of these works was that important to me, I might be able to accomplish some measure of good by sharing it more broadly.
It is a decision with which I am now very pleased. And I sincerely hope that those who take time to read this work will find it very enjoyable and perhaps even helpful or insightful on some level. “Work Wonders” is a glimpse into the far reaches of the heart and mind.
Although it is creative in its presentation, it is a candid story of one man’s life. Yet, it is also no less a story about life in general. A story—in specific parts—that any number of us will be able to fully appreciate and identify with. Rest assured, you will encounter a portion of your life’s story in this book.
The second book, “Life Lines” is the result of my continu
ing drive and desire to provoke thought in readers. I seek to do so by providing works that are creative in presentation and also intellectually and emotionally stimulating. My primary focus has been to share insights into my personal thoughts and opinions, but over time, I have been pleased to discover that readers are often compelled to examine my stated views from alternative vantage points.
I am hopeful that my writings continue to inspire rational and welcoming platforms for further discussions or perhaps new motivations to broader considerations. I have long been troubled by what I perceive to be a limited effort to elevate literacy or to cultivate critical thought in far too many social quarters. I believe that more writings and other
options should be presented which enhance the availability and appeal of literature of any variety, and this book represents my effort to make a positive contribution to that undertaking.
“Life Lines” is one man’s attempt to seize upon an opportunity to provide constructive insights and thought provoking subject matter in an enjoyable and creative literary form. I frequently present candid views of both my learning and many life experiences, and I hope and believe this may encourage readers to embark on similar reflections. “Life Lines” will guide you into areas of thought and emotion that may range from extremely pleasurable to perhaps somewhat disquieting.
There are no forbidden topics in this book, and as a result, you may realize some measure of learning or gain new perspectives on varying views of life. “Life Lines” is a beautifully crafted work of compelling and creative literature.
At the outset, as I wrote, I found myself collecting and sharing my inner most thoughts and emotions in creative verse; and I began doing so primarily with my children in mind. So that they might have a true impression of who their father is intellectually, culturally and emotionally.
I wanted to record things about me and my life that they could always have, and which perhaps I had not directly shared or clearly communicated to them. For some reason I was intensely driven to do that for my children and my family members. This is where my poetic writings initially seemed to flow from. And because these poetic endeavors are very emotionally charged, I wanted them to flow in a classic style that was both a reminder of the classics that I so loved and also a lesson in literature for them.
So the stylistic difference between the way I develop poetry and prose, versus the many short stories I have written is very dramatic. In writing short-stories, I am aware of the need to provide an emotional signature but my focus is to draw the reader into an event which is in some way a reminder of a familiar event in their existence; or a lesson in living that is interesting or appealing even if it is vastly different from anything that they have ever experienced. I want readers to not only read the story, but rather to re-live it with me as the storyteller.
Q) That’s truly important. As a storyteller, when you look back, who would you credit as your inspiration, how important was it for you to put pen to paper, and what advice would you offer other writers?
A) I have appreciated books all of my life, both as a form of enjoyment and also as a collector. No doubt some of this was instilled by my father, who possessed a deep appreciation for literature and who from my earliest memories, read and regularly quoted everything from Chaucer and Kipling to Hughes and Baldwin to me and my siblings. I found myself reading and writing for entertainment purposes from a very young age.
Later I began to dabble in poetry and continued to write creatively on and off for years but never shared any of those works. Many were not preserved and are now lost. Since I traveled extensively before the advent of wireless email and cellular phones, and it was my mother who frequently commented on the creative and unusually descriptive nature of my letters. Over a long and varied professional career, I was also compelled to write a great deal on a broad cross-section of topics.
What very few actually knew, was that I tremendously enjoyed writing. Nor did they know of the passion I felt when creating written works. It should be no surprise then that I had intended to write a book for many years. “Work Wonders” and “Life Lines” simply presented the first publishing opportunities because I had so much completed material on hand. My next project——entitled “Equinox”, will available in early in 2013.
For me, writing has always been all about really touching people with a lasting memory. I began developing the ability to reach people with words when I was very young. I am convinced that this all stemmed from my love for books and reading as a child. For reasons that remain inexplicable to me (even today) I had a propensity for becoming fully absorbed in stories and characters.
When I began to write, I found it a necessary aspect of style to draw people in. To provide them with both a clear vision as well as a personal emotional experience. From as far back as primary school, I still recall that I looked forward to written assignments, like writing book reports, because I felt I could say things in written form in a way that was convincing and even attractive. I had that presence of mind even then. What I have become today as a writer is certainly no quantum leap.
In developing a story, I feel that the reader must be able to experience the event that I describe, almost as if it were in real time. As it relates to my inspiration or motivations, there will frequently be a powerful emotional message or lesson tied to the events I write about that, hopefully, create a lasting impact. It may be a happy or a sad response that I seek to achieve, but the writing must include that powerful emotional signature which elicits an appropriate emotional reaction. I call this writing with purpose. That purpose being to provide a glimpse of life through words, in a way that is filled with lessons and emotions that are as powerful as the concept of life itself.
In my style of writing, the telling of a story almost always requires a significant amount of personal emotional daring. I believe that, in order to provide a clear snapshot into my own reflections, the feelings that are at the core of the experience which I am attempting to describe must shine through. By habit, I find a way to approach most writings emotionally unconstrained.
If, in a particular story’s setting, I was happy or confused or heartbroken, I have to find the words to clearly convey to readers exactly what those emotions felt like. And this must be done within the context of a story in a way that justifies such emotions. So, in my view as the storyteller, I am obligated to provide a fearless and truthful impression of the emotions that were present.
This sort of personal emotional daring can be daunting or perhaps even frightening to a writer. It is a very powerful tool when you find the courage to let your inner-most feelings be known. Think of it like a scene from a movie. There are the actual visual effects, and then there are the words. Often, it is also a musical score that provides the most emotionally compelling impact. In my writing, the words must create the scene; but they must also create the emotional music. And I am acutely focused on this as I write and as I edit my work.
My advice? Tell your stories, and do so beautifully and fearlessly, letting your soul flow through your pen. If you can find the courage to do that, and also to truthfully assess and appreciate what you have created, then you can call yourself a writer.
Q) Pairing courage with truthful assessment, a very good point Leon. Say someone believes he has a story to share, and comes asking your advice, what would you tell them about your publication path, your discovery of how your writing impacts readers, and how much of a learning curve, if any, you’ve experienced with each book release?
A) When I began, before the advent of email and the internet, I found myself traveling to Europe and Asia quite extensively (during my military service). During those years, it became a minor obsession of mine to write long letters home to my parents. I wrote to them with the hope that I might somehow make them see, or in some small way understand, the excitement and fascination that I was experiencing in my travels (writing with purpose).
Although I did not realize it at the time, those letters were an exercise in writing that helped hone my skills. The message here being (like anything else) practice is essential. It was some time later that my mother told me how much she and my father had looked forward to those letters; and she also made a point of telling me that she shared them with friends and family. But, more importantly, she told me that I had a talent for writing that I should consider exploring. It was at that point that I did two things.
First, I began to dabble in poetry and short stories, and second, I began to pay close attention to everything I wrote. Even if it were only a note or a birthday card; absolutely everything I wrote, I wanted to be appropriate, but with a unique or special wit or flare. I wanted it to be appreciated (writing with purpose).
Later in life, like many of us, I experienced my share of trying times. And during those times, I began to record stories and poems about the events themselves, and the emotions that I experienced. I can certainly say that there was a personal catharsis woven in this exercise; but I also wanted to record this period of time and preserve it as a season of learning.
My initial intention had been to simply preserve these writings and perhaps, at some point, share them with my children and family members so that they might have a true impression of all that my life had been (writing with purpose). The written works from these trying times became the basis for my first book.
I have had many things published and recognized via traditional means. However, I have opted to self-publish my first two books for several reasons. Let me say from the outset, that self-publishing can -and probably will- require a substantial financial commitment on the front end.
The benefits I have received in professional copy-editing, copyrighting, registration with the Library of Congress and having the books made available in all formats (hardbound, paperback and eBook) made it a very worthwhile investment. Additionally, you have broad input into all aspects of the book layout and design (including the cover). Finally, self-publishing provides the author with total control over their work and the associated distribution and royalties.
It is important to note that the self-publishing process is a daunting undertaking…There will be many hours spent on organizing your book in a way that presents the most professional and compelling presentation.
Be ready to put in the same amount of energy preparing and organizing your book as you committed to writing it. It is slightly easier after the first book because you understand the process; but the workload does not diminish with each succeeding book release.
Your story is inspirational, Leon, and I believe will spark many to pick up their pen, composing stories of their own. Thanks so much for joining me today! I look forward to your third collection, “Equinox.”
Sample Leon A. Walker’s books at his Website