One of Duncan’s native sons, John Dwyer, was back for a visit with area groups regarding his love of history, writing and the occasional tall tale — telling or hearing. Dwyer was the guest speaker for an annual private event and other groups to help promote his newest book, “Mustang,” a sequel to “Shortgrass.”
The series follows Duncan boy Lance, a Mennonite growing up in the Dust Bowl, and his choice to go against his pacifist religion to join the pilot ranks against Nazi Germany in World War II.
One group Dwyer joined was “Reading Down the Plains,” a writers circle to read at an open mic workshop and get some help.
Dwyer was excited to take part and, before reading, asked everyone what they liked to write and gave some advice.
“Remembering that every person … is different, I certainly learned what might seem to make sense in my writing is not necessarily good counsel to give to the next person if they’re wired differently,” he said. “I think there is a balance to figure out … to attaining your full creative expression but also ‘What are my goals?’ Do I want something I wrote to be read?”
Dwyer said the balance is between the logical, problem-solving part of a writer — and the creative part. He gave the example of how Shortgrass and Mustang were going to be one book, but as publishers, agents and other production people weighed in — they said splitting the book in two would be better.
“Well, that took a whole lot of additional effort as you can image to dissect the Siamese twins,” he laughed. “It’s not just cutting them in two, but it’s sewing them back together.”
Dwyer said some writing can be just for yourself, but finding the difference of something that needed to go out into the world was sometimes hard.
“I think that each of us have been gifted with this blessing-slash-curse of creative expression,” he said. “I think we have a responsibility on the one hand to express it, to present and tell those stories that have been laid on our heart, but on the other hand, kind of a left-brain-right-brain … it might mean really getting to work and tinkering with the formula because this is a message that needs to get further.”
Another hurdle Dwyer said they might have to face is their own egos or fears about rejection.
“My first book that ever got published not only had been rejected by so many publishers for years, but also the very publisher that published it had rejected it twice,” he said.
The group went on to read parts of their works together. “Reading Down the Plains” will announce their next meeting on their Facebook page.
Now that Mustang is out, Dwyer is going back to his other love/hate project, finishing his Oklahoma history books. A few years ago, Dwyer released “The Oklahomans: The stories of the state and it’s people; Volume one, Ancient to Statehood,” a textbook to show Oklahoma history as more than boring facts people forget after school.
The tone of history textbooks is something Dwyer wanted to steer clear of with “The Oklahomans.”
“So many of these books (are boring), and it’s not particularly the authors fault,” he said. “They just have so many restrictions on them — ‘Here’s what you need to do.’ ‘Here’s the objectives and the goals.’ ‘Here’s what you can say, and here’s what you can’t.’ By the time they make it all just right, they have a lot of times choked the life out of the narrative, and we wonder why these books are boring. It all happened behind the scenes before it got in print.”
Dwyer is an Adjunct Professor of History and Ethics at Southern Nazarene University, and he is now working on the second book and which will cover early statehood to present.