Larry Peterson, author of the children's book, “Slippery Willie’s Stupid, Ugly Shoes”, is a part-time writer who spends a good deal of his time caring for his wife and working in the high school cafeteria. Though his schedule is full as a part-time employee and caregiver, he's found a way to keep his passion alive…reminding us all that there is no excuse too big that we cannot follow our dreams as writers.
How did you get started writing professionally?
I wrote a few unsolicited columns for a local newspaper (about 20 years ago) and dropped them off at the paper. The owner/publisher, a man by the name of Judson Bailey, gave me a call and asked me to stop by.
He was an old-timer from the old-school of journalism (pre-computer, pound the pavement guy). He had a great mane of silver hair that flowed backward to his shoulders and the bushiest silver eyebrows. He also smoked a huge pipe and—well, he was quite the guy.
Had worked in NYC for years as a reporter and editor. Anyway, he says to me, "Petie, you have this unique way of saying things. So, give me a column a week about whatever you want to write about. I’ll give you $25.00 a pop."
Imagine that…I never did anything professionally and he tells me to write what I want. Never edited anything either. Amazing! That’s how I started. That went on for about five years and then Mr. Bailey passed away from cancer. I did continue to write for the paper and a few others, but they all went belly-up. So, from maybe 95’ until about three years ago I was traveling in writer’s limbo.
What was your path towards publication like?
A winding, curvy road with hills and valleys and pot holes and ditches that finally hit a straightaway. However, I am sure more curves and bumps are up ahead.
What was the first market you queried and why did you choose that market?
“Okay—“Reader’s Digest”. Why? It was there and asked for submissions. I was far from being a serious writer and, naturally, the piece was rejected.
What is your biggest obstacle when it comes to pitching yourself as a writer and what steps have you taken to overcome that obstacle?
I am very uncomfortable talking about myself. Doing this is actually a bit of therapy in helping me get by that. I know that being a writer requires exposure so I am really appreciating this opportunity.
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book?
Sure...“Slippery Willie’s Stupid, Ugly Shoes” is about a boy who has slippery feet and slips, slides and spins all over the place. His shoes and socks even slip off all by themselves. Willie hates his slippery feet. Special shoes are made for him to help him overcome his handicap and he hates them because he thinks they are the “stupidest, ugliest shoes anywhere and he is sure everyone will laugh at him. Anyway, you’ll have to read the book to find out what happens. LOL
Ultimately, the book addresses differences kids may have and shows them that it is OK to be different. The book received the Catholic Writer’s Guild Seal of Approval ( it is not a religious book).
If you could choose just one thing for your book to accomplish, what would it be?
If there is one child somewhere on this planet who gets the message from this story that it is okay to be different well, for me, that would be a HOME RUN.
How do you balance your life as a writer with your duties as a parent or spouse?
At this point in my life I actually have the luxury of being able to write every day.
My first wife, Loretta, was ill for a long time even when are kids were young. She died 8 years ago from melanoma. I had come down with MS and had to get “walking” which I did (yeah, I can see and stand and everything—docs, God bless 'em—they don’t know everything. Hey, I even had prostate cancer—4 years out and doing good.
I remarried four years ago to a great lady, named Marty, who was a widow and a member of SVDP, too. Right after we married I had the prostate surgery. She was great. Now, she has come down with cancer and it is a high-grade lymphoma and has spread rapidly. Tomorrow she goes for chemo treatment #2 in a 4 cycle regimen.
She is now my priority. However, unlike years back, I still have time to write. As a man—my duties are to my family first. When I have time for me I just say .”Thank you Lord”. Simple as that.
The point is, for me, you play the cards you are dealt—no matter how lousy. Give it to God and keep on smiling. I MEAN that.
What is your best advice for getting past writer's block?
For me it is to WRITE, WRITE, WRITE. Even gibberish. I have even just doodled letters before I actually made gibberish. It works for me. Sooner or later some of the gibberish triggers a coherent thought and then BOOM !!! You suddenly have a sentence.
What was the best writing-related advice you ever received?
Mr. Bailey told me, over 20 years ago, that when writing, I should be careful not to try to be someone I am not. To develop my own style and voice. We are all unique, even writers.
So, I do remember that. I am careful not to copy a style but rather, use the advice I learn in Writer's Digest and apply it in what I do.
It is the same as a baseball player. They all have their own unique batting stance but, when they go to swing the bat, the hips have to turn, and the bat must go level through the strike zone, head tucked into shoulder. Same thing—a writer’s swing will either strike out or get a hit. But he/she does not want to change their stance to look like someone else.
What do you feel is the single most detrimental thing a writer could do to destroy his/her career as a writer?
I believe if you start thinking that you are the reincarnation of Hemingway or that you are really a “GREAT” writer you are doomed. Better hold on to some humility. No one can succeed in this or any business without others helping, from publishers, editors, etc. Even rejections should be looked upon as positives.
What’s ahead for your writing?
I have a novel completed “The Priest & The Peaches”. It has to do with five kids who, over a period of several years, lose their parents and wind up on their own. I hope it appeals to the YA level but I think it can appeal to adults also. It is sad and funny; not bleak.
This might be the first in a series following these kids as they grow but I’m not going there yet. This one is still an unproven commodity. I also have another children’s book that needs a re-write and some other stuff. The fact is, I am a novice at social-networking and having an online presence. Nicole Langan, from Tribute, has been a wonderful help in getting me started in this area and I’m trying to learn as much as I can. So I must spend time doing that too.