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Different Stories

Four Great Falls authors discuss their personal experiences.

For David Morine, becoming a writer is somewhat akin to pursuing a career in professional baseball.

The aspiring writer starts out as an amateur, playing the field hoping for the big leagues and the big paychecks — and much like baseball, only a handful actually achieve that goal.

"A lot of it is luck, most of it is skill, and a great deal of it is persistence," said Morine, the author of five books including "Small Claims" and "Vacationland."

Morine was one of four Great Falls authors to speak on April 22, as part of the "Book Festival of Great Falls Authors" held at the Great Falls Library. Organized by the Friends of the Great Falls Library, the event featured the words and wisdom of four very different writers.

"I'm here to introduce, I'm pleased to say, four really different writers," said Julie Casso, President of the Friends of the Great Falls Library. "We didn't plan it — it just sort of happened that way."

David Morine decided to give writing a try after retiring from a 20-year career at The Nature Conservancy. Rather than talk about his novels, Morine offered his thoughts on the business of writing, the process of writing, and on the trials and tribulations of getting published.

"There's no such thing as a great muse," said Morine. "Everyone I know who writes squirrels themselves away — or tries to — for four hours a day, and tries to write something. Usually you come away with 1,000 words that you will probably throw away the next time you sit down."

Morine also emphasized the importance of having a good editor, somebody on the outside who can do a thorough critique of your work. However, even with all of these things in place, Morine says that it is not easy to get published in the current market.

"I think Oprah [Winfrey] has done a lot to ruin the book business," said Morine. "It's not the writing that's selling, it's the celebrity that's selling. If you are a celebrity, or a recovering drug addict, or you're writing a how-to book, you're in."

At the end of the day, Morine says, the best you can do is to "sit down for four hours everyday and hope that you have good contacts when you are through."

WRITING HOW-TO books has worked well for Robert Jolles. The salesman, consultant and professional speaker has written several successful books on sales and the art of giving presentations. Jolles, a self professed travel addict, has spent most of his professional life on business trips. His most recent work "The Way of the Road Warrior" is the result of personal journals kept during those trips. Jolles said it is the book he is most proud of writing.

"I started becoming what I call ‘methodically observant,’" said Jolles. "Every time I went on a trip, I would get out my laptop and write down where I was going, what I was thinking, how I was feeling."

Jolles sent these journal entries back home to his wife, and made sure not to go back and edit them, lest he alter the truth of each moment. When he did finally sit down and look at what he had written, he searched for deeper life lessons between the lines.

"The main theme of that book is get your tail home," said Jolles. "When life on the road is more enjoyable than life at home, and you've got a family, then you've got a problem."

Fittingly, Jolles came up with the book's introductory quote after a red eye flight left him in bleary eyed delirium.

"I came up with a definition for wisdom," said Jolles. "Wisdom is success, failure and a conscious knowledge of the lessons learned from each."

CLARENCE ASHLEY, a former CIA employee, discussed his book "CIA SpyMaster," an authorized biography of Agency legend George Kisevalter. In his book, Ashley takes readers behind the scenes of Kisevalter's life and his espionage successes during the Cold War. After working for the CIA, Ashley began a career in commercial real estate, which is when he first met Kisevalter. They became friends and remained close until Kisevalter's death in 1997. Ashley said he felt compelled to memorialize his friend's accomplishments.

"If I had not done it, that part of history would have been lost forever," said Ashley. "Simply put, it was my responsibility."

Ashley said he believes that the stories of his good friend are "both interesting and informative."

"These are the stories of a man who witnessed momentous world events in his lifetime," he said.

CRISTINA MITTERMEIER discussed her accidental writing career, and how it came about. The Great Falls stay-at-home mom has unwittingly found herself in the business of creating educational books about conservation and the environment. As the result of her husband's job, Mittermeier was able to establish prominent connections in the conservation world. An old college friend who had been trying to publish a conservation book called her in 1995 with a request for help.

Subsequently, Mittermeier took on the role of information compiler and partial editor. When she saw the finished product of her work she "nearly fell over backwards."

She continued to work on similar projects, and also took up photography. In the conservation books that followed, her images, writing and editing are prevalent throughout.

"I'm not a writer, I've never considered myself a writer," said Mittermeier. "For me it was just a series of lucky events that guided me down this path. I think there is a tremendous pleasure in writing… and I find it incredibly rewarding."