How Tragedy Changes Things

Publication of a novel, or some other long-form fiction, is supposed to be an exultant event, a
moment of professional joy. It is a triumph over self-doubt, skeptical acquaintances, and an alien
publishing industry. It usually is a minor triumph, of course, with sales of books falling short of
jubilant levels.

Yet I am experiencing something else after publication of my second novel, The Junkyard Dick.
Satisfaction, yes, but also embarrassment, a hint of guilt, and quite a lot of frustration. Why?
Because the mystery novel is set in Uvalde, Texas, where I live. It was published shortly after the
community’s public-school shootings in May. After the enormity of that tragedy became
apparent, marketing the book became problematic.

The novel is an upbeat portrayal of Uvalde. Admirable fictitious characters interact in real-life
locales—on city streets where live oak trees grow in the path of vehicles, while lunching at a
favorite gordita restaurant, or swimming in the Nueces River north of town. Uvalde is as likable
in the novel as it is in reality.

Still, I concluded that marketing the book at that moment would be viewed as cashing in on
notoriety. So, I created a nonprofit to receive my royalties along with a contribution from my
publisher. The organization, once fully funded, will support creative writing workshops for
Uvalde children.

Though I feel good about the book and the nonprofit, it remains an uneasy time. I have
encountered active indifference to the nonprofit, possibly from underlying resentment that I am
promoting the book at all. Others probably don’t believe creative writing programs for children
are of real value, though countless educators attest to story-writing’s positive impact on cognitive

So, where is my joy? When do I get to feel exultant? I believe it will come a year or so from now
when the nonprofit—The Story Inventors Club—has begun to excite children by cultivating their
imaginations and producing fresh artistic expression. When the children feel joy, I will, too.

Gillespie Lamb’s website is and the nonprofit website is

(Thank you to Gillespie Lamb for this guest post. I wish him the best in his writing and in The Story Inventors Club. Please check it out using the link above.)

1 Comment

  1. I agree a lot with this post, but struggle to find the right words. I think that stories of events bring a lot of light to the events – which is often not a bad thing, but it can also open old wounds that don’t need to be – or yes, allow someone to gain from tragedy.

    Its a tough place to navigate

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *