Richard Levangie About Richard LevangieBlogWritingWriters and FriendsLinks

Telling Stories

Richard LevangieApril, 2010 — As writers go, I’m something of a contradiction. I didn’t start my life surrounded by books, didn’t grow up in a family where reading was a sacred pastime. My parents, with seven children over 12 years, worked incredibly long hours, and scarcely had time to breathe, let alone time to lose themselves in a story.

Books were dull things, largely reserved for school work. While I do remember trips to the library with my sisters, I don’t remember many childhood books that truly mattered to me, though I did enjoy various Dr. Seuss titles, especially Green Eggs and Ham and Put Me in the Zoo. I read to stay in the good graces of early teachers, a few of whom didn’t like me much.

My early passions were for sports — especially hockey. I was my mother’s son, raised a faithful and unquestioning Catholic; I was taught to be kind, to keep my head down, and never to speak back to authority.

Eventually, I started to see the vagaries of life in the stories we read in English class. By junior high school, Flowers for Algernon, Walking Tall, and Force 10 from Naverone had made an impression on me, and I enjoyed reading and discussing them in class.

But who was I kidding? I took classes in English because the curriculum required it. I was going to be a doctor and liked that I could get 100 percent on a science test; your answer was either right or it was wrong. Not so in English classes, where teachers with (I thought) questionable credentials were sitting in judgment of my essays, finding them good, but never as good as they could be. I was always made to feel that I was disapponting them — and myself.

So it’s curious that I now make my living in black and white, with words upon a page.

Two events shaped my future. The very first was a potent influenza: after final exams during my first year of university, I lost a month of my spring to debilitating headaches and a temperature that hovered around 102°F. For the first time, I read a book my brother had given me for Christmas: The Lord of the Rings. I lay (feverishly) transfixed by Tolkien’s heroic tales and a world that seemed more real than the one in which I lived. I dreamed one day of writing a book that was one-tenth as great. I read it three times that summer.

And then I started writing. Bits and pieces at first. In a journal, to a favorite cousin. Whenever I had a few minutes.

A few years later, my biology degree in hand, I took a year off to work in the restaurant industry while waiting for an opening in the MSc program; I was going to to study immunology before medical school. One fateful night, we had an informal wine tasting to select a new list for the restaurant, which had just received a liquor license. It was an amazing night.

I was hooked by a hedonistic, sensual beverage that tasted of cherries, blackcurrants, almonds and peaches. My career in science and medicine ended that night; it just took me a few years to realize it. I soon found myself inspired by great wine writers like Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, and sought to build a career that emulated theirs, garnering a journalism degree in 1990.

I had several successful years, selling regularly to food, wine, and travel magazines, until a bizarre, debilitating illness waylaid me.

When I started to recover in 2007, I learned that my ability to drink — and to actually taste — wine was a casualty of my illness. I couldn’t even fake it. So my dreams of becoming a wine and food writer are dead, but I’ve learned something about myself. I don’t really want to go back there, anyway. It’s no longer who I am. I’ve thought long and hard about the world I want to live in, and it’s not the one we have. I want to work for social justice, to fight hard against climate change and promote sustainability.

And I want to write.

Over the last four months, my partner has assumed most of the work in our day-to-day freelancing jobs to give me the time to write a adventure novel for middle readers. My first draft should be finished in July, and I hope to finish the fourth draft in November in preparation for finding an agent. This web site — which felt incredibly pretentious to create— will hopefully demonstrate the seriousness of my intentions.

Here and on my blog, I’ll write about my adventures of the next few months as I try to navigate the treacherous world of publishing, to find a place there for me. I have no illusions, but I have some skills, and a ripping story to tell. I hope that in a few months, that sentence will make sense to you.

May, 2012 — Okay, so if you want to make God laugh, tell him/her your plans. The short version is that I survived neurosurgery, and I'm ready to light this candle again. Once again, the search for an agent begins...

Home || About || Blog || Writing || Writers & Friends || Links