by Laura L. Valenti
On a recent trip to Branson, my husband and I were treated to a show by SIX, a brothers singing group who also do marvelous impersonations and to a performance of JOSEPH, at the Sight and Sound Theater. While watching, I was reminded numerous times of how much artistic talent we have right here in the Ozarks. Typically, as a culture, we tend to think if someone wants a career as a singer, actor, dancer, or writer, they’re only choices are New York or California, but one trip to a place like Branson will show you a whole difference side of the entertainment industry. On the drive into town, billboards advertise those who have been on national circuits like Neal McCoy, the now late Andy Williams, Frankie Avalon and others as well as those who have done so but never in a well-known forum. Yet, these folks work daily in the field that they love and go home every night with no road trips, no living on a bus, and no paparazzi.
The same is true of writers. While the vast majority of us will never have our name on a New York Best Seller List, sell a hundred thousand copies of anything, or go on a national tour, that does not mean there isn’t plenty of writing talent right here in the Midwest. As a published novelist, working on a fifth (novel not bottle!), I’ve sold a couple thousand books but I’m well aware of the fact that an appearance on The Today Show is not likely. Like so many others, I once had dreams of such and I have been told “well, your books are quite regional”. That is true, as it is of many others, including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Shepherd of the Hills, but the bottom line is that instead of comparing myself to best sellers, past or present, I’ve found great satisfaction in simply being the best that I can be. That may never take me to the East or West Coast but it has made me a novelist to my family, friends, hometown and the many new colleagues and perhaps most significantly, READERS I’ve met along the way. One of the best discoveries of this roller coaster ride as both a novelist and a freelance feature writer (non-fiction) are the many fascinating people I’ve met—readers and interview subjects—folks I would never have any reason to meet otherwise. They are truly the treasure trove of this business.
I’ve been told there are people right here in Missouri who are big lottery winners but I’ve never met any of them. I’ve also been told there are a few writers in the state who have garnered a New York publishing contract and I’ve never met any of them either. I suspect they are probably about equal in number. That very possibly being the case, I’m not going to worry about either. After a few years in this, working cooperatively with local libraries, booksellers, and book clubs, selling in person and through the media as often as possible, I’m selling books on a regular basis. It may never get me to a six figure income, but it’s already been a marvelous adventure which is ever challenging with incredible surprises and joyous encounters tucked around every twist and turn.
I am also very thankful for the recent changes in the publishing industry. While they are blamed in part for having thrown the New York publishing industry into freefall mode, they have also made it possible for the little writers to become published authors. Writers like me have benefitted greatly from the revolution in self or independent publishing of the last decade or two, in no small part because of professional independent publishers like Infinity.
Back in Branson, as I listened to a mezzo-soprano who was part of the chorus in JOSEPH while she belted out her song, standing just a few feet away from us, I noticed the look on her face which spoke volumes about how much she enjoyed what she was doing on a nightly basis. And it made me realize, I feel exactly the same way about what I do.
As an Ozark freelance writer and author, Laura L. Valenti has written hundreds of newspaper and magazine features. She is a ten year veteran of the Laclede County Sheriff’s Department, including three years as their jail administrator. She is the author of non-fiction books, such as Ozarks Meth: A Journey of Destruction and Deliverance and four novels, including The Heart of the Spring, The Heart of the Spring Lives On, Between the Star and the Cross: The Choice and Between the Star and the Cross: The Election. Laura and her husband, Warren live near Bennett Spring, Missouri. Her books are available at Infinity Publishing’s website bbotw.com, Amazon.com and her website www.BetweentheStarandtheCross.com.