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Martin Clark on writing and rejection

Many people know that Patrick County Circuit Judge Martin Clark has a day job as a judge and a second job as an author.

He has published three novels – The Many Aspects of Mobile Home Living, Pure Heathen Mischief and The Legal Limit. The first has been optioned as a screenplay; CBS/Paramount has the third in development as a miniseries.

Clark (at right) was the guest speaker at the Richmond Bar Association monthly luncheon today, and he talked a lot about writing.

The Legal Limit was launched in Richmond, at Fountain Books, owned by a friend of Clark’s who suggested they host a signing at a nearby bar. The signing party was going pretty well, and for each reader, Clark said he said what he always says: “Thank you for buying my book and I hope you enjoy reading it.”

At the end of the night, one drunk woman made her way to the table for a signature. Clark offered his typical greeting. She said, “Oh, I’m not going to read it. I bought because I felt sorry for you.”

“So Richmond has always been good to me!” Clark said.

A few nuggets on writing:

He said he’s a believer in a “big plot.” If you’ve read any of Clark’s novels, that’s apparent. He added that there should be a beginning, a middle and an end to a story. “There should be a pay-off” to reader for getting to the conclusion, he said.

There are many writers. But there are degrees of difference. Some writers take you to the carnival and “describe the Tilt-a-Whirl.” The good writers “put you on the Tilt-a-Whirl.”

And he has found there are many people who want to be writers, even some who have a manuscript that’s been kicking around, even some who have collected a few rejection letters.

Clark said he decided he wanted to be a writer in college at Davidson. He wrote his book and when he was in law school at UVa, he thought he had found a guru, someone who might help him navigate the way to publication. He took his manuscript and a bottle of Scotch and put them in the mailbox of a celebrated local writer, then waited for a response. Several weeks later, Rita Mae Brown returned the manuscript with a note. For help getting published, that’s what agents are for, she said.

And after reading his manuscript, she suggested that he choose what he wanted to do. “You’re either going to end up a half-assed writer or a half-assed lawyer,” she said. “Literature is a full-time passion.”

For those people with a manuscript and the dream of seeing their work from the first word on paper to the printed volume, Clark counseled perseverance.

It took him 20 years to get published, he said. “Have a thick skin. It’s a long road,” he said. “Be persistent.”

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