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By ED OTTE

First-time authors “hope to catch lightning in a bottle” but the formula for success is simple: research, rewriting and networking.

That was the message from two former Rocky Mountain News journalists turned authors at the Nov. 13 Colorado Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists Fireside Chat at the Denver Press Club.

“Unless your name is Grisham or King, you will face challenges. Many challenges,” said Denny Dressman, who has authored five books, including a 2010 biography of Grambling football coach Eddie Robinson, and edited four others.

“Even Grisham had difficulties breaking in. It wasn’t until ‘The Pelican Brief’ was published and made into a movie that he was successful. After it was a best seller, his publisher asked if he had other manuscripts and he sent them ‘A Time to Kill.’ It had been turned down by other publishers before ‘Pelican Brief’ became popular.

“You hope to catch lightning in a bottle but most beginning writers have to work hard to get published and to sell their books.”

When the News closed in 2009, Mike Madigan had compiled enough historical material to produce “Heroes, Villains, Dames & Disasters/150 Years of Front-Page Stories from the Rocky Mountain News.” The book won the 2010 Colorado Author’s League award for best non-fiction and was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award.

Both men are members of the Colorado Author’s League and Madigan cited CAL and other writers’ organizations as vital for budding authors.

“It was what we learned as journalists, networking is so important,” he said. “The mentoring, the advice, the leads. It’s all very helpful.”

Dressman said networking also involves finding a reliable person to edit a manscript. “The reason self-published books aren’t reviewed by the mainstream media is because so many have misspellings and grammatical errors. They needed a good editor.”

When asked about the advantage of e-publishing over printed books, Dressman said it is “for specific genres of fiction – romance, sci-fi, young adult novels – a good way for new authors to get published.”

Both men said research is key to producing a good manuscript.

Madigan’s adventure thriller “Double Dare” is based in southwestern Colorado and the author researched the geography and history of the area “to make the story credible. You have fictional characters but everything else has to be accurate.”

For “Sterling Heroes of World War II,” published in 2012, Dressman researched Allied airbases in Europe and included the information in the book so “younger readers would understand the references made by the people interviewed for the story.”

Rewriting was an ongoing process in Madigan’s novel, which was released in September. “When I started, I thought I had to write the perfect book. I was wrong. I did a lot of rewriting to make the dialogue believable, make it all better.”

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Hey SPJers (and friends of),

Here’s some great programming we’ve got coming up in the next couple of weeks.

Using Census Data

Angeles Ortega-Moore of the Partnership & Data Services at the Denver Regional Census Officee, will lead a training session showing journalists how to mine U.S. Census data for story ideas and manipulate it to load your stories with accurate information. The free event will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm.

November Fireside ChatFirechat

The old joke was that every reporter had an unfinished novel in the bottom desk drawer. Now, it is an unfinished manuscript in computer files.
If you’re one of these folks, you will be interested in our next Fireside Chat, Journalist to Author: How to Publish Non-Fiction and Fiction Books, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 13, at the Denver Press Club, 1330 Glenarm Place.
Former Rocky Mountain News executives Denny Dressman and Mike Madigan will discuss the process and their published works. Admission is free.
Dressman is the author of five books and the editor of four others. In a 43-year newspaper career in Cincinnati, Louisville(KY), Oakland (CA) and Denver, he was an award-winning report and columnist, held the positions of city editor, executive sports editor, managing editor and editor; and for 10 years at the Rocky Mountain News was vice president labor/human resources. He is a member of the Denver Press Club Hall of Fame and a past president of the Colorado Press Association, and teaches writing in the University College Enrichment Program at the University of Denver.
His books include “Gerry Faust – Notre Dame’s Man in Motion” (1981); “Yes, I can! Tackle Diabetes and Win!” (2006); the only full biography of legendary Grambling football coach Eddie Robinson, titled “Eddie Robinson … he was the Martin Luther King of Football (2009); and “Sterling Heroes of World War II” (2012). His latest book is scheduled to be published in 2014.
Madigan is a former award-winning journalist and editor at the News. His first novel, “Double Dare,” was released in September (reviewed Sept. 22 in The Denver Post) by Adventure Publications. His short story The GyPSy Line was nominated for the 2012 Pushcart Prize for outstanding literature. The story is one of 11 published in the anthology “Gem Street” by Irish publisher Labello Press.
Madigan also has authored two books of non-fiction: “Heroes, Villains, Dames & Disasters/150 Years of Front-Page Stories from the Rocky Mountain News” won the 2010 Colorado Author’s League award for best non-fiction and was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award. He also authored “Historic Photos of Denver in the 50s, 60s and 70s.”

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