Photo courtesy of RIF Author Interview
With in-person school starting again soon in MCPS, it may be time for students to catch up on reading. Luckily, two talented teacher-authors from WCHS have been busy throughout quarantine, writing and releasing new books during the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the start of 2021, English teacher Dr. Anthony Batts, published his first book “Deuce: A Second Chance at Life.” It is a young-adult semi-autobiography about his experience with childhood depression, self-confidence and a car crash that changed his life.
“It was a personal project because at the end of the day, when I was young, I dealt with reading and writing issues,” Dr. Batts said. “So that life changing event [in the book] made me realize that writing is a form of therapy.”
The crash completely changed the way Batts resonated with literature, helping shape his passion for teaching English. After the life-altering event, he wanted to be able to share his story with his students and the world. Dr. Batts never gave up on his book despite juggling graduate school and his personal life.
“I started writing Deuce in 2013-2014, when I started really teaching English and taking writing seriously, but I had to put it on the back burner to get my doctorate degree. I found a copy of it in June and put forth the effort to finish it,” Dr. Batts said. “The book is loosely based on my life but at the end of the day, it was based on a real life event that happened to me. It adds to why I approach certain situations the way I do now.”
Grant Goodman, another English language teacher at WCHS, released the fourth book in his “Agent Darcy and Ninja Steve” series last year. The books, meant for younger audiences, follow the friendship, adventures and secret missions of 13-year-old secret agent Darcy and 12-year-old ninja Steve.
“The first two books in the series were ‘discovery writing.’ I had a few characters and a general plot idea in mind and I just kept making everything up as I went along,” Goodman said. “By the time I started writing book three, I’d had a few years to develop as a writer and I started spending more and more time building outlines and making sure that I wasn’t going to write myself into a corner.”
Goodman enjoys creating the world of the “Agent Darcy and Ninja Steve” series because it allows him to hold onto his inner child and explore his originality. As he nears publishing his fifth installment of the series, he has discovered his key for being able to continue writing for such a long time.
“These books are 100% authentically ‘me.’ My imagination is such a strong part of my identity and my love of cartoons and comics- long after I was supposed to have ‘grown up and moved on’- is right on the pages,” Goodman said. “They’re fun, they’re a bit silly, they’re full of martial arts adventures and they’re all about friends and family learning to take care of each other.”
Although it takes many lengthy stretches at his computer, Goodman said it is worth the tedious process for the finished product in the end. The ups and downs of being an author pay off for him once he put his idea into motion.
“The initial burst of creativity is wonderful, but it’s even better when you turn those outlined moments into real moments in the manuscript; it’s like when you’ve been looking forward to that beach vacation for months and then you finally get to put your feet in the ocean,” Goodman said.
The editing affair, though grueling, is familiar to Goodman after penning an elaborate series, grading papers and helping students with essays.
“Between my editor’s comments, beta reader feedback and my own notes it takes months to get a rough draft into fighting shape,” Goodman said. “The first draft is like filling a sandbox with sand. Every revision, however, is making sandcastles, and sometimes when you make a little change to your sandcastle, an entire section collapses and needs to be rebuilt.”
While the process may be different for each author, Goodman and Batts both agree on the time and effort it takes to get from a rough draft to a published book. Ultimately, they pushed through the good and the bad to get their books on shelves.
“The writer’s process looked like organized chaos. My book looked a thousand percent different at the start than it did because I revisited so many times,” Batts said.
However much of a book may change in the editing period, both agree it should still resonate with an author’s core character and message. The two teachers write about what they love and know to be true, whether it be action-packed adventures with ninjas, or honest and personal accounts reflecting on life.
“I spend more time with sci-fi and fantasy novels than anything else,” Goodman said. “If a story has magic, robots, or spaceships, I’m right at home.”
Books can lead readers into fictional, fantastical worlds like Mr. Goodman’s, but can also help readers reflect on intimate narratives just as Dr. Batts does in “Deuce, A Second Chance At Life.”
“[In] this book, where you come from really doesn’t dictate where you are going to go,” Batts said. “Everything that happens to us happens for a reason for us to then react. Just know the actions we go through and people we meet will help us become the person we are.”
“Deuce, A Second Chance at Life” by Dr. Anthony Batts is available on Amazon, along with his other books and reading organization journals. Goodman’s “Agent Darcy and Ninja Steve” can be found on Amazon or his website https://www.grantgoodmanbooks.com/.
“Creativity and imagination are the soul of your well being as a writer,” Dr. Batts said.“ Nurture them both. Don’t let anyone take your creativity away.”