David Pierce shares his journey of writing truth. David will present workshops at the May conference; see links below.
That was the advice I got a while back from a prominent writer.
Really? “Of course I write the truth!” I wanted to scream. “I always write the truth!” A few years passed before I would fully comprehend this piece of advice. That “Aha!” moment happened at a mountain trailhead at the base of Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs, the first of five mountains I would climb over the next five years.
My fifteen-year-old daughter, Chera, and I had set out to climb a mountain. So we bought matching backpacks and made a plan, when we probably should have been training. We took a cab from the Colorado Springs airport to the trailhead, ate a sandwich and then hit the trailhead.
Someone pointed us to the way, and we found what looked like a well-worn footpath through a stretch of grass, up an eight-foot incline. Chera tried first. She found some purchase with her hands full of grass and made her way to the top. I cinched down my backpack, got a running start (not good at 6,500 feet) and hit the incline hard. I dug in, I grabbed on, I clawed, and I searched for other verbs.
Finally, I made it to the top of the incline, where I bent over for the next several long minutes, hands on knees, gulping air, wishing to die…
I could have easily varnished over that moment of pain. I could have picked up the story at the point where I pushed on through bad hamstring cramps, denied water, made beef jerky out of tree bark and then picked up my daughter and carried her to the top of a mountain (a lie). In other words, I could have made myself look good. It was tempting. I think that choice is always tempting. But I chose to write the truth, which meant even those moments of pain, of self doubt and of fear.
A few years later I sold this book—pain and all. We titled it DON’T LET ME GO. It is a story about what I witnessed from my front row seat while climbing mountains and watching my daughter grow into a young woman.
Ten years after this first climb, we decided to go back. This time we would take her new husband and my son, who is six years younger than Chera.
What surprised me is that I got lots of calls from people who had read the story and had determined: I want to climb a mountain, too. “Did you read the parts about all the pain? (twisted knees, bad ankles, blisters that could lead to gangrene, windedness, exhaustion, back pains, sinus problems)” I asked each one.
But that didn’t seem to dissuade anyone. So we returned to Pikes Peak ten years after that first climb–where I chose to write the truth–and made the climb again. This time there were 13 of us. We made it to the summit together and suffered the pain together—all the way to the top. I don’t believe anyone was surprised. “Yes,” I heard more than once. “It’s just like you wrote.”
While they suffered, I smiled, not because of their pain, but because I had written the truth, and we always desire the truth.
David Pierce teaches English at Middle Tennessee State University and Motlow Community College. His memoir about climbing mountains with his teenage daughter, titled DON’T LET ME GO, was recently published by Waterbrook Press. He’s also had several mystery stories published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. He currently lives with his comedian wife Chonda Pierce in Murfreesboro, TN. and tries to fish at least one day every week. To contact him, visit his website.
He is the author of: