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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Peter Oltchick

author Peter Oltchick and his book Football for Fun

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? “My average isn’t .385 in hitting; it’s .107 in getting splinters.” These were lines 4-5 of a poorly hand-written fourth grade ‘Ode to Baseball’ poem I recently found in some fruitful digging of my childhood bedroom. While I don’t recall this particular writing exercise, it reminds me of the challenging, puzzle-solving high I still get when I tap keys to screen. Simply put, writing has always made me feel good. No matter the medium, finding a bit of time to explore your voice and unlock your writing muscles can be such an enriching—and even wonderfully surprising—experience.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? I like to use mini outlines to help push forward and get unstuck when necessary. Usually, it’s a copy/paste of a few bullets, from a bigger outline, that focuses on the next paragraph; writing directly above the bullets works well for me. I also routinely start the next section before the end of a writing session. Placeholder words or phrases that drive the gist of what’s coming next minimize the pressure over what ‘will’ come next. If I’m really struggling to find the right solution, there’s something about a power walk with tunes that provides a spark and enables me to reset.

What is your favorite time to write? As a consummate morning person, my ‘go to’ writing time is (post coffee) early AM. During afternoon hours, I’m more likely to do research and outlining. Writing in the evening is a non-starter!

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? I’ll start by saying I nodded my way through The Elements of Style (William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White) and bird by bird (Anne Lamont), two treasured writing companions. More specifically, and I’m not sure whom(s) to accurately credit, writing is rewriting. I find this matter-of-fact advice freeing. It gives me the space to make mistakes and to enjoy sometimes small wins throughout the writing process.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? My sense is that more and more authors don’t have to be pigeonholed into writing for a particular genre. As someone who has written for both children and adults, I can’t endorse this evolving mindset strongly enough.

Peter Oltchick’s Football for Fun: The Story of Coach Stewart “Fergie” Ferguson (co-authored with Bill Bell) is out now with South Dakota Historical Society Press.