Honourable Mentions Writers of the Future Contest
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The Penciled in God by Robert N Stephenson
Robert N Stephenson
The Writer, The Man and the Madness
Robert N Stephenson has been many things, lived many lives and survived nightmares and madness to be where he is today. His writing career started back in the late 1970s when he started writing poetry but it wasn't until he reached his thirties that he ventured into story writing. To say writing stories was an easy thing would be denying the struggle that took place. After 5 solid years of writing, submitting stories to publications (many of which he has outlived) and the receiving of 450 straight rejection letters he sold his very first story, Alone With Ghosts to Patrick Swenson of Talebones. It was a day he would never forget and it was the start of another journey.
It is odd speaking of myself in the third person but the introduction seemed to require this. You see, I was born into a loving family of 7 and my parents were hardworking Australians who did everything they could for their children. Even with a stable home life, I ran off the rails big time, falling in with bad types and becoming quickly addicted to drugs and bad ways. This is a story I remind myself of when I stare off into the distance and wonder on those dark years.
It has been a journey thus far -- I thank you for being a part of it up to now.
It is here I get troubled by what I will say and how people will take, accept or abuse what they discover about me, the man, the writer and the madman. I can control what I do to a degree and I manage myself the best I can with the assistance of my family, but all was not so comfy back in the day. And while I am not the man I once was I cannot deny the events, choices and happenings did not form my view of the world and people in general
Yes, I did spend some time on the streets, drugs do that to you, and a lot of time in the courts taking my punishment for the stupidity drugs makes you get involved in. For two years I fought hard to stay straight, to show the courts I could be a new person and not just a wastrel. I got off drugs but became an alcoholic instead, which was pretty tough going. I still had the writing dream though, as mixed up as it was. My problem was I never had any paper to call my own, and if I did I lost it. I did have something to write on though. Sometimes I would scribble poems in the columns of people's newspapers out of extreme madness, or recite a newly created poem at a party about someone I had just met - People Poetry I called it. Good for a few drinks that gig was, only if the person I was speaking about was present, then it wasn't much fun... running away was what I also became good at. I published a book of poetry in 1992; the same year I was admitted to a mental hospital after a serious mental breakdown.
My dad, who passed away in 2013, never gave up on me and through some hard negotiation with a friend got me a job and I worked hard to never let dad down. I did get a better job and worked my way up in the science field - well I was a lab assistant, not a scientist, so nothing grand, but a long way from gutters and the cold. I kept on writing poetry, sometimes on walls and rocks and even on people's fridges when they let me; poetry kept me sane I suppose and I can tell you I was only ever on the edge of sanity at any time.
I was fortunate to meet a girl where I worked. It was her first day and I suppose I spoke with her for all of thirty seconds, but when she walked from the room I said to myself, 'I am going to marry that girl'. I think it took nearly two years of asking her out on a date for her to agree. Two years of cleaning myself up a bit and kicking the drink. It was strange she never ever mentioned my drinking or smoking but I gave them away anyway, (and there are many who have seen me when I have fallen from the wagon - an ugly mess indeed.) I felt better when I wasn't drunk, and Alice, with just a smile, made me feel like the world wasn't such a bad place. We married about a year after that first date and I started taking writing more seriously with her encouragement.
Hah, all's well that ends well, I thought. Sadly no. I got really sick, mentally so. I had a mental breakdown, as mentioned and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and hospitalized for a few months on heavy drugs and intensive counselling. It took me a year to recover and the strain on Alice was immense. If it wasn't for her I would still be in that hospital dribbling away not knowing my name. I returned to writing poetry as an escape and release from the ever present darkness and I self-published 200 copies of Garments of Rainbows, a poetry collection tracing my fall; and resurrection so to speak. Today I have one copy of this book, all sold within a few weeks.
I never really got better. I am still on an enormous amount of medication and I have to work from home because I don't get on easily with others. Sustained concentration makes me feel awful. But I am still married with two wonderful children who are heading into their adult years. I have thousands of stories inside me, some hauntingly true and some just whimsical imaginings and I suppose one day they will all come out - well, not all. There are some horrors best not revisited.
When you read my work you will know when you are in that place many fear to look, or you are seeing something never quite imagined. My fiction is about as close as I will ever get to an autobiography, the madness of the drug years, the deaths of all my friends to over-doses, my many motorcycle accidents and broken bones, the lost loves and broken hearts and the scary stuff that really does keep you up at nights. All of these things come together to create the man I am today. The crazy man who wears a fez to the shops, makes beds with boxes on his head and sings out of tune very, very loudly.
My work is available in all sorts of venues and my novels are available from www.amazon.com and Life Light and also the collection of short stories called We Would Be Heroes.
Vanishing Light by Robert N Stephenson from ReAnimus Press