By Cynthia Sheeley
LINGLE – The Lingle-Fort Laramie Schools (LFL) had Author Joseph Jackson do a presentation and speak to students on Monday, Nov. 28. Jackson spoke about his writing journey, the process of publishing his upcoming book “It’s Only Fishing” and discussed several writing tips.
Jackson grew up in Lingle and graduated from Lingle-Fort Laramie High School in 2014. He currently lives in Anchorage, Alaska with his wife Emmie. He is a social studies teacher, a freelance writer, and an avid fisherman.
“Thank you all for having me,” Jackson began. “I thought I would take some time and tell you about my journey through writing, and hopefully pass on maybe a similar passion for writing.”
“It’s Only Fishing” is Jackson’s first published book; it comes out on January 10, 2023. His other work can be found in various outdoor magazines including Fly Fisherman, Sporting Classics, Fur Fish Game, Fish Alaska, and Trapper’s Post. The majority of his stories are about hunting and fishing trips; however, he does also write about other topics. His wife’s photography is often featured along with his work.
The beginning of the journey
“Writing hasn’t always been easy for me,” Jackson explained. “I was probably like a lot of you in that. I was fairly indifferent to it. I did it when I had to for school. I might have gone home and had fun with a story or two, but in terms of finishing something and progressing that into the next story I didn’t really connect the dots until I was in college.”
It all began when he came home and was trapping gophers on his family’s property. Jackson realized that many people have gopher problems, but nobody seemed to be writing about them. That lead him to write an article about the topic and get it published.
“That kind of opened the floodgates for me,” Jackson said. “It helped me realize that I can do fun things, write about it, and get paid for it.”
After that realization, Jackson explained that he started writing about his outdoor experiences with trapping, fishing, and hunting. In the beginning, it was mostly just extra money that he used to pay for gas, but eventually, it turned into more.
Jackson said, “As you can see here (gesturing to the table in front of him filled with the many magazines he had stories in), this is the result of six to seven years’ worth of writing. It’s led to a lot of amazing opportunities; this book included.”
About It's Only Fishing
Jackson wrote “It’s Only Fishing” in 2020 when he was caught between occupations and the global pandemic. This book is made up of essays reflecting on every fly-fishing trip that he took that year.
“Over my 20 years of falling water, I’ve come to the belief that you can learn something each time you go fishing,” Jackson said reading the introduction from his book. “Armed with this theory, I set forward to 2020 with a goal, I would write an essay, totally variable in length and purpose, for each fishing trip I took.”
He planned to write each of these essays, and then snip and edit them together until they came together into one cohesive story. This story would help him keep track of and reflect on these trips, so in the future, he would have something to look back at.
“To me, fishing is everything that matters,” Jackson read. “It’s the childhood joy of being hoodwinked. It’s grasping at the smoke of understanding our world. It’s making the impossible attempt in the same way people shoot for love, success, happiness, to capture pinpricks of light and memory setting it’s the state of water flowing or otherwise.”
It wasn’t long before his original plans, made at the beginning of 2020, evolved into something else. It was his family and fishing that were the only constant in the midst of change.
“The ensuing summer left me in a sort of daze, 2020 was my best fishing season yet,” Jackson read. “Oddly enough, a perfect stage against which to let my story unfold. Somehow things just worked out and I spent more time fishing than I did any other year.”
While the book is not yet released, it can be preordered online at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
“I’m going to be talking to you about writing, how to make writing work for you, and how to make writing enjoyable for you regardless of what that looks like,” Jackson said. “Maybe you want to be an essay writer. Maybe you want to write articles about something you enjoy like I did. Maybe you want to write about poetry. Hopefully, I can give you some tips on how to do that.”
The middle and high school English teachers at LFL provided Jackson with a list of questions to answer for the students.
• Why does writing feel like a chore?
“The simple answer is because it is a chore,” Jackson said. “It’s meant to be hard because what you’re doing is you’re translating something that’s in your mind to paper. It seems like it should be easy, but it is not at all.”
One of the hardest parts of writing is trying to meet the expectations that you have in your mind, but, like many other things, practice makes perfect. It’s important to remember that there is no right way to approach writing and that it is often a nonlinear process.
• Why do we have to write?
“We have to write because it is critical to being human; we have to convey messages,” Jackson explained. “Whether those messages are sophisticated writing or not. Maybe it’s just a text message. You still have to be able to take what’s in your mind and translated it to something like a phone, a piece of paper, a tablet, or whatever it is.”
Writing is not only important in academic subjects, but it is also something everyone has to use to communicate regardless of their chosen career. It’s an important tool for reflecting on experiences or even giving meaning to the stressful parts of life.
• How do you continue to grow as a writer?
“(For me), it’s hard because it’s not something that I’m required to do,” Jackson said. “This is not something that is my job. I do it on a freelance basis, so I do it on my own time. But it’s something my dad has always told me, “If you love something enough, you’ll find a way to make it work.”
Jackson explained if you want to grow as a writer, you have to make time for it and set goals for yourself. After you set those goals, be hard on yourself and don’t compromise on them. It’s up to the writer to push themselves to grow.
• How does reading help with your writing?
“Reading helps a ton with writing,” Jackson said. “Not only are you just exposed to good storytelling and different ways of telling stories, but then you can get more familiar with how good stories are structured and what that looks like.”
He explained as you start writing you will probably imitate your favorite authors’ style and structure, and this will continue until you develop your own.
“When you’ll find your favorite authors, my advice would be to cling to them,” Jackson added. “If they’re your favorite authors, chances are they know what they’re doing. If you find yourself gravitating towards certain stories it can help you as a writer decide what you want to write about.”
• Other tips
Jackson also shared a few other tips for writers. In the beginning, write about what you know first, and then try what you don’t as you gain experience.
It’s important to learn to be bored. It is during these times that your subconscious takes over and gives you ideas. Also, make sure to carry a notebook with you at all times to write down these ideas.
Jackson also said to find ways to make writing meaningful for yourself and always finish what you start. However, you should also be prepared for rejection and remember that it’s just a part of life.
“Early on when you’re starting out, everything is self-advocating,” Jackson said. “Sending out your ideas and trying really hard to get people to publish you. I will warn you in advance, you will receive a lot of rejection.”
When asked how he liked being an author, Jackson said, “I love being an author! If it was something I could do every day, all day I would. I would love it. I couldn’t sit and write at a computer for eight hours, but I love being able to go out and do things that I love and reflect on it and write about it. That’s why I say however you can make writing work for you, make it fun for you, to the point that maybe you would want to do it as a full-time thing, by all means, do that.”
For more information on Jackson or for writing resources go to his website josephdjacksonwriter.com.