Dr. Don Newbury

We are admonished to “dream big dreams” at various stages of life, but for at least one career educator, a nightmare of two decades ago may prove to be his springboard to  international literary notoriety.

   For Bill Holt, an English teacher at Tarrant County College’s South Campus in Fort Worth, the nightmare spawned the plot for his first novel. It is entitled Faust’s Butterfly - 95,671 words of chilling fiction begun following the nightmare in 1990 and completed in October.

   He heard about authonomy.com, a Web site in England hosted by HarperCollins Publishers. Authors are invited to submit their works. He did so, uploading his novel on October 19, and the race was on…

   Whosoever will may sign up, free of any charge. It takes about five minutes, and participants may then choose from thousands of titles submitted by aspiring writers worldwide.

   It’s something of a “publisher’s slush pile” (in Holt’s words), since authors and would-be authors upload their works for all to see.

   Readers, then, are invited to offer critical comments, and to “sound off” on line. Their comments, in general, range from glowing salutes to salty comments like “don’t quit your day job.”…

   When titles reach and hold “top five” status for an entire month, they are then considered for publication by HarperCollins editors.

   Holt is in awe of responses to his first major literary effort.

   More than 200 respondents from throughout the world have offered comments, and they are 100% positive. He’s heard from readers “from just about everywhere except China.”…

   At this writing, Faust’s Butterfly ranks #94 among all submissions and has been rising steadily since it was uploaded.

   “Authonomy is like Facebook with purposes going far beyond the renewal of acquaintances, and it is most like a huge permanent literary convention,” Holt explained.

   A native of Illinois, he has been on the business end of a red pencil since he started teaching English at the collegiate level in 1967. He and his wife moved to Texas two years later, and he’s been on the TCC faculty since 1969—two years after the South Campus opened…

   Caleb Pirtle, another of my friends who remembers Absorbine Sr., has been writing books for 35 years, and now has 52 titles in print. He’s tickled to learn of Holt’s late-in-life literary effort.

   Pirtle believes that most people who threaten to write books rarely pull the trigger. He cites these sobering statistics: “Out of 100 people who think about writing a book, only one ever gets started. Out of the 100 who get started, only one ever finishes a manuscript. Out of the 100 manuscripts completed, only one ever gets published.”

   Thus, Holt may soon be in an extremely rare literary fraternity…

   The soft-spoken educator doesn’t come across as one who’d pen a blood-curdling novel. A mild-mannered guy, he holds a master’s degree in English, has 45 hours of seminary training and enjoys playing the trombone and harmonica. If one guessed him to be an author, a work centered on the macabre would seem the least likely.

   But, that’s exactly what he’s done with a plot that began with that nightmare about a killer butterfly two decades ago.

   The book is not for the faint of heart, and Carol, his wife of 45 years, fully agrees. A retired decorated public school administrator, she has zero interest in reading horror material, husband-written or not. She hasn’t read a single paragraph of the novel, and has no plans to do so….

   Holt realizes that novels, like theses and dissertations, are not written, they are re-written. Most of this already has been done, including full-time work on the book during a recent one-year faculty leave.

   It’s a brave educator who raises his literary flag. He has the courage of a second story burglar. Consider this: Among the thousands of people downloading his novel are several students who have been in his classes over the past 42 years.

   This time, they have the red pencils…

   Dr. Newbury is a speaker and author in the Metroplex. Send inquiries/comments to newbur@speakerdoc.com or call 817-447-3872. Visit his Web site at www.speakerdoc.com.