By Mark Baker
(Reprinted with permission)
It’s a wonderful life. And a busy one, too — if you’re Bob Welch.
And if you are a regular reader of The Register-Guard, then you’re probably familiar with this newspaper’s nationally award-winning general columnist of the past 13 years.
But did you know he’s got three new books out this fall, published by three different publishers?
“Cascade Summer: My Adventure on Oregon’s Pacific Crest Trail” and “52 Little Lessons From ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ ” hit bookstores earlier this month. “Resolve: From the Jungles of WWII Bataan, the Epic Story of a Soldier, a Flag and a Promise Kept,” comes out Nov. 7.
Getting just one book published can seem like an awe-inspiring task for any aspiring author, especially when the author has a full-time job.
So how does a guy who cranks out three newspaper columns a week, who leads a writers’ workshop at the coast, who can be found giving inspirational speeches across the state and sometimes outside the state, find the time to write his nonfiction works?
“I just flat-out discipline myself,” says Welch, 58, pulling out his smart phone in a Register-Guard conference room and clicking on the calculator app. He figures out how many words he needs to write per day, per week, to meet an agent’s or publisher’s deadline.
And then, he simply does it. Day after day after day.
“It’s a lot of early mornings,” Welch says. “I basically just get up at 5 or 6 in the morning and become an author.
“Then I go put on my columnist hat, and in the evening I become an author again.”
Although Welch would love to have one book “that just caught fire,” and maybe, say, landed on The New York Times’ best-seller list, that’s not why he does it.
“Unless you’re a big-time author, it’s hard to make any money writing books,” Welch says. “It’s Duck football money, put it that way,” he says of the money he’s made writing books.
Welch — whose best-known book to date is 2004’s “American Nightingale,” the story of a Boston nurse who was the first to die after the D-Day landings in June 1944 at Normandy during World War II — has been on a rigorous speaking tour for his latest works, his 13th, 14th and 15th books, respectively.
On Monday, he was at Cascade Manor in Eugene, pitching his books to senior citizens. Tuesday, he was at the Albany Public Library. Wednesday, he was at the Fern Ridge Public Library. Thursday, he was at the REI store in Eugene. Today, he’s at the Eugene Public Library.
Monday, he’s at the Cottage Grove Library. Thursday, he’s at the Siuslaw Public Library in Florence and the Lane County Historical Society. Friday takes him to a Springfield church. Saturday, he’ll be at the Ben Franklin store on Harlow Road, and a week from today he’s at the Waldport Public Library.
The rest of November takes him to various places in Eugene, Springfield, Corvallis, Monroe, Drain — and also Indianapolis on Nov. 12 for the launch of “Resolve,” the story of how 23-year-old Army Air Force communications officer Clay Conner Jr. fled the Bataan Death March and survived in the Filipino jungles for almost three years. Conner died in 1983, but his four sons from Indianapolis sought to have their father’s story told; they found Welch through his Colorado agent.
Welch didn’t write all three books simultaneously, but he did manage to write them all almost within a calendar year.
He wrote “52 Little Lessons” in the summer of 2011, with a break in between to hike the Pacific Crest Trial, the experience that led to “Cascade Summer.”
He started writing “Resolve” in April 2011 and finished it in January. And he wrote “Cascade Summer” between February and June of this year.
The latter book tells the story of Welch’s attempt — along with his brother-in-law, Glenn Petersen, a family doctor in Albany — to hike the 452-mile Oregon portion of the Pacific Crest Trail, along the state’s mountainous spine.
Regular readers of Welch’s column are familiar with the tale, because he told much of it in a series of columns in the summer of 2011. But the book delves deeper as Welch takes readers from the “seeds of the idea for the trek and through the planning and preparation and onto the trail for laughs, blisters, unique characters from all over the world and finally, the story’s bittersweet ending.”
Welch lost 27 pounds off his 5-foot-9-inch frame between January and August of last year. He endured the rigorous P90X extreme workout program for 90 days that winter and walked all 26.2 miles of the Eugene Marathon wearing a camper’s backpack.
He also hiked local peaks regularly, sometimes hauling an 11-pound wrestling trophy, of all things.
“One of the more profound experiences of my life,” Welch says of hiking the trail. “It’s an itch that I’ve scratched, and I don’t think I will do it again.”
However, a proposal for what would be his 16th book was sent to his agent just a few days ago.