Carl Howe Hansen
writer - musician - sailor
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Meet Carl
 

Carl Howe Hansen hangs his hat in Sandwich, NH and on his sailboat along the coast of Maine. He is a musician, technician, cabinetmaker, and sailor, but always a writer.

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Please take a minute to enjoy the following essay written by the author for
New Hampshire Writers Project.
For more information about NHWP visit their website at
http://www.nhwritersproject.org


Payin’ the Dues

I thought it would be easy: just write the novel and “they” will read. Maybe it was arrogance, but I prefer to blame my confidence on a youthful sense of urgency. Whatever the case, reality played its heavy hand and forced me to pay my dues—first.

In the early 70s, during the time I played drums in ensembles with misguided dreams of fame and fortune, I found myself alone one night hitchhiking along Route 1 in Maine. A nice couple stopped. A conversation ensued.

“What do you do?” the driver asked.

Without hesitation I answered, “I’m a writer,” not a musician and not a carpenter, where the income actually paid my bills. I declared myself, unashamedly, a writer.

For all I know, the couple might have been Stephen and Tabitha King on their way to Bangor.  “What have you published?” he asked.

Defeated before I got started, I had trouble answering. “Ah, well, I’m writing a novel.”

“Lofty dreams for a young man…” he said with a hint of sarcasm.

I don’t remember my response. They had reminded me of previous regrettable conversations where doubt became a challenge to overcome. I’m sure I answered pleasantly, but I held on to an insidious “maybe so” thought for the remainder of the ride. I ignored my first hint on the well-travelled road.

A few years later, I was exploring the bazaar in Tangier, Morocco, when a knife-wielding man robbed me of my possessions. Maybe it was fate that had me clutching my leather satchel containing two-hundred scribbled pages of my precious manuscript—handwritten, before the time of digital copies. Suddenly it was gone, but never forgotten. The subsequent adventure and struggle to get home would force me to begin the novel for a second time.

My waywardness was satiated; now I longed for the inner peace that I thought I needed to be able to write. The reality of a family and making a living had to come first, except, after many years of doing just that, my house burned to the ground, along with another copy of my novel.

Hold on, this is not a Shakespearean tragedy—a writer, thwarted by forces beyond his control.

Additional years of living interfered. I wrote poetry and song lyrics. I wrote speeches, ad copy, letters to the editor, but not “the novel.” Until, in one of those exquisite moments, I rediscovered the essence of the story I had started thirty years earlier. Creativity flourished. I was ready for the triumph.

“It’s a great story, Carl,” the retired editor said after agreeing to read the first few chapters. “But…” she explained, “you’re telling not showing…too much backstory…shouldn’t be in first person…” Then she said, “You have the makings of a good writer. It will take a lot of hard work, really hard work that will pay off in the long run.”

I had to accept my shortcomings, yet there was a hint of encouragement in her words. My lofty dream had met its match in honesty and maturity. I asked a published-writer friend what I should do next.

“If you can afford one, hire a good editor and learn the craft…first,” he said.

I hired an editor. My quest to be a storyteller began, again.

I wrote. She reviewed and I rewrote. I stumbled and got back up. One year turned into two. It started to make sense.

In another of those unexplained-serendipitous events, I met the publisher of Good Old Boat magazine at the Maine Boatbuilder’s Show. “You’re a writer?” she asked after I had shamelessly admitted to the idea.

Being ever so humbled once before, I answered, “I’m trying, except I’ve never been published.”

“Ever write anything about sailing?”

“All the time.”

“Send me something and I’ll see if it fits.”

What just happened? I thought as I imagined my name in print. Maybe I should go home and write something, something that somebody asked me to write—me, you see. What a concept!

They loved my essay and, the good part, they sent me a check. After another article, a personal note from her said, “It’s nice to work with a writer who knows the King’s English…” It wasn’t part of the plan, nevertheless, with her inspiration, I had become a freelance writer.

Freelancing taught me how to work at my craft, how to meet deadlines, how quickly to get the reader’s attention. It forced me to be succinct and focus on what was important. I had scarce chances to find the perfect word or phrase. Most importantly, it required me to write the correct way, and write often.

Seven years passed after I sent those first chapters for a critique. I finished the novel and received a request for the manuscript after my first query. Encouragement followed by rejection—urgency has no place at this stage. It didn’t matter. I was enthusiastic, driven, brimming with new ideas. I had come full circle. I was at the same place I had been when I was twenty-two, but this time I was prepared. I had paid my dues, and it was now all right to answer when asked—“I am a writer.”

              After forty years, publication of my first novel, Destiny, will come to pass.


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  •   Carl appears in Good Old Boat Magazine
  •  A portion of proceeds from the sale of Destiny will benefit the Island Institute a non-profit organization that promotes community sustainability on Maine's islands. www.islandinstitute.org

Follow Carl Howe Hansen's author page at https://www.facebook.com/carlhowehansendestiny
Follow Carl Howe Hansen's Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/CarlHoweHansen 
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