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Bob Sawatzki’s novel approach.

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Ogden resident Bob Sawatzki’s novel won the 2005 Utah Arts Council’s Original Writing Competition. His book Circa ’96 is currently under consideration for publication. We asked him: What does it take to bring home the $1,000 first prize?”

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About 20 years, and three tries. Here’s the five-step process:

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1. Write a Jack Kerouac-type novel of hitchhiking and train-riding across America. Get that out of your system right away, because you’ll never win any awards writing like that. That was 1985, the first time I entered the competition.

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2. Write a novel about getting married and having a kid and living in a Volkswagen van and traveling across America until the protagonist’s wife becomes pregnant. The story ends with an emergency C-section to save their second child’s life. That novel won’t win any awards, but three chapters will be published as short stories.

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3. Give up writing, get a job at the Weber County Library and start editing its newsletter the rough draft for 12 years, publishing creative writing and art by other local writers and artists.

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4. Start your third novel in 1996, when the Internet is connecting with schools and libraries across America. As your own library joins the online world, it occurs to you that somebody should write a book about this historic event. Attend countless staff meetings, listen to co-workers and library patrons, take notes, record the way people interact when confronted by a “disruptive” technology. Save your notes no matter what your wife says about cleaning out the storage room.

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5. By 2003, when the Internet bubble bursts, with your daughter in college and your son a Marine in Iraq, give up editing the rough draft and start writing faithfully every day in your son’s room in the basement, free of distractions. Two years later, you’ll have your novel.

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The deadline for the 2006 Utah Original Writing Competition is Friday, June 30. For more information, visit Arts.Utah.Gov/literature_program/writing_competition/index.html

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