Lindsay Stafford Mader 2015-06-01 20:58:51
The Storyteller A Houston solo rises before the sun to cultivate his craft. Marrick Armstrong has casually jotted down stories in a journal for most of his life. While creative ideas never subsided, his legal career became a priority after graduating from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. But about eight years ago, the Houston solo attorney started taking his passion for writing more seriously by spending considerable time at the keyboard in his home office after long workdays. Through several cycles of putting down a story and picking it back up, he just released his first novel and is already at work on his second. Will of the Wisps, which Armstrong published under the pen name Matthias Miles, is about four friends who are young professionals during the “lost decade” of post-9/11 America. One of the men is searching for deeper meaning in his life and finds himself in a bad part of Houston, saying a prayer for purpose in a cheap hotel room, unaware that the course of their lives would soon be altered. Armstrong succeeds in completing his literary projects by waking during the early morning hours to meditate and write before doing legal work. Two years ago, he and his wife, Melissa, started focusing more on their company, ROM Publishing, a collaborative independent publisher and writers’ collective. “Whether I’m telling a story on paper or standing in front of a judge or jury,” Armstrong said, “it’s about how do I create something that is going to be interesting for people.” When did your love for books begin? Avid reading was part of my family environment. My grandmother taught herself to read using the Holy Bible. Every morning before heading to work, my dad would read the newspaper cover to cover while having his coffee. He and my mom studied biblical passages together every day. When I was in middle school, I had an opportunity to volunteer as an assistant librarian. I tried to read every book there, no matter the genre. What do you enjoy most about reading? The written word is the only pure form of communication. When you read, your connection with the author is not hindered by nonverbal cues, body language, or visual bias. Do you remember the first thing you wrote that you were proud of? It was a comic book about a superhero called Mega Master that I wrote and illustrated when I was a teenager. It took me months to write and draw it. My only regret is that, over the years, I misplaced it. You started getting more serious about your writing when you were working to become partner at a firm and needed an outlet for creativity. How did this help you during that intense career moment? I enjoyed the challenge of striving to become partner. But it was very pressure packed. At that time in my life, my passion for reading and writing for pleasure had taken a back seat to my career ambitions. I think it is the relentless stress to outperform your peers that makes young lawyers feel disconnected during their early years. To decompress after those long, stressful days I reconnected with literature. It was doubly rewarding when I ended that period by becoming a partner and finishing the first draft of my first novel almost simultaneously. How does it feel to be spending more time writing? Publishing Will of the Wisps was an incredible feeling. To know that something that I wrote will survive me, even if it survives only in the clearance stack in some creaky old bookstore, or in a water-stained box in someone’s attic, makes me happy to have contributed something to the great body of American literature. What is the most challenging aspect of writing? How do you overcome it? For me, it is having so many ideas for stories and characters but having a finite amount of time to get it all on paper. It takes a lot of discipline to put the literary writing down for sometimes months at a time, while I devote myself to handling legal matters. But I overcome it because my passion for the practice of law equals my passion for the literary work I do. You would like readers to finish your novel with a new outlook on the world. What one book has had the most significant impact on you and why? If forced to choose just one, I have to say One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez. The beauty of the story, the emphasis on the value of family, and the way he uses the written word to open his readers’ imagination in that book is unsurpassed. What are your three favorite books you’ve read in the past year and what makes them so great? Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe, because the story of a person grappling with rapid changes to the society he loves is very relevant to American life today. The Epic of Latin America, by John A. Crow, because he takes a relatively dry subject and makes it come to life in a way few writers could. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin, because it reminds us that some emotions and personal challenges are a universal part of the human experience and remain unchanged regardless of the passage of time or things like differences in race or gender. Tell us about ROM Publishing. Over the years I have been fortunate to have my life intersect with some very interesting and talented writers. But they are not the organizational- or business-minded types. So my wife encouraged me to go further and get their writing out to the public, with she and I providing the business structure for them and allowing them to focus on writing. We are looking forward to releasing their works over the next years. Why is it important for writers to have a community? Having relationships with other writers garners appreciation for diversity of thought and communication. Authors also tend to have a competitive streak that pushes us to raise the level of our game, so to speak, in ways that we might not in isolation. Some of the greatest American writers were all personally acquainted with one another and exchanged ideas in writers’ hangouts. Places and neighborhoods like Shakespeare and Company in France and Greenwich Village in New York come to mind. Texas has so much diversity and so many interesting people that it should naturally have a place like this where writers can gravitate.
Published by State Bar of Texas. View All Articles.
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