Of course, I'm always looking for evidence that the main argument of my new book is right on but, holy smokes, EBC/Rev Brawley/IAF have a story to tell and retell that is drop-dead amazing even to someone like myself steeped in decades of citizen organizing work. Like David v. Goliath, the Nehemiah story just doesn't get old. In fact, as the years pass, it just gets better.
Yes, Sometimes David Wins big!
In addition to being one of Tucson's top musicians, Gary is a writer/Substack blogger of wide repute:
Tales From the Homestead
On This Labour Day
The Slingshot Effect
"I’m just finishing reading Frank C. Pierson’s book Sometimes David Wins: Organizing to Overcome “Fated Outcomes”. Frank has been living in Oracle, Arizona for several years, and his wife Kaz (Mary Ellen Kazda) and I share a birthday, but until I read his book I had little to no idea what a journey he’s been on. We have been casual acquaintances for many years so learning about his background as a community organizer along with the astonishing amount of dedicated work to bring about positive change in Tucson (and all of Arizona) is stunning...
...Change doesn’t happen using potions and wishes. It’s about community-minded humanists like Frank Pierson who put in the hard work of making change.
I highly recommend this book for any of you who want to get involved in making changes against ‘Fated Outcomes’ in your community."
Read Gary's impressive full review HERE.
Linda Victoria's Digital Art
I've known Linda Victoria for what seems like forever (she appears in the lower right corner of the above pic, snatched from a Victoria created collage). During my last years organizing in Tucson, she anchored the Pima County Interfaith Council office while studying digital arts under Steve Romaniello at Pima Community College. Since then, she's scratched out a living running a small business as a creative.
You may have taken note of the collages that appear in this website, along with the design of the site itself. All Linda's work. I won't detail the numerous other examples of her craft with which I'm familiar (neighborhood street signage, websites, promotional materials, and so on) but I do need to mention her contribution to my book. Because she writes and edits so well, she was able to lend shape and substance to my first draft. A good thing too because it held up well after being forwarded to editor/publisher Greg Pierce with Acta Publications.
Selling David In Goliath's World
It helps to write a good book filled with stories folks can relate to, but that doesn't mean anyone is going to buy it and read it. My sales guru says there's something like 4 million books published a year. So the odds of a breakthrough by a novice are long indeed.
Still, we little person authors soldier on, believing we have something important to say to the world out there. In fact, I'm sure of it and so are 4 mil others.
My sales guru stunned me when she said that on Amazon, everyone's equal. Well, not entirely, but more so than when competing for position on a Barnes and Noble display shelf or a New York Times Book Review (ha, ha). The truth is, get ready for it - Amazon reviews matter more to authors like me than the Gray Lady's reviews, whose cataracts would likely reduce Sometimes David Wins to a blurry insignificance anyway. So go ahead buy my book, read it and review it on Amazon. You'll be better for it and so will I. Yep, right here: Sometimes David Wins: Organizing to Overcome Fated Outcomes: Pierson Jr Frank C: 9780879467067: Amazon.com: Books
Novice writers like me have to wade through a thicket of difficulties. Setting aside the challenge of what to say and how to say it, when it's done and published, a whole new set of uncertainties kick in.
It may go without saying that I came at the sales question strictly old school. You know, traveling with a bunch of books in the back seat, contacting indie bookstores, book signings with a handful of customers (or not), local talks, maybe some sort of book tour.
When editor/publisher Greg Pierce suggested connecting with Mary Doyle, I jumped at the chance. She's been through all this and come out of it with a ton of sales reflective of her learn-by-doing (yeah, trial and error).
I don't think I'm revealing any trade secrets here because whatever the aspiring author/bookseller does depend mostly on the individual - relational assets, energy, and skill sets - that good coaches like Mary and Greg build on. The first key point that came through loud and clear: What not to do. Uh, oh! The what-not-to-do's line up pretty well with what I thought I had to do - the old school stuff. (To be continued as the plot thickens.)
My original plan for Sometimes David Wins was to end with a summary chapter hearkening back to Grandfather Silas and the events involving his company (Colorado Fuel and Iron) connected to the Ludlow Massacre. My editor/publisher Greg Pierce suggested pulling the Bus Blockade story from the middle of the book and placing it at the end. Not only because it was chronologically correct, but more importantly because it was a fitting conclusion to a story that's still unfolding. I took his proposed move as an inspired editorial intervention and embraced it.
Now, almost a decade later, the events of that day seem an eerie foretelling of the riot/insurrection of Jan 6, 2021 in the Capitol. The Pinal County Sheriff of the time - Paul Babeu - played the instigator (Trumpian) role. Arizona Militia members played the armed/threat (Proud Boys/Oath Keepers) role. Social media posts stirred up turnout - both planned and opportunistic.
At least two of the blockaders, both Oracle residents, later self-identified as Oath Keepers (although I doubt they traveled to DC for J6). One of them in 2013-2014 endorsed the lynching and re-lynching of then President Obama in the presence of Attorney General Eric Holder. His on-line posts joined a hemorrhage of profanities and insults directed at "libtards", "fudge-packers" and, of course, numerous "pieces of shit" (POS), presumably like Kaz and me.
It's a natural question. Three hundred pages is substantial. I worked on Chapter 7 by far the longest. My curiosity about labor/management struggles at Magma Copper Company got the best of me. And well it should because I've known so many individuals - some are close friends - who lived the experience themselves.
That chapter took several months to write from start to finish. I had to research it, including with three of the principals, because I had only bits and pieces of memory to fall back on. One that I thought was indelible - a labor rally half a block from our Oracle home - turned out by a couple of years to have happened later than I first thought. Much of the story might qualify as "original research", based as it was on recollections of participants in key events, including several not reported in the media.
If you read Sometimes David Wins, you'll see how my family history connects directly with Chapter 7's storyline. And there's a lot more to it for me - living next door to the largest underground copper mine in the country, experiencing the pluses and minuses of that proximity, identifying with both labor and management at different points and spending much time in nearby San Manuel during its heyday. San Manuel, built from the ground up by Del Webb at the behest of Magma Copper Company, lays claim to being the last true company town constructed in the USA.
The Book Works!
The book works! It is about organizing as an approach to significant change. It lifts up IAF in a thoughtful and non-boosterish way. Your treatment of Ernie is respectful, appreciative and yet not over the top.
I like the Vegas chapter a lot. Teaches the complexity of building an effort and learning in place. In this chapter and throughout the book the primacy of leaders is clear.
You as an actor attempting to act with integrity in a world of outward and inward complexity is well done.
I think it teaches action/reaction well. I will give it more thought.
Love the Harding chapter! It and the culinary union leader story teach how what Ed called “the mixing of spirits” can happen quickly with depth and authenticity in a meeting well done. I will buy at least ten. - Perry Perkins
I've gotten a surprising number already. Some of them quite moving. I'm pretty happy about this. May need a section of this website that captures several of them. (Of course, I will always get permission of the writer to post.) Here's an example:
I never thought promoting a book could be fun and satisfying, but thanks to buyers and readers like Lorena Candelaria it's turning out that way. Lorena has both an inspiring personal story and a family history in western mining towns that dates back through Christmas, AZ and Silver City, NM (The Salt of the Earth). That she reports liking it builds my confidence that the book was worth the time and effort I put into writing it.
It Feels Good!
So I just got a box of ten books from Acta Publications. Yes, it feels good to get into print like this. A big part for me is the public recognition of some remarkable leaders who people the pages of David Sometimes Wins. Look left and you'll find many of them in the image collage. Order here: actapublications.com/sometimes-david-wins/
To Retire or Not?
He could have gone on and on, given his status. Instead, he vacated his position and served as a volunteer to counsel students on future job prospects into his early 70s. His primary reason for making the retirement move was opening the chairmanship to the next generation of professorial talent, almost all of whom he had recruited to Swarthmore over the years.
My father was diagnosed with an Alzheimers variant at age 75 (my age now). That means he and Rita had 8 good years free of grinding daily workday responsibilities, before bit by bit he began to lose his mind. My plan was to retire at 67 the same way dad did. The reasons are pretty obvious, I guess.
Don Shelton passed away several months ago. His daughter Diane invited me to his memorial service at Casas Adobes Congregational Church UCC. I was glad to join with others to remember and celebrate his life. Don figures prominently in one of the chapters in David Sometimes Wins. I got to know him a bit in the writing of it.
I suppose one might say I was lucky to connect with the guy when I did, around time he was diagnosed with a terminal cancer. But in my mind luck doesn't explain connections made between fellow travelers on the social justice road who meet up along the way.
A Nervous Read
Who Matters in a Life?
If you look carefully at Linda Victoria's brilliant collage to the left you'll spot this priest in more than one place. Msgr Arsenio Carrillo was a towering figure in the life of Tucson families and continues as a prime inspiration for the future. I write about him in Sometimes David Wins. Book writing encourages a deeper reflection about who really matters in a life. Msgr Carrillo was one of those - not just for me, but for countless others.
About My Forthcoming Book
If I knew what was really involved in writing and publishing a book from the start, I might have shit-canned the idea and stuck to taking pictures, authoring the occasional article and tending my real and metaphorical garden in Oracle, AZ. But the book thing got under my skin and metastasized to the point that the only way to deal with it was to write and publish. Now I'm glad I did. I think it turned out pretty good. For those of you who read it, I hope you think so too.
Early on, my friend and former colleague, Perry Perkins, suggested I read Mary Karr's "The Art of Memoir". She teaches the subject at Syracuse and has written several books in the memoir genre herself. Mary, like Perry, is a good writer, has a great memory and tells great stories - nothing but the truth of course. Like Perry, she makes a good living doing what she loves (and may be expelling some personal demons in the process while helping others do the same). But the best thing for me about reading Karr was my dawning convincement that I didn't want to go that route. I liked the part about connecting personal and professional interests, telling good stories and integrating family history, but the memoir genre wouldn't have worked for me or my editor/publisher. I could easily have spent a year or more running up and down literary rabbit trails, likely ending in frustration, senility or death before any ink was spilled...
Sometimes David Wins
No story better applies to our current situation than the David and Goliath drama as narrated in Hebrew Scripture. If Zelensky/Ukraine v. Putin/Russia isn't a classic in that regard, I don't know what is. The "Sometimes" in the title of my new book strips inevitability from the equation. The fact is David may very well not always win, which is why the subtitle, Organizing to Overcome "Fated Outcomes" hits the mark. So winning is conditional on David getting his shit together-- which he does in Scripture by taking off bulky armor and operating with tools of the shepherd trade, with which he is well practiced.
I think there's a hero in all of us waiting, like David, for the moment to burst out and go public. In part, that's what community organizing is all about. Doing something hard, against long odds, and suffering the slings and arrows in the process. I was raised, blessed and cursed, to "make a contribution". My parents never advocated a life focused on money-making for myself and my brother, John. They expected us to be gainfully employed but not consumed by avarice-- which to them seemed, while common enough, a slippery slope into worthlessness.