Writing.ie | Magazine | Tell Your Own Story | Writing & Me
16 November 2016
Writing came naturally to me as a kid. Being an only child, I really had to be the soul proprietor of my own entertainment. That being said, my Mom never hesitated to jump in construct action figure staring stories with me. The rest of the time I was deep in creative thought.
We lived on a farm so it was just the three of us – Dad was usually out in the fields. I’d spend hours riding around in tractors with him, assuring him farming was what I wanted to do when I grew up. But these creative stories had a hold on me. Obsessed with Star Wars, I sought to novelize the saga and expand upon the universe – this was my first taste at creative writing.
Friends was a popular television show at the time so I began writing episodes, though most of the jokes I took inspiration from went over my head.
There was a time when my life goal was to open my own book store, Pages and Pages, and sell only my books. But then Mom sat me down one day and began to open my world with shows she grew up with as a kid. Mary Tyler Moore, Rhoda, Taxi, Cheers – sitcoms that revolutionized the business. She didn’t hold back cinema either, my favorites even at a young age quickly became classic dramas like Rain Man or John Hughes comedies like Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.
I developed a taste for all things older than me – I’d do anything to time travel back to the 1960’s. I listened to the classic rock my parents cranked and hung hippie beads in my doorway. Lava lamps lit my room and my farming future rapidly dissolved. Focused on acting, it was a bit of a rough sell but my parents were amazing enough to enroll me in acting classes. For years, gracing the silver screen was my biggest goal despite my knowledge for behind the scenes history vastly expanded.
When it came time to pick a career, I chickened out and opted for journalism instead, gearing up to enroll in the local broadcasting college. Life would provide a cruel twist and take my Mother earlier – lung cancer had spread through her body in the middle of my high school years. I entered college a grief stricken young man who journeyed with his Father for answers and love. Upon college graduation, my Father too was taken from me by the same disease.
Alone at the age of twenty, I found myself still living in my childhood home and holding down a writing job scribbling commercial copy for radio. It rejuvenated a passion I once had for writing. I remembered Pages and Pages and my passion for film. Though I found myself inadvertently the owner of a farm, I saw a clear path to happiness – become a writer.
I moved to Vancouver BC and enrolled in film writing classes. There I expanded my knowledge on story structure, penning movie scripts and short story ideas. Graduation was scary – the world seemed so big and uncaring. It was impossible to start. All I could do was go forth and write what I knew.
My first book was a nonfiction film history called 101 Most Influential Coming of Age Movies. Exploring the films I loved and grew up on, it celebrated the past 100 years and how it influenced cinema’s youth genre.
Next, drawing inspiration from my tractor rides with Dad and my movie watching with Mom, I penned Tractor. This coming of age journey followed a teenager named John who didn’t know what he wanted to do after graduation. After getting a spur the moment job picking up a tractor in the southern US for a crotchety farmer, a classical road tip forms this young man’s life. Set in the sixties, it captured the style and essence I held dear.
Through my writing, I discovered why I did it in the first place; to transport myself back to these times. To visit places I never could and to hold on to memories than my parents passed on to me. I optioned two feature film scripts, a western and a comedy that same year and have been writing scripts and projects ever since.
My latest book is a nonfiction history about my home town of Lethbridge Alberta. With lots to explore and write about, I will always hopefully keep busy with these projects and get to internal roots of what makes me who I am. I love history and will hopefully get to write more in that genre and the times I love.
I think of my parents every day but I know they live on in my heart and certainly in my writing. If you enjoy the essence of the 1960’s and always wished you had grown up on a farm, I think my novel Tractor may be for you.
(c) Ryan Uytdewilligen
Set in Oklahoma in 1961, a small town teen named John gets a spur of the moment job driving an old tractor across Arkansas to Oklahoma for a crotchety old farmer. John is about to enter his senior year of high school and has doubts about his future and the kind of man he wants to be. Unbeknownst to him, this trip will be just what he needs to figure all that out.We follow John as he picks up the tractor in Arkansas, then makes his way across hot, crowded Southern highways, on which he experiences breakdowns, fights, mishaps, and even love. It is no easy task to complete this job, but the pitfalls and chance meetings along the way might just take him where he’s destined to go.
John’s belief in God beats down on him like the hot sun, while the fantasies of a mysterious girl he meets along the way flash through his mind. John is lost both literally and figuratively, but the people he meets along the winding roads give him more direction than he ever thought possible. John just wanted to earn some money to buy his first truck. Instead, he discovered the meaning of life.
For young adult readers who have an affinity for farm life—and grand adventures.
About the author
Born in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, Ryan Uytdewilligen was raised on a family farm where story ideas began to filter through his head at an early age. Like many young farm boys, he was a member of 4-H. After studying and working in television and radio, Ryan made the move to Vancouver where he studied film, produced short films, and optioned several movie scripts. His first book, 101 Most Influential Coming of Age Movies explores film history through his favorite storytelling genre.
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