Never give up, especially in Texas

By A.J. Ortega - Guest Column
Dec. 2, 2015 at 4:36 p.m.

A.J. Ortega

A.J. Ortega   Contributed Photo by K. Jordan for The Victoria Advocate

If there's one narrative I'm a fan of in life, it's a good underdog story. If there's one type of person I respect, it's a hard worker. And if there's one place I call home, it's Texas. David Marion Wilkinson's journey as a writer has all three of these elements.

Wilkinson's success as a storyteller didn't happen overnight, and it wasn't an easy road getting there. In fact, some of the bumps in the road are recent. But, like a good Texas boy, he keeps on truckin'. From his collection of hundreds of rejections from publishers, to his professional relationships in the publishing world coming to an end, movie deals seemingly slipping through his hands, and even his divorce, he's written through it all and succeeded.

The fact is that a lot of good writers - and people in general - face this kind of adversity all the time and give up. I know some of these people, and you do, too. This is not one of Wilkinson's traits.

He may have gotten his resiliency through the jobs he's had - jobs that entail real, hard work. Wilkinson has been a hunting guide, ranch hand and drilling contractor. Wilkinson says these jobs taught him about self-reliance and responsibility. These types of jobs never get half-done, and you can see this in Wilkinson's writing.

He worked in places that were disconnected from the rest of us, quite isolated. But he found refuge in reading books. His experiences in the roughneck culture of oil drilling combined with a ton of reading gives him a unique voice that stands out among contemporary writers.

While Wilkinson was born in Arkansas, he's been in Texas since 1972. He went to high school in Houston, attended college at the University of Texas at Austin and worked in Alpine at Sul Ross State University. His time in the Lone Star State certainly informs his writing.

His book, "Not Between Brothers," is about the birth of Texas and its independence from Mexico. In this novel, Wilkinson uses history to inform his fiction. His descriptions explain that the relationships between the indigenous Comanche, Mexican and white immigrant cultures were more complex in the first half of the 19th century than we are probably led to believe. His writing blurs the line of the overly simplistic ideas of good and bad, or good guys and bad guys, or winners and losers, which gives it an honest spirit.

Wilkinson wrote a memoir, "One Ranger," with H. Joaquin Jackson, a charismatic Texas Ranger who gained notoriety as a Texas pop culture icon. The book traverses Jackson's life, in all its ups and downs, with Texas history spread throughout.

His latest book, "Where the Mountains are Thieves," is also Texas-based. In this novel, Jesse Reverchon leaves Houston and settles down in Alpine, tries to fit in and resumes his writing all while battling his personal demons. This results in comedy and tragedy and everything in between.

As a Texan raised in El Paso, I appreciate that the landscape described can be a lot like our lives, barren yet beautiful, desolate yet lush, harsh yet embracing.

It is evident that Wilkinson's hard work has certainly yielded some great writing, and subsequently the appropriate praise.

He is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters and has won the Violet Crown Award and two Spur Awards. His books have been optioned for feature films, he's written screenplays, and he's worked in the production of the History Channel's miniseries "Texas Rising."

We are pleased to welcome David Marion Wilkinson to Victoria, a city rich with Texas culture and history.

I'm pretty certain that he will fit right in. Wilkinson will be reading from his work at the UHV/ABR Reading Series at noon Thursday in UHV's Alcorn Auditorium, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St.

A.J. Ortega is assistant editor of Huizache and teaches English at the University of Houston-Victoria. He can be reached at ortegaaj@uhv.edu.


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