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R.A. Dickey On Writing

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Thinking of his next book.
Thinking of his next book.

When the Giants came to town, I hopped on the chance to talk to R.A. Dickey again, because, R.A. Dickey. He's the most affable and erudite athlete I've gotten the chance to talk to so far, and I knew that he would have some well thought-out opinions about writing. We ended up talking about what it was like working with a co-author, how his family received the revelations in the book, and his plans for future writing.

Eno Sarris: I know that writing is important to you. With the difficult topics that you tackled in your book, you also talked about how it was important to get them off your chest to your family at one point. Was writing the book another step in your personal healing process?

R.A. Dickey: I think it became that. Originally, I didn't think about airing all my secrets and my past to the world because I thought it would be therapeutic. Now, writing about this stuff was therapeutic, but how people would take that actually was a little bit nerve-wracking, you know, how it would be received. But what ended up happening is that I think it's created a forum for people to just talk about things that are difficult to talk about. And that was one of the hopes I got to in writing the book was that it would create a forum for people to talk about things that were hard. I know in my own exposure to people who have read the book that I have had confirmation that it has been that for them.

ES: Just personally, your interactions with your mother were very important to me because I grew up in a single-mother household for much of my life. Some of the pain there really accessed something I'd felt before. I teared up at times, and it was a great book.

RAD: Wow. Thank you.

ES: One of the things that people run into sometimes when they write things that are personal like this are difficulties with family members that were sort of surprised. Did anything surprising happen with your family when the book came out, or did you let them all know, did they get review copies before the book came out?

RAD: The only person that really knew, full disclosure, was my mom.

ES: Even more than your wife!

RAD: Yeah, yeah. Even more than my wife. My wife knew about the things that were in it about me and us, but the stuff about my past, which has really kind of made me who I was in a lot of regards, I kept my mom in the loop on those. In fact, she was instrumental in a lot of the details about what went on when -- she would fill in things that were absent for me and really really helped. We've since had a really incredible reconciliation, you know.

ES: So the book helped strengthen bonds.

RAD: Oh man, yeah immensely. And part of that is the admission of mistakes and owning what's yours to own -- myself included, and her as well -- was certainly a process made me respect her more than ever. Consequently, it's given us a so much deeper relationship.

ES: It's.. it's really hard to be a single parent. It's something you have to give her a lot of respect for, no matter what.

RAD: Yeah, it is. I agree.

ES: What was it like working with a co-writer?

RAD: My co-author was great. It was important for me to write my own book. That was very important.

ES: In the process, you more wrote and he was more of an editor?

RAD: It was both. The process for us was -- once I got a literary agent, once I pitched my idea to a literary agent, she hooked me up with Wayne [Coffey]. It was a great fit. He really grasped my vision for the book and is an incredible writer in his own right. I would write eight, nine thousand words, and he would play with it and change things and edit it and send it back, and I'd say, 'yeah, that's better.'

ES: How many thousands of words would you get back?

RAD: Man, it was a 90,000-word manuscript.

ES: So you didn't cut a ton, huh? It was more about re-arranging?

RAD: It was more like re-arranging, we didn't cut a ton or add a ton. We didn't deviate from the narrative just for the sake of making it sensational.

ES: You had a sort of natural narrative that you were going to follow, and sort of told stories along the way.

RAD: I mean, we had to get an arc. The prologue really set the stage. The giving up of the six home runs kinda set the stage for what became the story arc -- that loss of hope, and trying to rebound from that, and we pulled off of that off and on. For the most part, it was an incredible collaboration. He is a very gifted writer, and we would talk about my childhood experiences for days and he would write 5,000 words and I would write 5,000 words about it and we compare notes, and I'd say you know what, 'that's a much better way of saying what I said here,' and we would replace what I had with what he wrote. And that's how we worked. It was great.

ES: Do you still have literary ambitions? Do you want to write another? You've talked about being an English teacher in the past. Are you sort of keeping that alive in the back of your mind?

RAD: Yeah, yeah. I do think at some point I'd like to teach a creative writing class, or even teach some classics, I don't know, we'll see where it goes. I also have some aspirations to write another book, that's more uh... fiction. A novel.

ES: Did you ever talk to Miguel [Batista] about that? In Los Angeles, I talked to him for a couple hours.

RAD: Yeah, yeah. He can do that. We've talked about writing a whole lot.

ES: He has very different theories than I do. When he told me his favorite author was Dan Brown I had to sort of stifle a [laughing]...

RAD: If you've read any of his work -- and I have -- it's much more that kind of courtroom dynamic, that mystery.

ES: He told me that he thinks the job of the writer is to surround a lie with truths, to sort of get people to not believe it happened, but to believe it could have happened. But from my experience, I've written more about stuff that has actually happened to me..

RAD: That's the beauty of writing, there are so many techniques and philosophies. For me, in particular, I would much rather write a novel that people could really connect with based on their own personal experience. So for instance, I love the classics. Of Mice and Men, A Tale of Two Cities, I mean all of the literature that you can read and say 'oh my gosh.' I'm not reading as much for the entertainment as much as the connection.

ES: All those timeless ideas, morals and values...

RAD: Instead of reading a movie, which of course is what Miguel has a gift for writing. He's good at that.

ES: Thank you and good luck the rest of the way.

RAD: Thank you.