After spending 30 years in ministry, local author Rodger Pettichord turned his pastoral writing skills to military fiction.
An English major in college, Pettichord longed to write a novel, but as his life unfolded, he found he never quite had the time.
After graduation and a master’s degree, Pettichord went on to teach English for about 10 years, first at Washington State, where he had studied, and later overseas through the University of Maryland’s global campus for the U.S. military.
A conversion experience near the end of his time abroad led him to the seminary and on through 30 years of ministry in North Dakota, Minnesota and finally back home to Washington.
As a pastor, writing thousands of sermons and pastoral letters over the years, Pettichord got into “the joyful habit” of using fiction as a vehicle for discussing current events and theology. He remembered a pair of characters he would often revisit over the years.
“Bud and Earl – a couple of old cadres who would sit out in front of a store in their rocking chairs and comment on everything – the congregation enjoyed that, and I enjoyed writing them a great deal,” he said.
Through years of writing pastoral letters, Pettichord saw his writing improve.
“I developed a style, developed a voice, a way of organizing thoughts toward a goal that became comfortable and worked very well for me,” Pettichord said. “It still does as I write these stories. And I think, in large part, that’s due to sheer repetition with a deadline.”
His ministerial writing left little room for writing of any other sort, but the desire to write more never left him.
So when he retired in 2009 and moved to Spokane with his wife, he decided the time had come to settle into a new chapter in his literary life. Beginning was still more difficult than expected.
“I started out stumbling,” he said. “I knew I wanted to try to write something, but I had no idea what that meant.”
At one point, he remembered an article he had read about the Bulwer Lytton fiction contest “for wretched writers,” an annual contest inspired by the author who wrote what was once considered to be “the worst novel” and started with the sentence, “It was a dark and stormy night.”
“I thought, y’know, I’m just going to have some fun,” Pettichord said. “So I let that be my first sentence – it was a dark and stormy night – and just followed where it went.”
The sentence was removed later, he said, but it was as good a place as any to start.
“That one sentence opened the door and allowed me to get going,” he said.
A holdover from his days of pastoral writing, Pettichord thinks of himself as a short story writer.
Set during World War II, Pettichord’s “ROORD” trilogy, a work he undertook with writing partners Jim Rubin and David Ward, is an episodic work of fiction covering the adventures of a specialized military force.
Within the narrative, the “ROORD” or “Reconnoitering, Observation, Opposition Resources and Destruction” force, an elite squad of fighter pilots, is first assembled by Winston Churchill and later repurposed by President Harry Truman.
The “irreverent” American soldiers in the squad quickly rename themselves the “Royal Order of Rubber Ducks,” and a litany of wartime adventures ensue.
To aspiring authors, Pettichord offered the following advice.
“Don’t hold back, just start writing. You learn by doing, so the more you write, the better you’ll get at it.”
‘Sound of Spokane’
Local author, historian, columnist and journalist Jim Kershner’s latest book, “Sound of Spokane,” chronicles the Spokane Symphony’s journey from its founding in 1945 to the present as it endured recessions, budget crises, a strike and the colorful cast of conductors who have led it along the way. “Sound of Spokane” is now available for preorder through the Spokane Symphony website. For information, visit spokanesymphony.org.
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