A local author’s story was published in the latest edition of “Chicken Soup for the Soul”.
“Respect” is based on a real moment in Gilliland’s life. When asked what inspired him to write the story, he replied, “The idea came from reading Mitch Albom, ‘The Five People You Meet in Heaven’.”
Gilliland found out 20 years after the fact that he had had a big impact on someone else’s life and never knew it.
When asked if Gilliland was good friends with the man who would become Scamp in his story, he replied, “he was an employee who worked for me. I was his boss at the time, but we always had a friendship… but I never felt we were close until then.
When the two men met in the commercial center of Lima some 20 years later.
Gilliland began his work as a supervisor at the GM foundry in 1965. Scamp was one of the first minorities hired and employed to work at the GM plant. In his story “Respect” when the two men reunite after 20 years, Scamp tells him that just being treated by another with respect had really mattered.
“Respect” is far from the first time Gilliland has written or published.
Originally from Holgate, Gilliland moved to Defiance for college and has lived there ever since. Gilliland was published before the two with “Chicken Soup for the Soul” with a Christmas story titled “The Grinch Came to Visit”, and some 80 works by Front Porch Publishing.
He spent his career as an electrical engineer and although he was always a “voracious reader” and enjoyed the works of Stephen King, he never considered being an author until his retirement.
The story behind his becoming a writer began in conversations with old friends and other GM foundry retirees, Gilliland said.
“We talked about the wacky things that would happen, the fun things that would happen and there was always someone saying ‘someday someone should write a book about this about our adventures there'”, did he declare. “And that’s how I started wanting to do an autobiography.”
When he wrote the stories, “I could tell it wasn’t good at all, I could tell it wasn’t working. My (youngest) daughter happens to…teach freshman collage-level creative writing at the time…. She said “dad, this won’t work, you have a bunch of great stories here, but treat them as separate personal essays, don’t try to tie them together.”
Writing didn’t just happen to him, says Gilliland.
“Over the previous five or six years (before it was first published), there were starts and stops and nothing really created,” he explained. “But I still wanted to do it.”
Early in his writing career around the year 2007, when he struggled to write his essays, Gilliland said he saw in The Crescent News that the Defiance Writers Group was having a meeting. It was through this group that Gilliland was connected and began writing for Front Porch Publishing.
“One of my first big lessons in writing was that they (you) limit it to between 500 and 700 words per essay…and when I shot the first job in the editor told me, she said ‘you have to cut it down, it’s Way too long.’ And I was appalled. I thought, ‘oh I can’t do this’, my story is taking so long to tell. But I tried… (After I cut it,) when I finished, I realized it was so much better.
Over the course of approximately 10 years, Gilliland published some 80 works with Front Porch Publishing before going out of business.
He continues to be part of the Defiance Writers Group and is currently the leader of the group, as well as a member of the Toledo Writers Forum and the Williams County Writers Group. Gilliland credits the honesty of the writing groups he attends with helping him refine the stories he tells.