Life Under the Sun: My Nonfiction Projects

In 2013, I did a rewrite and edit of a book called “Among Friends: Stories from the Journey.” It’s a little devotional book by Father Jim Sichko, who seems to have a knack for friending famous celebrities. Father’s book is doing very well, and I’m proud to have worked on the project.

The experience opened up some discussion with my Wonder Woman agent, Italia Gandolfo.  Given my very diverse background (ministry, history and philosophy major, etc), the fact that I read a wide variety of books (from science to graphic novels), and my ability to work with a variety of people, we wondered if nonfiction would be an interesting path to explore.

Along those lines, she’d been in a discussion with former Samson Cree Chief, Marvin Yellowbird, about writing a memoir. When he seemed excited about the idea, Italia suggested a co-writer and he agreed. She hooked me up with the now Councilor Yellowbird, and I went to Canada for ten days to hang out with him. After that, we started writing together, and it has been an amazing experience.

So, we are 90-percent finished with the book, and a proposal is being submitted to publishers. Here is the book description.

“Nothing can prepare you for your first day as chief, especially if it begins with a gunshot.”

With those words, former Chief Marvin Yellowbird launches into his tale of how he fought against the outside gangs threatening the people on the Samson Cree Reserve. In a book that interweaves the complexity of Native/European relations with his own personal story, Marvin, with passion and care, shows the challenges facing a modern Native American leader. He writes with beauty as he talks about his childhood on the reserve and power as he relates how his leadership vaulted him onto the international stage as Chief of one of the largest First Nation bands in Canada. Marvin’s refusal to back down to the Royal Mounted Police, gang intimidation, and criticism from his own people helped him wage a campaign to save the youth on his reserve. To that end, he brought in the Chicago Ceasefire program, an unprecedented step that involved the work and cooperation of three separate governments to help solve their escalating problem of violence. As he tells his own personal story that is moving, hilarious, and heart wrenching, Marvin points toward a new future not only for Native Americans, but for everyone living on the North American continent. 

Around the same time, I met Stephen Keller, a man recently released from serving an 8-year stint in prison. When he told his story to me, about how his American dream was stolen from him by the government and big business, I knew I wanted to write it. The book proposal for PAY TO PLAY is now making the rounds at major publishing houses. Here is the book description:

“You have to pay to play,” said Senator Trent Lott to Stephen Keller just before the life he built came crashing down around him. Keller, a kid from a small town in Kentucky, founded his own business, built a billion dollar industry, and lost it all when the government wrongly convicted him of fraud after refusing to sell out to a corporate giant. In fear for his life, he fled with his family to Panama where law enforcement spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to track down a man who broke no actual laws. After spending eight years in prison, Keller tells his story to answer the question that everyone in American culture, right or left, is now asking; are those in power killing life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? 

As I’ve been writing these books with my two co-authors, I’ve noticed a common theme that comes from the Biblical Book Ecclesiastes. In the Book, the Teacher resolves to investigate “Life under the Sun,” and he finds some pretty disturbing things. When I started writing these books, I realized how much this idea fit my nonfiction projects.

So, I’ve added these books into an initiative I’m titling the “Under the Sun” project. It will be an ongoing exploration of investigating life through the eyes of different people’s stories.

It’s gonna be an amazing ride…

 

 

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About Jonathan Ryan

Jonathan Ryan is a novelist, blogger and columnist. His novel, 3 Gates of the Dead, published by Open Road Media, is in bookstores everywhere. The sequel, Dark Bride, will be out in April 2015


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