Muscatine area native Bob Bancks never knew he would become a successful writer. Though he had done some writing while at Muscatine Community College and later at Iowa State University, he spent most of his working life focused on farming. “I did little writing for forty-eight years, maybe a skit or two for our church,” he recalls.
However, everything changed for Bancks eleven years ago. “I retired from farming in 2008 and began to write a short story I had dreamed up on the combine. The story became longer and longer. Soon I had close to 80,000 words in print. Bingo! I had a novel.”
Bancks short story had indeed grown into a novel. Titled, The Nightgown—a Rural Love Story, Bancks’ book told the story of a couple who received a magical nightgown as a gift that ended up benefiting them and their family in remarkable ways.
After completing it, Bancks wife realized the potential of the book and first gave him the idea of publishing it. “My wife, Jane, encouraged me to send it to an editor,” said Bancks. “I picked one at random from the internet site called ‘Predators and Editors.’ I sent my manuscript. He replied, ‘I like the beginning and the ending. Let’s work on the middle and I believe you have a good novel.’ We worked on the story line and finished my book.”
With The Nightgown polished and revised, Bancks began looking for an agent. After several rejected it, Bancks brought his work to a writer’s conference. While there, one presenter talked to him about self-publishing, and Bancks took the idea and ran with it. After completing the self-publishing process, Bancks remembers, “we received thirty-five copies of the book . . .. We figured we had enough relatives to give them away to if the book didn’t sell. Well lo and behold, the book sold. Now, it is not on the best seller list in the New York Times, but [it was] good enough for me.”
After his initial success, Bancks published six more books, ranging from sequels to The Night Gown (The Fourth Generation and Call Sara), crime fiction (Iowa Exposed), a thriller (There are Bears), a collection of short stories (Oak Tree Tales) and even a piece of historical fiction (Edie, which came out this year). Set in and around Muscatine County, each story abounds with notable local connections. A prolific writer, Bancks has his eighth book and first piece of non-fiction in the works. Though he cautions readers that it will take him some time to finish, Bancks plans to publish a memoir of growing up in rural Iowa in the 1940s in the relatively near future.
Bancks sells books at the Flower Gallery and Little Red Hen in Muscatine, the Hy-Vee Drug Stores in Durant and Wapello, Emma Rae’s in DeWitt, Two Sisters Gift and Resale Shop in Eldridge, Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City, the Book Rack in Davenport, and Blue Grass Feed and Seed in Bluegrass, as well as on Amazon.