The Story of a Lifetime: Alan Arkema Publishes Novel Fourteen Years in the Making
by Margaret Hurlbert
June 28, 2019

For much of his adult life, Muscatine resident Alan Arkema knew he wanted to publish a book. After purchasing his first computer in 1983, he took to typing short stories and poems. However, Arkema knew he wanted to do more. He wanted to write a novel. Now, after fourteen years of work, Arkema’s dream has turned into a published reality.

During his working years, Arkema served as a pastor. Though he knew he wanted to write a book, his professional responsibilities kept him busy. He recalls, “There was something about writing a book that intrigued me, but I never had the time or skills to write it.”

After retiring, Arkema attended a writer’s conference at his alma mater, Calvin College, in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 2005. While there, he learned many of the skills he needed to take his writing to the next level. He also got a piece of advice that has stuck with him ever since, “choose a title, and the book will come.”

With that advice in mind, Arkema returned home, and typed a title into a document on his computer, “The Letter.” With that start, Arkema worked on and off on his manuscript for the next fourteen years. After going through many revisions, Arkema finished an eBook version of his story. With encouragement from his family and readers of the eBook, he decided he felt ready to take the final step and try to publish “The Letter.”

Arkema did some research and decided to send his manuscript of “The Letter” to Westbow Press, the self-publishing division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing. In record time, Arkema heard back from them–they enjoyed his work and wanted to publish it. Shocked that his dream could finally come true, Arkema hesitated about moving forward. As he typed the acceptance email, he thought, “do I dare go forward with this?” Eventually, Arkema’s desire to become a published author overcame his fear, and “The Letter” debuted in print this year.
On Saturday, June 22nd, Arkema attended a book signing and reception in his honor at his residence, Sunnybrook at Muscatine. At the event, he shared the story of how he got “The Letter” published and previewed the story to get potential readers interested.

A piece of historical fiction, “The Letter” tells the story of Tom Woodham, a teenager growing up in New Jersey in the 1920s. Woodham intends to marry his longtime sweetheart, but the couple’s love gets cut short when her parents discover she’s pregnant and whisk her off to the country. Devastated, Woodham must cope with his grief, and the consequences of false accusations that he got Kenny pregnant. Years later, Woodham receives a mysterious letter that leads him to the truth about what happened and changes the course of his life.

With “The Letter” in print, Arkema feels overjoyed. “It gives me a sense of self-worth and pride to do such a thing,” he shared. Now available to the public, readers across Muscatine can now enjoy his story too.

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