Search

Greg Bardsley

Category

Friends Doing Amazing Things

Greg’s Friends Doing Amazing Things — Al Riske

You never know how your life might change as a result of meeting someone.

When I met Al Riske in 1999 as a fellow ghostwriter at Sun Microsystems, I couldn’t have predicted the writing adventures and deep friendship that would follow. Over the course of the next nine years — during lunches, coffee breaks and hallway conversations — Al and I would compare notes on our fiction pursuits.

It didn’t really matter that he wrote literary and I wrote transgressive. We supported each other — critiqued each other’s pieces, read each other’s books, ridiculed each other’s rejection letters, dissected literary-agent  search strategies and, eventually, celebrated the successes that started to develop.

Along the way, I was lucky enough to read a story collection Al had written, revised, added-to and massaged for the better part of twenty years. The stories were beautiful — elegant without trying, revealing without really showing why, brief in a satisfying way, scandalous with a light touch — and they stuck with you, key images and dialogue etching themselves into your subconscious.

His stories began to stick with other folks, too, including the editors at Hobart, Blue Mesa, Pindeldyboz and Word Riot. One story won a contest. But literary agents didn’t come running — the conventional wisdom seemed to be that there was no commercial market for short story collections, unless you were Tobias Wolff or John Updike.

Then Al learned about Luminis Books, a brand-new small press that wanted to publish “beautifully crafted prose.” Luminis, it seemed, was interested in publishing books it likes, and less obsessed with producing a New York Times bestseller.

Next thing he knew, Al had a book deal.

A year later, Al’s collection, Precarious: Stories of Love, Sex and Misunderstanding, is shipping from Amazon and selling at bookstores. Publishers Weekly called it “charming.” Novelist Catherine Ryan Hyde announced, “The art of the short story is alive and well in the hands of Al Riske.” Bookstores and literary groups have invited him to read from his collection. Every week seems to deliver a new first, a new adventure.

When my copy of Precarious arrived, the whole thing hit me hard in a wonderful way — here in my hands was the fruit of Al’s inspirational talent and persistence.

I couldn’t be happier for him.

Greg’s Friends Doing Amazing Things — J.P. Gallagher

imgBio_JPBack in October of 2008, I blogged about J.P. Gallagher, a friend of mine who’d just learned he had stomach cancer.

It was a scary time. So many questions no one could answer. Was the cancer spreading? Would it respond to radiation and chemo? How would he and his wife  accommodate the birth of their third child just weeks after the docs would take out J.P.’s stomach? Life would change, for sure, but what would it look like, and how would they live it?

Well, I have good news. J.P. kicked the shit out of that cancer.

The past 20 months threw just about everything they could at J.P. and his family. Those 20 months gave, and they took away. A daughter was born. New friendships were made. Just weeks after J.P.’s surgery, his father died — later, his sister passed away, too. But the world kept spinning, and J.P. and his family kept fighting, and living.

Now, there’s nothing serendipitous about cancer. I know that. But there is something remarkable how a variety of circumstances came together to create something truly amazing out of something that had been downright awful.

Part of it was the fact J.P. always had a passion for the non-profit sector — he’d been elected chairman of the board for at the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (JVC): Southwest, and he’d earned an MBA with concentrations in marketing and public/non-profit management. Another part of it was the fact that, through his treatment, J.P. had gotten to know some of the world’s leaders in gastric cancer research, and that he just happened to work for a company that made the computers needed to assist with that research.

Toss in the fact that, back in October ’08, his wife Cindy insisted he see a doctor about a swallowing problem and that, had he not gone, he’d likely be dead today, and you start to wonder if this is where J.P. is supposed to be — back in the saddle of life, full of energy, surviving cancer and starting The Gastric Cander Fund, which aims to do nothing short of finding a cure for the disease. With J.P.’s vision as well as the help of his employer, NetApp, the foundation aims to provide one lucky research group everything it would need — the money, the computers, the medical collaboration — to find the root cause of gastric cancer.

Pretty fricking cool.

And if you’re wondering how in the hell J.P. ever found the time and energy (let alone the vision) to start something like this while fighting for his life and mourning the loss of loved ones, on top of everything else, I don’t have an answer.

In October 2008, I asked you to pray for J.P. and his people. Today, I ‘m asking you to learn more about his new foundation, and to consider helping.

I’m thinking about a friend, and I couldn’t be more proud of him.

NOTE: This marks the beginning of what I hope will be an occasional series in which I tell you about friends doing some pretty cool things.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑