I took a writing workshop a few years ago and one of the assignments was to write about the person who has most influenced your writing. Here’s the essay I wrote:
My Writing Inspiration
By Rita Ackerman
About 1977 I began researching my genealogy. I had never known my dad and the questions began there. I joined genealogy groups, attended workshops and classes, and became an experienced researcher. In 1980 I joined the Association of Professional Genealogists and added my name as a researcher on contact lists at the Arizona state archives.
One day in 1996 I received a call from a writer who was working on a book on one of the brothers of Wyatt Earp and needed some Arizona research done. Would I be interested?
I had grown up watching Hugh O’Brien and every other western television star. I lived near Dodge City and visiting old Front Street and having a sarsaparilla in the Long Branch Saloon was my favorite thing. I would definitely be interested.
It had never occurred to me, however, that this was practically a way of life. That there were groups of people out there who researched, debated, and wrote about the Old West. That I could research something I had been fascinated with all my life.
As the research progressed so did our friendship and when his book The Death of Warren Baxter Earp: A Closer Look was released I was listed as part of the research team and was to be a part of the promotional event in Willcox, Arizona.
I was going to get to meet many of the authors whose books had been accumulating on my shelves. Now, seven years later, the event has grown and those authors and many others have become my friends. I’ve met publishers, collectors, and movie stars; including Hugh O’Brien.
This year, 2006, I joined the ranks with my own book, O.K. Corral Postscript: The Death of Ike Clanton, and all because of Michael m. Hickey.
During those long conversations he kept asking me questions and I kept searching for answers. One day he said if I could find out if there was more to the death of Ike Clanton than most sources said and I could write a book, he would publish it. Me, write a book? I had always wanted to, but figured it would be a novel. Maybe one of the mysteries I enjoy reading. A book about Wyatt Earp and Tombstone like those written by people I admired? Could it be possible? Michael seemed to think so.
As I wrote in the dedication, “he ignited the spark.” He opened up the world of Old West research and writing. Our long discussions flamed the fire of interest I’ve had since childhood.
“He made it all happen” by giving me the idea and pushing me to continue the search. By promising to publish the book about the death of Ike Clanton, Michael gave me a goal I never would have made for myself. With lots of coaxing, coaching and help from my friend I did find some of the answers. I did write the book and true to his word, Michael M. Hickey did publish it.
He is my inspiration and my friend.
I recently learned my friend passed away about two months ago. He’d been very ill for a long time and we lost touch. As fellow authors and researchers learned the news we were brought together again by our memories of our friend.