GARY PROVOST ~ "The Writer's Writer"

Gary Provost


“Until his death in 1995, Gary Provost was one of the most beloved writing instructors in the United States. He taught tens of thousands of writers through his seminars, books, articles and videos.”
--Writer’s Digest.

During his lifetime, Gary Provost (1944-1995) had become one of America's leading writing-for-publication instructors as well as the author of 24 books in genres ranging from how-to instruction for writers (of course!); full-length adult and young adult fiction (literary, mystery, romance); and full-length nonfiction (biography, true crime, sports how-to, business). He doctored manuscripts, worked as a ghostwriter, and along the way published thousands of articles for magazines and newspapers--including columns, humorous pieces and celebrity profiles.


Hello there! So happy to have you drop by. I guess you can consider this the official website for preserving Gary's legacy. You may have landed here by pure chance, but if you've already learned from Gary I suspect you felt as so many of us did: that when you heard or read his words, it was as though he were speaking to you, alone. He affected us that way.

These days, if you're a high school or college student, you may have recently been given samples of his work to study. Gary authored five instructional books for writers, so you may have read one, or some, or all of those. Or his countless instructional articles and columns in the trade magazines for writers.

Or maybe you were fortunate enough to have participated in one of our nationwide WRITE IT/​SELL IT weekend seminars for fiction and nonfiction writers. Possibly you attended a writers' conference, in which Gary had been a wildly popular speaker. He was a bit of an anti-establishment cult hero to freelance writers.

You'd probably be interested to know that back in 1987 we co-created the WRITERS RETREAT WORKSHOP, a two-week intensive, in-residence program for a small group of serious fiction and creative nonfiction writers so they could learn directly from Gary. (After the first year's sessions, we culled the program to ten days.) Almost immediately, however, we affectionately referred to our program as "The WRW".

Although we continued to limit participation for the sake of ample personalized attention from Gary, more and more of the students who registered were returning students. WRW was always a true labor of love, for all of us. We and our students shared a vision and passion for the work we did together, and our clear sense of "family" took hold and blossomed.

Then, one Sunday in 1996, we discovered that USA WEEKEND had honored our WRW program as THE writing "vacation that can change your life." Sadly, that tribute came after Gary's passing.

However, WRWers who had learned from him continue(d) to share his wise and generous instruction, insight, and approachability. The program evolved and, with new generations of WRWers, the legacy has endured for more than 25 plus years.

Our next WRW is coming up: May 12-19, 2016 in our new home for our program. The Oblate Retreat Center is located in the heart of San Antonio, Texas and its magical gardens are only a hop, skip and jump from the San Antonio airport. (To learn more about WRW, please visit our 'GARY'S COURSES' section.)

Now, if it's not in the cards for you to attend WRW's in-residence program, you might seriously consider learning from Gary via his courses designed specifically for at-home viewing and study. (Click on our 'GARY'S COURSES' section to learn more.)

Finally, if you'd like to learn more about Gary's personal story, its relevance to you and your dreams of writing excellence and publishing success, I invite you to read on. (If you can't do that now, please bookmark this page for another, more convenient time.)

Meanwhile, keep on writing and learning, progressing and growing as you continue along your journey. One day, your dream will come true. Persistence, that's the ticket!

May you dream your dream on,
--Gail Provost Stockwell


Whether anyone was counting or not, when Gary came into the world on November 14, 1944, he was the seventh son of a seventh son and the youngest of nine siblings. His Boston childhood was spent in poverty with his mother and two brothers in a poor Jamaica Plains household. Although they had little, Gary was content and well loved. At times, however, he would become painfully shy. For example, if any of his older siblings would show up to visit, Gary would take off and hide until after "those people" had gone.

Out on the streets Gary was less shy. He was a spunky, independent street kid of keen intelligence, great imagination, and a stubborn drive and taste for adventure.

At the age of three, for example, he would think nothing of getting on a bus or two by himself in order to get off at the Y or to see a movie. At eight years old he was writing and handing out his "newspapers" and also began his first book-length manuscript. It's title: "The Case Against Religion."

When Gary was a teenager, his mother--for no discernible reason--registered him to attend high school in a different neighborhood, causing Gary to feel like an outcast. After all, the kids in his neighborhood wanted to hang out with the same kids they went to school with. And the kids who were in the same school as Gary wanted to hang out with the kids who lived in their own neighborhood.

One place in his own neighborhood always felt welcoming after school: the local basketball court. Endlessly, he practiced shooting hoops with kids who hung out there and shared the passion and skill. Now, THAT made life worth living. (Had he been a taller guy he'd have sought a career playing professional basketball. No question.)

After high school graduation (a celebration he chose to do without), Gary turned down a "respectable" job offer at a bank in favor of pursuing a boyhood fantasy. Consequently, he and his childhood pal spent one year living out their own version of "Rt. 66." They hitch-hiked around the country to "fully experience life." What they mostly experienced, as it turned out, was sleeping on park benches and panhandling during the days. As a result of this Great Adventure, Gary's focus shifted to writing.

During the next ten years and seven ("horrible"--his word) novels, while supporting himself with a succession of thirty-five jobs that -- "paid very little but would some day look glamorous on the back of a dust jacket.”
By the end of that decade of writing, Gary turned his attention away from fiction and towards nonfiction. Sure enough, just before he turned thirty, his first article was published in a Florida newspaper. He and his then wife Nora (who he'd met through a computer dating service) returned to the Boston area, where both had been raised.

Gary landed a job working as a newspaper reporter. This led to work on the editorial staff of several magazines. At this point he devoted himself to perfecting the writing craft while selling his stories and articles to hundreds -- eventually, thousands -- of local, regional, and national publications. Then he wanted to write books that would get published. So naturally, he took publishing matters into his own hands.

One fine day, Gary stood on the steps of the Boston Public Library with a suitcase full of mimeographed copies of his little self-published book of offbeat humor, and he began to sell them. Cheap. For whatever reason, this publication, The Dorchester Gas Tank, won Gary a small cult-level following in Cincinnati, Ohio and that local popularity garnered for Gary the attention of editors over at Writer’s Digest magazine, the world's leading magazine for writers. So, one thing led to another and: BAM! WD bought and published a story by Gary about Gary and his self-publishing venture.

He continued to write featured, instructional articles for WD's readership throughout the rest of the 80s and into the 90s, serving as a Writer's Digest correspondent, then contributing editor, then regular columnist. He also wrote celebrity profiles, humorous columns, etc. It was only a matter of time before Gary proposed a how-to book idea to Writer's Digest Books about how to write well. And when he did, they bought it. Gary's first official book publishing contract, therefore, was Make Every Word Count. It became a top seller for Writer's Digest Books.

Along with love for the craft, he discovered a unique gift for teaching not only via the printed page, but also in-person. He began with night schools, then seminars and workshops for writers, teaching them not only techniques for improving their writing skills but for how to get published. Not surprisingly, he soon authored The Freelance Writer's Handbook and became a popular speaker at writing conferences nationwide. He went on to author dozens of books in most every genre, and because of his versatility he was dubbed "The Dustin Hoffman of the Typewriter,” and because of his productivity, "The Writer’s Writer.”


All four YA novels were award-winning, including his first, The Pork Chop War (which had been inspired by his own childhood memories). The three novels co-authored with second wife, Gail, Good If It Goes, won the couple a National Jewish Book Award for Children's Literature in 1985, and David and Max earned them a dozen prestigious nominations including a Newbery. (It was updated in 2006 for a new edition.)

All of Gary's best-selling true crime books were optioned for film, and Fatal Dosage was produced into the CBS TV film, Fatal Judgment, starring Patty Duke. These true crime titles include: Finder, Without Mercy, Perfect Husband, Across the Border, and Into Their Own Hands. For Writer's Digest Books, he also wrote 'The Book' on the subject: How to Write and Sell True Crime.

What would become his final work of nonfiction, Bogart: In Search of My Father, was ready for publication at the time of Gary's fatal heart attack. He had just completed his interviews with Kelsey Grammer (for Kelsey's autobiography, So Far), and he had already begun the second in a humorous mystery series for Berkley Prime Crime -- inspired by Gary's personal experience as one of only 7 finalists out of a field of 12,000 in the Chicago Sun Times' "national search to replace Ann Landers.")

Baffled In Boston, the first in this series was published a few months after Gary's death.

Other projects underway included a seventh book for writers. (In 1998 How To Tell A Story: The Secrets Of Writing Captivating Tales was completed by Gail and agent/​author Peter Rubie and published by Writer's Digest Books.)

Other acclaimed books for writers by Gary were NAL’s The Freelance Writer’s Handbook and the still-popular reference book, 100 Ways To Improve Your Writing.

After Make Every Word Count, and Beyond Style: Mastering the Finer Points of Writing, Writer's Digest Books published Make Your Words Work, combining the two titles into a single "crystallization of Gary's wisdom."

His books for writers are now available as Ebooks.

So, as you can see Gary's indomitable spirit endures. If you have read this far, it endures for you.


Non-Fiction: How-To Instruction for Writers
Filled with professional tips and a wealth of instructive examples, Gary's invaluable, easy-to-use handbook helps you solve any and all writing problems -- whether you're a student, business person or professional writer. Timeless!
Timeless instruction of proven techniques for effective writing. “A crystallization of Gary Provost’s writing wisdom... philosophy made practical.”
--Writer’s Digest Books
Gary's voice shines through in this, his final work of fiction -- which was to have been the first of a new comic mystery series, starring "the most likable--and unlikely--sleuth to come along in years." Originally a mass market publication by Berkley Prime Crime, it remains available as an Author's Guild trade paperback, and will soon be available to fans as an eBook from Crossroad Press. (References to BAFFLED are also in Make Your Words Work as well as in Gary's DVD / MP3 Course, the VIDEO NOVEL WORKSHOP.)
Non-Fiction: How-To Instruction for Writers; Biography; True Drama/True Crime

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