GARY PROVOST: THE WRITER'S WRITER
“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.”
The late Gary Provost (1944-1995) - one of America's leading writing-for-publication instructors and author of 24 books in genres that include how-to instruction for writers (of course!); novels for mystery, romance and young adult readers; biography; true crime; sports how-to; and 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.
WELCOME TO THE WEBSITE DEVOTED TO GARY'S LEGACY FOR WRITERS
So glad you stopped by! You may be reading these words by accident or because you're already familiar with my late husband Gary and his work, but in either case there can be no doubt that you're here now because you've made an enormous commitment to learn all you can to improve your writing, editing and marketing skills.
Perhaps you're a writer who learned from Gary through the countless instructional articles and columns he created for fiction and nonfiction writers, published in Writer's Digest magazine? Or perhaps you learned from Gary while reading one or more of his five books for writers, or because you were a writer in attendance at one of his nationwide WRITE IT/SELL IT weekend seminar sessions, or at a writing conference where Gary was a wildly popular instructor and speaker.
Maybe you were a student at one or more of our 10-day intensive WRITERS RETREAT WORKSHOP (WRW) sessions, which we founded back in 1987. We were thrilled when WRW became an internationally acclaimed "boot camp" program for small groups of serious-minded novelists--beginning through published writers. Less than ten years later, WRW was honored by USA WEEKEND's selection of our writing program as "the vacation that can change your life."
The honor came after Gary's passing, but there is no doubt about how pleased he'd have been. For us, WRW was truly a labor of love. A family affair. And thanks to the extraordinary contributions of WRWers who learned from Gary, and then taught the course to a new generation of WRWers, the legacy has lived on for 25 years.
As for Gary's courses designed specifically for at-home viewing and study, they too have been preserved and are now available in updated formats. TO LEARN MORE: Click on our links to the right of this section.
Finally, if you'd like to learn more about Gary, his 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, why not bookmark this page for another, better time! Meanwhile, keep on writing and learning and progressing along the path of your dream. One day, that dream will come true. Persistence, that's the ticket!
Dream your dream on!
--Gail Provost Stockwell
MORE ABOUT GARY
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.
There was one place after school where Gary was always welcomed, always at home: the local basketball court. He was so good at shooting hoops--loved it so much--that had he been a taller guy he'd have sought a career playing professional basketball.
After high school graduation (a celebration he chose to do without), he 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 experience life but what they mostly experienced was sleeping on park benches and panhandling in parks. After about one year of this Gary shifted his focus to writing.
During the next ten years wrote seven (horrible) novels, supporting himself thanks to a succession of thirty-five jobs that he later said "paid very little but would some day look glamorous on the back of a dust jacket.”
By the end of that decade 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 wife Nora (who he'd met through a computer dating service) returned to the Boston area, where they both had been raised.
Gary very quickly landed a job working as a newspaper reporter. This led to work on the editorial staff of several magazines. He devoted himself to the craft while selling his stories and articles to hundreds -- eventually, thousands -- of local, regional, and national publications. But by this time he wanted more. He wanted to write books that would get published. So naturally, he took publishing matters into his own hands.
One fine day, Gary stood by the steps of the Boston Public Library with a suitcase full of mimeographed copies of his little book of offbeat humor, and he began to sell them. Cheap. For some unknown reason 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. It wasn't long before they 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 for Gary to propose a how-to book idea to Writer's Digest Books about how to write well. 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 of the craft, he began to discover a unique gift for teaching in-person. He began teaching at night schools and giving seminars and workshops for writers not only on how to improve their writing skills but also 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.”
MORE ABOUT GARY'S BOOKS
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."
During his last ten years Gary and Gail launched into seminars, workshops, manuscript evaluations, and Gary's writing workshops on video. They traveled around the country with week-end WRITE IT/SELL IT seminars, helping writers of fiction and nonfiction improve their skills and understanding of the writing process and publishing markets. Gary taught. Gail produced.
A collector's edition of Gary's breakthrough, comprehensive course for aspiring novelists, VIDEO NOVEL WORKSHOP, is available now in DVD format.
Also available and evolving is the WRITERS RETREAT WORKSHOP(WRW), co-founded by Gary and Gail as a labor of love back in 1987 -- the internationally acclaimed 10-day program for beginning through published writers of fiction and narrative non-fiction.
Gary's indomitable spirit endures. If you have read this far, it endures for you.