Writers gather at Cape Girardeau library to talk about their work

Friday, June 26, 2009
Paul Guyot of St. Louis talks about how he got involved with writing pilot episodes for television dramas Thursday with local authors Morley Swingle, Harvey Shell and Edward Bender at the Cape Girardeau Public Library.
ELIZABETH DODD
edodd@semissourian.com

When short-story author and television writer Paul Guyot first arrived in Hollywood, Calif., he and a college friend had aspirations of peddling their spiral-bound notebooks full of screenplays to big-name producers.

"It was like a bad movie," Guyot, now of St. Louis, said Thursday.

The "movie" ended with Guyot working at the graveyard shift at a Denny's on the famed Sunset Boulevard, his friend vanishing and leaving him with the rent, he said.

Guyot eventually returned to the University of Arizona, where his big break actually occurred -- he landed a job as a stand-in for actor Nicolas Cage in the 1990 movie "Fire Birds."

Now Guyot, one of four Missouri writers who discussed their craft before a small crowd Thursday night at the Cape Girardeau Public Library, writes pilots for television shows and has worked on several dramas, including "Judging Amy" and "Felicity."

Each of the writers spent about 15 minutes explaining their work, beginning with Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle, who has authored three books and one short story.

Swingle said he decided to write his latest book, "Scoundrels to the Hoosegow," after learning that such a compilation of true stories about criminal cases had never been written by a prosecutor.

The inspiration for Harvey Shell's first book, "Whispers from the Maple on the Hill: Life During the Depression and World War II in Southeast Missouri," came from his childhood memories of growing up in Dexter, Mo., he said.

For Edward Bender, the chance to publish "Lest They Forget Freedom's Price: Memoirs of a WWII Bomber Pilot" was his opportunity to preserve all of his experiences and contributions to history for future generations.

"Sharing my story was part of my legacy -- for my children and their children," Bender said.

Guyot explained how he began writing pilot episodes for television shows and his never-ending struggle to sell a producer on the idea of setting the show in St. Louis.

The last attempt had been successful right up until the project was temporarily scrapped due to budget issues, he said.

He never set out to make a career of writing, though he began self-publishing his stories in the fourth grade.

"I didn't know I wanted to be a writer," Guyot said.

His interest had always been in the television and film industry, he said, and it wasn't until a college adviser suggested he major in creative writing that the two vocations meshed.

Guyot's decision to move from Los Angeles to his wife's hometown of St. Louis was an easy one: His house payment in St. Louis now mirrors what his car payment in Los Angeles had been, he said.

"I was ready to get out of L.A.," he said.

Guyot, whose writing frequently centers on "cops and crime," said he's currently pursuing two projects for television.

bdicosmo@semissourian.com

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