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Pa. author finally gets first book published

April 09, 2001

Pa. author finally gets first book published



Greencastle, Pa.

By RICHARD F. BELISLE / Staff Writer, Waynesboro


Sisyfus, the mythical guy who forever rolled a stone uphill only to have it roll back down, has nothing on Alfred Bonnell.

Bonnell's middle name could be Dauntless.

The 75-year-old rural Greencastle man started writing his first novel 15 years ago, about five years before he retired.

"I got serious about it after I retired," he said.

He wrote and rewrote until he was satisfied, he said, then bought a copy of "The Writer's Market," a thick book that lists the addresses of hundreds of publishers.

The more manuscripts he sent to prospective publishers, the more the rejection slips began to pile up, he said.

"I could tell by the rejection slips that they weren't even reading the synopses I was sending to them. They already had stacks of manuscripts and didn't want any more," he said.

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Bonnell refused to bow to defeat. Time after time, he returned to "The Writer's Market" for more publishers.

He had one close call.

"Five years ago, a New York publisher liked it, but they said it was too long," Bonnell said. "They wanted about 40,000 words and my book is about 90,000."

He kept at it until he finally got a bite in 1999 from AmErica House Book Publishers in Baltimore.

"I had sent them two chapters. They wrote back that they liked it and wanted to see more," he said. He sent more chapters and the book was accepted.

"The Girl from Black Bear Retreat" came out three weeks ago. It sells for $19.95.

"I was surprised. I thought it would sell for less," Bonnell said. "I don't expect to make a lot of money on it. I'm just happy to get it published. It's a wonderful feeling to see something you've written get published. I don't know how to describe it."

He celebrated with a dinner at Red Lobster, he said.

Bonnell has been busy hawking his book.

"The publisher wants me to talk it up locally," Bonnell said. Area libraries and bookstores will soon begin to stock his book, he said.

Bonnell said he started writing his book in longhand, moved up to an electric typewriter, and finally to a word processor.

The heroine of his Civil War-era novel is Mary Stuart Red Bird, a part-Native American girl who was born around the Fort Loudon, Pa., area.

Mary Stuart and her sickly mother were living in a cave after their cabin burned. When their food supply ran out, Mary Stuart went to a nearby farm and was caught stealing a chicken. The family took pity on her when her mother died soon after and took her in.

Their son, a Union soldier, lay dying in his bed. He was saved when Mary Stuart amputated his leg. She and the soldier fell in love. The novel ends with the burning of Chambersburg, Pa., by Confederate troops.

Bonnell has finished his second novel, a murder mystery about a boy with epileptic seizures who lived around 1900. People thought he had been seized by the devil.

Bonnell has sent it off to publishers.

"I've been getting rejection slips," he said.

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