Photo by Chase Smith
This Highline grad is a published author.

Mark Bullard: Red means I love you

By Ann Kendall

As Mark Bullard sat in Mrs. McConnaughey’s English class during his junior year at Highline High School in the 1990s, he would never compare it to those idyllic writerly moments we imagine authors having where there is an epiphany of sorts that sends them on the path to write the great American novel; one of her favorite sayings was, “Red means I love you.” She taught Mark the red-lined rigor that serves as a pattern for all his endeavors including writing: write each day, review, edit, repeat. Mark was not a stand-out in English and admits he didn’t do that well on his SATs that year but he did gain acceptance at Cornell University in New York. Mrs. McConnaughey’s lessons were like gifts upon his arrival there – while other students struggled under the pressure of constant writing he had a plan, instilled by the drill-like precision of the toughest English teacher at Highline.

Mark’s first novel, Pillows for your Prison Cell, is set for nationwide release on May 20, 2014. His circuitous route to publishing is much like his early years living in Highline – full of adventures and experiments tempered with leaps of faith. After graduation from Cornell, he didn’t jump feet first into writing but instead went into the world of business and software sales. His experiences growing up in Highline, including attending multiple schools and doing “adult” things to help out his single-mom formed his no fear attitude when trying new things and meeting new people.

Our vision of how a writer sits down to begin a novel would be completely contrary to Mark’s experience; Pillows for your Prison Cell began on a long cold bike ride with his wife as they trained for the Seattle-to-Portland 12 years ago; as a novice cyclist his wife often asked Mark to tell her a story as they labored over the hills of Bainbridge Island. As the rides grew longer, the storyline of Pillows was born – an allegorical tale that by the end of training was ready to be written, at least in Mark’s mind. When they arrived in Portland his wife bought him a book at legendary Powell’s, 78 Reasons Why Your Book May Never Be Published and 14 Reasons Why It Just Might by Pat Walsh; reason number 1 is of course, you haven’t written it.

Even with this inspiring gift, Mark wasn’t quite ready to write but in fall 2013, he and his wife made careful plans to finally bring Pillows to life. First, a Kickstarter campaign drew in $7,000; to gain more time to write Mark made the decision to leave his job in sales to focus on completing the book. And most uniquely, he started a publishing company to get the job done – most authors might start with essays and blogs, but like his early years Mark thought the most effective way to bring life to his novel was to embrace the potential and enjoy the ride.

Mark observes that many authors get their start because they have a love of language or they dream of being an author; his writing came to him in a different way – he simply had a story already within himself that he wanted to share. Now that the book is complete and ready to launch, his time is devoted to promotion and soon, readings. He’s also starting a website for readers that want to continue the conversation that Pillows will inspire -- his website offers a hint at what you’ll find inside the book.

A reading is scheduled at Burien’s Page 2 Books on Sat., Apr. 5 at 2 pm; for more information go to www.page2books.com. To read a chapter, purchase a book, learn more about Mark and get a glimpse of the allegory behind the book, visit Mark’s site at www.pfypc.com.

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