Skilled writer picks up life story of recent Brookings resident | Neighborhood
BROOKINGS – Billy Hartwick has made his next move.
He was stopped on the street several times in the past year. People know him for his highly visible backpack – it has bright green and purple shapes everywhere – and for the book he wrote about his “invisible backpack”.
A year ago, the former Crescent City teacher and principal published the book himself, a collection of rhythmic scriptures that tell the story of his life. Since then he had traveled the West and promoted him.
When he brought the book out on Amazon, he wasn’t sure what his next step would be.
But one of those who stopped him recognized his backpack and gave him the inspiration to find it. After she stopped him and showed him she had a copy of the book with her, he decided to send the book to six major publishers and ask them to publish and market it professionally.
Within a few days he received several offers – and one from the publisher he had been looking forward to most, Page Publishing.
Now Hartwick splits his time between Brookings – a place he feels at home – and San Diego – a place he loves – when the book is published and he starts a handful of other projects.
Following its republication by the specialist publisher in March, Hartwick hopes his life experiences will encourage readers to trust themselves and stop judging people they don’t know.
“When we judge people, we hurt them,” said Hartwick.
He would know – he’s been judged a long time, he said. His involuntary body movement Tourette’s syndrome means that people have sometimes assumed he was drunk or otherwise disruptive.
That judgment, which he felt in many areas of his life, made it a challenge, he said. This, along with reactions to his Tourette’s medication, left behind years of depression and anxiety that culminated in numerous near-suicide attempts.
Those painful memories are the things Hartwick carries in his “invisible backpack”. Everyone has one filled with the pain and trauma we collect through life, he said.
But that’s a thing of the past, said Hartwick.
“Will I still be judged? No, I’ll look at the seagulls that come and go, ”he said, watching a flock of seagulls land in the mouth of the Chetco River.
He hopes the book will help readers see what’s in their backpacks and try to take things out on the way.
“If you take something out of your backpack and you don’t like it, you can crawl back in,” he said.
He now lives in Brookings with a friend who helps him promote the book and start several other projects that they hope will help the community. Together with an artist and other team members, they start a nonprofit organization, so the proceeds from the book will be donated to organizations like the Tourette Association of America.
Other plans are in the works as well: the group plans to sell bespoke backpacks, and Hartwick is developing an app to track and report police wrongdoing, inspired by times he was profiled by police for his mannerisms, said he.
Above all, Hartwick says he plans to continue teaching. Although he is no longer a teacher or principal in a school, he hopes he can teach his story to children in the community and how he has gone through challenging times.
He points to an important lesson learned through his life as an example.
“If you’re alive, carry on,” he said.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a hotline for people in crisis or for those who want to help someone else. If you are a loved one in need of help, they can be contacted at 1-800-273-8255.