Today: How Dick Wimmer overcame 25 years of rejections to attain his dream.
Born in 1936 during the Great Depression Dick’s parents encouraged him to make the most of himself and he did. When he was 22, he got his bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and later master’s degrees from Yale and Columbia, all prestigious universities.
And with his impressive credentials Dick taught English and creative writing at numerous colleges and universities over the years and also edited sports books. In his personal life, he married Vicky Nelson and they had two sons, Geordie and Ceo and he became a devoted family man. But in the late 1970’s, in his 40’s, restless and seeking change, Dick moved to Los Angeles, as his and Vicky’s marriage ended in divorce.
Meanwhile, Dick harbored a powerful dream. He hoped to become a novelist. It began in 1964, when Dick was just 28, when he wrote a novel, “Irish Wine,” a story of a painter, Seamus Boyne who tried desperately to win acclaim for his paintings, but without success. Finally, overwhelmed by failure, the painter drove his car onto the railroad tracks and awaited an abrupt end to his life.
As he listened for an oncoming train, he heard the voice of a ghost. That voice convinced him not to commit suicide, assuring him one day his paintings would be acclaimed and they would hang in London’s prestigious Tate Gallery. The ghost had saved his life and with a 2nd chance at life, Seamus pursued his great destiny.
But fate wasn’t as kind to Dick as it was to Seamus. For the next 25 years, he presented “Irish Wine” to book publishers, all of whom said no. But Dick refused to give-up. Making improvements from the critiques and rejections of “Irish Wine, he kept presenting it. There were 162 rejections, a record according to the Guinness Book of World Records.*
Then in 1989, 53 year old Dick, after 25 years of rejections finally got his breakthrough when he convinced a publisher to publish “Irish Wine.” To add to his great fortune the publisher convinced such influential newspapers as The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times to review “Irish Wine,” an accomplishment in itself. And they gave it favorable reviews! At long last, persistence had led to Dick’s success, and his dream came true.
But “Irish Wine” did not become a best seller even with those favorable reviews. But the book was good enough to become a trilogy. In 1998 and then in 2001, when Dick was 65 years old, sequels were published.
But there is more to our story. While on this journey to have “Irish Wine” published, Dick met “All in the Family” sitcom star Rob Reiner and in 1982, he and Reiner co-wrote a TV movie, “Million Dollar Infield.” In the movie, Reiner is one of four middle aged affluent Long Islanders who once a week play for an amateur softball team. Each one suffers from significant personal and professional issues but the team serves to help them work those issues out together. The movie helped 46 year old Dick and 36 year old Reiner work through some of their own issues, as Reiner went on to become a major Hollywood director, writer and producer.
Meanwhile, Dick continued to teach, most recently at Los Angeles Valley College, until May 18th, 2011, when he passed away in his Agoura Hills home at the age of 74. But by then, Dick had accomplished his dream of becoming a professional novelist and he had remained active in a profession he loved to the final days of his life, in demand as a teacher.
Dick is survived by his sons and by four grandchildren. But he is also survived by readers of the “Irish Wine” trilogy, by fans of “Million Dollar Infield” and especially by the tens of thousands of students he taught over the years.
Success Tip of the Week:
If like Dick Wimmer, you have a dream, pursue it. Even if others reject it, learn from their critiques as he did and refine your dream further. But even if your dream never comes true, you will become wiser from the experience.
* “His acclaimed first novel was rejected 162 times,” Los Angeles Times, 5/23/11. http://articles.latimes.com/2011/may/23/local/la-me-dick-wimmer-20110523
In the next KazanToday:
A Holocaust survivor who built a giant global company.