It All Started With a Pen Name - The Writing Story of Mike Turner
Updated: Sep 28
Please welcome the talented Mike Turner to the Writer's Journey Blog this week!
When I was around ten years old, I created a pen name for myself: Ekim Renrut. I hadn’t actually written anything - it just naturally seemed to be something I should have. I’ve always remembered that I created it, but I’ve never used it.
That experience taught me something about myself as a writer: it’s part of who am (note that “Ekim Renrut” is “Mike Turner” spelled backward...).
In school, I had the standard writing experiences: dopey love poems. Book reports. Creative writing exercises. I recall the feedback on a science fiction story I wrote, a first-person tale about building a spaceship, going into orbit, and being jailed upon return for not having an astronaut’s license: “He goes up, he comes down, he goes to jail. It doesn’t really say anything.”
That it taught me another lesson about myself as a writer: I want my writing to say something.
Music was a big part of growing up outside Detroit. My parents hailed from West Virginia, so we had a healthy dose of country and gospel music. My dad favored Adult Listening stations, so I got a fair share of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Dean Martin. At night I’d tune-up my transistor radio to listen to Top 40 with a BIG dose of Motown, R&B, and Soul.
And so I learned another lesson about myself as a writer: It’s not just what the words say, it’s also how they sound. And I like my words to swing.
I did a fair amount of technical writing in my law enforcement career – about as far from “creative” writing as you could get. My wife and I retired on the US Gulf Coast, and between sailing and traveling, I thought my days would be full. But that wasn’t the case, so I began looking for other activities. I took an adult ed ukulele course and found I was good at it. That was amusing - no one who knew me would ever peg me as a ukulele player – and one afternoon I wrote a short, comical song, “Ukulele Playin’ Blues,” about it.
I played it for my classmates, and they loved it! I was hooked - as the lyrics say, songs started to spill out of me, “like the flood from a busted dam.” Fast forward a few years: I’d written and copyrighted more than 120 songs. I sent a few recordings around to some radio and Internet DJs and got songs played on stations in the US, UK, Europe, and on the Armed Forces Radio Network. When a friend asked me to fill out the team she was taking to a country music competition, I wound up being named Male Gospel Entertainer of the Year, first by the Alabama Music Association in 2016, and then by the North America Country Music Associations International in 2017.
I wrote a series of songs on social justice topics like poverty, homelessness, and the tragedy of gun violence; and some story songs about the region we live in, like the BP oil spill, local historical events, and sailing on Mobile Bay. My “story” songs led to performing on the “15 Minutes of Fame Stage” at the 2020 Monroeville (AL) Literary Festival. And my “social justice” songs led to working with an indie record label, Music For World Peace Records, to create songs that promote peace and oppose war and violence. The label chose a song I wrote, “Love One Another,” as their debut release.
I came to find “song” to have some limitations for what I wanted to express - the repetitive “hooks” and structures didn’t always lend themselves to the messages I was trying to convey - so I began to write poetry. To date, I’ve had over 80 poems published in such journals as Red Planet Magazine, Spillwords Press, GreyThoughts, and Academy of the Heart and Mind. My poetic essay on being a writer, “I, Mike Turner” will be in the upcoming book, “I, The Writer”, due in November from Sweetycat Press.
I don’t know where this journey ends. I’ve toyed with other forms like short stories, but I find writing songs and poetry to be the most expressive and inspiring.
I’m happy for the lessons I’ve learned, especially the biggest one: I’m a writer.
Bio: Mike Turner retired to the US Gulf Coast after a 27-year career as a Federal law enforcement executive. A retirement dalliance with the ukulele opened up the world of songwriting to Mike; to date, he’s written and copyrighted over 120 songs in genre as diverse as the blues, folk, country, and Christian/inspirational. He was named Male Gospel Entertainer of the Year by the Alabama Music Association (2016) and the North American Country Music Associations International (2017) and performed on the “15 Minutes of Fame Stage” at the 2020 Monroeville (AL) Literary Festival. Mike’s recordings have received radio and Internet play in the US, UK, Ireland, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and on the US Armed Forces Radio Network; his original country song, “Another Lonely Night” was a hit on the charts for 5 weeks on Lake of the Ozarks Radio. His poems and lyrics have been published in online and Internet journals such as Red Planet Magazine, Spillwords Press, and GreyThoughts; his poem, “A Flash of Blue” was awarded 1st place in the Spring 2020 Contest at the Academy of the Heart and Mind. Mike is featured in “Who’s Who of Emerging Writers 2020,” and his poetic essay, “I, Mike Turner” is in the forthcoming book, “I, The Writer,” published by Sweetycat Press. When not writing, performing, and recording, Mike sails a historic schooner on the Gulf of Mexico.
Links: Webpage: www.MikeTurnerSongwriter
Record Label: www.MusicForWorldPeaceRecords.com