Charly the Movie
…..by Anne Bradshaw
In 1979 it was Jack Weyland’s goal to write an LDS youth novel. That book was Charly. This spring, twenty-three years later, Charly becomes a movie, marking yet another success in Jack’s outstanding writing career.
The craft of writing wasn’t always an obvious choice for Jack Weyland, despite toying with creative writing as a freshman at Montana State University. In Jack’s English class, his instructor asked to speak to Jack privately after class. “He told me he was starting a special section,” Jack says. “Instead of meeting four times a week, the new section would only meet once a week. There would be no textbook for the class, no exams, and everyone would get an automatic A. Because I saw it as a way to get out of work, I readily agreed to be in the class. All the time I thought I was ripping off the system, I was learning to read, discuss and write. It was the best class I’ve ever had, and it is in large part responsible for later developments.”
Regrettably, progress wasn’t immediate. When told of Jack’s desire to write LDS fiction, the instructor commented, “You’re not serious, are you?”
Now, when Jack considers the comment, he says, “The instructor could have meant, ‘Are you crazy? There is no such a thing as LDS fiction.’ because that was nearly the case then. Or he could have meant, `At the present time you’re not a very good writer.’ Which was true. However he meant it, I took it to suggest that I didn’t have what it takes to be a writer, so I dropped the course and gave up on my dream.”
Although the tutor’s disparaging remark steered Jack away from writing for several years, by the time he had a PhD in Physics, and was teaching at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Jack was ready to follow those writing instincts once more.
Reluctant to undergo further face-to-face discouragement, Jack decided his second attempt at learning the necessary author skills would be through a correspondence course. In order to cover costs, Jack sent his first short story, Punch and Cookies Forever, to the New Era. “They accepted it!” he says. “So I sent in another one. It was also published. Unfortunately, my third attempt was rejected. That’s it, I thought. Writing’s a tough life. Back to being a physicist. There’s no future for me as a writer.”
No one could have foreseen the way future events would contradict Jack’s opinion, getting him back on track, bringing into focus once more a creative talent that would produce enjoyment and direction for thousands of LDS youth around the world.
In 1972, Jack was called as Bishop of his ward in Rapid City, South Dakota. He recalls, “In my job at the School of Mines, I was paid on a nine-month basis. I was now married with five children. At the end of every school year the problem became – how do we survive the summer? Previously we had left town to do research, but as a bishop that seemed impossible. The driving question was – how else could I earn the money?”
Then came an idea. Jack wrote again to the editor of the New Era, asking if they needed more short stories. “Brian Kelly was most encouraging,” Jack says, “so each summer for the next four years I wrote stories. I ended up with a ten year supply!”
Jack’s four year calling as Bishop held other blessings. With a responsibility for youth came insights into most of the issues they faced, and he developed a longing to help them in some way. At the same time, his love for, and knowledge of, the Savior grew ever more profound. He also discovered many occasions to learn and teach the value of goal setting.
When his release came, and with it the new calling of early morning seminary teacher, setting goals became a way of life for Jack Weyland, as did getting up at 5 a.m. each day. “The year after that I was called as stake clerk and no longer taught seminary, but as I was already in the habit of rising early, I decided to continue doing so in order to write. I sat at my desk and set myself a goal in May 1979. I wrote down, I will write a novel this summer and will send it to a publisher by October. It was a good goal – measurable, specific, and with a deadline.”
That novel was Charly.
Jack’s reflections on this period of his life touch him profoundly.
“My experience has taught me this: when we accept a calling, we often think how much of a sacrifice it’s going to be and how noble we are to donate our time and talents. But when we do serve the Savior, there is no sacrifice. He blesses us well beyond what we deserve, and when we finish we are more in debt to him than ever before.”
From that time onward Jack wrote every summer, most Saturdays, and daily from 5 a.m. until work at 8 a.m. His latest novel, Megan, published by Deseret Book, looks like being another bestseller. It took a year to write, and much delicate handling. “Writing Megan was like walking through a minefield,” admits Jack. “The main character is a young woman who has become pregnant just out of high school. The story addresses many of the issues and decisions resulting from Megan’s choice.”
Jack already has plans for his next book. Charly becoming a movie triggered in him the aspiration to repeat some of the same magic. “Charly has had remarkable longevity, and popularity,” he says. “I’d like to create something new that has the same effect on readers.”
Over time, Jack Weyland has had an incalculable effect on young people throughout the church and beyond. His purpose has been to help adolescents learn valuable principles from the experience of others. Young and old alike can identify with each story’s message. The day Jack decided to resume writing has proved a blessing beyond measure.