Turn of the millennium OHS graduate Eric Praschan (’00) is living his dream…literally and figuratively.
“The original idea for my book Therapy for Ghosts came to me while I was lying on the hospital bed, temporarily paralyzed and mute. In that moment, I decided I was going to pursue my dreams without fear.”
That was in 2009. Praschan, who attended Orange for all but one year, was always interested in writing but had tried numerous other career paths including drama, music, teaching, higher education and church ministry along the way. The day after Christmas that year he walked into a movie theater… but was carried out after he had lost all feeling in his legs; five hours later he could neither move nor speak.
It took that paralyzing fear to find his true voice.
“Physical disability has a way of crystallizing what’s important in your life,” said Praschan, whose
wife Stephanie had just been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. “We made a choice to pursue our dreams with even greater fervor in the wake of our health trials. We made a firm decision not to live in fear or regret anymore, but instead, we both endeavored to seize every opportunity and make the most of it.”
Four years later, Praschan is optimistic about his own health and that of his wife. Eric is being treated for severe adrenal gland fatigue, central nervous system issues and a dairy allergy, while helping his wife through her challenges with multiple sclerosis.
“Our motto became, ‘it’s life-changing, not life ending’. Our pain clarified what was important, and we took a step back to reevaluate what we wanted in life...we have our rough days but there’s joy to be found in the journey so we’re committed to finding and cherishing it.”
That optimism extends to his future as an author. And with good reason. He has written five books, including three which form a trilogy (The James Women), with two other novels undergoing editing for future release. The three books in the trilogy (Therapy for Ghosts, Sleepwalking into Darkness, and The Reckoning) have all reached the Amazon bestseller lists.
“My favorite book so far is The Reckoning but it’s hard to have a favorite because they’re all like my kids, and I love them equally,” said Praschan.
Eric’s parents now reside in Missouri; but Eric says growing up in Orange Village with brothers Kevin and Brian under the caring eyes of their father Pastor Duane and mother Judy helped him develop a strong sense of family, community…and imagination, the latter being further cultivated in the Orange Schools. The former OHS basketball player known to friends as “Erock” in the late 90s attributes much of his success to date to the impact the Orange Schools had on his life.
“Orange gave me a foundation of strong academics, cultural enrichment, and the opportunity for growth in the arts,” he said. “I received an education at Orange which is unequaled in its practical application and preparatory skills…the experiences I had certainly boosted my confidence to be a lifelong learner, a leader in whichever organizations I participated, and a difference-maker in the lives of those around me.”
Praschan said that he has achieved so much of what he has because of the dedicated faculty and staff of Orange High School who “encouraged, trained and equipped me to embody the character traits for which the school system stands.” Ironically, those traits are what readers see in the well-rounded characters he has developed for his books. Again, he thanks those that inspired him.
“OHS choir director Jamie Snell taught me to be fearless, passionate, and disciplined both musically and in life. English teacher Patrick McNulty taught me to embrace my love for literature and to view life through an artistic lens. Retired English teacher Dale Kelley taught me that it is important to integrate faith with learning and never take yourself too seriously.”
Something that’s hard to do when the walls seem to be crumbling in.
“As with most writers, I struggled with self-doubt and intimidation regarding the publishing process and all it entailed. Consequently, I wrote in a vacuum, receiving little critical feedback and fearing rejection,” Praschan said. “Once my health episodes struck, I determined that I wouldn’t allow fear to hold me back any longer.
Praschan said Orange enabled him to turn his passions involving music, theater, and writing, among others, into a viable skill set that helped him flourish in college and beyond. His gratitude emanated even back in high school.
“Eric is one of the most gracious and polite students I have ever taught,” noted McNulty. “Not a single day passed without a ‘thank you’ from Eric as he left class. He’s a great guy!”
From Orange, Eric attended Lee University for two years and went on to graduate from Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri with a BA in English. He also earned an MA in Theological Studies from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield. But writing was always on his mind.
“I often tell people I finally found what I wanted to do by first trying everything I ended up not wanting to do,” said Praschan. “No experience was wasted, and all attempted paths served to enrich and influence who I have become. As a drama teacher at Lee University once told me ‘there is no such thing as failure – only success waiting to happen’.”
Clearly that success has happened, even if Praschan won’t call himself “a success”.
“I consider myself a work in progress. I constantly strive to grow as a person and as an artist. I think it’s imperative to find a balanced, healthy midpoint between basking in people’s accolades and wallowing in people’s criticism...for me, it’s helpful to take the concept of ‘success’ off the table and just focus on writing. It’s humbling simply to have people willing to read my book – whether they love it or hate it, they still took the time to read it!”
His books reflect his life: they explore family secrets, the complexities of human relationships, the darker side of human nature, and hope amidst pain. He said the multi-cultural aspect of Orange and the diversity of the student population provided him with rich interaction and demonstrated the importance of family, generational cycles, friendship, and social dynamics, themes which resonate throughout his novels.
“I believe people should read my books because they are compelling and suspenseful, and they
hit close to home in terms of complicated family dynamics….Orange is an arts-centric community which appreciates good fiction, and since I was raised in Orange Village, they will be reading novels by one of their own!”
Although Praschan and his wife both enjoy their work in the Graduate School at the University of
Missouri, he looks forward to becoming a full-time writer and eventually travel and conduct writing workshops and seminars on a consistent basis.
In the meantime, the actor-turned-author continues to hold close the advice of mentor McNulty: “One-third of all you initially write is crap, so it’s your job to find the gold amid the dross, pitch out the 1/3 of dross, and keep refining the gold.”
Since that moment back in 2009, Praschan has taken McNulty's advice very much to heart. He encourages other students to follow their dreams and not to ever be paralyzed by fear of the unknown…or otherwise.
“Never stop believing in yourself and your future goals. Don’t allow fear to rob you of your passion,” he said. “When I held the published book in my hands, I realized I was holding a miracle. I felt pride in that moment, but it was not pride in my accomplishment; it was a sense of how my health trial helped me to release my fear and set me free to pursue my dream.”
Words to live by.
Editor’s note: Praschan’s published books and a short story “The Furrowed Brow” are available on Amazon.com. You can obtain more information about Eric and his works at: www.ericpraschan.com