My adolescence came at a time where most of my decisions were made by flipping a coin or going eeny-meeny-miney-mo. How wonderfully charming it was when most of my mistakes were washed away by simply saying 'Do over' or "uncle". I'm dating myself, of course, but it seemed to be a simpler time back then, until my age of innocence was rocked hard by a group of assassinations that began with JFK. I became philosophical about the world I lived in, much in the same way a high school football player reflects about the meaning of life after losing a championship game.
I don't think my desire to write was born from the events of the 60's, though. That desire came a decade before with a single event, a subtle touch of fate, the memory of which is like twisting a kaleidoscope that jumbles things a bit before coming into focus. It happened in 5th grade when I entered my first writing contest. It wasn't as if we had a choice. I had to read a novel and write a one-page synopsis, which would be our writing sample for the contest. The student who wrote the best summary would win, of course. I can't remember the novel I read. I just remember the feeling of self-discovery and the wonderful emotions the story provoked - an epiphany for a boy who suddenly realized what the power of words could do to the core of a person's soul. When I tried to capture some of those magical feelings on paper, I felt lost, powerless to express any of it. That's when I discovered the flap -- a brief outline from the publisher, those beautiful words that perfectly captured the emotions and the essence of the story. For a boy trying desperately to rise from the sleepy world of his imagination, I did a despicable thing. I used the flap in writing the synopsis, paraphrasing as best as a fifth grader could, and submitted the paper into the contest. As fate would have it, I won the competition. I was embarrassed, humbled at receiving an award I didn't deserve, and I promised myself that day never to do anything like that again. That was the beginning of my writing career where a little flame burned in my soul to be able to express myself with some degree of grace. I learned later it was called passion. I was going to be a writer.
During this writing journey, I've learned there'll always be better wordsmiths. Actually, many authors have a greater command of the language than I do. I marvel at the writing talent every day when I read the NY Times summary on my computer, or read screenplays from scrawlers around the world. Although the Conrad/Roth/Heller/Dickens classics were inspirational beyond measure while learning the process, many of today's talent are mothers, fathers and UPS workers who steal a few minutes at night composing until their eyes droop and their minds doze off into 'la-la land'.
I've learned a few things since the 5th grade. My odyssey began with a desire of wanting readers to admire my words and I spent less time on story structure. It took me a couple of decades before I learned - mainly from Dave Trottier, Michael Hauge, John Herman Shaner, and a few other writing gurus - the real focus should be on plot and character arcs. I've also learned if I write beyond my talents it's only because I've been driven by my passion for the topic, or story, or because the character had possessed me in some magnificent way. Yes, there are times, maybe brief moments - usually early in the morning, or after watching a great story on the big screen when the tears flow easily - when I fall into an intoxicating moment of clarity and create effortlessly. Sustaining such a surreal momentum is impossible, and prompts me to note on my business card:
There is no limit to my intuition -
it sprints right through genius and into idiocy and beyond within seconds.
With that acknowledgment in print, I must edit and work hard on structure and character development which will, hopefully, produce thought-provoking stories and help minimize my private moments of doubts and insecurity that erupts when I receive those God-awful rejection letters, the stack of which is taller than my Christmas tree. To be honest, although I've finished finalists or better in over 170 writing competitions, and have won 27 of them with 20 second place finishes, I failed to pass the first round in many more writing contests, costing me a small fortune in entry fees.
And so, in my quest to know the human condition, I take heed in the words of a scientist (Einstein): "Try not to become a man of success, but rather a man of value". And Derek Jeter who said "There may be people who has more talent, but there's no excuse for anyone to work harder than you do". I also take encouragement from other talented people: the great writers, thinkers and motivators of past and present, which include my first-grade teacher, my wife, special friends, children, grandchildren and - dare I admit - my great-grandchildren. They all inspire me to study my own character with all its strengths and defects. These wonderful people have provided me with enough drama - and God knows I've added enough by myself - that has helped me on this exciting writing journey; and they continue to help me understand humanity and what drives me as a husband, a father, a man and a writer. To all of them, I give my thanks and my love, and please know they have nothing to do with my over-punctuation or run-on sentences.
Have fun browsing. My current email is email@example.com, so if you like any of the loglines or synopses, or just want talk about this passion of writing that has taken us hostage, drop me a line.
Thanks for reading this far. Oh, I almost forgot. An old work of mine, "South of Main Street" was recently (October, 2016) published by Entrada Publishing and is available on kindle, nook or PC.
To order the kindle or paperback version of South of Main Street on Amazon you can click here.
And to order "Fillossofee: Breakfast with Grandpa", which was published by ABUZZ Publishing in November 2019, click here.