Friday, November 23, 2012

How and Why Did I Become a Writer?

Not long after I learned to read (I cut my teeth on The Wizard of Oz), I developed a strong urge to tell stories of my own. That is: I wanted to write!

I decided to write my first story when I was five or six years old. I borrowed a pencil and a piece of paper from my mother and asked her what I should write my story about.
“Write about what you know about,” she advised me.
So I did. The story came out something like this: “Johnny and his mother went to the circus. They saw clowns. They had fun. They came home. The end.”
My mother was proud of me. (Of course. That’s what mothers are for.) But when I showed my story to my brother, Neil, who was nine years older than I, he said, “It’s not a real story. A real story needs conflict.”
That put me in a quandary. At the age of six, I had no conflict in my life, so I couldn’t write a real story if I were to write about what I knew about. That put my writing career off for another ten years or so.
Then I started reading the novels of Richard Bissell, and I thought to myself: I can do this. I tried it, and I found I was right: I could do this. By that time I was a teenager, so of course there was conflict in the life I knew so well; it goes with the territory.
I haven’t turned back since. I haven’t supported myself with my writing (not many writers do), but I’ve never stopped writing, and in the meantime I’ve worked in the written word: as a student, a reader, a bookseller, an editor, a ghostwriter, a fiction writer, a publisher, and a teacher of creative writing.
I owe it to my mother, my brother, and mainly to other writers. And of course to my readers.

Now that you know how and why I became a writer, I invite you to look at my home page and see what I've done with that joyful pursuit:



Today, a number of professional writers with blogs have gotten together to write the same post “Why I Became a Writer.” Please stop by any or all of their blogs/websites to comment and find out what drives us in our favorite obsession.

John Brantingham and Sunny Frazier   
Marta Chausee              
Melodie Campbell
Lesley Diehl 
Jim Callan
Chris Swinney

Sunday, November 11, 2012


As it does every year about this time, the calendar has kicked into overdrive, like a horse smelling the hay in the barn. I find myself beset by big editorial and publishing projects that are demanding most of my time. And I’m in the home stretch of a novel I’m writing, one that means a lot to me. I also know, happily, that the season of family is about to start. My son Morgan and his kids will visit us next weekend. Susan and I will have the pleasure of her sons’ company for Thanksgiving, and shortly thereafter will come our annual Christmas holiday with family in Las Vegas.
For these reasons, I won’t be tending to my blog until after the first of the year. I wish all of you happy holidays in the weeks to come. I also wish you great pleasure and success with your writing. I want to hear from you from time to time, so send me progress reports.
Meanwhile, here, a week late, are the Thanksgiving stories sent to me for my November blog. Good work, writers! I am so thankful for your contributions to my blog!
I’ve also tacked on at the end a 99-word story of my own. It’s not a Thanksgiving story exactly, but since this year Thanksgiving falls on my birthday, November 22, I offer a somber memory of my 22nd birthday, in 1963. It’s an important day to remember.
See you next year!


A Special Sense of Thanks
by Jerry Giammatteo

It was a time for contemplation as well as thanks. The usual guests arrived. My dad and his wife, my in-laws and my brother in-law, wife, and our two nieces joined Laura, Chris, Scott and me at our table of plenty.
I felt a gratitude and spirituality around the table. Also, a sense of melancholy and vulnerability not felt before. But any break from my job in lower Manhattan was welcome.
We talked, joked and feasted as usual. I felt particularly thankful for the presence of family. On that day, November 22, 2001, Thanksgiving was just a bit different.


Thanksgiving Plans
by Phyllis Povell

She was not a cook. She ate in restaurants. But that Thanksgiving she decided she was going to invite guests to her home and make everything from scratch. Store-bought invitations were not good. She wrote twenty invitations with calligraphy.
She made lists: all the fixings for antipasto, homemade lasagna, of course the turkey, mashed and sweet potatoes, veggies of all colors, and who could forget the pies? She shopped and decorated.
The guests arrived. That’s when she discovered she hadn’t lit the oven. No Thanksgiving turkey; but lots of laughs, good friends, and family for whom to be thankful.


A Chicken Is Still a Bird
by Annie Bux

With Martha Stewartesque aspirations, the newly married hopeful decided to host Thanksgiving dinner. She vowed to cook every aspect of the meal, including the illustrious bird, which at her house would not be a turkey, but a chicken. Her family always agreed the turkey to be dry and over-abundant. A chicken is still a bird, after all.
Her in-laws, however, had always eaten turkey on Thanksgiving, so this choice in poultry posed a problem. And so it was when she opened up her door to see her mother-in-law roll in a large cooler carrying—what else, but a turkey.


One Thanksgiving
by Joseph M. Bonelli

After cocktails Mom announced, “You can gather around the table.”
My brother John said, “We’ll be sitting for hours.”
The average adult consumes 4000 calories on Thanksgiving.
Finishing our appetizers, turkey, stuffing, vegetables, desserts, and cranberry liqueur, we could barely move. Just at that moment, the doorbell rang.
Matt was 43, the youngest, and the only one with enough strength to stand and answer the door.
We heard “Pizza delivery.” The teenager had the wrong address. Who could have pizza?
Matt looked back at us, grinned, and then told the kid, “Yeah, this is it. Bring it in!”


An Alternate Use for Mayonnaise
by June Kosier

I was a freshman in High School and had a crush on a boy named Tony.
Mom let me invite him to Thanksgiving dinner.
Everything went well until just before he left. We had Thanksgiving dinner at noon and at 5:00 we had turkey sandwiches and potato chips. That is when it all went bad.
As we were putting mayonnaise on our sandwiches, my grandmother said, “When I was a girl, we used mayonnaise to moisturize our faces.”
I was mortified. That was the end of my crush on Tony. I could never look him in the face again.


Things Fall Apart: 11/22/63
by John M. Daniel

The morning of my twenty-second birthday, I drove to class, groggy from last night’s jug wine.
Ahead, a pickup was loaded high with scrap lumber for that night’s football bonfire. Boys rode on top, grinning, shouting, tossing beer cans onto lawns.
“We interrupt this program.…”
My radio gave me the news, establishing a universe far more complex and frightful than the one I’d known at twenty-one.
The boys on the truck were singing, shaking cans, squirting foam at each other. Their program would be interrupted soon. Thereafter they would always remember the November morning they heard the news, learned things fall apart.