I'm a retired public servant who moved on from writing memos and other legal mumbo jumbo to more personal prose, both fiction and non-fiction. My work has appeared in various on-line and print publications, including my hometown paper, "The Buffalo News". If you click on the WORKS button above you'll find links to these stories and essays, most of which are free to access.
If you're interested in what brought me to this place, read on...
The motivation to begin writing in earnest arose from two things: the encouragement and support of my wife, Camille, and an illness that left me housebound and tethered to an oxygen tank 24/7.
I'd spent 34 years in local government service when, in 2007, I quit and never looked back. Retirement went smoothly the first few years, but a chronic lung condition came to dominate my life. That's when, with a push from Camille, I began to spend serious time at my desk.
My first efforts were pieces written for her, an audience of one: brief memoirs and profiles of people important to us. These led to personal essays submitted to our local newspaper. After placing a half-dozen pieces there the next challenge was to try my hand at fiction, and I've had a dozen short stories published in webzines and print anthologies. There are also two novels and a novella, as yet unpublished, that are resting comfortably on a bookshelf in my den, waiting for the right opportunities to present themselves.
My literary influences are broad, beginning at the age of six with those superstars of youth literature: Jane, Dick and Spot. When I was ten the most exciting moment in my short life occurred—the opening of a branch library a few blocks from my childhood home in Columbus, Ohio. It became an air-conditioned oasis in the midst of Midwest heat and boring school vacations.
Sports biographies were my first passion, a phase that lasted only until hormones kicked in. That's when I found my father's trove of Harold Robbins novels and got my first taste of fiction written for adults—the kind that, when you dropped the book on the floor it always fell open to the same parts. You know—those parts about our parts?
My reading as a teenager shifted to science fiction, with Bradbury, Heinlein, Clarke, and Asimov leading the way. Each of them revealed truths about the human condition in stories that went beyond the genre's conventions. As I grew older I was drawn to the best of the early-mid 20th century writers: Steinbeck, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Salinger and others.
My late teens and early twenties were spent as an English major at the University of Buffalo. It was the 60's, a turbulent time when UB was known as the Berkley of the East. The office doors of the English Department sported names like Barth, Creely, Corso, Fieldler, Olsen, Logan, Weiners, Coetzee and Barthelme. One or two became friends and mentors, and all had an affect insofar as they communicated the expectation that one must produce the best work possible—no slackers allowed. It wasn't all serious, however. These people knew how to party, gatherings where literate conversations shared space with stoned and drunken monologues, drum circles and seductions that crossed gender lines.
These literary all-stars intimidated the shit out of me. Fiction was a mountain too high, but I did try my hand at poetry. With the encouragement of John Logan I produced thirty or forty poems, none of which impressed me any more than they did the few others who were exposed to them.
After university my favorite authors were the major American novelists of the time: Roth, Updike, Vonnegut, Joseph Heller and others. Later, the names Pat Conroy and Cormac McCarthy became important to me, and I quickly read whatever they put out. Last, and most important, came Anne Tyler.
Tyler, the author of twenty novels, writes stories that explore relationships among and within families, involving characters who are, at their worst, mildly eccentric. She has the ability to reveal the significance within life's most mundane moments, and to create characters as real as that person sitting next to you on the bus.
I've written only one fan letter in my life and it was to Ms. Tyler. In it I complained that writing a letter to an author as great as she was an intimidating task, akin to "…trying to literally sing the praises of Pavarotti." A few weeks later I received a hand-written postcard from Ms. Tyler thanking me for my letter and reassuring me that I was up to the task.
Years later, when illness made of me a shut-in, and my wife gave me the motivation to write more seriously, those words became an important source of encouragement. I would look up at that postcard pinned to my bookshelf and think, "Maybe I can do this."
In closing, I must say thank you to the family of the man whose lung now resides within me. It was their courage and compassion (along with the support of Camille and the skilled staff of the Cleveland Clinic) that led to the successful organ transplant that saved my life.
If you're not already a designated organ donor, please consider doing so today.