I'm a retired public servant who moved on from 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 some of these pieces, most of which are free to access.
If you're interested in what brought me to this place...
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 fiction, and I've had a dozen short stories published in web magazines and print anthologies. There are also two novels and a novella, as yet unpublished, resting comfortably on a shelf in my den, waiting for the right opportunities to present themselves.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 turned 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, an air-conditioned oasis in the midst of Midwest heat and boring school vacations.
Sports biographies were my first passion, a phase that lasted until my 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—at least, that is, the kind that, when you dropped the paperback on the floor, it always fell open to the same part. You know—that part 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 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. At various times the office doors in the English Department sported names like Barth, Creely, Corso, Dennis, Fieldler, Olsen, Logan, Weiners, Coetzee and Barthelme. One or two became friends/mentors, but all had an impact insofar as the quality of work set an incredibly high bar. The educational environment wasn't all serious, however. Folks in this department could throw a pretty mean party, gatherings where literate conversations shared space with stoned and drunken monologues, drum circles and seductions that crossed gender lines.
Being surrounded by these literary all-stars intimidated the shit out of me. Fiction seemed a mountain too high, but I did try my hand at poetry. With the encouragement of John Logan I produced twenty or thirty 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 John Irving, Pat Conroy and Cormac McCarthy became important to me. Last, and most important to my own writing, came Anne Tyler.
Tyler, the author of twenty novels, explores relationships among and within families, involving characters who are, at their worst, mildly eccentric. She has an ability to reveal the significance within life's 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 fan letter to an author 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 helped motivate me to write more seriously, those words were a 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 express thanks 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.