Getting Here

Afternoons in a well-worn wooden chair at the Allentown, Pennsylvania Public Library reading Dr. Seuss register as happy memories in an otherwise chaotic early childhood. Reading and writing felt as natural and welcome to me as running wild on the playground. For a while, I was that kid who secretly stays up late in his bedroom to finish reading The Hound of the Baskervilles or Dracula. (Probably not under the covers with a flashlight, but who’s to say?)

From grade school through high school I jumped at any assignment or class that required writing of some kind. Without that small chance to shine I likely would have joined many of my high school friends whose adult experience with the written word was limited to reading the occasional grime-covered page-turner while on break from the assembly line at Mack Trucks.

After I graduated from college with a degree in English it was a safe bet that I’d get a job working with words. And for the next several decades I labored dutifully as an editor and writer at publishing houses and trade magazines and in various corporate communications departments. At times I’d turn a phrase or tell a story that elicited the standard question, “Are you doing any of your own writing?” In response, I’d mumble something like, “Well, I’m working on a couple of things.” The real answer was, “It’s all in my head.” In fact, my last burst of purely creative writing was in a college poetry workshop with Denise Levertov. But I continued to tell myself that ‘one of these days . . . ‘

Those days arrived when I retired at the relatively young age of 58. Nothing happened immediately, despite having my share of all the time in the world.

But a few years ago, after attending the wedding of a friend’s daughter, I wrote a poem, then another and then another. That primed the pump and moved me closer to writing some essays and stories, which are the forms where I feel most at home.  “Breaking Even”, accepted by Litbreak Magazine, is the first of my stories to be published, which, in my household, was big news. I’m hoping it’s the beginning of a trend.

Some favorite authors are James Salter, John Williams, Marilynn Robinson, and Richard Ford. But I’ll never lose affection for Dr. Seuss.