“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” is a quotation attributed to Lao-tzu, a Chinese philosopher (604 BC – 531 BC), in his book, The Way of Lao-tzu. Today, I find the words particularly relevant, as I take stock of a writing career that began professionally in 1969, when I was a fledgling sportswriter for the Herald-News in Passaic, NJ, and continues to this very moment.
My journey actually began before then, with my earliest memories of creative writing centering around a fifth-grade poetry contest held at Oradell Elementary School in Oradell, NJ. The year was 1955, and I can’t recall what I wrote, not even the topic, but I do remember that I wrote a poem. For the next fifteen years or so, poetry remained my preferred literary format, and I recall scribbling free verse (almost always in a drunken haze) on cocktail napkins, in bars all across the Garden State. Then came college and the school newspaper. I attended Eastern Kentucky University, and its publication was called the Eastern Progress. Pontificating on every subject from sports to race relations, I peppered the Letters to the Editor column with pithy contributions (often with unintended consequences—read Escaping Innocence: A Story of Awakening for more insight).
Eventually, after college, I took the previously mentioned position with the New Jersey newspaper, one that lasted exactly a year (I could only describe a double play so many ways, before my then undiagnosed ADHD kicked in). Subsequently, I spent several years writing advertising copy on a freelance basis for several agencies. You can’t imagine what a thrill it was describing the sponge-like material sitting beneath packaged meat in such glowing terms that they probably engendered oohs and ahs from housewives, who read about it in Good Housekeeping—or wherever the targeted ads appeared. (I didn’t care where my words appeared, as long I got paid for my prose.) That experience ended when I was offered my own corner office, along with the title of “account executive,” a moniker that too closely resembled that of a real job. Sorry, not for me!
Eventually, I began writing a loosely assembled collection of coming-of-age stories that started as a memoir, and quickly morphed into my “novel.” This process began in 1987, while I was struggling to earn a living working three jobs as: a house painter, real estate salesman, and limousine driver. With hours of free time at my disposal, awaiting clients at various airports, I spent the next three years filling six, spiral-bound notebooks with my poignant remembrances. Over the course of the next seventeen years, I wrote, rewrote, edited, re-edited, and finally completed the aforementioned Escaping Innocence: A Story of Awakening. Now it was time to find an agent, and hopefully a publisher. Tomatoes had a better chance of growing in Tibet than I did of reaching that lofty goal. So, after receiving more than a hundred polite—and not so polite—rejections letters and emails, I decided to self publish. And that’s where the real journey began . . .
(To be continued)
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