Who would have ever thought — a farm kid from Indiana who was so pigeon-toed he wore corrective shoes; who attended eleven different elementary schools; who spoke with a lisp; who couldn’t read until the fifth grade; who had one leg shorter than the other; who was afraid to talk on the telephone, and who was so shy he rarely spoke in class — would end up as an author, retired on a mountain top in North Carolina.
While this kid from Wheeler, IN (population 500 and that’s stretching it) had plenty of reasons to grow up with nothing to show for his life, he had the same unyielding drive and commitment as do the thorn birds he writes about or should I say, “I write about.”
Life takes many turns—decisions at intersections and detours—unforeseen events that suggest new directions. Not to bore you with the many roads I’ve traveled, my blogging absence has provided time to reflect about a wide array of thoughts.
I’ve found the evolution of my interest in writing to be particularly instructive. I had never thought about why I had become an author in my retirement years. And so, as Paul Harvey would say, “here’s the rest of the story.”
In reflection, it is clear that my interest in writing didn’t happen in a planned way. In fact, it emerged because of my deficiencies. I was such a slow reader I never finished the tests. I was so shy I never participated in class discussions. Writing term papers was a way to improve my grades.
I poured myself into writing.
In high school term papers carried the day. In college I received my highest grades in classes where term papers carried a significant weight in my final grade. Unlike most students at the doctoral level, for me writing a dissertation was a “piece of cake.” I breezed through it!
All of that aside, my latent interest in writing came alive in my doctoral studies. I was fortunate to have an advisor who had one goal—produce leaders. He was not a diploma mill grinder; fact is, he graduated one student every year or two, and in addition to teaching a full-load, he wrote a book a year.
It was an honor if he asked a student to edit an article or a chapter; whatever the contribution, my mentor would give “his student” full credit in his next publication. After a couple of my own edits, my tutor G. Harold Silvius he asked me to edit a chapter in his upcoming book.
Unthinking I unloaded a red pen on his “final” manuscript. Low and behold, that was the beginning. He was surprised that a doctoral student would commit such surgery; yet, he praised me. From that point on, every week I wrote a chapter in my dissertation and edited a chapter for his book on the weekend.
I loved it!
Strange as it may seem, I learned to write by editing the works of others. Still, I don’t know the proper literary terms for what I do, I just know it sounds right or it doesn’t. Maybe if I was a better reader I’d know why the words sound right.
And so it is—my life as a writer—a trip from my class of twenty-two at Wheeler High School (IN) to Wayne State University in Detroit where my experiences would give birth to my “Thorn Birds of Detroit” series.
Ahead, you’ll learn even more … how another person reshaped my academic writing skills and honed them into a writer of fiction.