Friday, November 30, 2012

Short Stuff

A few months back a literary journal published a 750 word story that I wrote about a mid-life couple's climb to the top of Mauna Kea in Hawaii.  It was, as they call it in the literary world, a short-short. But I have a lot of these things.  What with the American attention span being the length of a gnat, it's no wonder that many people are eager to read something that is, essentially, little more than a Twitter.  Fewer people seem to have the focus necessary to complete a novel, or even read the front section of a newspaper.  If you can't write it in 128 characters or less, most people won't read it.

I'm okay with writing brevity.

However, as it has often been noted, shorter doesn't mean easier.  In fact, as a general rule, the fewer words one has to work with, the more difficult the writing becomes.  Every word means something in the brief.  And verbs, especially, must be chosen with precision.

I like my Mauna Kea story, though.  It's a bit personal, perhaps . . . somewhat semi-autobiographical.  But yet it's fiction.

This one is sort of like my real life:  imaginative, boring, always climbing some mountain in search of meaning.  And sometimes, when I get to the top, the view is spectacular.  I can see how far my wife has carried me. 


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Writing on Vitamins

Over the years I've learned the importance of taking vitamins for strong bones and body . . . and writing itself requires a certain amount of stamina and conditioning.  It is difficult to sit for hours in a chair (or reclining on the sofa) without developing back strain or becoming a pain in the butt.  Hence the importance of working out in the gym (try deadlifts) and taking plenty of vitamins.

But naturally, you have questions, and I'll do my best to provide answers.

What is your favorite vitamin and how do you take it?
My favorite vitamin is C, which is also the tastiest, and in my younger years I preferred suppositories.  However, my wife grew tired of giving these to me, so I've switched to pill form.  I prefer 4000 milligrams a day, which can cure anything from the common cold to pink eye, and I feel that Vitamin C is very manly and gives a nice ring to my voice.  My vision is also improved, which means I can see type this small, and I really enjoy chewing the head off of Fred Flintsone. 

How do vitamins improve your writing?
Actually, they don't.  Not directly.  I find that a dictionary and thesaurus do a lot more for me . . . and coffee.  Vitamins, however, do provide a colorful display on the kitchen countertop and give my wife something to complain about.  I write about her complaints and turn them into marvelous stories, essays and poems about older women.  

If you only had one day to live, which vitamin would you take . . . and why?
Let me see . . . I'd pop a very large Vitamin B-12 pill, something around One Million milligrams, which could probably revive a sperm whale.  This would give me at least another day to live, and I would plan to write an essay entitled, "Long Range Financial Planning . . . and How to Get the Most From Your 401-k".  I might also eat a steak.  

How many vitamins would you estimate you take in an average day?
There's no telling.  I never keep count.  I see a pill, I pop it.  I never ask questions, and some of these vitamins I find on the floor or under the driver's mat in my Senoma.  I never waste pills.  The way I figure it, there's nutrition in every pill, even the chocolate ones, and I especially like the vitamins marked "Hershey".  

Any closing vitamin recommendations for someone who is trying to write a book on Yugoslavian Engine Blocks?
Yes.  Take plenty of vitamin E . . . and write as quickly as possible.  Don't stop writing until someone sends you a Twitter inviting you join their LinkedIn prison-writing fellowship.        

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


One of the fascinating features of daily blogging is tracking the number of "hits" a particular post generates.  Some blogs don't get many hits.  Others get 4X or even 10X more than average.

In January of 2012 I began writing another blog that I entitled, "Manopause.  (  Interestingly enough, more people have read my Manopause posts than have read Between Pages in this calendar year--especially when I include those same posts on the website.  I guess this means people would rather read my humorous take on the "trials and terrors of the mid-life male" than about my "reading and writing exploits". 

I do plan on discontinuing Manopause at the end of this year, however, unless there is a great cry from the camp.  I'm thinking about some new blogs in 2013, including one that I plan to entitle, "Joking with Jesus".  I thought it could be a fun read:  a monthly-magazine format of spiritual levity (perhaps at the expense of some TV evangelists, big name church gurus, etc.  But, of course, I'll be sure to place myself at the head of the satire line along with my beloved United Methodist Church.  I never dish out satire about others unless I can dish it to myself first.  And since I ain't Jesus, I'll head the line.)

Either way, thanks for continuing to read Between Pages.  After five years and fast approaching 1500 individual blog posts, I continue to be amazed that I have anything to write about at all . . . but then, I also write weekly and monthly blogs for other magazines, too.  I guess I have diarrhea of the brain.  You want a thought . . . I've got one.  An editor wants a 1000 word essay on "Ten Creative Uses for Old Lava Lamps" . . . I'm the man.  My wife craves a hot love poem . . . I'll give her twenty (she can take her pick).

Thanks for tuning in.  See you here again tomorrow.  You know I'll be writing something to read.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Floppies, Cassettes, and Video Tapes

My Luddite tendencies notwithstanding, most of my life's work is stored or recorded on floppy disks, audio cassettes, and VHS videotapes.  Yes, I still have devices that can play all of these "ancient" recordings, and my old Senoma pickup and Buick Rendezvous have tape decks in their dash boards. I still listen to my Boston cassette tape (from high school!) and do, on occasion, watch certain older recordings on VHS format.

(And by the way, what is the purpose of the "tracking" button on the video player, anyway?  Is this just an engineering ruse to trick us into thinking we can actually improve the quality of a VHS tape by adjusting a knob?  And would anyone like to watch an Andy Griffith episode with me that was recorded off the TV in 1985?) 

Video tapes and audio cassettes are now, however, my claim to fame.  No.  If you want to see a true Luddite at work, drop by some time to inspect my vast trove of computer floppy disks (yes, I still use 'em!).  At last count, I had upwards of 1000 of these floating around, most of them filled to the brim with writing that, like Coors in Golden, Colorado, I have been been producing from pure mountain spring water since 1984.

I mention floppy disks because, from time to time, I do get the nod from an editor to submit a piece of work that I wrote a long time back (I'm talking a former lifetime ago, back when my wife and I were bachelors).

As of the writing of this blog, I am currently in search of a floppy disk that contains some of the most astounding work I produced circa 2002-2004.  There's a story on one of those disks, I'm not kidding, that could now make me some money.  Like, folding type.  Green stuff.  I just remembered this piece today and, Lord, I know I can sell it.  

Now . . . can I find it?  Somewhere on one of my old computers, or maybe stored on a floppy itself, I have a floppy disk "key" which contains information about the location of all of my floppy disk material by date and floppy number.  But I've been sloppy with my floppies.  Trouble is, I don't know where I put this floppy disk containing the "key", which was probably written in Dewey Decimal system or in Latin.

As soon as I find this floppy, I'll be exchanging my story for a paycheck.  But until then, I'll get back to Boston and the video-taped highlights of my wedding ceremony, August 27, 1984 (Sullivan, Indiana).  My wife will be pleased that I remember this date and know where I can find our wedding highlights.  It's on the same video tape as the 1984 Super Bowl, and the kickoff begins just as my wife was getting ready to say "I Do".  I must have pressed the "record" button the VHS recorder by mistake.      

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Search for Titles

Titles are important. A great title can vault an average essay or book out of the slush and into print.  That's why I spend considerable time on my titles:  because I'm not very good at creating them.  Sometimes the editors have to help me.

Last week, however, I did create two exceptional essay titles.  The first is now in print, and the second is lingering in my re-write pile.

My essay, "The Search for Spark", is one I'm very proud to call my own.  (If you don't get the Star Trek reference, see me after class.)  However, this essay has nothing to do with science fiction, but with the personal, social, and theological work inherent in a hard-working staff.  In short, it is an essay on leadership and being attentive to the energy or "spark" that can ignite an organization.  Hokey?  You bet.  But I love the title and so did the editor.  Hence, it's now in print.

My second essay title, "Pumping Irony", bears some explanation.  (And again, if you don't get the documentary reference or Arnold overtones, see me after class.)

Back-history:  a few weeks ago I was working out at the gym (in the middle of my best and heaviest workout in months) when two younger guys sidled up next to me and asked, "Have you ever thought about competing in a bodybuilding competition?"

I explained to them that, indeed, I had actually competed soon after I turned forty (now nearly twelve years ago) and have, from time-to-time, actually considered competing again in my fifties.  However, on those days when I am sane, I back away from these ridiculous thoughts, knowing full well the excruciating labors and disciplines required--not to mention the pain, the anguish, the enormous sacrifices. 

"We're getting ready for a competition," these guys told me.  "And if you want to train with us, we'd like to have you."

Okay, nice gesture.  Thanks, fellas.  But that evening I began writing an essay for a fitness magazine with the title, "Pumping Irony".  It's a humorous piece for old farts with arthritic joints and pulled hamstrings.  Eventually I'll finish it.  I think it will sell.  (Hey, I'd buy it . . . but then, I'd buy everything I wrote!)

But until that time, I'll just keep pumping iron, or irony . . . whatever.  I have to stay strong.  And next week I'll begin writing my second essay, "Pimping Iron".  It's a piece on being a domestic husband for hire.  But don't make me tell you about the chores I do for money.  My wife wouldn't appreciate it.    

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Soon we will be deep in turkey and giblet gravy, and it's always a good thing to pause in the midst of life's hectic pace to take stock of one's blessings.  I have many. Too many, in fact, to count. 

But as far as this blog is concerned, I will give thanks for the energies and pace required to produce over 200 posts this year--even through the many changes (2 graduations, wedding, etc.) that completely reorganized our lives.  I'm very grateful to a have a wife who is far more resilient, gifted, intelligent and energetic than I am . . . and who out-produces and out-works me every day.

I've been searching the archives (to the Bat Library, Robin!) to see if I could find a poem that might be decent enough to voice some of these thoughts. 

So, here's one . . . written in late October.  A love poem?  Not sure.  But it has an overtone of thanksgiving to it.  Kind of bookish, but it might be romantic if I offered it with flowers.  Or maybe cranberry sauce.


In the narrow columns of these pages
I have discovered you between the lines
In loops of pencil, strokes of pen, sometimes
Hidden in the paragraphs of ages.

And every jot or date of days
Is more than syllables or sighs:
But star-crossed t's and dotted i's
Where volumes speak through paraphrase.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Christmas Collection

A recent foray through a used book stored yielded a nifty find when I walked out with this first edition of Christmas at The New Yorker. Quite a bit in this collection, with work dating back to the days of Harold Ross (founding editor) and including essays by luminaries such as E.B. White, James Thurber, Dorothy Parker and John Updike.

This book has joined my growing pile of other Christmas titles--books I plan to read during the season.

Now I must begin collecting my book of gifts to buy--that long list of items I'll need to find for wife, children, parents, cousins, nieces, and friends.  If my wife and I can agree, we might skip Christmas entirely this year and forgo our own gift exchange, just keep our socks naked.  (But then, I already have one gift for her and another on the way.)

As far as writing is concerned, I'm way ahead of the Christmas trends.  I already have my annual Christmas story at the printers--along with our family letter--and all of my columns and even some poems have already been mailed.  Now I can write what I enjoy for the season . . . perhaps with some hot chocolate in hand.

And I look forward to reading James Thurber, too. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Writing Ahead

Knowing full well that December is a hectic month, I've tried to write ahead and complete all of my December and January assignments.  So, over the weekend, I produced nine columns, three book reviews, and four 1,000-word essays in addition to assorted odds-and-ends, pastoral letters, and this blog.  Done and done.

All of this was helped by the fact that Becky was attending an Indiana principals conference at the Convention Center this weekend.  Hence, total peace.  Quiet.  No TV.  And room to write.

But now that I'm two months ahead, I hope to concentrate on the fun stuff:  short stories, book proposals, selling poems on the street.  I'll have a donut, drink coffee, and put a new coat of duct tape on the truck.  

All of this to say that as I ease into this Thanksgiving week, I might even be able to carve out some time to eat a turkey sandwich.  

Soon I hope to discuss these things with my wife.  Perhaps I'll see her on Thanksgiving morning and ask, "What's the plan?"

If she's not too tired, we might even read the morning paper together or watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade . . . if I can get reception on the rabbit ears.  And as for food, we can probably find something in the freezer to defrost.  Last time I looked, we still had a package of wieners. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Growing Up

Now and again people ask me: "What have you been writing?"

Well, I was blessed on Tuesday night when I received word that one of my poems about breast cancer had been accepted by a literary journal, and then received a word seconds later from a west coast editor (thanks, Ken!) that his magazine would be publishing my short story, "Giraffe", in the next issue.  I say I'm blessed because, although I wrote the poem only a month ago, the story is one that I've been trying to place for 18 months . . . and one of my finer literary endeavors, I believe:  a short story about a divorced father who takes his autistic son to the zoo. 

It doesn't sound very exciting, I know, but it's a story with some emotional pull to it, and I have to believe it's one of my best fiction efforts of the past two years.  (Since most of my efforts are duds and end up on my closet shelves.)  Anyway, again I'm grateful to be included and I hope "Giraffe" might make it into a story collection I'm trying to assemble.

I'm always amazed when people I have never met like my writing.  I'm especially astounded when they accept my work for publication.  And I am flabbergasted when an editor writes me a check.  It never grows old.  And I get just as excited over receiving a "yes" for a poem, an essay, a story, or even a book.  It's just that some levels of excitement carry forward for a longer period of time.

I like "Giraffe".  It's a story that challenged me.  That's important.  Every now and again it is vital for a writer to stretch his neck out.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pile Up

Some weeks ago a publisher sent me a pile of books.  I'm reading through them slowly but meticulously . . . the various titles (mostly travel books) seeping in through my eyeballs and oozing out of my pores.  As I've retreated to the bottom of the pile, I find I can't recall the title of the book at the top.

That's the trouble with books.  They breed like rabbits.  Or, as the writer of Ecclesiastes noted, "Of the making of many books there is no end."

Still, I enjoy making books.  I plan to make more of them.  Or, I write them at least.  What happens to them after I write them is anybody's guess.

Here at the bottom of another year, I can look back and see the days of 2012 piled behind me like a stack of old library cards.  Some of these days stand out.  Others are simply blank.

And as I look ahead to 2013, I anticipate a better year . . . as long as God blesses me with good health, keen eyes, a strong typing hand, and the ability to carry on with coffee through hours of exhaustion.  I do know that 2012 was better than 2011 as far as my published output was concerned.  I was blessed with far more acceptances, hundreds of published pages, and now stand on the brink of other negotiations that are both exciting and equally unnerving.

It's one thing to sign a book contract(s).  But quite another thing to write the book(s). 

Or, as my wife continually asks me, "If you end up getting that many writing assignments next year, when will I ever see you?"

I keep reminding her that we don't have to have romance every day.  She can just check in every month or so to see if I'm still breathing.  If I'm sitting in a chair in front of my writing station she can assume I'm still alive.  And if she brings me a pile of balogna sandwichs, I might get romantic.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Sedaris X 2

It must have been four years ago, the fall of 2008, when I drove to Ball State University one evening, Emens Auditorium, to hear David Sedaris read.  Sedaris was riding the tailwind of a wildly popular book tour at the time, had a flush audience on NPR, and had just returned from Paris.  I paid my money, and for nearly two hours listened inside a shroud of raucous laughter as he stood behind a spotlit-podium and read.

I don't recall which of his published works he read that evening, but it was one of his "works-in-progress" that caught my attention.  I found this particular piece rife with sardonic wit, and after his reading, someone in the audience asked him if it was slated for publication any time soon.  He said he hoped The New Yorker would take it. 

Interestingly enough, this first-person piece, about a visit to a taxidermy shop in which the proprietor shows him a human skeleton, a human leatherized head, and the severed-and-stuffed arm of a sailor kept under glass like a pheasant . . . stood out in my mind.  Driving home, the imagery of that writing stayed with me, and it was certainly one of the weirdest memoirs Sedaris read that evening.

Imagine my surprise when, last night, I happened to pick up an older copy of The New Yorker (Oct 22) which I had not yet read. The copy had flopped open atop a giant stack of magazines on our living room table.  I picked it up.  And there it was . . . the Sedaris memoir about the taxidermy shop.

Well, I had heard it live four years ago when Sedaris was still working it up, making pencil notations at the podium at Ball State as he read it, checking the margins with notations whenever there was uproarious laughter or stifled pauses. 

And it also goes to show that the publishing business, even for superstars like Sedaris, is a L O N G and T E D I O U S process.  Four years?  It's difficult for me to imagine that the magazine has been holding on to the piece that long.  And it's even more unimaginable to me that Sedaris would have kept rewriting it for the past three years, polishing it to a fine gloss. 

But one of these is true.  And the magazine no doubt paid Sedaris and arm and a leg to write it. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012


Is it just me, or is the exclamation point making a comeback?  Like many other writers, I've noted that the American ability to write is in sharp decline.  Perhaps email, Twitter, blogging, and even the ubiquitous availability of online commentary (YouTube, etc.) have all contributed to this mish-mash of rotting English.  And there also seems to be a insatiable desire to be heard, especially among those who write the worst. 

No language has ever survived, and no voice has ever been respected, however, simply by using the exclamation point . . . and this seems to be the pride and parlance of most who post.

A cursory glide through any online public forum or interactive web site will bear this out.  Exclamation points abound . . . and the vast majority of comments seem to be written under the assumption that type face, bold format, and other features of the letters themselves (rather than the substance and intellect behind the writing) is communication.

Most of the writing I have seen in the past month are actually feeble attempts to draw readers in through the use of exclamation points and type face . . . the idea that people should read an idea or respect a thought simply because it is there and has five exclamation points after every sentence (here, look at me!!!!!  My idea is important!!!!  You need to read what I've written!!!!!!! ).  

Some actual recent Facebook, email, and blogging posts look like this:

I am going to buy milk at the store!!!!!!
My ****** car won't start!!!!

Beyond pointing out the obvious misuse of the exclamation point (!), I'll just say this to all the young people out there:  Learn how to write well and you'll be light years ahead of the masses (even some in law school, medical school, divinity school and elsewhere) who can't write well.  Bad writing, rotten communication, screaming and yelling as a form of attention, is now wide-spread. Being loud and obnoxious is not the pinnacle of language.  Clear communication is the goal:  the ability to create thought and hone them into words. 

If you can write plainly, simply and to a point, you will be heard.  And people will actually respect what you think.

Otherwise, don't press the SEND button!!!!!!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Columns of Possibility

In 2012 I've expanded my regular writing schedule to include irregular (and some might say irreverent) columns for several publications.  Now that I have these regular gigs, however, I am always on the lookout for new themes and ideas.  I find that I must remain vigilant if I am to fill these columns with decent material.

Still . . . writing other columns would be fun and rewarding, and I've been thining about a few for 2013 that I might try to sell.

The Designated Driver
     This column would be about what a designated driver drinks.  While his buddies are having a bourbon on the rocks, for example, he's drinking fresh-sqeezed lime juice or a Fresca.  This column would explore the wonderful and refreshing world of non-alcolholic drinks and the bartenders who give it to 'em.  The column could also explore the many and varied looks that the designated driver gets from Harley Davidson riders and from beautiful women who can't understand why any man would drink Tab with a twist of lemon.  In short, this column will be about those unsung heroes who know how to work a manual transmission with three drunks in the back seat.

God Talk
     This column will serve as the voice of God and will be written in bold capital letters like THIS! The column will tell everyone WHAT THEY SHOULD DO!, WHAT THEY SHOULDN'T DO, HOW THEY SHOULD DO IT!, WHY THEY ARE NOT DOING IT PROPERLY!, WHY THEY ARE NOT DOING IT WELL ENOUGH, WHERE THEY ARE DOING IT WRONG, WHY THEY NEED TO STOP DOING IT RIGHT NOW!, and the column will even toss in a bit of advice like TWELVE BIBLE RECIPES FOR LEFTOVER LIVER.  I think this column could be a real hit with the younger set who have never heard the voice of God before or who did not grow up with a Methodist mother.  

The Column of Compliments
     In our politically correct world, men often struggle now with the proper technique and etiquette for giving compliments to women, lest they be sued or beaten over the head with a Vera Bradley purse.  Here I'll offer the best lines and the best places to say them.  Lines like:  "That's a lovely dress you're wearing . . . my wife has one just like it", "You know, you have beautiful eyes . . . they remind me so much of my mother's" or "I'm not ogling you . . . I'm just thinking about my wife's upcoming hernia operation and how I can be most helpful around the house." 

Naturally, these are only a few of the ideas I have for columns.  There are over a hundred in my quiver, but these seem like the most likely candidates for success.  And, of course, I'd love to hear from my faithful readers.  Write to me any time or call my wife's cell phone to make sure I can talk.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Friday Night Lights

Earlier this week my wife informed me that she would be working most of this weekend . . . parlaying her 60+ hour-per-week principal job into a 70+ hour-per-week sporting event extravaganza.  Which means that I'll be home alone on Friday night, Saturday night, and most of Sunday afternoon . . . and can get a lot of writing accomplished. 

As I recall, the late Isaac Asimov once quipped that he didn't enjoy publishing books, he just liked writing them.  I suppose I'm cut from this same cloth . . . though God knows I have not met with the same level of success or proficiency.  Still, two evenings of writing is great sport for me, and I have plenty to accomplish.

This past week I signed another contract for some additional short essays (which I now have to write and deliver before December) and I am waiting under great duress and expectation for the giddy-up on several books that I hope to deliver, whole and in apple-pie order, at various deadlines in 2013. 

(More on this in 2013 after I've had a decent meal and a full eight hours of sleep.)

Whenever my wife returns at eleven o'clock from these middle-school sporting forays, she wants to know:  "What did you accomplish today?"

* NOTE:  She asks this to make me feel guilty, knowing full well that she has worked much harder and longer than I, as she only gets five hours of sleep a night.  She is always surprised when I tell her that I have, indeed, worked a full day too, but also cleaned a toilet, fixed myself a Hot Pocket, puked it, and afterwards wrote for three hours fueled by pure adrenalin and black coffee.  Then she tests my patience by asking if I have been writing anything for money, as she knows that most of my writing is pure speculation, like panning for gold, and that even when I do get paid, it is usually in the form of IOUs or coupons to Pizza Hut.  She informs me that she is tired, and must now retire to bed, whereupon I write for another three hours.  This is my way of showing her who's boss.  It is also where my best love poetry comes from.  And afterwards, I turn out the lights.   


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Here Comes the Bride

Recently my book, Your Beautiful Wedding on Any Budget, made an Amazon list of top "money-saving" book titles.  Well . . . whoopie!

Lately I have been stretching my essay-writing prowess back into the bridal/wedding fold (along with material on marriage and budgeting, too), and some of these will soon be hitting magazine paydirt (though not much pay for my dirt).  Still, I like offering what I can and helping younger people get off to a great start in marriage.

God knows they need the warning!  Danger, Will Robinson . . . Danger!

In another 18 months my wife and I will be celebrating 30 years of marriage (Lord willin' and the creek don't rise).  But those first years were LEAN.  Our first two years, for example, we existed on spaghetti (not with sauce and meat, mind you, just the pasta).  I recall one or two pizzas, which we ordered under financial duress and parlayed into four or five meals.  We also fixed our cars with duct tape and wire, shopped at Goodwill, and found our entertainment in a small 12-inch black-and-white television with built-in rabbit ears (all of which we continue to use today!)  That's right, I still duct tape my cars, shop at Goodwill, and last month we pulled the plug on our basic TV package and returned to old-fashioned rabbit ear reception. 

Suffering of this magnitude has set the tone for our marriage, and I've been suffering ever since.  My constitution is iron-clad.  I can take anything.  I can suffer through days--even weeks--of not speaking to my wife (and be thankful for it).  I can go days--even weeks--without a proper meal, subsisting on boxes of year-old Ju-Ju-Fruits and a handful of cashews.  I can send all of my salary to institutions of higher learning in order to pay for my son's education and his robust meal plan that includes caviar and an all-you-can eat salad bar with chick peas.  I can save money by turning out all of the lights in the house and making romantic advances toward a woman who is already asleep (thereby increasing my chances of success exponentially).

This is marriage and I'm glad to write about it.

I do hope that brides will buy my book (heck, buy a dozen!), as this title will indeed demonstrate how a marriage can be built on a foundation of boredom and suffering . . . and still be successful.  Anything else a bride wants to know, she can ask my wife.  

I'll wake her if you call.   

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Reading Andy Griffith

Last week I received a phone call from a fellow I had not seen in over a decade.  He called to inform me that he was sending over a fax . . . a story he had clipped from a North Carolina publication regarding Andy Griffith's childhood connections with the Moravian Church.

I've since read this piece and found it intriguing.  I'll also place this article in my Andy Griffith file--a bulging pocket in my closet that includes voluminous information about the actor/singer. 

In the event there are people who don't have enough Andy Griffith trivia, but might need some absolutely useless information to brighten their day and give them a reason for living, here are a few things about AG or the AGShow you might not know:

* Andy Griffith's first gospel album went platinum
* Griffith logged more air time as Matlock than than he did as Andy Taylor, Sheriff of Mayberry
* Andy Griffith often used the names of old friends and acquaintances on his show (for example: in one episode he mentioned a choir director by the name of Lemle Gilbert . . . later, on the Gomer Pyle show, Gomer names his attack dog Lemle Gilbert, leading Sergeant Carter to further conclude that Gomer is off his nut).
* Andy Griffith played guitar and sang gospel songs with Don Knotts between takes on the set of The Andy Griffith show.
* Griffith's early and later screen roles were often dramatic rather than humorous . . . his acting range was actually quite broad.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Vote

My day began with unlocking the church at 4:30 a.m. (voting location), proceding to the gym, and then home for coffee and writing.  I plan to vote later this afternoon.  I've tried desperatly to strip myself of all political ads and sound-bites this year, watching only two hours of TV in the past three weeks, going unplugged, nearly Amish.  I've spent my mornings and evenings close to the bone (and close to home), reading and writing like a madman, pursuing publishers (and some pursuing me), and staying connected to editors.  I feel more energized in these Luddite tendencies, and it's a life I could get used to.

I did, however, take some time this morning to locate a decent poem from my poetic journal (this one written on April 13 of this year).  Might be worth sharing on this election day (though it has nothing to do with politicians). It's really about people (and some Saints) and the long line up of eternity. 



A few are squares
Living in dark holes
Or pegs that do not fit,
While some, rectangular,
Portion days like blocks
Of calendar
Wholly separate.
And others are triangular
In approach or benefit,
Neither saint, nor sage,
Nor hypocrite,
But loops and parallels
And lines that defy
A measurement.
The world is round.
And that’s the shape of it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

To New York With Love

Photo July 2012: Logan & Todd at the Statue of Liberty railing, Manhattan (R) and Ellis Island (L) in the background.

Last week it came to my attention that a few of the New York editors I have worked with over the years were unavailable to read some of my manuscripts (I have several floating around the Big Apple right now).  The culprit was Sandy, and the publishing industry in New York--and in New Jersey (John Wiley & Sons) especially--will have to have time to recover and catch up on all their reading.

I hope and pray that my friends on the east coast will find comfort and relief as soon as possible, and that the vast publishing industry in the New York environs will soon be back in print.

Keep the presses rolling, gang.  And keep looking up! 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Book Conversation

Becky and I stretched our memory into new territory last night.  At home, and both writing until past 11:30 p.m., we were sitting adjacent to each other with our laptops when Becky began telling me about a book she would like to order.  "What's the title?" I asked.

"It's entitled: The Ultimate Teacher, compiled by Todd Whitaker," she said.

"I have a copy of that book," I told her.

"You do?"
"Yes," I said.  "Don't you remember?  I wrote one of the essays in that book.  The essay was about you!"

"Did I read it?" she asked.  "Did you show it to me?"

"Several times, I thought."  I scurried into the library, removed a layer of books, dug around in the stacks for a moment, and returned with a pristine copy of The Ultimate Teacher.  "Here you are," I said.  "You are on page 98." 

"How did you write this?" she asked.

"Same way I write everything else . . . sitting here next to you, half asleep, no TV, no interruptions, no romance.  When you write an essay a day, a guy is bound to hit upon a few words that will be published."

"I'll have to read this."

"You already have," I said.  "That book has been on the shelf for three years."

Memories . . . light the corner of my mind.  Too bad we are losing them faster than we can create them.  In another year, we'll have no memories at all.  Just a bunch of books.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Writing on Halloween

Now that my children are older and eat only healthy foods like apples and smoked mackerel and flecks of green-leafy lettuce, my wife and I sit at home alone, hoping that we will have at least one trick-or-treater knock on our door.  For the past 3 years we haven't had a single child visit our home on Halloween night . . . which says a great deal about our popularity in the community and the deep desire children have for the world-famous boiled egg-on-a-stick that we usually hand out.

I had even dressed up for Halloween last night as a mental hospital patient, and was walking around the house in a diaper.  You'd think some kid would visit, but I suppose the sight of me would have been too traumatic and some parent would have called the police.  Nevertheless, I did get quite a bit of writing accomplished in six hours while sitting beside a bowl of decaying eggs in my Depends.

Halloween has become a very lonely enterprise around our house, and my wife and I are forced to eat large quantities of eggs afterwards (how else can you keep forty dozen from becoming rancid?).  Our house now smells like a kolache factory or a swine farm and it may be Thanksgiving before the rooms air out.  We'll be lighting a lot of lavender-scented candles and will leave the ceiling fans on high throughout November.  After Thanksgiving we will bring in a pine bough and start coughing.

One of my great achievements on Halloween night was locating a publisher for my humorous childhood memoir.  I've been writing on this thing for five years and still hope to trick a publisher into taking it.  That would be a treat for me.

I do look forward to Halloween each year.  I know I'll be at home.  I'll be alone.  And I'll have hours at a time to write in peace and quiet.  No ringing doorbell.  No children visiting in costume.  No love.  Just me and my diaper and a wife who thinks I look hot in a tight white cloth.

But if anyone craves a boiled egg for breakfast, please drop by.  I'll leave a few on the front porch.  The neighborhood cats love 'em.