Thursday, December 13, 2012

My 40th Anniversary

I was twelve years old when I made up my mind to be a writer.  That summer in 1973, in a swell of confidence, I stapled together a sheaf of paper and wrote my first "book"--a sports magazine that included essays, features, illustrations, and op-ed pieces . . . all written by me under various pseudonyms.  I shared this with several of my friends and, as memory serves, even considered asking for a monthly subscription--believing even back then that I could produce a book each month if I had to.

That was forty years ago (I am now 52 and counting) . . . and I have been writing like a banshee since that time.  In grade school and middle school I wrote humorous verses, science fiction stories, and crazy diatribes about teachers--some of which landed me in trouble.  (I often started out the school year as the kid in the corner facing the wall and who was given no privileges such as recess.)  I also recall writing one school drama/musical which I was actually allowed to produce and act out with some friends in front of the entire student body.  The students laughed . . . the teachers didn't.

I wrote in high school, producing volumes of wild and zany tales--which I often wrote during algebra class.  I wrote a full book of poems about my home town and the people in it (and some of the local merchants didn't want me in their stores afterwards).  I also began publishing some short pieces in magazines--and getting paid for them--and this set me on a path of considering myself a "professional".  One high school teacher told me I needed to "move on" and "stop wasting his time in high school".

In college I wrote even more--often producing so much material in the writing courses that the professor would shut me down mid-term or ask me to concentrate on revising what I'd already produced.  Seminary at Duke was tough--three years of writing arduous research papers on John Wesley or Saint Anselm or commentary on obscure Biblical passages.  I wilted under the weight of this heavy approach to writing and recall that, the day I graduated, I took a full ream of yellow paper, slipped out of our cockroach-infested apartment in Durham in my short-shorts, sat in the sun, and began writing a novel.  I felt like a free man.  I've been free ever since.  And thank God!

But my journey began 40 years ago when I wrote that first "book" of sports. 

Last week I pointed this out to my wife, and noted that I've had twenty-five books published in fifteen years, which means I could, conceivably, at this pace, produce 100 published books in my lifetime if I live to be 90 and still have an active mind and able hands (and if she can still make me a Bologna sandwich).  Her question was, "Why?"

My answer was:  "Why not?" 

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