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Okay, I’ll admit it. I was forced to read my first book. It was 1971 and I was in fourth grade. Until this moment, the only reading I had done was textbooks for homework - yuck. So at age nine I believed what a lot of little boys believe: reading is boring. My teacher took me to the school library, grabbed a book off the shelves and forced it into my hands with instructions to check it out and read it. She assured me I would be quizzed about the story. That night I reluctantly began reading Mystery of the Moss Covered Mansion, a Nancy Drew book. By about the third page I experienced reading for pleasure for the first time in my life, and I was hooked. Many of my days during the following summer break began with reading an entire book, and I’d usually read another that evening before bed. I read all mysteries - Nancy Drew, the Hardy

Boys, the Dana Girls, Trixie Belden, The Three Investigators. I read every YA mystery our school and public library contained - several times. Reading was like a drug to me and I moved up to the more serious adult mysteries by age eleven, where I discovered Agatha Christie.


At eleven years old, it was 1973 - and I discovered I had gone through most of the mysteries I wanted to read at our public library. My aunt was the librarian, and I became very vocal about wanting new books to read. She explained that the writers I loved only published a new book about once a year, so there wasn’t any more she could buy. Naturally, I began thinking I could write faster than that and set out to prove it. I sharpened pencils and got a spiral bound notebook as ideas began forming

in my mind. About this time my cousin noticed me struggling to

write, and gave me her old cassette tape recorder since she had

gotten a new one for her birthday. She told me to just dictate into it

and have my older sister (who was just learning to type in high

school) type it up for me. Cool cousin, eh? So I began dictating the

plot of my mystery for my sister to type. You can hear an excerpt

of one of these recordings below my picture  ------>

When I demanded that my sister type it, she informed me in her

Bossy-Big-Sister-Voice to learn how to type and do it myself. Oh

how I resented that - until I realized she had just given me permission

to play with her new electric typewriter (something I had been denied

so far). She gave me her typing book and showed me the “home keys”

and left me to figure out the rest while she practiced her shorthand. I

really liked typing because it made me feel like a grownup, and I picked

it up pretty fast. It wasn’t long before we were fighting over who got to

use the typewriter - her defense that it was her typewriter meant

nothing to me, I was the writer. And since my sister refused to play

the role I wanted her to play, I created an imaginary writer’s assistant

Myrtle that I began dictating my stories to.


In high school I took typing as a class and was clocked at typing 125 words-per-minute during our first test. I was told to go take Latin instead, as I knew how to type but couldn’t spell that well. Stupid brown fox humping over a log. I remained in typing class, but signed up for Latin as well.


In my sophomore year I met a girl who was a writer, and we began critiquing each others work during study hall. I was age 15, and I began to take my writing serious for the first time. My favorite teacher taught English and she agreed to edit my current work, Secret of the Old Mill, over the summer holiday. Bless her for all that work on my penciled scribbles. Man, I couldn’t wait for my junior year to begin. My teacher returned my manuscript with a ton of red marks throughout, and I began the task of translating her corrections and typing it up - with the help of many sheets of carbon paper and correction tape. With that teacher’s encouragement and help, I sent the manuscript to Random House and waited. A very sweet lady sent a personal rejection letter in reply - praising my “talent” and requesting that I submit anything new to her personally. Certain I was about to be discovered and already calling her my publisher, I began working on ideas for my next book as I turned sixteen. And got my driver’s license. And got a job. My junior and senior years I went to school full time and worked in a textile mill full time and was assistant to a local photographer on weekends -- so my ambitions to be a writer were pushed aside. I was lulled away from creative poverty by the illusions of money and all it could buy. I kept notebooks full of ideas, but hadn’t the time to work on them as adulthood began.


Later in life, when health issues required that I take early retirement, I wondered what I would do with the rest of my life. I had time on my hands without any creative outlet. And that long lost dream of becoming a writer surfaced from the murky depths within. I had a good friend that was a writer, and I began asking questions and digging back through all those notebooks from childhood I had stored in the attic.


Three years later, I am about to publish my debut novel. How it will be received is yet to be seen. But I feel a certain sense of satisfaction as a forgotten dream has come to life once again. Life has traveled full circle, and I have that same sense of awe I felt as a young child as I observed the world around me and dictated my mysteries into my tape recorder.


But now I must be off to dictate the plot of the next Groovy Mystery to that same imaginary writer’s assistant, Myrtle. Note, she’s getting really, really old these days and I may have to hire her an imaginary assistant sometime soon.