You might find this site on the web and wonder who
is this person?
In early 2000 as I write this, I'm a 48-year-old graduate student, living in a small town in southwest Oklahoma. But I haven't always been 48, or a grad student, or living in Oklahoma. At various times I have: grown up in suburban New Jersey, not far from NYC; been aimless; gone to Woodstock; lived in rural, upstate New York near the Thousand Islands and Canada for about 10 yrs. I moved to Oklahoma with my wife and 2-yr-old daughter in 1979 to operate a full-time farm and cattle operation, just over a thousand acres, which I did for 16 years. Over the years I have worked as cab-driver, in grocery stores, as moving-man, farm-hand, logger, on an oil-spill clean-up on the St. Lawrence River, as motel night desk clerk, as stage-hand (I still work backstage; I enjoy it, especially as a counterweight to school).
The girl I married was smarter than me about many things, and she talked me into trying a college course, finally. So in 1989 I started school at thirty-eight; I took a photography course. Then I took photography II and later, elementary writing, one course a semester to begin with, but in time the whole thing snowballed. In 1995 I quit my business—sold out cattle, land, and machinery—and bought a house in town. I finished school full-time at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma (USAO), a very good little school (although at first I expected it to be Podunk U.). In 1997 I got my B.A. in English at USAO and started grad school at the University of Oklahoma (OU). In May 2000, I'll have my M.A. in English (creative writing emphasis) from OU.
As far as writing goes, even before I went back to school I started reading The Elements of Style (about once a year) and other how-to books on writing. At first I tried short stories, because fiction and poetry seemed to be what you do if you're a writer. (And I had thrown away the last of the awful poetry I wrote when I was eighteen or twenty.) But then I found myself reading more and more nonfiction, and I realized it offers everything fiction does, and more.
When I read Russell Baker's Growing Up, I didn't wonder about the motivations of characters or the likelihood of their actions--whether a person would really do this or that—because they had done what the story said they had done. And often it was funny, sometimes bittersweet, but always I could identify with the story—real people doing what they do. Melissa Fay Greene's Praying for Sheetrock held me spellbound: the end of the high sheriff's reign in Georgia's Macintosh County, the struggle for civil rights there, and the characters on both sides of the fight. She tells of heroes who were real and yet flawed, and people who appeared to be villains but were also ordinary and flawed and had their good sides as well. It's real life with all its complications. She writes with a voice that's often poetic but never saccharin. I still read fiction, but not a lot. (For more about specific works, go to recommended reading.) Besides my college coursework, I've attended several nonfiction writing workshops, working with MaryAnne Maier, Jerry Bledsoe, and William Kittredge.
After I get my Masters, I intend to find work writing. Also, some people have said that my editing and critiquing of their manuscripts is the best they've had.
I could go on, but that's what the stories are for.
I am an ex-dope-smoking-hippie-communard who
stared down the draft board and got away with it, a confirmed skeptic,
raised in a middle-class New Jersey suburb of NYC during the fifties and
sixties, who took Bob Dylan and the Beatles and Stones to heart, went to
Woodstock, and then followed Kerouac onto the road and Thoreau into the
wilderness looking to remedy eighteen years in a family dominated by a
woman alternately on and off the edge of psychosis and neglected by a good
man gone alcoholic. I greatly appreciate humor.
From the time my skinny, little arms could toss a newspaper, work became my refuge and identity. As a cab-driver, a logger, a moving-man and truckdriver, a farmhand, in supermarkets, on oil-spill cleanup, and as an eleven-year-old shoe-shine boy, I acquired blue-collar sympathies even as an adolescent, maybe because I didn't feel a part of the Buick and Jaguar set I saw around me. My gangly limbs and molasses-tongued social un-grace couldn't find purchase in any group I wanted part of. So I went to work—to prove myself, I guess.
But around the beginning of my fifth decade, the last of my romantic notions about working the land wore off completely— loading twenty tons of eighty-pound hay bales onto a truck didn't seem heroic anymore. And the overgrown boys I often worked with, with their puny myth-tales of pickups, beer-nights, and girl-conquest became as god-awful-tiresome as the dirty sweat dribbling into my eyes. One day I wandered into my first college class, which led to a second, and soon I was driving the sixteen miles to school as if they could take me north across the Mason-Dixon to freedom.
In 1990, when I read Robert Frost's passage, quoted by John Irving in A Prayer for Owen Meany, it echoed my discovery that I had spent years undervaluing my intellect and denying my sensitive nature. Somewhere in boyhood, I had shut away in a cerebral closet whatever part of me wasn't tough. I had resolved to be callous. My father, who had had no father, spoke little of his past and nothing of his pain, but he told me about stoicism. And I think I learned it too well.Something we were withholding made us weak
until we found out that it was ourselves
we were withholding from our land of living,
and forthwith found salvation in surrender.
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