My writing stories began with truancy. I'm not referring to the truancy in which one flees or drifts into the realm of imagination ( although that dimension of truancy is an essential aspect of the making of stories) but my absconding from junior high and wandering into a public library. There, in the quietest place I'd ever known, my primary reading of Jack London, Theodore Dreiser, and John Steinbeck swiftly determined the work and love of my life. My truancy was chronic and reading voracious. My presence in high school was also spectral, but I remained a fervid autodidact, and as it became more important to bring home a paycheck I dropped out of school and went to work in a textile waste factory. The work was heavy and dirty. But I was earning a man's wage, proud, and still a passionate reader. Chaos at home, however painful, was not bereft of love, and mythic. So I was getting the nurture a writer in utero needs. At about the same time one of the several serendipitous events that made a meaningful life possible occurred. I'd submitted some of my primitive paintings and my written comments about them to a competition sponsored by the Williamsburg Settlement House in Brooklyn and won a one year scholarship to the Art Students League. For a year of Saturdays I worked at improving my skill in a life drawing class; but most significant was the attention, conversation, example, and reading suggestions of mature artists that helped clarify my heart's deepest aspiration.
In 1956, I felt the need to get away from my family and the neighborhood. I went to my draft board, pushed my draft number up, and went into the army. This too turned out to be serendipitous in a way I could never have imagined. In 1957 I was shipped from Fort Hood,Texas to Inchon, Korea. The shooting in Korea had ceased in 1953 and I was safer there than I've been in other neighborhoods. Even more miraculous than the small but excellent library on the base were the classes the University of Maryland maintained for the military. Lacking a high school diploma, I was accepted as a special student.Classes were held in a quonset hut where I read and was guided through Plato's "Republic" by a teacher perhaps as brilliant and adroit as the mythic Socrates. The unforeseen adventure in syllogism took my imagining to places and points of view that astonished me -- an experience tantamount to magic realism.
After my two year stint in the army I got a GED and entered college. During the next ten years I attended college, worked full time, married, had a family, had to leave college and then return, finally earning the degrees that made possible a career as a teacher of literature and writing. Among the unexpected and sustaining gifts is the critical attention of several writers-- now friends --bring to my work. I reciprocate by taking their work as seriously as my own and trying to articulate something useful. This relationship is something more and other than social , that is to say, crucial. Through such means and over many years my stories have found their way into literary magazines, and several anthologies; a collection of my stories,The St. Veronica Gig and two novels , Courting Laura Providencia, and Chekhov Was A Doctor , have received critical acclaim. I mention this not only as advertisement, but because of the periods of rejection that have often left me wondering if my work could make a claim on the imagination of the ideal reader I believe must exist. And as this is also a part of the process, when out of the blue I learn I've received the Pushcart Prize, the Fiction Award From The Coordinating of Literary Magazines, the Special Merit Award from the Nelson Algren Short Story Competition, these occasions, however gratifying often feel more of a reprieve than a triumph. But this too is part of the process, and in any case I can't quit.