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Wednesday, March 6 2002

Passages: Steve Lester 2

Continuing yesterday's thread on the passing of my close friend, Steve Lester....

The Writers Connection was a writers' service business that sold books and miscellaneous writing aids, conducted up to a dozen hours of seminars on various types of writing per week, and sold memberships to writers wanting to connect through occasional social events like book signings and panel discussions. The memberships brought all the seminars and bookstore items at discounted prices. Though one of Steve's original ideas was to sell computers to writers, at the time when they were just beginning to become widely owned, that proved impractical and he abandoned the plan.

At the time of Writers Connection's launch, adult education was very popular, with public school districts, local communuity colleges, and even private and state-run universities offering evening and weekend seminars at low prices or, in some cases, even free. That changed quickly as the taxpayers' rebellion in the 1980's dried up funding, however, and by a decade later most of the adult education programs were gone.

I stayed with the Connection fulltime as director, editor of its newsletter (actually a magazine), and the principle teacher in its seminar program, which also featured scores of other writer-teachers yearly. I taught Writing and Publishing Newsletters and Small Publications, Writing Fiction, Writing Nonfiction Articles, Getting Publicity, Self-Publishing and Marketing Books, and other subjects.

When my children were taken away from me after that same four years by their mother, who remarried and immediately sued for support, I told Steve I needed more money than the Connection could pay and might have to look for another job. Without seeming to consider the impact on the Connection of my leaving its fulltime employ, he recommended that I apply for a publications editing job in the high tech industry that is centered in our county. As it happened, the Writers Connection was also acting at the time as a placement agency that found jobs for temporary writing and editing employees.

I replied that I doubted I had the aptitude for such work, but he, having studied the field for his placement service, as he always did any new venture, felt sure I could do it. He had our employment agent set up an interview at a CAD company and after a short interview I was given my first job in high technology and my first well-paying job (in the way that's measured in our economy) since my days as a clerk at Acme (mostly in Parkhill, occasionally in Nanty Glo, and even sometimes in Johnstown. Though the supermarket pay was small compared with steel mills and coal mines, it was unionized and was competitive with jobs like teaching and other professions in the early '60s).

Knowing I had never done technical publications work before, I was hired with no contract beyond a week at a time. I was there 11 months before being laid off, and then within 48 hours my boss at that job had to take off work because of pneumonia, so I was called back, staying another 14 months. In that time I had graduated from editor to writer (unlike newspaper, magazine, and book publishing, writers are paid better than editors in high tech publications work...they are considered to require and have attained more "technical" education).

And though I was gone from fulltime employment at the Writers Connection, Steve continued to use me on the side as the editor of the monthly newsletter, and also provided other freelance writing assignments and some Saturday teaching work.

More tomorrow.

—Webmaster Jon Kennedy

White House language (first of four)

The White House not only has a new team, but a whole new language. President George W. Bush has brought with him many friends from Texas, and for anyone not born in the Lone Star State, the Texan accent and the cowboy colloquialisms can seem a bit strange.

Here is a guide to a few of the more colorful expressions they might encounter:

1. The engine's runnin' but ain't nobody driving. Not overly intelligent.
2. As welcome as a skunk at a lawn party (self-explanatory).
3. Tighter than bark on a tree. Not very generous.
4. Big hat, no cattle. All talk and no action.

Sent by Trudy Myers

Redeeming Hardship

If you read Genesis in one sitting, you cannot help noticing a change in how God related to his people. At first, he stayed close by, walking in the garden with them, punishing their individual sins, speaking to them directly, intervening constantly. Even in Abraham's day, he sent extraterrestrial messengers on house calls. By Jacob's time, however, the messages were far more ambiguous: a mysterious dream about a ladder, a late-night wrestling match. And toward the end of Genesis, a man named Joseph received guidance in the most unexpected ways.

Genesis slows down when it gets to Joseph, and it shows God working mostly behind the scenes. God spoke to Joseph not through angels, but through such means as the dreams of a despotic Egyptian pharaoh. If anyone had a valid reason to be disappointed in God, it was Joseph, whose valiant stab at goodness brought him nothing but trouble. He interpreted a dream to his brothers, and they threw him in a cistern. He resisted a sexual advance and landed in an Egyptian prison. There, he interpreted another dream to save a cellmate's life, and the cellmate promptly forgot about him. I wonder, as Joseph languished for his virtue in an Egyptian dungeon, did questions like - Is God unfair? Silent? Hidden? - occur to him?

But shift for a moment to the perspective of God the parent. Had he deliberately "pulled back" to allow Joseph's faith to reach a new level of maturity? And could this be why Genesis devotes more space to Joseph than to any other person? Through all his trials, Joseph learned to trust: not that God would prevent hardship, but that he would redeem even the hardship. Choking back tears, Joseph tried to explain his faith to his murderous brothers: "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good..." (Genesis 50:20).

—Philip Yancy
Men's Devotional Bible - NIV
Sent by Judy Martin

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