not quite so many words, on Wednesday I said I became a writer because, 1) I'm
shy (which I expressed then as "not gregarious") and 2) I was afraid
to speak in my father's presence. There are, of course, more attending facts and
mitigations about it than those two that came out only through intense therapy
in my forties.
I've told earlier in these Jonals how Mrs.
Yobaggy in sixth grade praised my first one-paragraph "story," about
which I remember nothing except that it had as its moral "turning defeat
into victory." And Mrs. Manseau, in the next grade and as the best English
teacher I had in my public school career, encouraged me to write for the Mountaineer
Herald as a means of getting the few dollars it would take to make a trip
to Washington with the eighth grade class over a year later. I could just say
I'm a writer because Mrs. Manseau gave me the vision of writing as something I
could do (and something Mrs. Yobaggy had already confirmed I could do better than
most) to make easy, if not big, money.
But as Harlan Ellison
famously said, "Anybody can become a writer, but the trick is to STAY a writer."
So the question then becomes, after earning and spending my busfare to Washington
in 1956, why did I stay a writer? I was already hooked. Though in the big
scheme of things having a neighborhood news column in the Mt. Herald was
no big deal, the recognition for that was the first recognition for anything (other
than grades on my report cards, which were not always spectacular) the first/only
thing considered positive in my life. There was also the discipline of going out
every week to get the news, and sitting fidgetingat the chair in my
upstairs room long enough to make my dollar-sixty every week. As Howard Fast recalled
in a recent number of "Chicken Soup for the Soul": "How did I become
a writer? That can be answered in one linethe back of my seat to the seat
of the chair." I'm sure that's a widely shared perception, among writers,
of how they managed to make a career out of writing.
also apply an apophatic
approach to answering the question. I'm still a writer because my career as a
disc jockey didn't get off the ground. Probably most male teenagers in 1962 dreamed
of being spinners of records on the radio (there were no women DJs yet in those
days), but I got as far as making the approach at start-up WEND in Ebensburg and
was given a chance to do some work there before the station went on the air. I
spent an afternoon writing commercials for the local merchants and institutions
that had been induced to buy airtime. But before I got my second trip to the studios
to continue and make myself available for discovery for my innate on-air personality
talent, I got the fateful call from Andy Rogalski that changed my life and sealed
my career choice as "writer" for ever more. He was calling to set up
a meeting at the Journal offices, in which he offered me a fulltime job
with the Sedloff Publications. It was his job as editor of the Journal
and feature editor for the Sedloff group.
I don't think I
even called WEND back the next week to ask if they had another batch of commercials
ready for writing. I had bigger fish to fry.
complete index of Jon Kennedy's Jonals for 2001 - 2005