As far back as I can remember I wanted to do one of three things. Rather than becoming a cowboy
or a fireman like most boys, from the time I could understand careers, I wanted to be a rock and roll singer, a writer or
a minister. I’ll share the third option some time in another story.
ages six to age ten I wrote nearly a hundred songs. Needless to say, they were all from the mind of a child and none are worthy
of sharing since I certainly was not a child prodigy . I do
still have many of them stored in the empty case of what had been an old 45 RPM record player. I always felt it was an appropriate
container for my “work”. I still look them over on occasion to see if I might discover one that has
come into its own in today’s music world. So far it has been to no avail.
issue was my voice. It never even approached pleasant. I apparently took after my mother who always explained, “One
of the main reasons I go to church is that they have never tried to stop me from singing.”
the dream never left. However, it was supplanted by dream number two in the fifth grade. My teacher, Mrs. Johnstone assigned
a short story exercise to the class. She emphasized that we should refrain from “Boy meets girl, the two fall in love
and live happily ever after.” She asked that we be creative in our endeavor and write something different and unique.
wrote a story about a boy who was abused by his family. He was treated horribly day in and day out. In the end, he snuck out
a window, ran off, and was never heard from again.
couldn’t have been further from the truth. My family was a loving, nurturing group of people and my childhood was wonderful.
But when Mrs. Johnstone asked that we try to avoid the typical happy ending, I complied.
days later, I found myself in the principal’s office along with an extremely distraught Mother and Father as they attempted
to discount everything I had written.
It was at that moment I realized the power of the pen and became
secure in my future profession.
In Junior High and High School I
actually read very little. For open book reports I created the stories and the authors whom I reported on. I did reasonably
well. There was no internet so finding an obscure author or book title was far more difficult. Ms. Myer, my ninth grade English
teacher once asked to see a book I had described. I explained it had been borrowed from a visiting uncle and returned across
country with him. The following report was about a book written by an author named Paul Herney. I hoped my teacher might be
too embarrassed to ask for that name in the library.
school years and after, I was often called upon to speak in front of groups. My abilities alternated between semi- confidence
and complete terror. Even as an adult in business, I never knew until I stepped in front of my “audience” how
I might react.
I was called to speak as a last minute replacement for someone who failed to appear at a meeting. The 75 people were very
responsive and I performed wonderfully to quite a bit of laughter. The following year, it was requested that I speak again
to the same group. This time, fully prepared, I reached the podium and my consciousness expired. Like a fence post, I stood
silent and unmoving as every drop of blood rose from my body and turned my face into a glowing red light. After stumbling
out a few splinters of nonsense, I exited the stage and left behind a crowd of concerned faces.
my corporate position became that of a writer. I created training programs, work processes, reports for executives and edited
a corporate “news magazine” to which I regularly contributed. I lived my dream and made a great living as a writer.
The problem, however, was that everything I created was mandated to be straight forward and succinct, with information aimed
no higher than an eighth grade level. During those years, when asked, I produced a volume in an afternoon then
spent the following week or so editing down, to meet requirements. It was stifling.
years later, I left corporate America and returned to my passion, writing fiction. I also became involved in promoting literary
events, poets and authors. A few years back, my wife and I produced a three day writer’s convention at a resort. We
brought in authors and poets from all over America and Canada. For one of our poetry classes we found a songwriter from Boston
who agreed to teach a class, “Songwriting as Poetry”.
first evening, after classes, all of our writers gathered with nearly 120 attendees to enjoy a comedian and our singer/songwriter
in concert. Unknown to me, the singer had organized six of the authors to open the event with him, performing “Circle”
written by Harry Chapin. Chapin said it is so basic that literally anyone could sing it.
person was given a part and each would take their turn singing. It was meant to show the attendees the versatility of the
authors and create ambiance. An hour prior to the performance, they asked me to meet with the group back stage, I assumed,
to encourage the performers. Instead, it appeared one of the authors was no longer available so I became a last
minute replacement. Of course I declined but I was assured the song was so simple, anyone would sound good.
realized I would have to sing to more than 150 people. I panicked and tried to escape. They stopped my exit and insisted I
could not leave. I was given my part on a sheet of paper and told I could read it if needed, to remember the words.
Stage, the singer introduced each of us, explained the simple song and began playing his guitar. He opened with his part and
as soon as he finished, a poet from Canada began right on que. She was followed by an author from California. Then it was
up to me. Though the guitar played and my mouth opened, nothing came out. The singer whispered, “that’s OK”,
and played the round again on the guitar. The second time, I released a faint wheeze and nothing more. The crowd began to
giggle, the guitar player held up a hand to stop them then began the round one more time. To my shear surprise, words actually
came forth. My lines burst from where I do not know. I didn’t even look at the paper. Within seconds, I was done and
actually finished to applause. Then the song moved on to the others and the singer ended the work.
after a lifetime, my dreams of singing were fulfilled. I had performed in front of what seemed a massive audience. I nervously
left the stage, still in shock, to join an admiring crowd. One person pulled me aside and said, “You were
the second best voice in the group”. My emotions were mixed. Other than the wonderful singer, from the stage behind
the speakers, the remaining authors sounded absolutely horrible. I have no idea what came from my mouth. And although my #2
position will always be a fond memory, it will never be enough for me to do it again, not even in church.