With my BA degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma in my overcoat pocket, I stepped off a bus at
3 a.m. into adulthood at Naval Officer's Candidate School in Newport, R.I. It was August--the end of Indian summer when I left Oklahoma but the start of fall/winter in Rhode Island--cold, wet, and inhospitable. I asked if I could get on the bus and go back home. The tough CPO--a real sweetheart!--assigned to meet the bus glared at me and shouted "Hell, no."
Over five years and several ports later, my original four year term ended (I was "extended" over a year because there was a shortage of incoming officers) I left the Navy to become a novice advertising practitioner in the real world. Soon there was a family (two beautiful daughters and now seven incredible grandchildren!) With only my journalism degree and bravado, I opened my own advertising agency. For twenty years, it was a satisfying career.
When I was asked to teach advertising full time at OU, I hesitated. It was a venue I had very little experience in, but it was an opportunity to make a difference in charting the career path of bright, eager students. For twenty-one years, that was my life. Almost 10,000 graduates later, I retired. Not without regret, because leaving those aspiring students behind was not easy. Ahead of me was a world where my passion for writing could become my life, my new norm, and a positive experience. So here I am today, writing and publishing stories /articles and loving it. And ready for new creative challenges in writing for a variety of venues.
Practice, practice, practice!
I write at least five hours every day. On days when inspiration pushes me to create scenarios and fill them with words, when ideas keep after me until I turn them into a story, time disappears and it could be late into the night when I turn off the computer and get some sleep. Always, whether there's inspiration enough to fill out a story or write another chapter in a novel, I practice. Below are examples of flash fiction pieces I write for practice. Sometimes they're inspired by a photo or art or by something on the news.
A FOREST OF THORNS
As a child, Dieter Schultz lived in Konigsberg. With friends, he roamed the forests of East Prussia, listening to the music of the wind whistling through pine and larch; composing a symphony in the leaves of beech and oak.
The trees sang to the laughing children.
At fourteen, Dieter listened with juvenile innocence to Nazi rhetoric and joined Hitler Jugend. By the time of his conscription to the Wehrmacht, he realized--too late--he had been deceived. He was ordered to Birkenau, an Auschwitz satellite. There, surrounded by a forest of larch and pine, he witnessed such brutality that he would often leave his post, sick, running into the forest to lean against a tree, sobbing, until the feeling passed.
The trees, twisting in the wind, watched and were silent.
Near the end of the war, he was ordered with his unit to defend Konigsberg against the advancing Red army. Wounded in the battle, he was discharged from the Wehrmacht. Alone, with no family, he and his little dog Otto, went to live quietly in a cabin at the edge of a forest.
But the solitude was not comforting. At night, there were wild dreams and fearful nightmares. Often, in the wind, the leaves of the beech and oak twisted and turned, becoming the faces of those who had died in the camps. The wind blew through the larch and pine but the sound was not the music he remembered from childhood.
It was--instead--a trembling sigh.
I retreated to my family's old summer house to get away from it all---the antiseptic aura of the hospital, the odor of failing human internal engines, the whirr and click of machinery delaying the inevitable. Up here, the daytime sky is carved in amber; the night sky sculpted from obsidian. It is the place of my childhood, before the pages in my daily diary were yellow sticky notes everywhere---"don't forget meds at 8 a.m./ 11 p.m.; "3 tbsps of protein powder in every glass of milk;" "log sleep hours for doc." From a nail beside the screen door I grab an old sun hat---slap it on over my absence of hair. I visualize the distance from the back porch to the lake edge. Harnessing my energy, I sit for a moment on the top step. Suddenly it comes to me on the wind through the pines--- the remembered voice of my father singing long ago from our overnight camp on the other side of the lake: "The sky is the only roof I have over my head--and when I'm weary, mother nature makes me a bed. I'm just goin' along as I please---breezin' along with the breeze." I stand, stretch, and take the mountain air in gulps. Renewal begins now. Today I will make it all the way to the lake and back.
Variety--the entertainment weekly--called him "the hottest new country star to come along in years."
Two years ago, Richie Stevens sat alone in the deserted racetrack bleachers watching another day die, the horizon crowded with tall neon signs and lights that blinked and twinkled. On the other side of the highway, McDonald's was cooking up a batch of burgers and fries. The odors drifting across the track were appealing but he wasn't hungry. Not for food. Hungry for reassurance. Reassurance that what he was going to do was right. Tomorrow he would leave for the Academy of Country Music in Nashville for an audition to see if they can teach him to be an entertainer.
Until crooked gamblers, dishonest trainers and professional thugs took over the sport of kings, Richie--small and agile--was one of the top jockeys on the state fair racing circuit. When his mother, in tears, pleaded with him to stop racing before he got hurt, he did.
Tonight, on the stage of Nashville's Ryman Auditorium, he was ready to give the audience what they came for---until he saw his mom on the front row. In tears, he introduced the screaming, applauding audience to "my best friend, my mom."
Pointing to her with his guitar, he said "This one's for you!"
It was "Somebody's Hero."