About Writing: Encouragement & Getting Published
My writing and publishing backstory
This is a supplemental piece:
I wrote a piece on how to improve your writing. I was including some of my backstory, the people and situations that encouraged me. Suddenly, that piece was longer than the advice itself.
I’ve moved it here to it’s own piece and published it without sending an email to my readers. It is linked in the writing advice article.
Teachers Who Encouraged Me
Mr. Blaisedell (sp) was my 6th grade English teacher. He taught the higher-level/advanced English in what was our pre-junior high, initial foray into changing classes. He was also my 6th grade Math teacher. In contrast with the advanced English, this was the remedial Math class. Yeah.. that was me. All words, no calculation.
One day he approached me about a short story I’d turned in as an assignment. He suggested we submit it to a district writing contest, which we did. I won and was published for my first time.
Mr. Blaisedell told me, “You have a gift. You should work on it.”
He also told me I could do better in Math if I applied myself. I took his first advice to heart. It took me 40 years to begin to take the latter advice.
In high school, two teachers stood out and encouraged my writing.
Mr. Buniff was my 10th grade English teacher. I had her third period, immediately following Nutrition. The first day of class I went into the classroom to grab a desk near the front. My poor attention span required this and I knew it. There was a desk that nearly abutted up to her desk. I went to it and put my books down.
She was at her desk, reading something. She had jet black hair pulled tightly back into a pony-tail. She looked up over her black framed, cat-eyed glasses and said:
I hate you!
I must have looked shocked - though I found it funny. She added:
Don’t take it personally. I hate all 10th graders.
I left my books there, went out and purchased two apples from vending machines in the lunch area. I took a bite out of one of the apples and returned to class. I put that apple I’d bitten on Ms. Buniff’s desk as an offering. I carefully faced the bite away from her so she couldn’t see it.
She looked curiously at the apple, then at me, and she picked it up. She felt the wet area where the bite was, turned the apple around and looked at me with disdain. Then she bit the apple and proceeded to eat it.
And I fell in love!
Later, she noted that I was reading HP Lovecraft and Harlan Ellison. She commended me for my choices. After reading a piece I wrote, she asked me to take her class, “Supernatural & Science Fiction” as an elective in the next semester.
I did and I took the same class two more times and then served as her teacher’s aid in 12th grade.
Note: In my other piece I mention that Deb Googled Ms. Buniff and found her obituary. If you get the opportunity to let a teacher - or anyone else - know the positive impact they’ve had on your life, you should do so.
The other teacher who encouraged me was Mr. Seigel. He is subscribed to this newsletter. I don’t know if he actually reads it. A few years ago I was playing music at an open mic and watched a folk singer with a talented piano player accompany him. That piano player, as it turns out, was Mr. Seigel.
He was my 12 grade composition teacher. His encouragement came in the form of comments like, “Hey Moran. This is pretty good.”
When we ran into each other at the open mic I told him how he had encouraged my writing and I had been published many times. He said I made his decade. ;-) I’m glad for that. Teachers need to hear from us.
Return to Writing
I always thought I’d be a writer. My friend Mike was certain of the same thing. He would actually read what I wrote in high school. That is not a trivial kindness. It meant and means a lot.
But life happens. I had children early. I was hired by Blue Cross and ended up writing software for them. Suddenly, I was four children, a career, and entering my thirties without having written much of anything.
I decided to change that.
I wrote a short, 300 to 400 word piece and submitted it to, “The Warner Center News” - a small local paper. It was published as was a second article I sent to them. No pay but dammit - seeing my name in print… Mmmm mmm.
Getting Published/Getting Paid
I then wrote an article titled, “Why Technologists Must Learn To Speak Business.”
It was published by Penton Media Group as the cover article in three of their regional technology magazines. I was paid for it and they gave me a monthly column - also paid.
I was a professional writer!
Sex, having children, and getting published. Best experiences ever!
After having several subsequent articles published, Mary Beth Ray, then Executive Editor at Cisco Press (part of Pearson/Prentice Hall) purchased my self-published book, “The IT Career Builder’s Toolkit.”
She contacted me via email and asked me to call her.
We had a phone conversation where she gave me the greatest compliment I’ve ever received. After I got control of my weeping (I’m not kidding you about this), she offered me a publishing deal, complete with an advance. This led to a second book and two book contracts that languished.
Suffice to say, Mary Beth sits somewhere in that pantheon of women that include, My mom, and my Aunt Bev. Perhaps, due to the emotions I’m feeling today, I’d like to include, Ms. Buniff.
I’ve also had a consulting book under contract - never completed and a “children’s book”. In quotes because it is less a children’s book than it is a book for mom’s and their children.
It’s titled, If Mom Were President, and is based on a poem I wrote for my mom and my first wife back in the 1990’s.
How I ended up with a children’s book contract is a fun story. But I ended up backing out of the deal when the publishing company attempted to kill my baby. I’ll write more about it alter because I still believe this book should be published.
That’s my backstory and I’m sticking to it.
August 24, 2023