Monday, July 03, 2006

My Life and Works

July 3, 2006

DISCLAIMER ALERT: Well, not exactly, as over the years there have been other activities, hobbies, jobs and even professions that interested me and caused me to have aspirations about doing them for a living. However, I remember writing a story when I was in the second grade that I was proud of, although I no longer have it or even remember what it was about, and as I grew older I took a serious interest in writing, telling stories and even, yes, journalism.

It is no wonder that I no longer have that first story, because my father was a career soldier in the U.S. Army, and we moved all over the United States and spent three years in Europe for one of his tours of duty. Consequently, because we were moving practically every year, my mother was in the habit of throwing away anything she believed was unnecessary so that it didn't have to be packed, moved and unpacked.

So, here is the list of the places we lived, in order, starting with where I was born: Carmel, CA (although we lived in nearby Monterey, CA); Medford, OR; Lawton, OK; Pampa, TX; Lawton, OK (again); Minot, ND; El Paso, TX; Tacoma, WA; Kennewick, WA; Erlangen, Germany; Lebanon, MO; and Colorado Springs, CO, where my father retired from the Army and we could consider ourselves living in a permanent home.

In fact, until I was a junior in high school in Colorado Springs, the longest I had ever lived in one place was three years, and that was the three years we had spent in Germany.

Now, I remember writing a story when I was about nine years old that took place in the Old West and which featured the Ames Brothers as the protagonists. The thing that sticks out the most in my memory is that they traveled the West and encountered various famous outlaws, such as Jesse James and Cole Younger, they would get into a dispute and one of the Ames Brothers would shoot the gun out of the hand of the famous outlaw. I have no misgivings about not having that story anymore.

However, when I was 12 and living in Germany, I earned enough money to buy a typewriter, a portable Royal, and I became serious about writing. I had seen the movie Francis (about a talking mule), and that inspired me to write my own story, J.B. Junebug, which took place in World War II and featured a talking bird. At the time, I thought I had written a novel, but when I came across my manuscript five years later, I was surprised and disappointed to discover that it was only 17 pages of single-spaced type. I believe I still have that story and could even find it if given enough time to search for it.

I then became even more serious about writing in high school, took journalism and worked as a reporter on my weekly newspaper in my junior year and became Co-Editor-in-Chief my senior year, which included writing a column every other week. Also, I was an editor on the literary magazine, won a journalism scholarship to the University of Colorado and was a reporter for the college newspaper.

But before I go into a more detailed list of my writing accomlpishments, let me return to the topic of other activities that held my interest in my youth and adulthood about which I was just as serious, some even considered at one time or another to become my profession.

I feel confident about being able to write something interesting about any of these subjects:

* ACTING--I was on stage first when I was six and in the first grade, receiving my first public laughter, which was for something that I had created; in a second-grade production I performed a pantomime to "McNamara's Band"; in a fourth-grade production of "Sleeping Beauty," I played Prince Charming; in high school I appeared in a couple of plays, performing the lead in one of them; but then in college I dropped my interest in acting, and it wasn't until my divorce after a 10-year marriage that I realized I had suppressed something I was interested in; I then joined a community theatre group and for the next nine years I acted in, directed and/or worked on the crew of every production until I became burned out and dropped out of theatre, but not acting: I had acted in a few amateur films and was selected to appear in two Hollywood productionss that were made near my hometown: The Disappearance of Aimee, with Faye Dunaway, Bette Davis and James Woods, and American Flyers, with Kevin Costner before he became famous.

* MUSIC--When I was in Germany my parents bought a piano and encouraged me (read: "forced") to take piano lessons for the three years we lived there; my allowance was increased fourfold if I practiced one hour a day, and I soon memorized "The Minute Waltz," ending each practice session with however many renditions of it were required to fill out the hour exactly; I was also in the school choir in grammar school and was complimented enough to believe that I have a pretty good singing voice; when we returned to the U.S. I took another year of piano lessons before deciding that I would never be good enough to be a professional pianist; in high school I was given a ukulele and was serious enough to get a book and learn how to play some songs; in college I bought a four-string banjo and did the same; and then when the folk-song craze swept the country, I turned in my four-string for a five-string banjo, taught myself how to play it and even wrote songs on it when there was no piano available.

* FILMMAKING--When I was in the U.S. Army for a three-year tour, I was stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, for 1-1/2 years, where I met some friends who were interested in filmmaking, I wrote a script based on the idea of one of the friends, we shot it on weekends and it won an award and was shown at the 1969 Malta Film Festival; when I was working for IBM, my manager gave me an assignment to write a film that featured our department and that began a sideline of writing, producing and/or directing a number of films both inside and outside of work, one of which won an award and was shown at both the 1988 Aspen Film Festival and the 1988 Denver International Film Festival.

* PHOTOGRAPHY--Also when I was in Germany for the Army, one of my friends was a serious photographer, and I also became interested and serious, buying an expensive camera and parlaying it into taking photographs at work for IBM and being the official photographer for two community theatre groups to which I belonged.

* TELEVISION--When I became burned out in community theatre, our local cable-TV operation began a public-TV station for the city, I went to the first orientation for members and became so active that I wrote, directed, produced and/or worked on the crew of one ongoing weekly live production and at the end of my involvement with public-access TV I was producing and editing six weekly programs.

* RADIO--I became interested in and involved in radio production while I was in high school, being the co-host of a weekly sports show and announcing a few basketball and baseball games; I took some radio training when I joined the Army, although I was never able to use it; and in 1978 I became involved with the new public radio station in my hometown when it began operation, and I am still involved with it, writing and producing a weekly movie review as a volunteer.

* TEACHING--I joined the Army in order to attend its journalism school and after graduation was retained as an instructor at the school; however, when I got out of the Army and decided that I wasn't going to become a successful novelist as I had planned, I went back to graduate school with the idea of obtaining an M.A. degree in English literature and becoming a college professor, but a motorcycle accident forced me to change those plans; then when I was working for IBM, after taking a class in technical writing, I was asked by the instructor to teach an editing class when the scheduled instructor had to cancel at the last minute, he was so impressed that he engaged me to teach more classes and eventually run the entire operation of various courses for our division, where eventually I prepared additional courses and taught them all over the U.S., Europe and Canada.

But back to writing, which is the purpose of this blog:

I am currently writing freelance articles for various publications, some of which I publish myself, in which my columns appear monthly. For 34 years I have been a film critic for three newspapers, two magazines, two radio stations and a cable-TV station, with 3,842 published reviews as of July 3, 2006. I currently write, produce and deliver a weekly film review for KGNU Community Radio, where I have been volunteering since 1978, and in 1994 I wrote a monthly column for a local newspaper and in 1996 wrote a column for another newspaper, both published in Boulder, Colorado, where I live.

I have also written instructor's guides for two Red Cross seminars, published five short stories in various publications and published a total of 722 articles in various publications, some of which I was a staff writer for, and on the Internet.

In addition, I have published two works of fiction; 14 nonfiction books; 167 films, videotapes, commercials and live TV productions; 3 live TV comedy routines; and 147 items of special interest, but who's counting?

I received a B.A. degree (Phi Beta Kappa) in English literature with a distributed minor in history, anthropology, the classics, psychology and philosophy from the University of Colorado in Boulder, during which year I also won a full scholarship to the Rocky Mountain Writers Conference.

My first novel is still being worked on, and my second novel is only half finished. In addition, I have written countless poems, 10 film scripts and treatments, 2 plays and 1 science-fiction novella.

In 2005 my nonfiction book, An Atheist's Handbook, was published by Xlibris Corp., a division of Random House.

I took early retirement from IBM, where I worked as a technical writer, editor, publications planner, technical-report editor and information developer as my main jobs, as well as photographer, film and video writer and producer, course developer and instructor as sideline jobs, which I was allowed to do as long as I satisfied my manager with my main jobs.

As I say at the top, all I ever wanted to be was a writer.

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