There is truth in my saying. A writer is not a writer until he has written his article, short story or book and submitted the work.
A traditional writer cannot sell the piece until the agent accepts it, shops it, and sells it. A self-published writer must write the book, edit the book, market the book, and upload it to Amazon or Apple Books or Kobo or one of the other self-publishing platforms and let the public see the work where they have the opportunity to buy it.
You can’t be a working writer if you don’t submit. You can write, read books on writing, attend writer’s conferences, belong to a writer’s group, have a writer’s business card, and even lead a writer’s group, but until you put your work out there, you cannot be a working writer.
In 1956, my father returned from a one-year tour of duty in Turkey. Our family moved to Greenville, South Carolina. The United States Air Force stationed dad at Donaldson Air Force Base, a C-124 airfield that emphasized air transport and called itself the “Airlift Capital of the World”.
My first memories are from living at 201 Maco Terrace in Greenville from 1956 – 1958. That was also the first house my parents owned.
Faster than a speeding bullet!
My favorite TV show during those days was Superman. Superman always began, “Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound! Look, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Superman! … He fights a never-ending battle for truth, justice, and the American way!”
In 1956 and 1957 I would run around the house with a towel for a cape and wearing only a t-shirt and my tighty whities pretending I was Superman. I would have my arms stretched out in front of me, my head down as I was flying around the living room and kitchen.
I would try to fly.
One evening I decided I would try to fly. I got on the couch, then used the arm of the sofa as a step before I was standing on the top back of the sofa. Suddenly, with arms outstretched I jumped toward the television.
Instead of flying, I feel like a rock. My forehead found the corner of the coffee table. I didn’t fly but instead received a big cut.
The emergency room
We had to get in the car and drive to the emergency room at Donaldson Air Force Base. The wound was so severe that even with my mother holding a washcloth and applying pressure on it, blood was flowing from my forehead into my eyes where I couldn’t see.
I asked my mother if they would get me a seeing-eye dog if I went blind. Suddenly, the laughter filled the car. My parents were laughing at me.
The doctor also chuckled as I received the fifteen stitches to stop the bleeding as mother retold the story. I have heard the seeing-eye dog story for over fifty years. I last heard my mother tell the story on my sixty-first birthday. She was in the hospital and shared the remembrance with the nurses. Sadly she passed three weeks later.
The happy ending was I got stitches, didn’t go blind, learned I couldn’t fly, and learned my mother had a great memory.
Growing up a military brat was a never-ending adventure.
For an eighteen month period in 1964 – 1966 being a Boy Scout was one of the most significant happenings in my life. The Boy Scout troop on Biggs Air Force Base at El Paso, Texas consumed most of my time. I loved the uniform, the discipline, the hiking, and camping. Well, you get the picture. I liked being a Boy Scout. I advanced from being a Tenderfoot to Second Class to First Class in record time. My goal was to be one of the youngest Eagle Scouts ever.
To achieve my goal I had to earn merit badges. Merit badges are awarded based on activities within an area of study by completing a list of periodically updated requirements. The purpose of the merit badge program allows Boy Scouts to examine subjects to determine if they would like to pursue them further as a career or vocation.
Back in my day the program also introduced Boy Scouts to the life skills of contacting an adult they hadn’t met. It required arranging a meeting, having the adult as your mentor and then demonstrating my skills, similar to a job or college interview. In more recent years, more merit badges are earned in a class setting at troop meetings and summer camps than through the guidance of a mentor.
I decided to seek the God and Country Merit Badge. I received a mimeographed list of available mentors. I called the man I selected and made an appointment.
I told my father I needed him to take me over to Fort Bliss to meet my mentor. Dad said okay. Kind of in passing, he asked who my mentor was.
I picked up my paper. I said the mentor told me he was retired from the US Army. Dad nodded. I told dad the mentor’s name was Omar Bradley. It has GA after his name, whatever that is. I knew rank abbreviations but had never seen GA before.
“General of the Army Omar Bradley?” asked dad with a gasp.
“I guess,” I recall replying.
Dad told me who he was. I gasped.
General Bradley was kind. He had been an Eagle Scout. I remember asking General Bradley what he did to relax during World War II. He said he and General Eisenhower used to work calculus problems. They would challenge each other with advanced mathematics. He said you can’t think of anything else or worry when working a real math problem. That’s when I learned calculus was math.
I was too young to appreciate the access I had to my mentor but am in awe that such men would help boys grow into our country’s future leaders. He kindly led me through the process of earning the God and Country Merit Badge. Thank you, General Bradley.
One way a writer can become successful is by having a more established writer as a mentor. Writing groups can serve the function of a mentor. Let me share an example of the influence a mentor.
In 1919 a young veteran returned from World War I. He moved to Chicago moving into a particular neighborhood for the purpose of being close to the author Sherwood Anderson.
The young beginning writer was impressed by the critical praise for Anderson and his book Winesburg, Ohio. He had heard that Sherwood Anderson was willing to help aspiring writers. He worked to meet Anderson. The two men became close friends. They met almost every day to read newspapers, magazines, and novels. They dissected the writings they read.
The aspiring writer brought his own works for critique having Anderson help him improve his craft. Anderson went as far as introducing the want-to-be writer to his network of publishing contacts. The aspiring writer did okay with his first book The Sun Also Rises. The aspiring writer was Ernest Hemingway.
Sherwood Anderson didn’t stop there. He moved to New Orleans where he met another aspiring writer. He took the young man through the same steps and paces of the craft. He actually shared an apartment with this young man. He even invested $300 in getting this writer’s first book Soldier’s Pay published. This young author was William Faulkner.
Anderson would later move to California and repeat the process with John Steinbeck. Thomas Wolfe and Erskine Caldwell were also mentored by Sherwood Anderson.
Ray Bradbury says Winesburg, Ohio was on his mind when he wrote The Martian Chronicles. Bradbury basically wrote Winesburg, Ohio placing it on the planet Mars.
Arguably, only Mark Twain has had a greater influence in shaping modern American writing than Sherwood Anderson. Anderson didn’t do too badly, did he?
Nobel Prize for Literature and Pulitzer Prizes
William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck each won the Nobel Prize for Literature and there are multiple Pulitzer Prizes between them.
If you are serious about writing I encourage you to find a mentor or join a writing group. The encouragement of my writer’s group and critique group keeps me motivated.
Encourage your writer friends, keep reading and writing.
Jimmie Aaron Kepler
Almost two months ago I penned my last new entry on jimmiekepler.com. Life got in my way. My bride of over forty-three years died on April 12, 2018.
She fought two types of cancer. Cancer one made its presence known in December 2013. Its name was neuroendocrine carcinoid. For those who haven’t heard of that flavor of disease, it is the same type of cancer that took the life of Apple Computer’s Steve Jobs. The second type of cancer entered her life making itself known in May 2015. It was an aggressive bully named Melanoma.
I will always think of cancer as a dumb disease. Why’s that? Cancer lives in a host. Cancer works to kill its host. When the host dies, cancer dies. How dumb is that? In my mind, it’s pretty foolish.
Cancer is evil. Cancer sucks. I hate cancer. Cancer destroys lives and changes people and families forever.
I am at the point of getting on with life. I have so many of the estate things that still need to be cared for. I’m amazed at how slow the process works for getting death certificates. They are the holy grail for handling a spouse’s passing.
One of my sweet wife’s comments to me during her last weeks was, “This isn’t the retirement you had planned.”
She’s right. I had retired the end of last summer. My retirement plan was to write full time. I’ve been freelancing since 1980 with a solid history of sales. Instead, I spent most of the last six months being a near 24/7 caregiver.
I remember the morning of March 21 distinctly. I had taken my wife to the emergency room the night before. I had never seen a person as confused, lost to the world, or sick. The morning of March 21 I learned that terminal no longer meant “down the road” or “at a later time.” It now meant maybe today at the soonest and in a few days at the longest.
After moving her from ICU to in-house hospice for a week, she was able to come home for hospice care as she desired. The total time from going to the ER to dying was twenty-three days. From her first Melanoma surgery until death was 1001 days.
She and I were blessed with her two sisters that helped with her care. Without them, no matter how good the hospice care, it would have been nearly impossible to survive the last days.
So I move on to my search for the new normal. I’m still searching. Someday I’ll find it. As I write and search, you may see me writing about it from time to time on jimmiekepler.com.
Oh, life didn’t get in the way. I experienced real life in its rawest form. I felt the hurt a man can only suffer from loving a wife and being loved by a wife for over four decades while living out the “until death do we part” words of our marriage vows.
I also saw the love of family as sisters loved and cared for their dying sister. I saw my grown children go through the emotions of losing their mother. I experienced the loving care of neighbors, lifelong friends, and our church family. Precious memories, like the posted photo. It was the last time she was out of the house where she wasn’t going to the doctor or hospital.
“Today is Tuesday, April 3, 2018. It is 7:00 am. It is 70 degrees outside. You have a big day scheduled. The visiting hospice RN is due at 8:30 am and the hospice social worker at 1:30 pm,” I said to my wife of 43 plus years.
In the background, my sister-in-law said, “It’s time for your first morning meds. These are the ones with the thyroid medicine and two others. You take them before breakfast.”
My wife squinted, the ceiling light temporarily blinding her and then hurting her eyes. “So I don’t get breakfast now.”
“No, you don’t eat with the thyroid meds. The others RXs are to protect your stomach and get you ready for breakfast, and the 9 am medications,” said my wife’s younger sister.
“So I have to wait an hour to eat?”
“Yes. I am going to cook you pancakes for breakfast,” I said.
She gave me an evil eye.
“I know, you didn’t like them in the hospital or the in-patient hospice, but these have the secret ingredient, my love,” I said.
As she rolled her eyes, she said, “Okay, why not? I’ll try them.”
And so began day five on the in-home under the supervision of hospice care of my terminally ill wife. She has had Melanoma for three years. It spread to the brain. A tumor was removed. I recurred again. And here we are.
I’ll write a few thoughts from time to time on what is happening. From what I’m told, if I use an American football metaphor, it is the fourth quarter, the two-minute warning has been given, and we are out of timeouts.
Sometimes I just need the classics, like on Easter Sunday. I love the pipe organ and choir filling the sanctuary with praises to the Master.
I was thinking this morning. I love Jesus, I confess Him as my Lord and Savior. I also love attending church. All the new songs and informality in “contemporary church” now of days are okay but I prefer “Classic Church.” I just invented the term.
What is a “Classic Church?”
“Classic Church” is Bible-centered expository preaching, songs sang from hymnals (first, second, and last verses), not words on the wall. You might even begin the service with the Doxology from time to time. You have a predictable liturgy (order of service). It makes you comfortable.
The preacher wears his suit AND TIE. You always take an offering, have special music before the sermon, and you present how to be saved (born again).
You end with an altar call invitation giving people a chance to make a public profession of faith.
Like Classic Rock, Classic R&B, or Classic Country is the best music for me, so is “Classic Church” my favorite church … just saying.