The Beginning, the Virus, and John Kauffman

By Steve Hooley

It was college prep English class, junior year, in a little high school in rural Ohio, when I was first infected with the virus.

We had a new teacher that year, Miss Linda Warner, fresh out of college with a degree in English and teaching. She was only six years older than we were, which is probably why the boys paid such close attention. Plus, new teachers were supposed to be tested. Right?

We soon discovered that we weren’t the only ones paying attention. A new student, John Kauffman, showed up that year. We had never seen him before, and have never seen him since. In fact, we didn’t see him when he was with us. He was either invisible or a ghost.

He had to have been present though, because he turned in assignments on time and on topic. Somehow, his papers became shuffled in with the other students’ papers and ended up on the teacher’s desk. We didn’t actually know John was in the class until Miss Warner began reading his papers.

Apparently, she fell in love with John’s writing, because she read his papers to the class nearly every day. John pushed the boundaries of acceptability with his writing, and the class loved it, laughing and cheering. Junior English became a favorite class that year.

John stayed for the whole year and got an A in English. He apparently enrolled in band as well, where a new teacher gave him a B for the year. The rest of us never heard a note he played or saw his instrument.

By the next year, our senior year, John had disappeared. The mystery of his identity was never solved. I often wondered what became of him. I say John was real, and he was sent there to infect us with the bug, the virus, Scribophilia (the love of writing). Some of us never recovered and now have the chronic disease, Scribophiliosis.

For me, the disease went into remission for decades, as I studied math and science, medicine, and finally woodworking. But, in 2009 the virus recurred when I edited my father’s memoirs of his service for the United Nations during WWII. He was descending into dementia, his manuscript was nearly lost, and he was turning 90 that year. I spent the summer organizing his story, had the book printed, and presented him with a box of his books on his 90th birthday. While I stood and watched my father sign books with a confused smile, the virus got me again.

I took some correspondence courses from the Institute for Writers (then called Long Ridge Writers Group). I thought I would write magazine articles for the woodworking journals, but quickly fell in love with fiction.

I tried my hand at Science Fiction, but had no success.

I returned to the Institute for Writers and, under the tutelage of Carole Bellacera, took the novel writing class and completed my first novel.

I found James Scott Bell’s books and began seriously studying the craft of writing. I joined the ACFW and began attending conferences. And then, from a fan of the authors here, I learned about The Kill Zone blog.

I learned from Joe Hartlaub the pitfalls of publishing contracts when a small publisher offered me a contract for my first book, then quickly went bankrupt. Joe helped me retrieve my copyright before it was lost forever.

About four years ago, after hearing JSB preach about Indie publishing, I decided to go that route. Two unpublished books, four anthologies, three published books in a children’s fantasy series, and the virus is still clinging to my DNA. And happily, I am not interested in a cure for my disease.

 

So, how about you? Can you remember when you were first infected with the virus? What were the circumstances? Is there a teacher, relative, or friend you would like to thank (or curse) for encouraging your interest in writing? Or, has there been a particularly memorable milestone along your writer’s journey that has shifted you into a higher gear?

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50 thoughts on “The Beginning, the Virus, and John Kauffman

  1. Steve! Welcome to TKZ. You came out of the gate with a winner. Thanks so much for your post, particularly the section dealing with John Kauffman, who later went on to publish under the name “Stephen King.” Just kidding. I hope that he sees your post and gets in contact with you. John, that is, not Stephen.

    To answer your questions…regarding who gave me my initial push, it was my lifelong friend Bill Plant. I would not be sitting here writing this but for him, I am certain. The milestone? Selling my first two stories on the same day to different anthologies. It was a nice way to start.

    Have a great day and weekend, Steve, and thanks for the first of what will undoubtedly be a great many posts from you here at TKZ.

    • Thanks, Joe, for your help with my writing in the past. And thanks for all I’ve learned from you here on TKZ.

      Short stories and anthologies are certainly milestones that give us confidence in our ability to write something of interest to others, and remind us, with a physical book that we can touch and see (at times of doubt in our abilities), that we can do this thing called writing.

  2. Good post! I was 11 years old, and my swim coach was the first grown up who neither rolled his eyes nor laughed when I said I wanted to be a novelist. His name is Rob VanSlyke. I’m still not a novelist, but I’ve sold short fiction, so I think I’m on my way.:-)

    • Thanks, Priscilla, and congratulations on your short fiction. Stay determined, and you will achieve your dreams.

      I expected to hear about a lot of teachers in the responses today. I hadn’t thought about coaches. I bet your swim coach saw your determination and perseverance in your swimming.

      Good luck with your goals for the future.

  3. Welcome Steve. I can see you’re going to be a good fit! The writing virus but me when I was thirty-five and couldn’t sleep. One night as I stared at the ceiling, a man appeared in my vision. He stood at a window with smokestacks billowing in the background. He turned to me and said, “My life wasn’t supposed to turn out like this.”

    From then on I spent my sleepless hours making up stories of why it turned out the way it did. And then I ordered a subscription to Writers Digest and discovered Lawrence Block. I sold the first thing I wrote to Woman’s World. And it was Susan May Warren who guided me to the path of novel writing.

    • Thanks, Patricia. I could see that mysterious man in your vision, standing at the window “with smokestacks billowing in the background” wondering about the meaning of life. I hope one of your stories or books told his story.

      And as for those sleepless nights, that is fertile creativity time. And maybe it’s a transition time from the “boys in the basement” (when we’re sleeping), to allow us to organize what the boys are throwing at us, and help us remember it for the next day.

      My wife got tired of me talking about the boys in the basement and said, “I’m going to call it ‘the girls in the attic.’ “

  4. Thanks, Terry. I have enjoyed and learned much from your posts here at TKZ.

    And thanks for the link to your story. I found it very interesting, because I, too, came to writing “late in life.” The phrase in your story – “and to find another creative outlet” – really struck a chord with me. I’ve often looked back at the evolution of my interests and realized that ” creative outlet” is the common denominator. I think we have reached the pinnacle of creativity when we write. In what other endeavor can we create “anything” out of “nothing” with only our imagination and a device to record it?

  5. A warm welcome, Steve!

    Could John Kauffman have been Miss Linda Wilson’s pseudonym? Was her secret identity as a writer disguised in the persona of a teacher? If so, what an imaginative way to inspire kids who’d rather be anywhere but junior English class.

    Did you keep in touch with Miss Wilson? Would be interesting to hear her version of who John Kauffman was.

    My third grade teacher, Miss Darlene Parker, first infected me. She went out of her way to encourage a painfully shy, tongue-tied, chubby little girl who loved to read and write stories.

    Almost 60 years later, I tracked her down on the net and called her to tell her my novel was being published. She didn’t remember me and I didn’t expect her to. After all, she’d taught thousands of students for more than 50 years. But she was pleased to have been remembered.

    Teachers don’t know how lasting and powerful their influence can be.

    • Thanks, Debbie. I’ve enjoyed and learned from your many great posts here at TKZ.

      You have convinced me that it is time to spill the beans. John Kauffman has been shrouded in mystery for too long. Time for him to drop the cloak of invisibility and reveal himself. John was actually a group effort of students, mostly infatuated boys, myself included, who took turns writing the papers. The positive feedback and attention drove our desire to write better. And for at least one, it planted the virus that would create a life-long desire to write.

      As for Miss Warner, I’ve not been able to find her. I learned from a class mate that she returned to Ohio State to further her education. She is probably married and retired by now.

      Ms. Linda, if you’re out there and you read this. Thank you for inspiring a class of junior English students in your very first year of teaching.

  6. Great post. I hated English in high school and college. I never could think of something to write when ‘creative writing’ assignments came my way. Now I feel like a paranormal writer, able to see a story bubble over everyone’s head when I walk down a street. What stirred me to write was a bad story. I’ve been competitive with myself my whole life, so I had the thought that I could do better. Of course, if it was that easy, I would own Potterworld.

    I’m working on book 16 in seven years of writing and I’ve learned a lot along the way thanks to blogs and seminars. I may be one of those rare writers who enjoys the creative part of writing and the business side of selling books. I’m happy not to have had my stories stopped by a gatekeeper, but instead to gauge my success by my readers’ reviews. Welcome to TKZ Blog.

    • Thanks, Alec. I love that visual of you walking down the street and seeing all the people with the bubbles over their heads. There should be no limit to the ideas for future stories and great characters.

      Congratulations on your success with writing. I envy your ability to enjoy both the creative side and the business side of writing. Keep at it. And I wish you continued success.

  7. Welcome, Steve! Great post…and I’m so glad you got to help preserve your dad’s WWII memories. I edited my dad’s memoir, Peter Charlie: The Cruise of the PC 477, which he self-published in the 80s, largely for his shipmates. Did a very expensive hardback with dust jacket and all. He died in ’88, but a couple of years ago I had a service scan the book and now it’s available for good as e- and paperback. Something very pleasing about that.

    For me, my high school English teacher, Mrs. Marjorie Bruce, was the first to tell me I might have the right stuff to write. I stayed in touch with her until her death at age 90.

    • Thanks, Jim. I enjoyed reading your father’s memoir, back when you published it as an ebook. I want to discuss legacy in a future post, and your father’s book is a great example. It will be handed down to your children and grandchildren, and future generations. They will have the opportunity to learn about him and from him.

      And, I want to thank you for inspiring and teaching me with your many books, posts, and lectures. I still remember when I read PLOT AND STRUCTURE, chapter one, page two: “The Big Lie was a lie. A person could learn how to write…”

  8. Welcome aboard, Steve!

    I remember writing stories back in elementary school. As kids we would play guns, keeping suburbia safe from Indians and Nazis, and I was always the guy with the story–the thing we were fighting to achieve. I remember watching The Waltons in the ’70s and wanting to emulate John-Boy, sitting at his desk and writing late into the night.

    When I got a used typewriter for my birthday one year, I was off! I bet I wrote two million words of fiction before I sold any, and I don’t regret a single one of them. Those words were my education in craft. My only regret is that I got rid of that typewriter.

    • Thanks for the welcome, John. It sounds like you were born the creative one. And wow, two million words. It’s too bad you couldn’t find that typewriter. It should be displayed in your office.

      I believe you mentioned buying or building a new home in a place with woods or mountains, in a past post or comment. Sorry, I couldn’t find the exact details. I hope you find as much peace and inspiration in your new environment as I do in my “enchanted forest.” And maybe those memories from childhood of the happy warriors will inspire a children’s thriller series set in your own backyard.

  9. Nice debut piece, Steve, and welcome to the Kill Zone, aka Scribophilia For Dummies. I’m with Debbie wondering if John Kauffman was Ms. Warner’s plant. He might have gone on to be the Maytag Repair Man which is why no one’s ever seen him since.

    My virus infection? In my teens I wrote an article that was published on Hot Rod Magazine. (I’m a lifelong gearhead and a Shelby guy.) I joined the police force when I was 21 and had a good grounding with the pen as my mother was an English Lit Masters who encouraged me to read and write and read and write some more. So I was a good fit for detective work because, contrary to popular belief, detectives don’t normally go around shooting things up – they sit in front of a keyboard and write. And because I could somewhat write, they gave me all the dirty work of writing search warrant applications, wiretap affidavits, and all the fun stuff. I got sick of that so I joined the coroner service where I spent my time writing legal judgments.

    Now I’m so infected with Scribophiliosis that I can’t not write. Hey, by the way Steve, why do doctors have such terrible handwriting. Is that something taught in med school?

    • Thanks, Gary, for the welcome. Scribophilia for Dummies, I love it. A new subtitle for The Kill Zone. It wouldn’t bother me, but then docs and detectives are not exactly the sensitive types.

      I like your theory for John Kauffman’s identity. But, actually, John was a group, a group of subversive students, who started out as disrupters and ended up falling in love with their teacher after she lavished attention and even a grade on them. Her response to the students’ antics revealed a maturity unusual for a new teacher. She probably ended up working with graduate students at a university. I hope she was as creative dealing with their excuses and arguments as she was with us.

      As for doctors’ horrible writing. The quick answer is speed. The real answer may also include the lack of concern for no one else being able to read their writing. Penmanship was the only class in school in which I could not get an A. And, alas, doctors’ poor writing my be partly responsible for why we’ve ended up with electronic health records.

  10. Love this, Steve! Let me “officially” welcome you to TKZ. Do you think John might’ve been an image created by one helluva teacher to motivate kids? Perhaps that’s why he disappeared without a trace. Just a thought.

    To answer your question, I got infected in my early 20s. Children’s stories, then. I wrote my first to make a point to an unruly boyfriend. Worked great, and I realized the power of the written word.

    As to your second question, Larry Brooks snapped the story structure puzzle pieces together for me with his book, STORY ENGINEERING. Hooked me even more, and I became helplessly devoted, unable to return to any form of life without writing. He also instilled a love for craft books, and I devoured as many as I could get my hands on. Still do. JSB’s craft books top that list, as well. Both their teaching styles resonate with me.

    • Thanks for the official welcome, Sue. I’ve really been impressed and enjoyed your posts here at TKZ. In your last post, so chocked full of ideas, you mentioned Pyxabay and Canva. I want to use an image of “Six Geese a Laying” in my next post. I explored Pixabay and found six geese. I took them to Canva to see if I could produce some golden eggs. We’ll see in two weeks if I can make it work.

      As to John Kauffman, see the answers to Debbie’s and Garry’s comments above. But you’re right, John Kauffman, the writer, was an image created by one fantastic teacher, who took a bunch of unruly students and got them excited about writing (and even planted the virus in one of them). And John disappeared our senior year, because Miss Warner went back to graduate school.

      I’m a Larry Brooks fan, too. I’ve read and reread his first three books. And his last – GREAT STORIES DON’T WRITE THEMSELVES – I’ve outlined his points for all the quartiles and keep it beside my writing chair while I plot and revise.

      I loved the point about your first children’s story. I agree that is one place where “teaching” is appropriate and will happen with a story whether you try to teach or not.

  11. Welcome Steve. I just realized how many new contributors came on this blog this year. It’s exciting.

    I caught the bug in fourth grade, when I picked up one of them nutmeg books we had to read to get those lousy points. It was called The School Story by Andrew Clements. I read it, and thought: hey, if a seventh grader can write a book and get published, I can at least write a book. As for milestones, there’s a lot of little ones for me. Finding this blog. Finding my online critique group. Outlining my current novel and realizing that I can answer all those character and plot arc questions no problem. And about a month ago when I found a writers conference the right fit for me.

    • Thanks, AZAli. Good for you that you had the confidence, you could do it. You sound like you have made the right decisions for your writing journey. I like your voice, and I bet you will find many other readers who will like it, too. Best of luck and success with your writing.

  12. Hi, Steve. This is a wonderful first post. I really enjoyed reading it. I’d say the writing bug bit me way back in junior high, in the mid-1970s. I wrote two science fiction short stories for language arts. Fast forward to college, 1981. My best friend was writing stories for a local science fiction fanzine, which inspired me to take a creative writing course at my community college. Eventually, I joined a writer’s group, and built up a stack of rejections from various SF magazines. The personal rejection I received from Ellen Datlow in 1986 sustained me for many years,

    I was in and out of writing groups and writing thoroughout the 1990s and 2000s. It was 2008, when I went to a writer’s conference here in Portland, OR, for a single day, that I finally stepped on the path of craft for my fiction, and followed this with an intensive, eight week writing course.

    I followed that in December by enrolling in Long Ridge Writers. It’s great to discover you are an alumnus as well! I took a writing course from the late Mary Rosenblum, who I actually knew from science fiction circles here in Oregon. We became friends over the time it took me to complete the course.

    Now I have self-published seven novels (Mary edited the first two), and am working on my first mystery novel. Once the writing bug has you, it never lets go 🙂

    • Hi, Dale. Thanks for sharing your story. I’m impressed with your persistence, and excited to meet an alumnus of Long Ridge Writers.

      About that stack of rejections from the various SF magazines: Do you ever think about taking some of those stories, knowing what you know now, and revise them and publish an anthology?

      I wish you continued success with your career. I always enjoy your comments here at TKZ.

      • Thanks, Steve! I’ll definitely take a look at some of those old stories and see if they can be revised into something worth publishing. Looking forward to your next post.

  13. Welcome, Steve! Great post, and I so love hearing about other authors’ journeys.

    I credit my mother with imparting to me a love of reading stories, which morphed much later into a desire to write.

    As an adult, I went back to community college in our town and took a creative writing course from the most phenomenal teacher ever. He was shorter than most of us (and I’m barely over 5 feet). When he wanted to make a point, he’d grab his chair from behind his desk and stand on it. 🙂

    A few years later, in 2013, I wrote a play which I directed for our church’s Christmas season. It was well-received over the two presentations. That play is now my first novel, hopefully to be released next year. It will join my three other books, creative non-fictions. And I have another novel I’m currently revising/editing, which I hope I can release next year also.

    Back to the phenomenal teacher. I spent the last fifteen years before I retired last year working in our local cancer center, Northstar Lodge. That creative writing teacher, from way back in 2002, became a patient just a few years prior to my retirement. I had the incredible joy of shaking his hand and thanking him for helping me realize my goal. I told him that our end-of-year assignment, a short story, was the catalyst for me. That seeing, written in his red pen, an A-, and the comment, You’ve got what it takes, Deb. I’ll read one of your books some day was a high point in my life.

    His daughter told me on a subsequent visit that I’d made his day. So glad I took the time.

    • Wow, Deb, thanks for sharing your story. Talk about a character who jumps off the page (or up onto a chair). I always enjoy your comments here at TKZ, and can feel your enthusiasm for writing. JSB talks about our joy shining through our words on the page. I bet your readers will notice your enthusiasm, as well.

      Your story about your teacher being a patient brought tears to my eyes.

      I’ll bet your wonderful teacher gave you an A- on your last assignment, because he knew it would drive you to turn your writing into an A+.

      Best wishes for continuing success.

  14. My dad told wonderful bedtime stories about Bushy Tail Squirrel–his variation on the Br’er-Rabbit stories, and he wrote an often humorous hunting column for the local newspaper. Supper involved Southern tale-spinning from various family members. Coming from a large family and being quiet, at least quiet in comparison to my talkative family members, I tended to tell my stories only to myself. My impetus to finally put my stories on paper was the death of my dad in the early Eighties. I realized that life was short, and I needed to follow my dream of being a published writer.

    • Thanks for telling your story, Marilynn. Your father truly left you a legacy. I bet your father’s stories influenced the stories you’ve written and told. Parents are a powerful force in the directions our lives take. I remember that my mother used to read children’s stories to my sisters, in the summertime, sitting on a large rock at the edge of yard. I have since moved back to the family home. The reading rock is now surrounded by trees. With grandchildren coming to visit, I keep reminding myself that I need to drag that reading rock up close to the house and restart the tradition my mother started.

  15. I was 11 and wanted to create my own comic book. I quickly learned it’s difficult to create a comic book, especially when you’re not good at drawing. I quit, then had a crazy idea: what if I wrote “just” the stories out? The idea captivated me, and I especially loved that I’d have to co-opt boring school supplies for the project. Soon, I was writing all the time and it led to a chronic co-morbidity: reading. I was curious what other “just stories” looked like. Like you, my life took other turns and I’m finally ready to return to writing thanks to the indie revolution.

    • Philip, thanks for joining in the fun today. Yours is an interesting story. I hope you can tell us sometime, whether your new writing interest still includes comic books, or whether you have moved to other genres. And yes, reading is a co-morbidity, and a very important one. We want to encourage everyone to read, so they will buy our books.

      Wishing you the best of success with your renewed interest in writing.

  16. Welcome to TKZ, Steve.

    Even though I didn’t begin writing until recently (2013) and have only a few short stories published to date, I got the bug in my early teens, inspired by the Bantam Books reprints of some of the greatest boys fiction ever—Doc Savage, Tarzan, and John Carter. I started more novels than anyone could shake a fist at over the years, but finally got serious. I recently read a quote by Ray Bradbury (maybe I saw it here, or maybe somewhere else) that sums up my infection.

    “Edgar Rice Burroughs never would have looked upon himself as a social mover and shaker with social obligations. But as it turns out – and I love to say it because it upsets everyone terribly – Burroughs is probably the most influential writer in the entire history of the world. By giving romance and adventure to a whole generation of boys, Burroughs caused them to go out and decide to become special.”

    In the immortal words of the one and only Stan Lee—”Nuff Said.”

    • Ah, yes, the classics that inspired us to be special. I grew up in a small town, but we had a library. I read every Hardy Boys mystery story I could get my hands on. The elderly librarian watched my choices, then led me to the older, thicker “real classics.” She told me that these were the books that I should be reading. I learned to read both to keep her happy.

      Best wishes for your success with your writing.

  17. First, congratulations on your first post for The Kill Zone, Steve. What a great story. I hope your Miss Warner knows how much she’s inspired you.

    My dad was the person who introduced me to the library. All those books! And I could take them home with me. On our weekly library visits, I’d check out as many as I could carry in both arms. As I got older, I’d start at one end of a shelf and progress to the other, reading everything I could get my hands on.

    Once hooked, I didn’t need any encouragement to write my own stories and gift them to my parents for birthdays and holidays. The opportunity to write reports in school was always such a joy that I don’t remember any particular teacher extending special encouragement. Maybe that’s because the nuns weren’t supposed to favor one student over another. But I had enough inspiration flowing that I merrily went my own way.

    Let me take this opportunity to apologize to the boy who sat in front of me in sixth-grade for getting him in trouble. I don’t remember what we were supposed to be working on, but I was writing a story instead. (The Cartwright’s Mystery, if my memory is correct.) He was looking over his shoulder to read it, and Sister Mary Teresa tore into him. He never ratted me out, and she never knew I wasn’t doing my assignment. Or maybe she did. Nuns, you know. But she didn’t stop me then, and I haven’t stopped writing since.

    And hello from another Long Ridge Writers graduate to both Steve and Dale. And Mary Rosenblum was my children’s writing instructor after I completed a couple of other courses at Long Ridge. I followed our fellow alum Bob Bois’s Sitting in Darkness blog until he stopped posting in 2017. And of course, Mary’s posts on New Writers Interface (no longer there), and was saddened to learn she passed away in 2018.

    • Thanks, Suzanne. Wow, your prolific reading reminds me of Abe Lincoln and his determination to read everything he could get his hands on, calculating how many linear feet of shelf space he needed to complete to cover the whole book collection in a specific period of time.

      You were fortunate to have had a father who encouraged your reading. It’s neat to hear from all the Long Ridge Writer alumni. And I bet that boy who sat in front of you in class is still following your writing career and reading all your books.

  18. Oh yes! I can’t remember what I ate for lunch 2 days ago but I remember exactly when I got bitten by the creative writing bug. Elementary school–first or second grade–whichever of those two grades when they first start teaching you the form and structure of a sentence. I remember a huge halogen lightbulb coming on in my brain the very first time I wrote my first sentence. I immediately thought, “Man, I put several of these together and I can write WHOLE stories! WOW!” I was smitten for life.

    I wrote from then on. I got a poem published in the county paper in grade school, won essay competitions a couple times, as an adult won a historical fiction contest, etc.

    The one piece of advice I’d give to new writers is to write with the reckless abandon that you did (or would) as a child–I’m not saying don’t edit, but I’m saying as a child, I didn’t know the inner critic. That jerk only moved in when I became an adult. Live & write like that jerk isn’t squatting rent-free in your brain! I never received ANYTHING but encouragement from people on my writing, yet I Still allow perfectionism to stymie me. So stupid.

    And the 2 most encouraging teachers I ever had were Mrs. Seese, one of my elementary school English teachers (unfortunately she passed away before I had the good sense to write and tell her thank you for her positive impact) and Mr. Shaffer, whom I HAVE written to thank him for all his encouragement both for English and Drama (he even wrote each of his students a poem–I have mine carefully stored in one of my photo albums). I’ll never forget his influence as long as I live.

    And of course the writers who impressed me as a little kid. I don’t remember ALL the books I read but Zane Grey wowed me by taking me to far away western landscapes and adventures, and I loved reading the adventures of the Hardy Boys.

    So glad I was bitten by the writing bug. Writing may have its headaches, but it’s a lifetime of fun and adventure, published or unpublished.

    • Great stories, BK. And great advice for new writers. From your past descriptions of other artistic and creative pursuits, it sounds like you’ve lived a life of creativity. I believe you’ve mentioned, also, working in the health care sector. With all the stress and demands that entails, I consider the joy of writing a way to recharge my batteries.

      I’ve enjoyed reading your comments here at TKZ. Thanks for stopping by today.

  19. Welcome aboard, Steve! Love the post, especially about your dad’s memoir. WWII stories always get to me.

    For me, I was a little kid when my older sister was watching that traumatizing Disney movie, Old Yeller, on TV. I don’t remember doing it, but apparently when it was over I ran to my room and grabbed my favorite pencil (clue there?) and some of that kid’s paper with the wood chunks still in it, and rewrote the ending. You can guess how.

    And I just had to run a total for a form I had to fill out, and if you count the seven new books already at various stages in the pipeline, I have officially hit 100 published (or soon to be) titles. A lifetime goal. With some lifetime–and stories–left to go!

    • Thanks, Justine. Wow! One hundred books. That’s amazing. You must have gotten an early start and worked diligently. And with your description of rewriting Old Yeller, I bet your books have happy endings.

      Thanks for stopping by today.

  20. Welcome, Steve! What a great way to start out your TKZ posts. The story about John Kaufman and your junior English class makes me believe you and your friends were quite a creative bunch.

    I got encouragement to write in high school English class. In the tenth grade, my teacher had my mystery short story read in class (the butler did it), and after a poetry reading in eleventh grade, another teacher asked me to stop by and see her after class. She suggested that I might consider writing as a career and thought I could make some money at it. But I hadn’t yet been bitten by the Scribophilia bug. I was all about math and later computer science, so I headed in another direction.

    Fast-forward to the “later in life” moment. I credit the late author Harry Kemelman with giving me a desire to write novels. It was while out running and listening to an audio version of one of his Rabbi Small mysteries that I found myself constructing a plot and deciding to write it down. That became my first novel, “The Watch on the Fencepost,” which was published in 2019. The second book in the series, “Dead Man’s Watch,” was published this year.

    I have a serious case of Scribophiliosis now, and I thank you for giving it a name!

    • Thanks, Kay. English teachers are often the ones who see the talent and encourage us to write. Your career in the math and computer science fields is similar to mine in medicine. Isn’t it interesting that we often take the long route to where we will end up? Decisions made with our head rather than our heart? I don’t know, but the background and experiences give us a wealth of ideas and knowledge for our writing.

      Congratulations on your two novels! I hope you write many more. And long live our active cases of Scribophiliosis.

  21. Welcome, Steve!

    I was five when I wrote and illustrated my first book about a horse who went to heaven. My mom was very encouraging about me wanting to be a writer (and a concert pianist). My parents bought me a typewriter and a piano for Christmas when I was ten.

    The second thing I sold was to Angels on Earth magazine. I think the angels approved.

    • Thanks, Cynthia. You are certainly a child prodigy on the keyboard – the piano keyboard and the typewriter keyboard. I’m glad your mother encouraged you. Keep on writing. I bet the angels would encourage that, too.

  22. Welcome to TKZ, Steve. I have enjoyed your meaningful posts on here and now as a TKZ blogger. I am just starting out on my journey again. I became interested in college many years ago, before the internet. I had a tough instructor for a couple of writing classes. He was very arrogant and told us that he had only seen one A paper and he wrote it! I decided to work my fanny off and get an A out of his class. He worked us hard and we had special meetings with him one on one about our final papers. When the course was over, I ended up with an A-. I asked him why the minus and he told me every writer could do better and it would make me try harder. He actually gave me a sterling recommendation for a scholarship. I was so proud of the words he said. I was an older student and he said that he wished all of the younger students would work so hard. He told me that he was sure that I would publish someday. I never got the chance to properly thank him. This was back in the 90s, I believe. He was the first one to tell me I could actually do this. I am working on my first novel now.

    • Thanks, Rebecca. I enjoyed reading your post. Isn’t it interesting how some of our “roughest” teachers end up being the ones we learn the most from. Congratulations on that A-. I bet he didn’t hand out many of those. And his recommendation for a scholarship, and his validation, those are priceless. I’m glad you’re beginning your writing journey again. I have no doubt that you will succeed.

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