Reader Friday: Changed Posted on October 14, 2022 by James Scott Bell What was a time when a seemingly random event or conversation changed your life, or way of thinking, in a significant way?
Hmm…will have to think about that one. I’m sure there is an example but drawing a blank at the moment.
The director of the play I’d auditioned for called to offer me a smaller role than I’d hoped for. I declined. Minutes later, I called back and asked if I could still have the role. He graciously agreed.
The gorgeous young lady who had the female lead and I got married a year later.
My then-HS performed “Our Town” in 1954. The very young lady who played Emily was, indeed, gorgeous. We had pretend food fights across the Webb breakfast table during off moments. I had no one I could tell of my feelings, least of all her. She was dating the male lead. Echoes of that incident in the years since have affected my life again and again, even today.
Theatre has called to me, lately. I’m currently completing my 25th work for the stage and have performed off and on the past 10 years.
In August of 1969, I was cast as Waldo Lydecker for small theatre group. At the second rehearsal, days after the LaBianca murders, the production was cancelled by the church-owned venue as “too violent.” That, too, has had a major effect on my life.
But I bet you can do a killer Clifton Web impression.
Tough one, Jim. You’re making us think.
Basketball injury (my back) in high school, which recurred about 8 years later. It changed my ability to participate in high impact sports, but also got me started on a regular exercise routine (Nordic Track). And that has been a good thing.
Three things my husband said. 1 — “I think you should self-publish so you have one copy to prove you wrote a novel.” 2– “Why don’t we adopt?” and 3– “What do you think about moving to Montana?”
There are three events in my life that totally changed my life and one was the night I saw in my minds eye a man standing at a window. He turned to me and said, “This isn’t the way my life was supposed to turn out.”
That was the beginning of my writing career.
Now there’s a question, Jim. Several spring to mind for me. Since you asked for one, I’ll share the random event that led to everything changing in my writing. Years ago I had decided to attend the Willamette Writers Conference here in Portland for the first time for a single day, Saturday. The final workshop, on YA fiction, which I’d wanted to attend, was canceled at the last moment. I had to decide between two alternatives, one of which was the replacement for the canceled workshop.
I decided to go with that one, which was on beating the your demons to establish a writing habit. The presenter Eric Witchey, had some great insights and tips. He mentioned at the end that he was giving a private writing class for eight Sundays starting in September, Become Your Own Story Doctor. Two days later, I registered for the class, and it changed my writing life, getting me finally to take on the elements of fiction writing, one piece at a time. It set me on the path of fiction writing craft. All because I’d decided to attend a workshop offered at the last minute because another had been canceled.
One conversation, which actually happened twice with two completely different people, was about what happened in the first Avengers movie. It came out my senior year of high school, and I thought it sounded cool. A bunch of egotists, ahem superheroes, forced to work together? So I asked some classmates who was in it.
Boy: Um… Hulk, Ironman, Thor Loki…
Me. What’s norse mythology doing in a superhero movie?
Me: Who was the villain and who was the hero?
Boy: I don’t know. I think Thor was the villain and Loki was the hero.
Me: That’s weird, it’s the opposite in mythology.
Needless to say, the stupidity of my classmates made me extremely curious. I bought the movie, watched it, loved it, and became a die hard marvel fan. And Marvel has done wonders for me both as a storyteller and a person.
When I asked a college English professor what I could to to learn to write fiction, he told me it can’t be taught. When I asked him about books on writing, he told me they were worthless. I believed that for more than a decade, till I went to find out for myself…and learned…and now call what that prof told me “The Big Lie.” Casual, crushing remarks make a huge impact…so don’t say them.
That breaks my heart every time I hear you tell that story. So glad you didn’t let it crush you and now every time you think of him you can say “In your face, professor so and so!” 😎
I had a math teacher in grade school who traumatized me for life in the field of math. Unlike you, I didn’t double down and overcome it. But the difference is, writing is worth fighting for. Math, not so much. 😎
I was boarding my horse at a stable in New Jersey. The owner said, “You should meet my brother.” I did. We were married a year or so later.
When I was twelve, my dad called me away from playing with my friends to tell me goodbye. He was heading out of town for a business trip, a normal thing as he traveled a lot. I gave him a quick goodbye kiss and went back to playing. He had a heart attack and passed away on that trip.
To this day everyone knows and accepts that they’re going to get a hug and I love you from me when they leave or I leave. You just never know when it might be the last time you see someone.
Oh my heart aches to hear it. You are so right–we never know when that next I love you could be the last, so take those opportunities every time you can!
On November 7, 1987, I was minding my own business. I worked the counter in the local 7-11 store.
My co-worker poked me in the arm and said, “Hey, that’s the second time that guy back there has gone out the door and back in again.” I looked up, but didn’t see who she was talking about.
“He’s headed to your register, Deb.”
Then he was there. He slapped his purchase and money on the counter, along with a piece of paper with his first name and phone number written on it.
“If you want to have lunch sometime, give me a call.”
Embarrassed because my co-worker was watching with a smirk, I pocketed the paper and finished the transaction, then turned away from the counter to pretend like I had something important to do.
When I turned back, he was gone.
A week later, I found the paper in the pocket of my jeans. It took me another week to decipher his handwriting.
That was 35 years ago next month. He thinks in flow-charts (horror!) and I think in paragraphs and scenes, but it works.
I’ve never been a chance-taker, but I did then, and I’m still glad.
I’m going to go at this question from the opposite perspective: I, as an indie writer of mainstream fiction (which the traditional publishers think they own), take as many opportunities as I have to seed the universe with bits of my writing and comments – and am sure one of these will some day soon result in the kind of positive connection I need to make a quantum leap in my marketing/sales progress.
Meanwhile, I’ve made an awful lot of friends online, and very much enjoy those conversations, and the times when we can do something for each other.
I’m practically a recluse due to illness, but the net allows me to participate in far more than only real-life events.
So far I’ve acquired THE best beta reader ever, and had my novels added to a list of the ‘100 indie books you should read before you die.’ And had an amazing review on Indies Today lead to my first novel being named 2021 Best Contemporary novel by IT.
And have had the pleasure of introducing CASCADE – Mark White and Steffi Barthel on Chapman sticks (a new and fascinating musical instrument) – through their music on Youtube to my friends from Australia to Saskatchewan:
I do my best to connect the good stuff. And follow the leads.