Friday, December 23, 2005

When Did You Know?

I'm often asked when I knew that I wanted to be a writer.

I knew in fifth grade, in December of 1979. I was 9 years old.

I wrote a poem called "Cool Santa's Jingle Bells" and read it to my class, and my teachers praised me like praise was going out of style. My parents also heaped on the praise, and I was forced (though not very reluctantly) to read the poem at our Xmas dinner for all the relatives who then (you guessed it) praised me highly.

Was the attention I got for this poem what made me seek attention into adulthood? Maybe. But I really think there's something in me that makes me want to create things, whether I get praised from them or not.

I'd done a lot of writing prior to that poem, though I never considered it writing. I'd put stories down on paper to entertain myself, much as other children drew pictures.

But after this poem, I suddenly realized two major things. First, that my writing could make people other than myself happy. And second, that I was apparently pretty good at it, because it only took me about twenty minutes to write that poem, during a math lesson.

As I grew, I continued to write stories. But when I got a video camera in 1983 I began to make movies, and my passion changed from the written word to the visual expression of it.

The movies quickly became pretty elaborate, and usually involved me murdering my younger brother (they were rip-offs of Friday the 13th.) We had a large back yard, with woods, and after several dumb jokes and some first person POV stalking, I'd chase him into the woods and cut him in half. We accomplished this effect by burying Mikey in the dirt up to his chest, then making a fake chest that he stuck his upper body through. Add some fake legs, stuff his body cavity with animal organs from the butcher and jackrabbit pumps filled with blood, and I'd drive a knife into his chest and pull out his entrails while bloody squirted out from six different hoses and he screamed like crazy.

Ah, my teenage years...

My interest in video lead to film and TV, and to Columbia College in Chicago where I took classes in both, as well as creative writing.

I got A's in film and TV, and C's in writing.

During college I made some pretty good movies and videos. A 16mm film I did called INVADER used everything I knew about SPFX and filmaking and produced a 50 minute epic of car chases, miniatures, chainsaw fights, beheadings, dismemberments, alien vomiting, and even a sex scene. It played in a local festival, and audiences dug the over-the-top horror mixed with humor.

Also in college I did some cable tv, some corporate video, and some theater improv, along with writing. I knew I'd wind up doing something creative with my life.

After graduation, getting a job in Chicago during a recession proved impossible. I'd written a lot up to that point; three screenplays, two plays, four sit-coms, two novellas, and hundreds of short stories.

Since no one would hire me for TV or film (I went to LA for two weeks to try to get agents interested--they weren't) I decided the only venue left open was writing. So I wrote a novel, and got an agent immediately, and you know how the rest of the story goes (if you don't, visit my website.)

But I can trace all of that back to that one poem in 5th grade...

Cool Santa's Jingle Bells

Well, all the cool eleves in town came walking down the street,
Saying "Have a cool Christmas" to everyone they'd meet,
Everyone was waiting for Santa's clock to ring,
So he'd wake up, walk the street, and listen to them sing,
His song wasn't very good, but it wasn't very bad,
It wasn't very cheery, but it wasn't very sad,
"Hiya Cool Santa!" the elves started their song,
"Did you have a good night's sleep, and was it very long?
If not Mr. Groovy, then please get some more sleep,
For you must guide the reindeer, up the ramp, and it is steep,
After you jump the ramp and sail into the sky,
You will say, "C'mon you dudes!" and the reindeer will start to fly,
Man, you are quite a site, in your hipster glasses,
And your sleek black coat, which is leather and made in Frances,
You are the coolest dude of all, bringing toys to boys and girls,
From mini bikes to mini trikes, and hip China dolls with curls!"
Santa thanked the elves for the song that was just right,
Then he yelled, "Have a cool Chirstmas, and to all a cool good night!"
The elves scampered all over, to watch the sleigh take off,
The Ruldolph in his dark sunglasses gave an awful cough,
The neato sleigh went straight down, Rudolph landed on his head,
Then Dasher, Dancer, Prancer... then Santa, was he dead?
The elves ran to the place where Santa's sleigh had crashed,
Prancer was all mangled, Rudolph was all mashed,
But Santa stood up from the pile in the pitch black night,
And then he snapped his fingers and the reindeer were alright,
He got in his sleigh (which now was okay) and yelled as he rode out of sight,
"A very cool Christmas to all you dudes, and to all a very cool night!"


So how about you? What made you decide that your words were so valuable that other people might enjoy them? What set you on this tunnel-vision path of hard work and depression and disappointment?

What age did you know you wanted to be a writer? And why?

  • Is it a quest for self-expression?
  • Is it fame?
  • Money?
  • A desire to work out of your home?
  • A need to see your name in print?
  • A fire burning in you that forces you to create?
  • A need for acceptance?
  • External forces?
  • Nothing better to do?
  • A higher calling?
  • A love of reading?
  • Boredom?
  • Other?

In order to know where we're going, we must know where we came from...


I've posted a link to the four Flash Fiction winners on my website, on the Contest page, for a limited time. If you want to read the stories that won, now is your chance.

Also, remember to download BLOODY MARY for free today at

You have to sign up and give them a credit card number, but you DO NOT get chraged. It's 100% legit. And you can also download WHISKEY SOUR for a measley four bucks. If you read my blog, but haven't read my books, this is a quick and simple way to ease your conscience and pay me back for all of the entertainment and information you've received over the years.

Or, you could just send me the 30 cents in royalties.

Happy Holidays!