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I found a love for writing when I was in Military School. A lieutenant in my barracks assigned me to the campus newspaper. As a cadet, the assignment seemed random and arbitrary, but since I had no say in it, I went to The Eagle. Why was I in Military School? Good question; long answer. So let’s just leave it at this: the Cedar Rapids Community Schools preferred it that way. My long-suffering parents quickly warmed to the idea themselves, so that’s the way it was.

If I were in high school today, I’d likely be labeled “behaviorally disabled,” or some other high-minded euphemism, then shunted off to Ritalin-land. So, in many ways, I was lucky.

Nevertheless, there were a lot of things for a young man to hate about Military School. But for what I thought was an exercise in physical and emotional endurance, I was able to find a gift. And that’s the thing about endurance and suffering. Right in the center of the refuse and sewage filling our lives we might find a diamond or two. Many times, gifts are revealed. So it was with me.

My gift was writing. I loved it. Still do. If nothing else, it’s an outlet beyond my explanation. But that’s just me.

I was ultimately allowed to re-enroll in the Cedar Rapids School system. Like a lot of young men, I wanted to leave everything about Military School behind me once I’d departed. And I did leave it all behind, except for one thing: writing. I asked for permission to write for my new high school’s newspaper, the Kennedy Torch.

I was fortunate to have had an advisor, a mentor really, by the name of Dallas Miller. She was a young woman, a recent graduate of Journalism School at Iowa. Her husband was an English teacher at my high school. Dallas somehow got roped into “advising” the school newspaper.

To call the Kennedy Torch “fish-wrap” when Dallas Miller took it over would have been a thundering endorsement. People would have been well advised to avoid using it even for house-training their puppy dogs. It was bad. But Dallas could not abide her people writing for such a “rag.” She was a phenomenon, a human dynamo. In less than one year, she guided us to an All-American status among school newspapers and guided me to a first place writing award for an editorial I wrote for the paper.

At that moment, I was hooked. I went on to write for the Northern Iowan college newspaper when I attended the University of Northern Iowa. After that I wrote for the Cedar Falls Record, the local newspaper.

I have found that talent in writing is not nearly enough. I have personally interacted with writers who have more talent in their thumbs than many published authors have in their entire body of work. Yet their efforts remain trapped in journals and stacks of manuscripts scattered around their homes. Good writing is a craft. One that takes painstaking attention and hard, grinding labor, that’s why there are so few “great writers.” The job is too hard.

The craft of writing is a skill I haven’t mastered yet, but I promise my best effort. Each time, I hope, it’s a little bit better.

Thanks for visiting!

What I am Reading Now?

Back to Blood: A Novel

Tom Wolfe (Author)

Back to Blood: A Novel

Tom Wolfe (Author)

Winter's Bone: A Novel

Daniel Woodrell (Author)

Skinny Dip

Carl Hiaasen (Author)