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Archive for April, 2013

I’m not a believer in things like fate, destiny or kismet. The idea that all we are in life are puppets, and that we have no choice but to follow the strings, doesn’t resonate. But at the very least, it seems fitting – given the course my life and career have taken – that I was raised in a housing development with streets named after classic literary figures.

Hawthorne Drive, named after Nathaniel Hawthorne (The Scarlet Letter, The House of the Seven Gables), wrapped around the subdivision. Three streets bisected Hawthorne: Whittier Avenue, named for poet and abolitionist James Greenleaf Whittier; Cooper Avenue, named after James Fenimore Cooper (The Last of the Mohicans); and my street, Poe Avenue, named for Edgar Allan Poe, best-known as an author of Gothic fiction.

Poe’s most famous short stories included “The Pit and the Pendulum,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” His best-known poem was probably “The Raven,” a haunting rhyme with the famous line, “Quoth the Raven, ‘Nevermore.’”

I don’t know whether it was due to living on Poe Avenue, but I read the works of the tortured author voraciously, while I didn’t pay much attention to the writings of Hawthorne, Whittier and Cooper. It wasn’t until my adult years that I learned Edgar Allan Poe’s private life was apparently as dark and mysterious as many of his fictional tales. All I knew was he had an incredible way of crafting a narrative, building suspense, and finishing it off with a not-so subtle twist.

My own writing never followed that path. I suppose my parents provided me with an ordinary enough life so that I never needed to release any anguish and despair through the written word. But I do remember writing, almost from the time I learned to spell and form sentences. I wrote little reports that I had researched about dinosaurs, birds, mammals and reptiles. At other times I wrote about historical figures, like Presidents and explorers, as well as famous athletes.

I piddled a bit with fiction, fancying myself as a budding science-fiction writer, but never stayed with a story long enough for it to amount to anything. It all was just a hobby back then, a way of pleasantly passing time, never imagining I’d become a professional writer – a journalist – one day.

When I wasn’t writing, I was reading. Mostly fiction, anything from Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates and Treasure Island to Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth and H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. Fictional series like the Hardy Boys, brother detectives; ballplayers Mel Martin and Chip Hilton, and boy inventor Tom Swift kept me spellbound for countless hours.

Even when I started college, writing for a career wasn’t a consideration. I’d read that journalism was not a lucrative vocation – as proved to be true – and I had different plans as I embarked on my freshman year at Houston Baptist College. But I guess all the years of reading and writing had made words too much a part of my being, maybe even engrained in my DNA. In the end, becoming a man of words – a “wordsmith” some have called me – was inevitable.

Hopefully, when it’s all said and done, someone will assess that at least something I’ve written was of value greater than self-indulgence. 

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