Back To The Beginning

I had a hateful, obsolete Journalism teacher in high school who was more denture-click-and- hip-pop than willing to provide sound writing advice. She often criticized me for being 'wordy, shaking a palsied claw at me, as I scribbled notes about what appeared to be her male pattern baldness. You would have thought, from her death rattle lesson plans, that full and vivid description should be avoided like a soul kiss from a herpetic. The woman essentially taught us to write headlines. When she died, alone and crazy, years later, I laughed, and I'm not ashamed that I did so. There are few greater crimes than to extinguish the spark in a young person's eye and replace it with your own disappoitnments.

Yet, in that same high school, I was also fortunate enough to be mentored by an English teacher who plucked me from the soul-sucking classroom of conformity and placed me in independent study. I kept a journal, which I submitted once weekly, and was assigned literature -- everything from Joyce Carol Oates to Tennessee Williams to Judy Blume -- to write essays and critiques of. What a forward-thinking man that teacher was, in his jeans-and-no-tie-and-feathered-hair way, and I am still grateful he and his wife are part of my life.

So, even then, my efforts were marked by contradiction. Write less. No, write more. Just the who/what/when/where/why/how. Tell me everything you see. My head spun like Regan MacNeil's, but I intuitively knew that I had to say what I had to say in the amount of words it took to say it.

I am still that writer, trying to strike a balance between vivid and verbose...detail versus daunting. That, I suppose, is why God created editors and intuitive-yet-realistic agents like Mira help your straddle that line.