I write a column for the Covington newspaper. I
thought myself quite clever when I dubbed it “Life … You Gotta Love It!”
But that leashed me to a premise I had to perpetuate week after week. It
sometimes got a little tricky; yet, after two brushes with near-death, I
found something to love about life every single day.
Laundry? Well, for several months after my last
illness, I couldn’t even think about making it down to the creepy
basement to do the laundry. I had to rely on the kindness of strangers.
Today, the basement isn’t quite so loathsome any more. While I am
thrilled to do laundry, I am happy to make it down the stairs on my
creaky knees. Ergo, I gotta love it!
One constant love in my life is writing. Always has
been. When I was 3 or 4, I would sit around with my fat black pencil and
my lined paper and think up things to write about.
I remember my very first complete sentence. I had
committed some childish infraction, and my mother had banished me to the
table with the pencil and paper. “Write a sentence,” she said.
I knew just the sentence I wanted to write. I began
with the first two words. They were easy. But the third word stumped me.
I called into the kitchen, “Mama, how do you spell ‘bad’?”
“B-A-D,” she answered. “And it is certainly a word you
should learn to spell!”
I finished my sentence: “Mama is bad.” My success was
Ballerinas and airplanes were obsessions when I was 3.
I longed to be a ballerina, flying around in an airplane. When a
3-year-old can spell “ballerina” properly, well, a parent should be
proud. (Although my sister surpassed me. The first word she learned to
spell was “hippopotamus.” Show off.)
I guess my mother — who taught me how to spell in the
first place — was rather proud of my spelling skills. But what she
really was, was practical and pragmatic. “You will never be a
ballerina,” she would say as I sat there writing. “You’re too short, and
you have piano legs.”
Piano legs? I knew what they were, because I was also
obsessed with pianos. But at the time, I didn’t see how the legs on a
piano might compare to the ones I had.
I distinctly recall my Aunt Hazel chatting with my
mother while I played and pranced around the room one day.
“She’s a cute, imaginative girl,” Aunt Hazel told Mom.
“Too bad about the piano legs.”
Huh? I stopped prancing and studied my legs. I was
still confused. The truth didn’t hit me until years later, and by then
it didn’t matter. By the time I was 10, I had tossed aside the idea of
being a flying ballerina, and I wanted to be “an author.”
Today, I consider an author and a writer two
distinctly different things. An author ponders and carefully considers
and then writes a first, second, even a third or fourth draft. An author
probably crumples up or deletes pages of work it took days to write, and
starts over again. When completed, an author’s work becomes a hardcover
novel, and sits on a library shelf for years to come.
But I’m a writer. Once I’ve got an idea, I can write a
column in about 30 minutes. I seldom have time for a second draft,
because I am almost always way past my deadline. I bang the words of a
column or story into my computer, read through it somewhat carefully —
sometimes not carefully enough — and zap it to whatever newspaper or
magazine is watching the deadline clock and wondering just where my
For years now, I have yammered about the four or five
books of columns sitting in my computer, ready to be published. This
past Thanksgiving, circumstances forced me to stop procrastinating. I
read through 766 columns from the past 12 years, and chose 200 of my
favorites. Then, I culled those to 60 of what I consider my best. The
book, “A Party of One,” will be back from the printer in early March.
I am rather proud of myself for finally getting to
this book. I’ve written all sorts of things — a play, a PBS documentary,
countless columns and features, and investigative news stories. I have
indeed become an author. And I’ve really gotta love it!
Be sure to check next
month’s column for information on ordering A Party of One.