On Writing


My Father had a rich vocabulary that my sister and I would put to the test every month with Reader’s Digest “Word Power” quiz. Invariably he would know the definition to most every word. I grew up within the richness of a word cornucopia without realizing it until much later in life.

When I was eleven years old my sixth grade teacher assigned us to write a short story. Mine was called The Great Race. It was about a Yawl (a kind of a sailing boat with two masts – a main and a mizzen) sailing around the treacherous waters of Cape Horn in South America.

My teacher, Mr. Smith failed me because he said I plagiarized the story. I asked my Father for help. My Dad met with Mr. Smith and explained how I knew many a nautical terms due to Sunday sailing on my Uncle’s boat in Long Island Sound, how I had a rich imagination and how I have used a thesaurus during the writing process. Mr. Smith held his ground and continued to claim that the work was not mine. My Father asked him to cite the work that I had copied from, but he could not do this. He failed me.

My Father referred to Mr. Smith as a little man with a cloud over his head.

Rather than take this as a failure I let it go to my head. “I must be a pretty good writer if I had fooled him into thinking it was stolen when I know it had not been.”

And thus my passion for writing stories was launched.

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