Every writer’s dream

The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you.  ~John E. Southard

Everyone who’s ever launched a career — especially a career in a competitive field — knows that you need at least one supportive boss who believes in your goals and dreams. Which is why I’m so grateful to have worked for several terrific editors who helped shape my writing life.

Two in particular are Mike Beeson (left in the photo) and John Schultz, both former editors at Royal Oak’s Daily Tribune.  How lucky I was to find them at a newspaper office in my own hometown. In 1985, John was the first to give me a regular column, a weekly small business feature that introduced me to countless shops, galleries, and restaurants in our community. While I wrote many stories for the Trib in those days, from theater reviews to news items, my weekly business column taught me how to meet tight deadlines while scouting new story ideas.

When I first started writing for Mike, he had just replaced entertainment editor Ray Serafin. Later on, Mike took over the paper’s lifestyles section and made my biggest dream a reality: He offered me a coveted column space in the Sunday paper — and told me I could write about any family topic that struck my interest. In 1998, my weekly “Life Lines” column won a first place award for local columns in the Michigan Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest. Several of those columns are reprinted in Writing Home, my collection of essays and columns.

All of this came tumbling back when my husband snapped the photo, above, at the opening of his first one-man show at the Lido Gallery in Birmingham last night (Oct. 26).

John, who co-authored a book on the history of Royal Oak last year, currently works as a copy editor at Hour Media. Newly retired from the Trib, Mike now has time to travel and visit his new grandchild.

Chatting about the “old days” with John and Mike, I also felt a rush of nostalgia for all the times I had to drive downtown to deliver my finished articles to the Trib’s editorial offices. Back then — before we relied on the Internet — editors and writers discussed assignments on the phone, face-to-face at the office, or over a burger at lunch. It wasn’t nearly as quick or convenient as sending a story via email, of course. But in the process, we forged friendships that have endured despite several career moves and changes. I wouldn’t trade those days — and everything I learned — for anything. — CL

“Against Hesitation”

Make music of what you can.” — Charles Rafferty

I always knew I wanted to be a writer. When I was a kid, I perched in the gnarly apple tree in my backyard and scribbled my own adventures in a ruled notebook. In college I majored in English and journalism, but it took years before I found the courage (not to mention the income) I needed to begin a real writing career.

The long path that led me here was marked with detours and littered with excuses. The poem below is the wake-up call I needed 25 years ago — but Charles Rafferty hadn’t written it yet. Today I keep it in my back pocket and read it whenever I need a creative kick in the pants.

What dream would you launch if you had all the time in the world? Where would you travel if you knew the road was wide open? What’s fueling your hesitation? –CL

Against Hesitation
By Charles Rafferty

If you stare at it long enough
the mountain becomes unclimbable.
Tally it up. How much time have you spent
waiting for the soup to cool?
Icicles hang from January gutters
only as long as they can. Fingers pause
above piano keys for the chord
that will not form. Slam them down
I say. Make music of what you can.
Some people stop at the wrong corner
and waste a dozen years hoping
for directions. I can’t be them.
Tell every girl I’ve ever known
I’m coming to break her door down,
that my teeth will clench
the simple flower I only knew
not to give … Ah, how long did I stand
beneath the eaves believing the storm
would stop? It never did.
And there is lightning in me still.

Reprinted from A Less Fabulous Infinity, by Charles Rafferty (Louisiana Literature Press; 2006)

–Photo: detail from a mixed-media collage by Cindy La Ferle —

This post is part of a weekly series of poetry appreciation.  To read more, please click on “Poems to inspire” in the CATEGORIES column at right.  I welcome your recommendations, too.