The road of writing--and where it's taken me

Words and language compel me. They've had this effect on me as long as I can remember. I literally teethed on the alphabet. My grandmother, an elementary school teacher with a 40-year career, saw to that. She gave me a set of plastic sign letters when I was a year old. I carried them around, tasted them, looked at them, felt their contours.

By my third year of life, I had learned to read. Every word I read, each new word I learned, opened a door for me. It seems inevitable that I became a writer.

My first published article appeared in the fall of 1980 in an independent weekday newspaper, The Florida Flambeau. The Flambeau was my journalism school. I learned through trial and error while I earned a paycheck. I was allowed to make mistakes, and to understand when--and how--I'd made them.

My teacher was the printed newspaper. Nothing taught me more than taking a critical look at my published articles every day. I also learned from my colleagues, and from those who edited my earliest work. My sternest taskmaster was ink and newsprint.

I wrote thousands of articles for the Flambeau, and remained a part of its world for 11 years. During that time, I served for a while as the paper's arts and features editor. I learned what an editor did, and why it mattered. It offered me the opportunity to make the writing of my colleagues stronger and more effective.

Being an editor also helped me grow as a writer. The experience led to a stint as assistant arts and features editor on the Savannah, Georgia News-Press. The News-Press was substantially larger, and its atmosphere was more formal than the Flambeau.

I learned more about the nuts and bolts of editing at the News-Press. After a year there, I felt ready to tackle a more challenging project. It soon appeared. I was invited to co-create and edit a weekly arts and features magazine in northern Florida.

Capital City had a short life--half a year--but it gave me a sense of authority as an editor. The workload was staggering. Each week I and my staff had to develop a new issue from scratch. We were blessed with a solid core of freelance writers. Every word that saw print passed through my eyes and hands.

The early demise of Capital City--due to financial concerns--left me at a crossroads. I still loved writing, but felt that I could do more effective work as an editor. I had experience editing writers of varying skill levels--from outright amateurs to pros far more seasoned than myself. Regardless of the writer's ability, my job as editor was the same: to preserve the best of their work and to make every word shine.

I returned to full-time journalism at the end of the 1980s. Occasional editing jobs (mostly one-shot projects) came my way. In this period, I matured as a writer. I became more conscious of what my words said--and why. I wanted to write with wisdom and warmth; I strove to make every word count.

I began to sell freelance articles to other magazines and newspapers in the early 1990s. In addition to reporting, I was also adept at arts and features writing. By the start of the 1990s, I had hundreds of published pieces on music, movies, art, authors, and comics.

One freelance job led to a life-changing gig. My freelance reviews and news pieces for a Seattle-based, internationally distributed monthly magazine, The Comics Journal, led to a job offer in 1990. I accepted it, and relocated to Seattle, Washington in the summer of 1991. I became the managing editor of The Comics Journal for one year.

The magazine, dense with text and images, required more of me than any previous work experience. I conducted and transcribed lengthy interviews, assigned articles, co-ordinated interviews with comics creators, edited reams of copy, wrote countless captions, and worked with designers and art directors on the magazine's look and feel.

I did very little writing. While I appreciably honed my skills as an editor, I felt the writer inside of me yearning to return. I left The Comics Journal and pursued a career as a freelance writer in the 1990s. At this time, I wrote a couple of novels and pursued other creative writing projects.

Since that time, I've had the opportunity to work on a variety of projects, both professional and personal. I've returned to editorial work, ghost-written books, written liner notes for music CDs, written and contributed other material to corporate PowerPoint presentations, and collaborated with a number of talented artists and writers.

Since 2000, I have written two full-length graphic novels, in collaboration with artist David Lasky, collaborated with legendary underground cartoonist Justin Green (for Tower Records' Pulse! magazine), conducted published interviews with various musical legends, including guitarist Les Paul, written gags for Topps Chewing Gum trading cards, authored several non-fiction children's books, and edited a book-length biography of musical pioneer Jean-Jacques Perrey.

As well, I continue to write freelance articles and reviews, on topics from science and business to music and comics, for everyone from to Ace Records in the UK. After three decades of non-stop writing, I continue to learn and grow. My love of words--of communication--remains strong.