A Friend for Life (Family Matters)

To know an author well is to have a friend for life”.  I closed the cover, turned back to my author friend and nodded sharing a brief smile.  I thought about the inscription as I walked down the ramp outside of the door.  I had never been to a book signing before only coming to his because of the support and encouragement he had given me throughout the years.  I hoped that in twenty years I’d be the one sitting behind the old table with stacks of numerous books of my own doing surrounding me.  “To know an author well is to have a friend for life”.  It seemed so familiar to me yet I couldn’t place it.  The sentiment of it I agreed with.  In my teens I’d read a popular mystery author who at the time I thought was a genius of suspense.  I recently tried to read a new book by the same author only to realize that this new book was new by title only.  The back story and mystery theme were the same as his other 20 plus books, only the names had changed.  This realization left me dumbstruck, how could this millionaire author ah, never mind.

Driving up to my house I saw that my wife wasn’t home. After tossing my keys on the table I sorted through the mail separating what were mine and hers into two piles to be looked at later.  The phrase was still bouncing in my head as I sat down at my computer.  Surrounding my computer were years of reference books.  A thesaurus, a dictionary, quotation books and other style and guides to writing.  These were all intended to help me become the writer I’ve always dreamed of being. The trouble was I always had an excuse.  In my teens it was if only I had an electric typewriter.  In my twenties it was if only I had a word processor, a computer a laptop computer all the way back to maybe if I had a sharp pencil and a fresh pad of paper.  Now in my thirties I find myself still looking for the magic wand to success.  I have a subscription to the Writer a year or two old copy of the Writer’s Market and as I’ve said every accessory a “writer” needs.  What I didn’t have was any writing credits.  I still have in a file a writing award from grade school from the American Legion or V.F.W. I don’t remember which.  I also have a certificate from a local poetry contest but no real credits to speak about. I once thought that success meant payment.  In college I took a creative writing class where I marveled at how the instructor could mine at least one golden sentence from an otherwise poorly written story.  I asked him one day that if he had to write for money what venue would it be in; fiction, poetry or non-fiction? He said he would rather die or something to that effect.  When my piece was used as an example for the class I thought ah ha, maybe I do have what it takes.  Five years of entering short story contests followed without success.  The hell with it, I’ll write for myself.

I went to my author friend with a couple of stories and had them edited.  He liked some, pitched one and wondered why the hell I had written a children’s story.  Sitting at the computer these thoughts lead me back to present time.  Why was this inscription haunting?  To my right a different book by my friend lay mixed in with the reference books.  I picked it up, opened the cover and there was the same inscription.  “To know a writer is to have a friend for life”.  How many times and to how many people had he written this to I wondered?  In twenty years would I write something similar?  I smiled at the thought.  I’d be sitting there, my Converse All-Stars peaking out from under the frayed ends of my favorite blue jeans my hair gray, my eyes bloodshot from late night inspiration.  Up will walk an aspiring writer, buying my twelfth or thirteenth book, he’ll hand it to me with eagerness for my wisdom.  I’ll open it up and I’ll write with confidence what I know is truly the secret to the mysterious universe of writing, “To _____, Just Write”.  Next to me my author friend will cackle as he writes to a young man buying his latest book, “To know an author well…..”

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