After partying with friends over the weekend, I experienced an unexpected consequence: a twenty-one-year-old recently discharged from military duty. The army released me after my three years of military service as an airborne rigger in June 1969, which means I spent a reasonable amount of time jumping out of military aircraft and packing personal and cargo parachutes to drop paratroopers, military equipment, and supplies for air assaults. Doing it safely (okay, stop laughing) was the mantra, and I took pride in never sustaining an injury after fifty-five jumps from 1,000-1,200 feet and a sport free-fall from 8,000.
But despite my success, I didn’t expect a weekend of partying to humble me in the way it did. I never saw it coming and found it more embarrassing than anything else. It happened after a July Fourth celebration on a Monday at a construction site in St. Paul, Minnesota. And as I said, I had been partying, having a good time at a friend’s lake cabin, drinking cold beer, eating grilled hot dogs and hamburgers, potato salad—picnic foods.
I Heard My Ankle Crack
A home-building contractor had hired me as summer help. The ground on construction sites can be uneven and unkempt. On the day my embarrassment happened, I had been nailing insulation board to wood two-by-four framing. I used a two-step ladder to reach the uppermost part of the board. As I stepped down, my right foot landed in a shallow rut. I lost my balance, and my body weight went into my ankle with enough force that it broke.
I heard it crack; fortunately, it wasn’t an open fracture. Instead, my ankle swelled to the size of a cantaloupe. The foreman saw what happened and called 911. An ambulance came and rushed me to the nearest emergency room. I spent the rest of the summer with my ankle in a plaster cast. Which my friends gleefully signed and jived me about my broken ankle. They’d repeatedly ask me, “How many jumps did you have?” Their asking me that question irritated me more than the itchiness I felt from my cast.
I can think of many things that are easier to accomplish than becoming a fiction writer. Leaping a tall building at a single bound comes to mind. What surprises me is how uneasy I feel about posting my writing. After all, I’ve been for decades in writing professions: journalism, technical writing, and copywriting. Yet, I do. I think it’s because I’m putting my work up for public scrutiny as a budding fiction writer. My nonfiction work speaks for itself.
Regarding my fiction prose, my spouse and a few friends have read my short stories and a manuscript for a short novel I wrote. I know writers like to say it’s their novel in a drawer. Mine’s not in a drawer. Like mine, it’s most likely sitting on a hard drive somewhere.
My nonfiction includes my writing as a journalist, technical writer, and copywriter. Those also sit on a hard drive waiting for me to post them on my oeuvre page. My unpublished work includes short stories and crime fiction. I never had any aspirations of writing anything but short stories until I discovered a Simon & Schuster contest in 2022. I entered it.
Unquenchable Thirst To Write
So, in 75 days, I expanded one of my short stories to a 51,000-word short novel and submitted it to meet an October 15 deadline. I didn’t get a publishing contract, but the effort left me with a horrible itch I want to scratch—the desire to see my fiction published in print. And I’m happy to report that one of my short stories will appear soon in an anthology published by Heritage Writers Guild. It’s the St. George Chapter of The League of Utah Writers.
Writers Guild. I’m also waiting to hear if a national magazine will publish a short story of mine. Well, there you go—not a bad start. I have a good work ethic, thrive on deadlines, and am committed. Yet, I have no allusions. Threatening a camel through the eye of a needle might be easier than getting your novel published the traditional way. But what the heck, my byline has appeared in print. That excitement has passed. What I want most is to tell a good story. And I’m most excited when I write because I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing. Something Mark Twain said comes to mind:
Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life.