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My Writer's Journal

On becoming a writer: Part I

I knew from the time I was 8 that I wanted to be a writer, but I had no idea how to make it happen. In junior high I thought I might become a journalist and work for a newspaper. My dad insisted that I learn to type--a very good idea. Then, in high school I got a summer job working for the local radio station, typing up the commercials that would be read on the air. Eventually I was allowed to try my hand at writing the commercials myself, and when Miss Rita, who read the birthday news every day at 1 pm, went on vacation, I filled in for her and called on Miss Rita's advertising accounts. I loved it. At school I was named editor of the yearbook and co-editor of the newspaper, and I was writing stories. The term "nerd" had not yet been coined, but I fit the description. Then I left for college.

The next summer a rural radio station opened miles from where we lived. I was hired at 50 cents an hour to write commercials for advertisers, dealers in farm implements: egg-washers and manure-spreaders. I drove my mother's car to work. She complained that I didn't earn enough to pay for the gas.

At college I continued my life as a nerd, getting mostly A's and having my stories torn to pieces in writing classes. When I graduated and it was time to look for a job, I headed for New York City, bound for a career in that new field: television. But it didn't work out at all the way I planned.

(To be continued.) Read More 
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Message and Memory

I was sitting here at my computer, glumly trying to think of something bright and interesting to write in my Journal, when the following e-mail arrived:

Dear Ms. Meyer: What an amazing writer you are! I am a mom and teacher with a great love of historical fiction. When we travel, we usually do "thematic" travel. For Thanksgiving we are driving from NYC to VA, through Amish Pennsylvania. I am hoping to listen to, or read aloud Gideon's People to my 11 and 13 yr. olds. Do you know where I can find and order the tape or CD? I would appreciate any leads you have. Thank you so much for all you do for our youth.--Suzanne B.

GIDEON'S PEOPLE was published in 1996. I remember exactly when I got the idea for the book: I was visiting Lewistown, Pennsylvania, where I grew up and happened to run into a friend of my late mother's, Stanley Siegel. We went out for lunch together, and at some point I asked him how his Jewish family had ended up in our thoroughly Pennsylvania Dutch small town. He told me the story of his grandfather, an immigrant from Russia in the early 1900's, who had eventually become a peddler in Lancaster County, dealing with Amish farm families whose German dialect was similar to the Yiddish spoken by his grandfather. Stanley's father, who became a lawyer, settled in Lewistown to escape the antisemitism he was encountering in other cities.

Before we finished lunch, I was already thinking, "Now what if somehow a Jewish boy, traveling with his father, ends up staying with an Amish family...." The book was already beginning to take shape in my mind.

Well, that email certainly cheered me up. I rushed to the mirror and said to myself, "What an amazing writer you are!" And what an amazing mom/teacher Suzanne is, to plan such trips for her kids. Thank you, Suzanne, for reminding me of how it all happens. And I'm sorry there's no CD. Read More 
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Doldrums

becalmed in the doldrums
You know what I mean: No winds are blowing, the sails are empty, and my ship is becalmed--going nowhere. VICTORIA REBELS has been on my editor's desk (more precisely, in her In Box) since mid-August. Still no word on it, except that she is "crazy busy." And so I am becalmed, and as my ship drifts aimlessly on a glassy sea, I read....and think....and scribble notes to myself.... None of these are bad things, but, frankly, I prefer to be "crazy busy" myself.

I could, of course, be cleaning out the storage closet, changing the batteries in the smoke detectors, all worthy activities, but I'M NOT WRITING AND I'M CRAZY BORED.

A couple of weeks ago I went to the movie theater across the street to a simulcast of Lang Lang, the Chinese pianist, playing Liszt with the Philadelphia Orchestra. For awhile I was the only person in theater. Then a guy came in and took a seat several rows in front of me. The concert began. A second guy came in and sat a few rows in front of Guy #1. Now there were three of us! Then Guy #1 went out and came back with a tub of popcorn. Seconds later Guy #2 turns around and hollers "Stop munching!" Guy #1 gets mad. They argue about personal rights. Meanwhile, Lang Lang is ripping through Liszt, fortunately oblivious. I enjoyed it hugely. Maybe I should write a story about it. Get out of the doldrums. Read More 
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