While growing up the youngest and most vulnerable in a violent household, I learned a valuable lesson: to survive, use silence and stealth. So I went inward, told myself stories from a very early age.
My challenged childhood also taught me another important lesson: the value of choosing words carefully. Wrong word: pain. Right word: pass.
My family’s life revolved around sports, and so did my stories. Here Come the Tigercats! was one of my earliest efforts. A ragtag bunch of kids who end up winning it all in basketball.
“A seminal moment in college made me a wordsmith for life.”
In high school, I became a journalism student. By senior year, I was (the first black?) editor-in-chief of my school paper, the Northern Lights of North Central High School in Indianapolis, Indiana.
I continued telling myself stories throughout my youth. A fan of the soaps, I created my very own version of Dallas. Fate willing, I’ll be returning to Tulsa in an upcoming novel.
A seminal moment in college made me a wordsmith for life. It happened during my third year in school, while back at home, recuperating from an illness.
I was in the midst of a yearlong literary frenzy where I was more interested in reading fiction than textbooks. I buried myself in classics like Catcher in the Rye and A Separate Peace, and works by men like John Irving and Anton Myrer, author of The Last Convertible and the great war epic, Once an Eagle.
“My writing is like my gold, forged in a hellish childhood.”
During my recovery, while reading Myrer’s A Green Desire, a dramatic twist struck me as so magically brilliant and creative, it inspired a spontaneous outburst from within: I wanna do that! shouted my inner brain. Like a kid seeing a magic trick that sets fire to his soul.
From that moment forward, I aspired to be a storyteller who, like Irving and Myrer, could spin tales and like a magician, pull words out of a hat in a way that makes people go, ahhhhh.
I’ve come to realize: my writing is like my gold, forged in a hellish childhood where a boy’s imagination was his only escape. I can’t change that childhood, but I can be thankful for my gold and I can also use it wisely.
After all, my gold is the best I resource I possess in this life.