Which Came First? The Writer or the Author?


A while back, an obnoxious blogger that fancied herself a serious author said that writers are not authors, and real authors are those that have been published and cut their teeth in academia, meaning a teacher or a professor of sorts. The rest of the poor souls plodded on through pages of typos and third-rate editing. I hope Hemingway, Steinbeck, and Capote don’t become too riled over her observation. I know in my heart, those men could give a flying shit.

Being the smart-ass that my mother raised well, I challenged the blogger on her assessment of the current literary scene and its “wink-wink” secret membership.

I knew she was a teacher right away because the following lecture and browbeating reminded me of high school. Much high-handed rhetoric and pontification without explaining anything. Sound familiar?

My measured response was that you must first be a writer to become an author. A writer is anyone that puts to paper a story of fact or fiction. It matters not if anyone ever reads your effort; it’s done and sealed. If your writing makes it to a publishing house or a website, you may call yourself an author, but you are still a writer. Nothing changes but a definition and perhaps a fat check.

My first writing was around ten years old and was on a Big Chief tablet. I was working my way to being the second coming of my beloved Mark Twain.

My uplifting teacher at the time had no problem telling me I would likely become a writer. Of what, I asked? She said maybe a book or a novel or a newspaperman; she thought I had a knack for the genre. She did encourage me to learn typing, which I did on a 1930s-era Underwood that occupied my parent’s dining room table. I was the only kid in our neighborhood that knew typing. My friends were google-eyed envious as if I had broken the enigma code or figured out the Orphan Annie decoder ring. I did gloat a bit, but not too much.

So, at 72 years old, I consider myself a writer; A hundred-plus short stories and interviews later speak of my efforts.

I have, over the years, been published a few times; Interviews about the rock scene in the 60s and early country music, so even though I received little to no money, I could, if I wished to, call myself an author. But it’s all a wordplay around egos. So, until I can come up with something as serious as Thomas Wolfe, Harper Lee, Truman Capote, or my beloved Mark Twain, I will remain a humble writer.

“2022, The Year Of Reading Dangerously”


I’m an old-school reader. An Amazon tablet rests in my desk drawer but has gone untouched for four years. Electronic devices don’t allow me the same experience as holding a book made from cardboard and ink printed on recycled paper. Technology is fine, for some, but for the written word. No.

It starts with the jacket. Most nowadays are in color, printed on shiny paper with the author’s name as large as the title, a nice photo or drawing, and a few lines of publisher praise to capture your attention and to make you feel the $30 plus dollars you paid wasn’t in vain. It’s a dance of sorts, but our money has been collected, so it’s best to continue the waltz.

Then comes the preface or the dedication to loved ones, friends, or contributors. Some are short, sweet, and curt and fail to credit the deserved; others ramble on until I lose interest.

Truman Capote snubbing Harper Lee’s dedicated research with “In Cold Blood” comes to mind. A few excluded words of thanks ruined a lifelong friendship. He wasn’t the first, but his pettiness was unforgivable.

I notice the typeset and spacing information, the font, the Library of Congress notes, the printing dates, and then the first paragraph that sets the tone for the next few hundred or more pages.

Ernest Hemingway said a book should begin with ‘one true sentence.’ He knew it was a waste of the authors and their readers’ time if it didn’t. His advice has taught me well.

My wife, a Registered Nurse, retired last August. Soon after, she underwent major back surgery, and during her recuperation, she re-discovered her love of reading. So now, in place of watching television until the late hours, we both retire early, prop ourselves on our bed pillows, and read our books late into the night.

I recently revisited ” In Cold Blood,” Capote’s masterpiece that so affected his life that he never fully recovered to write another novel. I enjoyed it more this time around than thirty years ago. It was a butt whooping to the end. Every chapter contained a piece of his soul.

Anthony Doerr’s two newest novels are commanding reads. My wife and I have read both, and she is on the verge of starting his third. I am reading Amor Towels and find his storytelling to be in the style of Steinbeck and Hemingway. I was once a James Elroy fan, but his last two books were an effort from start to completion. He is on my rest list for now.

Besides ” Fun With Dick and Jane,” the first real books I read were Mark Twain’s ” The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and then his follow-up “The AdventureHuckleberryberry Finn.”

I come from a family of non-readers, so my love for books comes from somewhere, possibly my elementary school librarian or my father’s sister, Norma. She was a voracious reader that leaned toward romance schlock, Cormac McCarthy, and Micky Spillane noir. I am thankful to both for their influence and guidance. It was aunt Norma that, introduced me to Thomas Wolf. I returned the favor with Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut.

My wife and I are relieved that the year 2020 is behind us. It won’t be missed. No tears from this household, only two middle fingers pointed skyward. Our ages allow us to forget what we wish to and remember the best. I believe 2022 will be our year of reading dangerously. We may, holding hands and a frosty cocktail, step out onto that literary ledge and take the leap; attempt to leave our comfort zone and take a chance or three. Time is of the essence, my eyesight is on the fritz, I have a blister on my thumb, and the books keep coming.

“Going Old School”


For my birthday a few weeks back, my wise and thoughtful wife gifted me with a classic 1970 Underwood 310 manual typewriter. It is a wonderful present that I would never have purchased, although I have yearned for one for a while now.

For sometime, possibly five years or so, I have been whining and casually threatening to go “old school” with my writing and get away from this demon laptop. It’s too easy to keep on tapping and spit out a page or two of gibberish that has more words than needed and makes no sense. It’s not about speed and what your program does, it’s content. A typewriter makes you think before striking that key. The delete button does not exist.

Hemingway would tap for hours on end, and then if he wasn’t pleased with his effort, to the waste basket it went. Using a typewriter for transposing your thoughts to paper, is a commitment; and not an easy one.

There was a typewriter in our household when I was a child. It was a large black Underwood, all metal, and took a grown man and a half to lift it. I would peck on it for hours and eventually come up with something legible. I never once saw my parents use it, so it’s presence in our home was a mystery.

My love of the machine started at an early age, and came into full blossom as a teenager in the 1960s, when I started to write stories. I took typing in high school to sharpen my skills and learn the keyboard. I studied two years of journalism, and learned to love the written word. My teacher was my mentor. She pushed me and helped me excel. It all paid off well. When computers came about in the late 80s, I was a good typist and had no problem adapting.

I will keep you posted on how this “old school” project turns out. I typed a page on my Underwood, and my fingers are throbbing.

%d bloggers like this: