one thriller wouldn't kill you

“Writing is trouble. . .”

“Writing is trouble!”

Words uttered by my first writing teacher, Eric Arthur, his opening statement in the first writing class I ever took.

This was at the College of William & Mary, in 1992. Eric had been a writer-actor for the 1930’s radio show The Shadow, nearing  his mid seventies, but in his eyes the light of wonder.


I was thirty-two years old with a fire in my belly, working then in rural Virginia as a construction project manager.  Occasionally drinking moonshine, at every occasion presenting itself.

And now no more, a first novel to show for it, I’ve discovered no truer words ever spoke.  Writing is trouble — the boldness and certainty that led to my two-hour drive each way to study with Mr. Arthur the sure proof of it.  The first story he read the class was Guy de Maupassant’s “The Vendetta.”  And though I admit to a vicarious thrill, that short story hit the bones of my reason for writing, to explore the narrative convention of revenge.

Since that first writing class in 1992, the trouble bloomed and blossomed: attending part-time classes at five colleges, and later leaving a high-dollar career as master carpenter and home builder to earn a bachelor’s in English Literature, which I completed at age thirty-seven. Those three gold years of study at the University of Virginia taught me Dante’s brand of Divine Retribution, nonviolence in the American Civil Rights Movement, and the making and of electronic books.

The more I learned, the more I found it to be true, writing is trouble: that surety of the doing, the un-doing and sometimes coming undone, the revising – of me and it (my so-called work), taking my own best advice to myself in the act of putting something down in black & white, and then calling it into question, and changing it.  All to change a small part of the world.

The writing, and the doing in order to help the writing move forward changed me. Never as much as many would like.  But to what joy! And there’s hope: Writing is trouble.  Of the finest kind. And there’s no stopping now!  Future writers beware, read thyself!

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