hen I was 7 years old, in 1964, my family was able to move out of the projects into a mystical old house. Mr. Davies, the previous occupant, left many wonderful things behind. It had a diamond-shaped stained glass window, a roll top desk full of cubbies, a library full of old tomes, secret compartments in the closets and cellar, drawers full of parts and gizmos, ancient newspapers in the attic, old baseball bats and gloves, a player piano, and what looked like an Exorcist’s portable ritual box in the basement. Most importantly, there was a fabulous metal typewriter that sat on a high, rolling iron stand with wheel-locking pedals. I wrote my first story, The Zany Zoo Lion by Richard Alan Scott, about a lion that escapes the zoo only to join a circus, the day after we moved in. I’ve been writing and scheming ever since. For years, I’d spend hours shooting hoops in my backyard, daydreaming about my next movie or novel. If a neighborhood playmate happened along to join me while in this zone, I was thoroughly disappointed to have to begrudgingly end my reverie.

In my senior year of high school, I wrote a story called The Black House (years before King and Straub’s Talisman sequel of that name), about Spencer Tolman, a future U.S. President being haunted by a ghostly club of the presidents who had died in office, one approximately every twenty years since William Henry Harrison; Tolman was slated to be their next member. (In reality, the “future” year of the tale, 1981, came and went, with Ronald Reagan surviving an assassination attempt). The English teacher of Senior Seminar (for the college bound honor student “elite”) raved. Two years later, when my future wife had him in the same class, he was still talking about it. His notes proclaimed: “the best story bar none I’ve ever seen from a student; has tremendous possibilities: see me.” I never saw him.

In my college creative writing course, I volunteered to be the first to read before the class. I read my story, The House on Paradise Avenue, based on incidents in my father’s life. (It opened in the early 1900’s during a blizzard, with horse drawn plows trying to clean the streets. A man dies of congestive heart failure, lying in bed next to his sleeping five year old son. Doctors can’t get to him because of the storm. Fifty years later, while making deliveries for the local pharmacy, the son suddenly realizes he is back in the very apartment where his father died next to him, and the blocked memory comes leaping back.) When I had finished, the classroom went into chaos. People were clamoring to tell of their experience; “It was like a movie in my head”, “It was so emotional and stirring, I was crying.” Yes, people did a lot of drugs in college back then, but the class did have to be dismissed an hour early because the rest of the students refused to read after me, and follow that. The octogenarian professor, a disciple of Eudora Welty, pulled me aside and urged me to begin my second draft immediately. My second draft, is she insane, it took me forever to finish my first draft, I pondered, before hitting the Rathskeller for beer and co-eds. I never revised it.

A year later, I completed a full length work in my Playwriting course, The Fall Guy, a comedy about a group of rowdy, carousing friends in college, with 100% realistic partying, drinking, sex and profanity. That was two years before the groundbreaking National Lampoon’s Animal House became the number one film in the country, and the template for a generation of young adult comedies. The professor was the visiting, actually-produced Playwright, Jack Carroll, and his notes said “For your first play, it is QUITE GOOD! You display a true sense of comic timing and many of your lines are right on target! See me!” I never saw him.

A couple of years out of college, while working in a full-fledged, old fashioned institution, one to which I should have committed myself, I penned a tale called In the Wake of Peer Gynt about a couple vacationing in Norway with their young baby, who is replaced by a troll changeling. Their hotelier introduces them to a crazy old hermit (a standard option of any good Norwegian vacation package), who leads them to the real Hall of the Mountain King, where the young Dad, Peter Noble, has to square off against the lead troll wrestler to win back his child. I sent it to the then existent Twilight Zone Magazine; Rod Serling hadn’t been gone a decade and his wife, Carol, was heavily involved in the publication. I got a very nice note saying my story was good and was being held for a second reading. It took many months for the generic rejection to arrive, with a hand scribbled note reiterating its promise and the fact that it was held for a second reading. I never submitted it elsewhere.

The aim of my preceding tale of Horror and Youthful Nostalgia is to confer upon you the firm action I took in the face of these generous acts of encouragement: I did nothing! I moved on to decades of nine to five drudgery, one very educational five-year stint in a professional theater company, the buying of a house in the country and the raising of a delightful daddy’s girl who now attends college and must soon, as outlined in John Lennon’s “Working Class Hero”, decide upon the launching of her own fate.

As for me, it took 42 years after the emergence of the Zany Zoo Lion, (I’m still convinced the producers of the animated film Madagascar somehow got their hands on a copy and ripped me off, man) for me to build up the cubes, beginning in May of 2005, to treat my writing as an aggressive business.