I grew up in a lower middle-class neighborhood in Northeast Philadelphia as the youngest of four children. We were raised in a single parent home by my mother Elizabeth (my hero) as a result of my father being mainly institutionalized for mental illness (manic-depression). I had a pretty good childhood despite these difficulties including the shame and stigma attached to mental illness. I played sports and was especially fond of football which enabled me to take out my anger and frustrations on opposing running backs and quarterbacks (I played middle linebacker).
I was only a fair student in grammar school and high school, who got by as a result of being a voracious reader and fairly good writer. My love affair with books began at five when my mother took me to the bookmobile (a library on wheels) to get my library card. My first book was The Little Engine That Could which I recently had a tattoo of printed on my left bicep with the words “I Think I Can” underneath it. I have subsequently read thousands of books for both pleasure and to improve my writing skills.
Due to my father’s debilitating mental illness and my family’s poor economic condition, I received full grants to attend Penn State University where I hoped to obtain a degree and go onto a career with the FBI. However, poor study habits and a preponderance with ping pong in the student center led to my flunking out in six months.
At 21, I got a job with the Philadelphia Police Department and worked shift work for four years. When I was 25, I asked for and received permission from my supervisors to work a permanent shift of 5:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m six days a week which enabled me to attend college full time during the day. By taking summer sessions, I graduated from LaSalle University in only three years with a degree in Marketing/Communications.
A Bold & Brazen Article
Me and my side-kick, Clancy.
I left the city after this and worked as a writer for a public relations firm whose clientele were mainly schools for children with physical handicaps or those who were developmentally disabled. It was during this period that I began taking additional screenwriting classes and seminars and wrote my first television pilot film. I worked in printing sales after this and found that I had a facility for it. While the money was nice, I still felt unfulfilled. One afternoon, I walked into my sales manager’s office and informed her that I had decided to resign and that I was moving to Los Angeles to attend classes at UCLA and to fulfill my dream of becoming a screenwriter. I was actually terrified by this prospect of moving to the other side of the country where I knew no one and leaving a position that I had achieved some success, but I also knew that I would never forgive myself if I didn’t go for my dream. At least now, I would not have to question myself for the rest of my life about what might have been.
While my Hollywood sabbatical only lasted one year, I did manage to complete one feature film which received the ultimate compliment from my teacher at UCLA who said it was “commercial.” Alas, some of the agents and producers in this competitive market did not agree enough to purchase it. I also wrote a spec script for my favorite television show which was Arrested Development. I decided to pack it in after one year and moved back to Philadelphia to be with my family and friends again. I enrolled in the M.Ed. program at Holy Family University and bean teaching secondary English almost immediately. I figured correctly that this profession would allow me to immerse myself in something that I loved-literature-while enabling me to devote my summers off to writing.
I began writing my first novel, A Bold & Brazen Article, about fifteen years ago. During this period, I have workshopped it with several writers groups and also paid a professional editor for their notes. Yet, after about a dozen revisions, I still was not satisfied with it nor ready to send it out to agents. Hence, the reason that I enrolled in the MFA Creative Writing Program at Wilkes University where I was able to revise my novel and to hopefully have it published sometime in the near future.
Coming into my novel, I knew that one of my strengths was in creating realistic dialogue. My experience with screenwriting had already honed this gift. In addition to writing believable dialogue, I feel that I was able to establish a strong voice in my novel. I have also attempted to balance story elements like dialogue, internal thoughts, description, and action which I believe I have come to grasp through osmosis by all of the reading I have done over the years.
One of my other goals as a writer is to elevate my use of language and I have tried to incorporate the use of literary devices into my own novel. One of the metaphors I use in my novel A Bold & Brazen Article includes the wrecking ball which is demolishing the walls of a state mental hospital as well as the shames and secrets which my main character carries with him. This scenario also created a sense of irony.
Wilkes University Classmates…
Like most writers, I had become very affectionate towards certain scenes which I have birthed.
Through my mentor’s advice and direction I became willing to commit filicide and eliminated some of my favorite scenes to tighten my plot and to enhance its progress. One of my greatest and most rewarding moments as a writer occurred when I allowed my characters to take over my novel. It was quite an experience the first day when I actually heard the little buggers speaking and directing their own lives on the page. I hope to continue to give free reign to future generations. I am also a very hard worker and disciplined writer. I made a promise to myself that while even though there might be more talented writers than myself, that none of them would outwork me. I am confident that I have kept my vow.
Ten Favorite Books
- Ironweed by William Kennedy
- Beautiful Music by Michael Zadoorian
- The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
- The Ink Truck by William Kennedy
- Purple America by Rick Moody
- Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
- Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
- Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow
- Easy Riders, Raging Bulls by Peter Biskind
- A Bright Shining Lie by Neil Sheehan
Ten Favorite Movies
- Angels with Dirty Faces
- Das Boot
- Where Eagles Dare
- Apocalypse Now
- The French Connection
- 8 ½
- Young Frankenstein
- Cinema Paradiso