It was five years ago this month that I had my stroke. You know what? It happened, there’s nothing I can do about it, and frankly, I’m tired of talking and thinking about it. I get a stern reminder of it when I try to do something with my right (and dominant) hand and it doesn’t work. I’m reminded of it when I walk outside my house and need a cane to maintain my balance. The tinnitus in my right ear, the edema in my right leg, the pills I take every day to deal with the high blood pressure that caused it, the constant monitoring, all little mementos of the time a little blood vessel in my head went “pop!” and I ended up in the hospital.
So, that’s all I have to say on that, other than this piece of advice: if your doctor tells you to watch your blood pressure, watch your blood pressure.
About eight months ago, I realized that I missed writing, and a friend of mine invited me to join the writers’ group she was in. It’s not a perfect situation (they’re all in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I’m in the suburbs of Atlanta, and they contact me with either iChat or Google Talk), but it’s fun, they give me good feedback on my stories, I give them feedback on theirs (which I hope is as good as I get), and it’s caused me to take this more seriously and to get my butt in the chair and throw words on the screen. (Pen and paper is out, which is probably just as well, because my handwriting sucked and even I couldn’t read it half the time.)
I see joining the group and getting back into writing as the start of Act 2. If you’ve read Larry Brooks‘ fantastic book, Story Engineering, you know that what gets you into Act 2 is the First Plot Point. So, I thought about it some more, and recognized the scenes in Act 1, the world as it was up to that point.
I started reading a lot when I was in the hospital after the stroke. I found many of my favorite authors during that time, in fact. I always say that Mary’s love, renewed faith, almost-daily visits from Ministers of Communion from my parish, reading, and reruns of “The Golden Girls” got me through that time. When I finally got home and was on the mend, Mary and I would go to Starbucks on Sunday afternoons (sometimes more frequently than that) and spend the afternoon reading and drinking coffee (in my case, decaf).
Anyway, about a year ago I decided that I wanted a Kindle. When it arrived, Mary asked if she could try it. Three hours later, she told me that I would have to get another one, because she was keeping that one. We have the wi-fi versions, because we have wi-fi at home and Starbucks also has wi-fi. What we like about the Kindles is, as Mary put it, “we don’t have to get out of our seats when we finish a book. We can just order another one!”
Such was the case one Sunday in May when I finished the most recent book in the “Burn Notice” series by Tod Goldberg. I love “Burn Notice”, and Tod has captured the voice of Michael Westen perfectly. (I actually hear Jeffrey Donovan reading the books to me. They’re that good.) I went shopping in the Kindle store to see if there were any more books by him, and found the book Tied In: The Business, Art and Craft of Media Tie-In Writing. It’s a series of articles written by authors of tie-in novels (original books using the characters from some other media) and novelizations (books written from screenplays and teleplays). I’ve read lots of tie-ins and novelizations, and thought the book would be interesting.
It was in that book that I learned about Walter Wager.
David Spencer has a long section in the book called “American TV Tie-Ins From The 50s Through The Early 70s” where he goes through the history of tie-in novels based on TV shows, and talks about some of the great tie-in writers, among them Walter Wager. Walter grew up in New York, graduated ftom Columbia and the Harvard Law School and became A TV writer and writer of tie-ins. One thing about him stood out. Actually, it damn near hit me in the face:
Though he rarely regarded it as a handicap, and never a source of self-consciousness, Wager had been born with no left hand, and did all his writing as a one-handed typist.
That’s when I decided I needed to start writing again.
I still read books, of course. In fact, one of my recent purchases is The Collected Works of Flannery O’Connor. Something tells me that I should appreciate her writing, because we have so much in common:
– She’s Irish. I’m Irish.
– She was a Catholic. I’m a Catholic.
– She was born in Savannah, GA and lived in Milledgeville. I moved to Georgia almost 25 years ago.
– We have the same birthday (March 25).
– She was crippled by lupus. I was crippled by a stroke.
Most importantly, she was a remarkable writer, and I want to be a remarkable writer. I can learn a lot from her. And, judging by some of the stories, I’m going to have fun reading her.