I started to write because it was the only way my friends would let me tell stories.
It was 1970. Like many young Baby Boomers, I was a big Star Trek fan. So were my friends. We wanted to pretend that we were Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Lieutenant Uhura, and all the others. The biggest fan of all, I even made 3D cardboard phasers, communicators and tricorders for us to use as props.
We lived in a half-finished subdivision, and so would go adventuring among the pits dug for the foundations of houses that were yet to be built. Down into the depths of the pit we’d climb (today’s parents are getting more horrified by the syllable as they read this), phasers at the ready to face any aliens we encountered or foes we conjured up in our imaginations.
The real foe we met was me.
“Look!” Henry playing Spock cried, pointing towards a pit wall. “There’s a bunch of bad aliens over there.”
“Spock wouldn’t say it that way,” I as Kirk put in, the pre-teen writer/editor at work. “He’d say ‘Those aliens may present a danger to us.”
“No he wouldn’t!”
“Yes he would! You’re not saying it logically.” And the debate would go on from there, allowing the aliens to go uncontacted and ruining the game.
The same thing happened with other friends playing other characters, with me correcting their dialogue as Uhura, McCoy or Scotty. Finally, I was told to cease and desist, or risk mutiny by being pushed into one of the pits. Grumbling, I went along.
That night, I started writing my own Star Trek fan stories, two-finger typing on my mother’s old manual typewriter. At least the paper couldn’t answer back.
The writing bug never went away. In high school, my friend Kevin and I managed to persuade the English Department to let us publish a science fiction magazine, The Reticulum. We used one of the old hand-cranked ditto machines to run off 100 single-sided copies of a 40-page issue (any more and we risked getting high from the fumes emitted by the copying chemicals, and the English Department wouldn’t let us have any more paper, anyway). To our surprise, it was a hit. We published another issue the following year, then The Reticulum came to a sad end; we graduated, and went our separate ways. In those pre-internet days, there was no way to work together across a 2000-kilometer separation.
When I went to university, I found that I enjoyed writing history, politics and other non-fiction essays for my courses. Writing for my undergraduate and graduate courses took up all my time, and so I stopped writing anything that wasn’t for school.
But I remembered. After I established myself as a teacher, I started to write again. I began with more newspaper articles at first. A foray into fiction brought some very nice personal rejection letters from fiction editors, though no sales. Then I returned to writing non-fiction and expanded my repertoire to include advertorial and educational writing.
Dissatisfied with many of the texts I was using in class, I tried writing books in my classroom teaching style, using humour and anecdotes to make history more interesting. I enjoyed writing the books, and they were both warmly received – though the first had very limited distribution, as the publisher went bankrupt the week after publication. Only later did I learn I was writing creative non-fiction, which, of all the styles I can write in, is the one I most enjoy.
Writing has always been a big part of my life. I always wanted to write for a living, and admired others who did. My goal now is to become a full-time writer, and taking Humber’s Professional Writing and Communications program is a big step towards achieving that goal.
Maybe at last, after five decades, I’m doing what I was meant to do.