We attended the South Shore Library Lib Con in Ruskin on Saturday, May 12th, and things went well. While I was invited to be on a panel with about six authors. One of the questions I was asked on the panel was how did I get started as a writer. This was my answer to them.
“When I was a young boy in Brooklyn, New York, I belonged to a gang.
“The gangs were organized by apartment houses and the members of my gang were all Jewish - Jackie, Kenny, Larry, Davie, and me, Nicola, a boy of Sicilian descent. Our worst enemies were the kids from the apartment across the street, all Italian kids - Chizzy, Ralph, and Frankie. Whenever we met, a fistfight was inevitable, but we were not above using whatever we found on the street as weapons. If a garbage can cover was handy, we picked it up to use as shields and the slats from discarded wooden crates were also a favorite as clubs. It was just kids being kids.
“But as we grew older a strange metamorphosis occurred. My Jewish friends began to attend services at a Temple while I had to go to Church, and who was there at mass, those dreadful Italian kids. They waited for me when mass was over and without my buddies to back me up I was forced to face them alone. My only defense was that I loved stories. I had watched TV since I was five years old and every Saturday, my mother would send me to the Highway Theater where they showed double features, a newsreel, a chapter from a science fiction serial, and ten full color cartoons. If you included the numerous library books I read, my adolescent head was filled with tall tales. So, when those belligerent kids confronted me on my first Sunday at church, I said: “You guys want to hear a story?”
“Confused and astonished by the question, they said, “Yeah, sure. What kind of story?” I told them about a Flash Gordon serial I had seen on TV and then I followed it with Tarzan. Not many kids in my neighborhood had TV’s so I was privy to a wealth of tales. During the week, they asked for more stories and I dug into my grab bag of yarns for something I had read from the chronicles of Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov. When they demanded more, I simply made them up. I was tagged as the neighborhood story-teller and all of my friends, Jewish, Italian, and a few members of that other gang…girls, would gather in the alleyway between the apartment houses to listen to my stories.
“My first published story didn’t happen until I had joined the Air Force in 1966. I was a Security Guard and those long nights on a lonely post got me reading stories again. Recalling how I used to make up stories as a kid, I concocted a sci-fi tale about a murderous starship and sent it in to Creepy Magazine. They published it and they published my second and third story as well and my career as a writer began. Though I write mostly novels and screenplays today, I still do an occasional comic book story as a tribute to the publication of my earliest tales.”
So, let this be a lesson to all, sometimes your imagination can be the best weapon instead of fighting. It’s amazing the power of human words.