July 8. It is my birthday. As of 9:00 AM, I am 62.
This does not bother me, because as all the latest magazine articles focusing on Cootrification and Cable/Broadband/Satellite/God-is-Sending-to-Your Head shows have assured me, “62 is the new 60” or some damned thing.
Truth: Sometimes I don’t feel at all aged, particularly when that Celebrex kicks in and there’s been a power outage so I cannot see the bathroom mirror reflecting Mort and his extra chin.
But, ah, sometimes you do take stock of what you’ve done and all that, and sometimes it leads to disappointments…sometimes
I mean, I had thought at age 35 to have had at least one bestseller.
I figured by now I’d have been awarded at least one Illinois Arts Council grant for creative writing. (Last February, got the word that grant application #4 was a no-go, meaning that once again, I’ll have to rely on readers and not committees to support my efforts.)
I thought it likely that I’d have won at least one Bram Stoker or International Horror Guild award.
This is not to disparage what I recognize I have accomplished as a wordworker: There are books of mine out there and forthcoming and I am proud of every one of them, state with no due humility that they are the best I could create at the time they were created, and I hope they have provided or will provide some worthwhile reading.
But for sure, there is no disappointment in what I have accomplished as a teacher of writing for more than 40 years, because, well, good people have been good enough to remind me.
Last month, I got this from former student and always friend Marc Paoletti:
Today is the official release date for SCORCH. The book is
published in hardcover by Five Star Mysteries, an imprint of Macmillan Library. Any thing you can do to spread the word would be appreciated!
SCORCH is Marc’s first novel.
It’s a good novel. (You think I’d have blurbed it were it not?)
And last month I received this email:
Dear Mr. Castle
I found your email address from your website, which I found on wikipedia.
Ages ago (20 years appr) I was an 8th grader who was allowed to take a writing correspondence course with you. I don’t remember how or why that worked out, save that in 7th grade I took the SAT test and scored high enough to warrant a letter from Johns Hopkins university.
Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks. I still have all the letters and critiques you sent me. At the time, as a 13 year old kid, I hated the criticism you gave me, because as you rightly surmised, all I cared about was writing cheap schlock science-fiction. But I kept all of what you sent me, and the timeless advice made much better sense as I got older. “Readers don’t want to be lied to.” It has always stuck with me.
I’d love to give you some great story of how I’m a professional writer. I’m not. I have a bachelors and a masters degree in biblical linguistics, and I preach at a country church outside Murphsyboro IL. I wrote a lot through high school, but kind of quit when I got to college. Recently I have made a few friends who are published writers, albeit small companies, and that has been fun. I have also made the acquaintance of Michael Moorcock, and the encouragement of these friends has (finally) got me making writing a priority again. And it feels great to write again. And I decided to simply write to you and say thanks. I wasn’t an appreciative 8th grade kid, but at 33 I am so thankful for the writing lessons. And maybe someday I’ll have something to show for it. But even if I never get published, I’m enjoying the writing again.
And the other day, there was this email:
I was sitting here at work this afternoon with nothing to do, and decided to check the internet, and see if anything came up under your name.
Vwaaallaaahhh, here I am. I just wanted to say hello. I have a son now who is going to be a senior at Brother Rice HS (BRHS), and I often talk to him of my experiences with the English department at CMHS. At BRHS they are still teaching very structured grammar, and traditional literature. No Sinus Friction classes there!!! I loved the English curriculum we had at CMHS.
I hope all is well with you and your wife. You can count me as at least one student you had a huge, lasting impact on.
So, here’s the reply to Dan, one of those students of years back at—You too can break the DaVinci Code!—CRETE MONEE HIGH SCHOOL – CMHS—get it?
Yeah, Dan, all is well.
Jane and I celebrated our 37th on July 4.
The 6th was her birthday.
Tomorrow—when this reply appears at storytellers.com (tell your friends, quick)—is my birthday.
And, thank you, and thank you to all my wonderful students over many wonderful years, you bet we are all doing just fine.
Happy birthday to me.