I’ve spent much of the last 45 years as an editor/writer in one form or another, first as assistant editor at the Penn Gazette, the University of Pennsylvania alumni mag, where we won the Sibley award as the best alum mag in the country two years out of three.
Next I went to the Welcomat, an alternative weekly in Philadelphia, later called the Philadelphia Weekly, then simply PW, thus going linguistically from bad to terse. At the Welco I ran the arts section for about 11 years, then served as editor in chief for a year.
Next, I freelanced, mostly around Philadelphia, and started Sam Johnson’s Electronic Revenge, one of the first little magazines on the Web (1995), grinding out html by hand, enjoying it quite a lot and losing a fair dollop of money.
After that, back to the alternative weekly scene (what the hell does that really mean, eh?) as managing editor of The Forum, published and edited by Dan Rottenberg, under whom I’d served at the Welco.
Soon hooked up with SAP software, editing their North American customer magazine until it was discontinued (partly on my advice), then doing PR dogsbody editing for them. Later still, cleaned up Brit translations of German software articles. In between and around, did a variety of mag writing, edited the alum mag for the Penn Law School and wrote for the Penn Medical School mag.
Off an on I’ve written fiction. I somewhat finished novels in 1980 and again around 1997 and didn’t finish a few others in between. Gifts of a Dead Man was a newer one, and the first one published. Next (2017) came No Bike, a malignantly violent story of a biker gang. More recently, after 40 years of off-again, on-again tweaking, the absurdly named Evolution Unfolding in a Small Town in Western Pennsylvania, and a collection of short stories, Back Alleys. Except for Dead Man, the cover for each has been designed by my daughter, Caitlin.
At the Welco and the Forum, I snuck 60 or so short stories into my weekly column, without labeling them as such, which thoroughly confused our readers (heh heh). (You can read one or more of them, depending on my mood, by going to the stories tab here or above).
No Bike, originally pounded out on a wonderful Olympia portable in 1980, I found still wrapped in cellophane a couple years back in a pile of old paper in my workshop and was going to use it to start the winter woodstove. Then I read it and thought, to my amazement, “Damn, this is good.” The paper was too yellowed to scan with OCR, so I retyped the whole thing into my iMac, updating it only minorly.
Similarly for the far more ambitious Evolution Unfolding. It is probably unlike anything you’ve read or would be likely to read. It’s long, has no chapters, and details life in a no-way typical American town while also tying to outline and embrace human evolution. It features a scientist, pigmies, trolls, Native Americans, cultists, Chinese-Americans, Poles, anthropologists, a mad CIA operative, militant Amish, a retired mafia don, anti-nuke protestors, ghosts, black revolutionaries, the U.S. Army, an artist who paints only bridges, anthropomorphic possums and raccoons – and the Missing Link.
More recent efforts include attempts at a police-procedural screenplay, an historical novel based on a 1900 murder in Philadelphia and, currently, the tale of a brilliant (math genius) young woman possessed of bizarre, unwanted mental abilities. Perhaps the most rewarding work, though: collaboration on a screenplay, based loosely on a fairy tale, with my daughter Caitlin. Cait’s taught me not only that collaboration is possible, but can be hugely rewarding.
Locally, in the hemlocky woods of upper Pennsylvania, I’ve written (or co-written) over a dozen plays for the Sullivan County Council on the Arts. Eight are a cycle based on local history for the Arts Council’s Roving Historical Theater, though we tucked in a commedia dell’arte and, later, some modern vaudeville nonsense.
And not a damn bit of this has ever made me enough to live on.