Rise Above the Tears

Rise Above the Tears

My Grandpa Joe’s death had a big influence on my life, as well as my writing. There are a lot of readers of this blog that originally came here as a result of that influence. This week, I wrote about his death at The Confabulator Cafe. Feel free to check it out. http://www.confabulatorcafe.com/2012/08/rise-above-the-tears/


Olympic Imagination

The Olympics are an amazing thing. I’m not necessarily referring to the athletic feats accomplished, even though they are spectacular. They are amazing in how they develop a sense of national pride and teach admiration for dedication.

A lot of the athletes at this year’s summer Olympics will never be rich because of their sports. Sure, these days, there are NBA players, although if the league has their way, that will soon change in favor of competition at a World Basketball Classic type tournament that the owners can use for financial profit. However, a majority of the athletes work day jobs, paid a majority of their way to the Olympics, and will go back to normal lives as soon as the games are over.

For some, such as gymnastics and diving, they will find their careers winding down early in their lives, replaced by athletes who are younger and more capable of the impossible feats they make look so easy.

Fencers aren’t looking at millions in professional leagues, neither are judokas, wrestlers, or many other athletes. Still, they come out every four years, and they represent their countries proudly. I have an immense amount of pride in how most of them represent my country. And now, as the father of a four-year old who has never seen the Olympics before, I have an immense appreciation for the inspiration they have given my son.

Every night, we have been watching the Olympics. He watches and sees that hard work and personal goals can be their own rewards. We have set up our own events at home. The living room became archery and shooting ranges. The basement, where I normally practice martial arts, became a boxing and taekwondo arena, the bed a wrestling and judo mat.

Now, when he runs, he gets down in invisible starting blocks and takes off on the sound of an imaginary gun. He says he is going to swim in the Olympics and he is going to go faster than everyone. He takes part in imaginary medal ceremonies, using medals I won, and sings an imaginary national anthem while covering his heart with his hand. He knows our flag, and he points it out wherever he sees it.

I know this influence won’t last forever. I know that it will be another four years before the summer Olympics will come along again. Still, there are worse things to learn as a four year-old, and in an era when so many people seem to be afraid to express pride in their country, I am thankful that we have the Olympics to make it okay again.

The medal count in London continues to climb. We see amazing feats as records continue to fall. We hear about countries that steal children away from their parents and put them in sports camps at young ages. We hear rumors of countries that only show appreciation for gold, and who punish failure. Yet, our society of free choice continues to perform well. The young men and women we sent to London continue to prove to be our finest.

I would like to personally thank all of the athletes competing at the London games this year.  Your performances have been amazing. Your example has been generally unfaltering. But your influence on my son has been priceless.


Whispering and Shouting with Bradbury

“What are the best things and the worst things in your life, and when are you going to get around to whispering or shouting them?” – Ray Bradbury

This morning, Ray Bradbury died. It is strange to write that sentence. It’s one of those things that never quite seemed possible. The writer that never grew up, that never lose his childhood love of life and writing, has now been written out of our lives.

Ray Bradbury held a special place for me. In college, while I was taking a fiction class, just for fun, I decided to read about being a writer. I had written screenplays before. I had written comic books for most of my life. I had even written a story a time or two, but I had never thought of myself as a writer.


That changed when I read Zen and the Art of Writing. It blew my world apart. The book is a collection of essays written by Bradbury on the subject of writing. There is little talk of technique, methodology, style, scene structure, climax, and the like.

Zen contains something so much more important. It is Bradbury’s love letter to writing. It is hard to imagine anyone who loved the art of writing as much as Bradbury. His passion poured off the pages. It is no wonder that I would find myself soaked in it.

Bradbury penned a pep rally for writers. To this day, I cannot read Zen without immediately feeling the need to rush to a keyboard, any keyboard, and get to work. For a young man just learning to write fiction, that was exactly what I needed.

I’ve read countless books on writing. I have several more waiting for me to read them. All pale in comparison to the feeling I got from reading Zen. Those other books taught me about writing. Bradbury taught me to go ahead and get on with it.

The creative method I use today hasn’t changed much from that time. I still sit and start typing. If something comes out of it that is good, great. If it doesn’t, I enjoyed it all the same.

Bradbury poured his life into a typewriter and found the fantastic. He found excitement and joy in the smallest things. He excited and terrified us. In a world where writers are pigeon-holed into marketing genre, Bradbury transcended them.

There was always a debate in the science fiction world of whether or not Bradbury wrote Science Fiction. He insisted he did not. What I came to realize is that Bradbury did not write science fiction, fantasy, mystery, or horror. He wrote what he wanted. He wrote Bradbury.

I’ve never had a mentor in writing. My instructors in college were helpful, but were around for only a moment. The rest of my writing training has come from books and the critique of my peers. Looking back, the constant in my writing life has been the impact of Zen and the Art of Writing.

Bradbury was my hero, my role model. He was the closest thing I had to a mentor, and I never met him. Still, I felt I knew Bradbury in a way, as I think we all did. We knew him through his writing, a prolific career that continued nearly his entire life.

I cannot thank him enough for the gift he gave me, as well as all he other writers he inspired. There should be no shedding tears. Instead, I hope to hear the clacking of keyboards as I, and my colleagues, celebrate his life the way he celebrated it, by writing.