So here we are again discovering who J. Morgan is, or rather how I got to become J. Morgan, author and sometimes insane dude at the comic book store. For the past two weeks, I’ve talked about the things that inspired me as a young child and put me on the road to becoming an author. Though, inspiration without two very important things won’t get you very far. I think it’s time for us to go back to 1980. Come on it won’t hurt too much. Bell bottoms were still lingering around, but hair metal had yet to come into being. The second British Invasion hadn’t yet reached us, and I had been put into an insidious institution that did much to change my thinking about the universe, Catholic School.
It wasn’t as bad as I’m making it out to be. Sure, the nuns were scary but gave me many of the concepts I still cultivate today. Some of those ideas have percolated into the books I’ve written and many that will come. But, I wouldn’t call that the most important thing to come out of my education. If I had to point to one thing as a game changer, it would be having Mrs. Ferschoff as my sixth grade English teacher. On a side note, years later I was able to thank her for being an early influence in my life. Okay, let’s move on to the why she helped me along this path to being a writer. At the time, I booed along with the rest of the class when she told us we’d be writing in daily journals. Who wanted to spend quality TV time writing down junk in some notebook? Apparently I did. She told us we could write about anything we wanted. What we did that day. Our dreams. Our hopes. Fictional stories. Whatever. The point was to express ourselves in words. She wouldn’t even count grammar mistakes against us. Hope my editor takes note of that revolutionary idea. So, I found myself writing elaborate stories involving invading Smurfs, ancient elves, Smokey and the Bandit and the all-time favorite at the time, The Dukes of Hazard. I can’t say any of these stories were any good, but I got stars and chuckles from her when she read them. I wish I still had that journal. Like all the things from youth, it got tossed in fits of my trying to avoid hoarderdom.
The next few years passed with that spark lying dormant as I rushed into puberty, and knowledge of girls filled what few synapses still fired regularly. Then, writing again crept into my collective consciousness. My high school English teacher, Mrs. Bailey, thought it would be fun to do some creative writing. Haikus, poetry of the worst nature consumed my nightly sinking into the dreaded homework. Poetry was for girls, or so I thought. When Mrs. Bailey began talking about some of my favorite musicians being poets, my outlook changed. As did my approach to listening to music. Jim Morrison was definitely a poet. You could hear it in the music of the Doors. Bob Dylan was a consummate poet. So, maybe there was something to this poetry business. I began writing loose fitted ideas down and forming them into poems and discovered I liked the process of doing it. Again, I won’t admit to them being especially good or well written but I liked doing it. Let me say this, all these poems were being composed without the threat of homework hanging over my head.
Our last assignment in creative writing was a short story. I pulled out all the stops to really impress her with my imagination. Unfortunately, this short story does still exist, but it shall never see the light of day. You can thank me later.
College was all about becoming an artist. Then one day close to registration I had to pick out an English elective to round out my requirements. In process of finding the easiest one to pull up my GPA, I saw something listed that blew my mind, Science Fiction as Literature. I rushed to sign up because a class this awesome sounding had to fill up quick. I succeeded in getting in and could hardly wait for next semester to get here. When it did, the class was everything I had hoped it would be, and dare I say more. Dr. Mc Guinness introduced me more to new authors and stories. He taught me the true purpose of school. It wasn’t, and isn’t, to teach you to read, write, and do math. Its purpose is to educate your mind to the concept of thinking. Don’t accept ideas you get from teachers and books. No work out for yourself the truth you find. Does it hold up to investigation? Does it ring true? The older I get, the more I see every day the truth in what I learned in his class. Ideas we held as truth back in the 90s aren’t true now. There aren’t nine planets in our solar system. History isn’t always how we see it today. Millions of little truths change as we as humanity learn more about the world we live in. I think out of everything I ever gleamed from my seventeen plus years in school, realizing the need to think for myself is the greatest thing any person could discover for themselves.
Other teachers reeducated my thinking. Another English professor Dr. Loomis continued to give me wonder in unravelling the hidden meanings behind some authors’ works. She gave me a love for Nathaniel Hawthorne that still amazes me when I reread one of his stories. Horror as Literature, another Dr. McGuiness class, continued my love of Hawthorne. I did take a creative writing class, but can’t remember the professor’s name, but I did like the class, but it was the above professors who I mark as the greatest influences on how I would later approach writing.
When the time came for me to actually pick up a computer and begin writing, I had only one influence that mattered, my wife Jenna. So much of who I am today comes from her loving me and me loving her. My daughter Morgan inspires a lot of my characters in little ways. The friends I’ve made since becoming a published writer have not only inspired my stories and its characters but they’ve helped teach me the mechanics of being a writer. They are much too many to list here and I wouldn’t dare to try(,) afraid I’d leave one of them out.
As I draw this who is J. Morgan diatribe to a close, I hope you take one thing away from it. Writers don’t become authors overnight. It is a long process of experience, inspiration, and determination. It isn’t a road walked alone. It is a life lived with love, pain and some tragedy involved. To truly express yourself in words upon a page or screen, you must first live and fully understand your world around you. Then, decide for yourself if escaping from your world and running to the one in your head will be a ride others will want to take with you. If you can honestly say yes, then begin writing and I can’t wait to see what your worlds are like.
That’s it for this week. Now, if you’ll kindly excuse me, I’ll go back to being a sick whiny man and annoying my wife with questions like, “Do you think I have fever?”.
Bye folks, and as always Happy Reading,