My New Career

By Mike Hershman


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Since I retired at age 62, three years ago, I've tried to become a writer.  It's fun 'cause family and friends seem to agree that I've finally flipped my lid. Comments like, "Well, how's the novel coming?" are quickly followed by a sidelong glance at Aunt Agnes.

I enjoyed myself at the start, parading around in mock turtlenecks and sandals, with a tattered Updike or McEwan tucked under my arm. Well, the McEwan wasn't too tattered.

I really didn't care much for the turtlenecks and prefer my well-worn sneakers. I now have a bookshelf filled with eight of my novellas bound in Office Depot three-ring binders. Most are historical mysteries set in the early 20th century. The books were great fun to write and research. I learned everything from the duties of an Iceman in the 1920s to the attendance at baseball games in the Japanese Internment camps. The Icemen often weighed newborns on their scales, and gave slivers of ice to neighbourhood kids. Since there was little else to do at the internment camps, ball games were extremely popular. The books target, as we say in the trade, Middle Grade and Young Adult boys. There's only one problem with my target audience - as I'm frequently reminded at reunions of former workmates or family - "Why write those? Boys don't read."

I was becoming a little ticked off - first at the mindless nits for making such comments, and later, at the little ingrates for proving them right. I even had to bribe Ryan, my 15-year-old grandson with a learner's permit, into letting me read him a book while he lead footed around town in my car. I felt a little safer somehow as I concentrated on my reading. Ryan would encourage me every now and again, after avoiding yet another three-car pile up, by saying something like "Keep reading Pops - I like it."

Come to think of it, I can't really say I was an avid reader myself between the ages of, say, 12 and 17. There's a whole lot of fun and not so fun stuff going on at that age. In my day, there was surfing and girls, cars and girls, sports and - you get the idea. Nowadays, you can add in Xbox, Guitar Hero, YouTube, iPods, cellphones and X-rated websites. Kids can now watch, in the comfort of their family room, what we used to watch, when the projector worked, on a bedsheet tacked to the back of some guys garage door. Given all that action, who is going to sit down and read 200 pages written by some dude born 64 years ago? 

Looking back, I remember late nights reading books like *The Happy Hollisters* and Bennett Cerf's terrific Landmark Series of non-fiction history books. That lasted from around age nine or so 'til 12. After that, aside from reading *The Catcher in the Rye*, and peeking at now tame chapters of *Peyton Place*, I don't think I read much at all until I picked up Nordhoff and Hall's *Bounty* trilogy at age 18. I remember following that up with Leo Uris's *Battle Cry* and *Mila 18* and I've read non-stop ever since.

I guess, if I'd ever like to be published, I should switch my writing to either younger boys or adults. People who write for young kids have a certain magical quality that, try as I might, I just can't seem to pull off. As for adults, well, never having felt that I really attained true adulthood, whatever that is, I just don't feel qualified.

So, I guess I'll just plug along for my uncaring clients. I wonder if J.K. Rowling had these same issues when she started out with what's his name?             

SENIOR LIVING VANCOUVER ISLAND - May 2009

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