My life -- ALL life -- is grist for the mill.
As a child I had three ambitions. To be a writer, to see the world, to make the world a better place.
At ten I got my first rejection slip (from American Girl).
At eleven I won second prize in a high school writing contest.
As a senior in high school I won honorable mention in the Scholastic writing contest (big whoopee).
Got a writing scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh, got married at 19, had a kid at 20, got divorced at 24.
Then I took off for New York with my daughter, my lover, two Siamese cats. Lived on the lower east side one block from St. Marks Church and the Poetry Project. Sold a film script and took off to see the world with my six-year-old daughter, boyfriend, and $1.00 a day -- split three ways. We travelled nine months through Europe, North Africa, the Middle East. Highlight: spent the night in a sewer pipe in Algeria.
Came back and poured everything I had into my first novel and the poems in my first poetry book -- and wound up broke.
Spent the next 30 odd years trying to make ends meet -- producing grist for the mill.
At 62, I'm still trying to make ends meet and have SO much grist, I don't know what to make of it all. At the rate I've been going, it could take another 60 years to figure it out. But if I write four pages a day five days a week, I can catch up by 2012.
It's a plan.
LITERARY HONORS (And Horrors)
I rarely submit work anywhere, and rarely apply for anything, but I did win the University of Cincinnati Elliston Poetry Prize (1968).
Served as "shaman in residence" at the St. Lawrence Summer Writers Conference (1974).
Did a residency at the Djerassai Foundation (1985).
A BIG HOLE IN MY STORY
Have I mentioned I dreamed about the ozone hole before it made the news? It was the worst nightmare I ever had. I wrote down -- over and over again. Read a draft at the Djerassi Foundation. Could not imagine what it meant.
When I finally saw the first report in the New York Times I said that's it, the hole in the sky I dreamed about. When the second report on the ozone hole appeared -- the next year -- I picked up the phone and called everyone mentioned in those articles.
I attended congressional hearings and climate conferences, interviewed government scientists AND the one who warned us about the gas in deodorant spray cans, learned car and jet exhaust are part of the problem, figured out four ways we could lose the global ozone shield sometime soon, came across a world class scoop the New York Times refused to credit me with, and wrote a report for the U.S. Senate in 1988.
Am told it helped. Who told me that?
A guy I never met and had never heard of, who called one day and said he was on the board of the World Climate Institute and wanted to write a book about people plotting to save the world from global warming.
He was charming but I didn't trust him. He called every once in awhile, said he was a retired army colonel, he was friends with Pete Seeger and, "I worked in Reagan's White House -- in the basement with Ollie North."
Which was decent of him. To tell me that up front.
I Googled him the other day. And I'm afraid everything he said was true.