Living with PTSD as an inspiration for writing
The best way to describe my writing process is the word eclectic which means “a person who derives ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources”.
I write and/or revise almost every day working on a book length manuscript, original blog posts or tweets for my daily Twitter Feeds, and I cover a wide range of topics from PTSD, combat, teaching, education, parenting, and China to reviewing books I’ve read or listened to. In fact, I have several reviews waiting to be written.
My passion for writing started the same year I was honorably discharged from the U.S. Marines in 1968 when I went to college on the GI Bill. At the time, there was no school of study in psychiatry for PTSD; that wouldn’t come about until the 1980s after Vietnam Veterans protested. In fact, I started writing my first book-length manuscript (science fiction) in 1968 after attending a lecture given by Ray Bradbury.
My writing habits then developed parallel to my writing skills as I worked through the years to earn a BA in journalism in 1973 from CSU Fresno, and then years later an MFA in writing. Between the BA and completing the MFA, I attended writing workshops for several years out of UCLA’s extension writing program.
My wife is responsible for the inspiration behind my first published novel, My Splendid Concubine (2008), when she introduced me to Robert Hart in 1999. I Googled him and bought his published journals and letters from Harvard University Press. Reading his journals introduced me to Ayaou, the concubine he bought in China; then later Hart attempted to erase her from his own history when he burned seven years of his journals that covered his first decade in China.
My next book will be a memoir called “Crazy is Normal, a classroom expose”. To trace the inspiration for this book, we have to start in 1975 when I became a full-time, paid intern (guided by a skilled master teacher) working for an entire school year to earn my teaching credential in a fifth grade class in an elementary school located in a community dominated by a dangerous Hispanic street gang.
Then about twenty years into my teaching career, I decided to keep a journal for one year that focused on what was happening at school and in my classroom on a daily basis.
For the last sixteen of the thirty years I was a teacher, I taught English and journalism (for seven of those years) to high school students in the same district where I interned in 1975-76. Eventually, I ended up teaching kids whose parents I’d taught years earlier from the same street gang infested community that was ironically called Happy Homes due to the street gang that dominated the area. (Street Gangs.com)
Each day as I arrived home, I’d sit down and write that daily entry from fresh memories unsullied by sleep and reinforced with notes, memos and referrals. Eighteen years later, I slipped that daily journal—with several hundred typed pages—off the garage shelf where it had sat for so long, dusted it off and used it as my primary source for the memoir that I plan to publish later this year—hopefully before the end of April.
Starting in the early 1980s, while I was working toward an MFA in writing, I stopped drinking at the same time that I started writing a memoir about my experiences in Vietnam in a self-directed graduate course at Cal Poly, Pomona.
After leaving the graduate program at Cal Poly, Pomona, I went to the UCLA extension writing program where the professor suggested I take those Vietnam experiences in the memoir that was never published and turn them into the fiction.
The inspiration for Running with the Enemy (2013) was my 1966 combat tour in Vietnam as a field radio operator in the US Marines and many of the scenes in the novel were borrowed from real life experiences in combat.
Publisher: Three Clover Press (February 1, 2013)