Journalist, educator, writer, and artist. US Marine Air Corps, 1946-48; University of Washington, BA, 1951; Seattle Times, reporter, 1950-1953; Foreign Broadcast Information Service, 1953-57; freelance writer and student, Yale University School of Art, 1957-1960; Yale BFA, 1960; Kenyon College Department of Art, 1962-1988, set up major program in studio and art history that went from one man to eight persons and introduced a course on writing the illustrated book; consultant with Dr. Irvin Child in the Yale Psychology Department on the psychology of art, 1960-66, and co-wrote The Preconceptual Eye (Art Journal, Fall 1963 based on those studies); consultant National Endowment for the Arts, Fiction In Newspapers program I instigated, 1977, that eventually went nowhere. Author of short stories (The New Yorker, Contempora) and many children’s books (see Penguin list); most recent, 2009 Penguin--I Want To Be Free, with illustrator E. B. Lewis.
I was born a writer, but always believed, as with Ernest Hemingway and others, I would be more skilled if I learned my craft in newspaper reporting. Even before earning my journalism degree, I began work as a stringer for The Seattle Times reporting UW news on a daily basis, even doing that while editor of The Daily in my senior year.
The Times hired me after I graduated, and I began writing obituaries under Lane Smith, who was religion editor. Lane was a gentle and congenial boss. He became a close friend and went on to become city editor of The Times. It was a good beginning for me because I learned to perfect stripped-down objective prose. I then went on to the Sunday department and that gave me the opportunity to write longer pieces at a slower pace. The Times treated me well, but I needed to get out of Seattle and see more of the world.
I was recruited by Foreign Broadcast Information Service to do editorial work and even though it was a bit mysterious, I jumped at the chance. The mystery I learned was that FBIS was a branch of the CIA. But it was not covert, and somewhat like Voice of America, but instead of broadcasting, we listened to foreign broadcasts. We were interested in what foreign governments, especially hostile ones, had to say about US foreign policy. We then put out a daily report of most of these broadcasts. That report was subscribed to by both government agencies and university libraries.
I edited in the FBIS Far East section and eventually was transferred to listening posts in Santa Rosa, CA., and Tokyo. I learned a great deal about propaganda and to distinguish shifts in policy, particularly with regard to China, our chief adversary then. But that work, though interesting, did not fulfill my nagging creative need, and I began to wonder if I had taken the wrong turn. I turned to a second love, art. I began drawing and painting in Tokyo. After two years, I sent a portfolio to Josef Albers at Yale, and he admitted me to Yale’s BFA program.
At Yale, my early frustration with design problems, threw me back on my fundamental nature, which was writing. I’ve never been glib, always like the short forms. I began studying short story writers, and particularly my favorite Frank O’Connor.
One night I poured out my memories about the death of my sister Rose, an artist and creator of her own children’s books, who died at 17. I sent it off to The New Yorker, and—lo and behold!—they bought it.
I knew then I would have to combine my writing and my art, but I had no idea how. I had to get my degree and find a job.
Member since 1980
Region: Maryland/Delaware/West Virginia
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