I was asked how I became a writer. The simple answer is that I have always written. As early as the fourth-grade I was sharing stories I had typed up on an old typewriter my dad had rescued from work. I am not sure if any of those stories were any good (none are in university or Smithsonian collections), but I sure enjoyed creating them and from that point forward couldn`t imagine doing anything else.
During my freshman year of high school I was asked, not so politely, to leave French class because I was being a constant distraction (playing disc jockey with the microphones and headsets, which were supposed to allow us to hear our diction). The only other elective class during second period was journalism, which led to a spot on the school newspaper.
In journalism I learned how to organize my thoughts and communicate in a crisp and clear manner that came naturally to me. I continued the study of journalism in college and worked for a half-dozen newspapers and magazines in the years that followed.
My son, who is now pursing a dream of being a rock star, once told me that he wanted to be a writer. `Really,â€ I said. `Does that mean you`re going to come and work with me at the magazine?â€
`No,â€ he said. `I want to be a â€˜real` writer.â€
What he meant, I think, is that he wanted to write booksâ€”fictionâ€”free from creative restraint. I think that`s what he meant, but knowing who, what, when, where, why and how is important when you begin to build plot, suspense, scene and dialogue.
The stories I write today are grounded in fact, not fiction. I attempt, however, to use the tools of fiction writers and poets to present stories that are not confined to a formula or format.
Stephen M. Vest is the editor and publisher of Kentucky Monthly magazine. He writes a monthly column and is the author of THAT Kind of Journalist. His writing has appeared in newspapers, magazine and literary journals.