A Writers Story
July 13th 2005
Editors Note: As the Society of
American Travel Writers this fall begins its 50th year, we thought
it would be interesting to bring you a writers story.
You learn fairly early that being a
writer is a life of stale doughnuts, cold coffee and little or no
recognition. Of course, my life was exactly the same before I
decided to write fulltime, so to me it's all good.
I didn't go to college until I was 28, because I was busy exploring
the world and opening my personal boundaries. OK, mostly that
consisted of exploring bars and opening bottles of beer. In fact,
the ages of 21 to 27 are pretty hazy to me. I know there were a
couple jobs, mostly involving lifting things, and I know I had a
nice dinner at Red Lobster once. Aside from that, I'm at a loss.
The "Lost Years of Bill" as many historians now recall it is neither
here nor there and is really a story that only a full-length novel
could fully express. I'm currently working on this project, which
will likely become my life's work.
Back to writing. I attended the University of Alaska Anchorage,
which is a fabulous school if you plan to major in shivering or
desolation. I majored in journalism, which meant I got to do a lot
of reporting on shivering, desolate people.
Anyway, I learned early that being a writer meant to check
your ego at the door. Getting your name in a newspaper is fine if you're
main goal in life is to impress your mom, but a great percentage of the
general population thinks journalists and writers are self-absorbed
egomaniacs. I plan to address this at length in my book, which is
tentatively titled "BILL!! Say it again: BILL!!".
This great epiphany occurred to me during spring break of my junior year.
While many of my fellow students were enjoying fabulous Alaskan spring break
rituals like drinking, passing out in a snow bank and having their toes
amputated, I volunteered to be a counselor at a University sports camp for
Most of the other counselors were student-athletes, which made me stand out
like a sore thumb. A big, fat, stale-doughnut-eating sore thumb. This was
pointed out to me by one of the kids at the camp.
"You're kind of fat, what sport do you play?" the loveable little cherub
"Well, what I do is watch those guys play sports while I eat doughnuts and
write about it," I replied.
"That's kind of sad. Bye," the adorable urchin said.
So, while the athletes got to instruct groups of adoring 10-to-12 year olds,
I was stuck with the 9 year olds, who have the attention span of, well, some
sort of witty analogy for short attention span people. Sorry, reliving these
painful memories is draining my creativity.
Basically, I spent my spring break trying to play dodgeball with 9 year
olds, who had the uncanny ability to disappear from the group for hours on
end. I'd find them hidden away in teachers' lounge, smoking cigars, drinking
brandy from snifters and telling witty jokes about farts.
In the end though, I got my message across I believe, and we spent the final
couple days of the sports camp sitting around computers, eating stale
doughnuts, drinking cold coffee and stressing over deadlines. They
considered themselves lucky for the experience and for the ulcers and heart
So what does this all mean? Well, first of all, 9-year-old children should
be kept in a closet until they're 10. Extremely compassionate and humane
closets, mind you. Second, writers, whether a journalist for the Dubuque
Weekly Journal or Michael Crichton, shouldn't take themselves too seriously.
Once again, this will be covered in excruciating detail in my book, in a
chapter I will likely call "Jeez, Get Over Yourselves, it's Not Like You're
Bill or Anything."
William K. Wolfrum is a freelance writer based in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, Brazil.
His work has appeared in numerous magazines, newspapers
and Web sites.