I attended St. John’s Prep in Brooklyn, where I became an avid reader, consuming over 50 novels in my freshman year. This led to a growing interest in writing, with no practical outlet for that desire.
Skipping college, I joined my family’s printing company in New York City. It allowed me to write the text for customers’ brochures, and my writing skills gradually improved.
I then started writing a novel based on my experiences selling printing. I enrolled in a fiction-writing class at The New School in Greenwich Village. The professor was a published author, with few teaching skills. The first evening, he asked each student to submit a book chapter as homework for the second class. After not getting feedback, I questioned the professor at the end of the semester. He told me my submission was unprofessional, and not worthy of a comment. Discouraged and disheartened, I shelved any plans to write fiction.
From 1962 until 1996, I founded several marketing communications companies. As Creative Director, many of the brochures, newsletters, advertising and public relations campaigns included my content writing.
In 1996, I left the entrepreneur world and took a position as Chief Communications Officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield in Rhode Island, a 2,000-employee corporate bureaucracy. Adjusting to the culture, I organized a communications department with a staff of 25 gifted creative people. Together, we were able to overcome the layers of management and set the standard for communications throughout the far-flung International Blue Cross organization.
After six years, I yearned to escape the corporate culture and get back to entrepreneurship. I left the company and moved to Florida, where we set up a virtual marketing agency in Sarasota.
I then decided to write a tribute to the award-winning staff I left behind at Blue Cross. My plan was to produce a short book and distribute copies to my team and select corporate executives.
Realizing that my Blue Cross email account was still active. I downloaded scores of emails containing the humorous interactive banter I had with the department. I had used these exchanges to keep the team creative, engaged and entertained.
While organizing and writing this piece, a devastating, front-page story about me broke in the Providence Journal in Rhode Island. It alleged that while at Blue Cross, I signed an unauthorized contract to sponsor a TV show produced and hosted by a state senator. The ensuing investigation claimed that it was an illegal bribe to support the senator’s reelection.
Despite the jeopardy of the situation, I quickly recognized that I now had a real story to write. Using my email collection, I wrote a novel based on this accusation, filling out the story with fictitious messages. Character and plot development in this format were very challenging but I persevered.
Searching for an agent and reading rejection letters consumed another humbling year. Aware of my struggle to find an agent, one of my friends told me his wife knew the editor of a small Sarasota publisher.
I immediately sent the manuscript to the editor, hoping the name recognition would open the door. A couple of days later, he called, confused because he had no idea who the referenced woman was. He also told my novel did not fit his company’s genre. Disappointment struck again.
The next day, the editor emailed me. He said he read the draft out of curiosity, and stayed up into the night to complete it. He liked the story so much, he decided that his company would publish my novel. The book, Executive Crumple Zone went on to win the International Book Award.
This exciting plunge into the publishing world led to my writing and self-publishing six additional books over the next several years. My eighth book will hopefully be published within the next few months, with several more to follow behind that.