I realized that I was born to be a writer a long, long time ago. Whenever I read a story in grade school, I often had questions about what the story meant and why the story was written that way. I especially loved the English composition assignments that required us to write about personal experiences. I loved those assignments even if we had to present them in front of the whole class. I was a shy boy who stuttered and spoke broken English with a Mexican accent, but once I wrote a masterpiece of an English composition assignment, I wanted the whole world to hear it!
I also went through what I like to call my Russian phase when I read a lot of Russian novels. For months, I read nothing but Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Pasternak, and Chekhov. On those overcast, cold, rainy days, I would say to myself, “What moody and introspective day. Perfect for curling up with a samovar of tea and reading a Russian novel while listening to Prokofiev. However, I avoided Russian poetry because as a poet I was still in the “Roses are red, Violets are blue …” phase back then. I realized that the only way I would ever write the Great American Novel would be by imitating the Great Russian writers. So I transformed myself into David Diegovich Rodrigoevsky! (My mother actually playfully would tell her Polish friends that she was Carmen Rodrigowski and I followed suit when I became a Russian novelist. Now that I think of it, I have never met a Polish Carmen!) I began calling my girlfriend Catherine, Katya. When she offered me food, I would tell her, “Nyet! I have a novel to write!” and continue typing away on my electric typewriter. I tried writing with a quill, but the feather kept tickling my nose. Needless to say, I have yet to complete the Great American Novel. But I have lofty ambitions. J