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When my mom was a young woman living in the dryland farming community of Winifred, in central Montana, she shot herself in the foot. A deadeye with a .22, but when it came to target practice, she had a nasty habit of resting the tip of the rifle barrel on the top of her shoe.

The nearest hospital was 40 miles away and over a gravel road, so her dad took her to the men’s locker room of Winifred’s high school, hoping the handsome new football coach from California might be able to bandage her up for the long trip to the doctor.

The handsome coach attended to her wound all right, and then he kept attending to her when she was in the hospital and continued attending to her after she was healed; in fact, he kept on with all this attending until she finally married him.

Now I was always telling this story of how my parents first met but I had never put it down on paper. It wasn’t until the summer of 2002, during a Missoula Colony playwriting workshop, when Marsha Norman asked us to write some dialogue of our parents' first meeting.

That serendipitous assignment became my first play.

And speaking of “firsts,” when I was a house painter in suburban Chicago, our crew listened to a lot of radio. In the fall of 1988, with the radio duct taped to my ladder, I heard Beth and Tim Disa of the Beth and Tim (radio) Show, talking about their plans to start a literary magazine called Stray.

I submitted a story titled The Nuclear Baby Boom, which made it into the magazine, and oddly enough, so did my cover letter.

That's my cover letter (above and to the right), with an illustration of me drawn by Steve Fanelli. It was of course drawn, back when I still had some hair and some hope.

J typewriter sucide.jpg

Dear Beth & Tim,

I am unknown.

Publish me.


remove my


Do I have a writing philosophy?

I am very glad I asked that question.

As for a writing philosophy, I look back at my squandered youth—and toward my squandered middle age—and I take solace. I take solace because, somehow, I keep drawing inspiration from all that squandering.

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