Thursday, December 10, 2009

On Writing Heritage

The post title's only slightly misleading. "Slightly" because this post is about my writing heritage, but more about my family than anything. This one's going to be a downer, folks, so stop reading here if you want to keep your mood peppy.

My grandfather died on January 12, precisely a week after I started the job I mention in my profile. He was 83 years old, and had suffered from lymphoma for months; it got so bad that all anyone could do was make him comfortable for the end. I've seen pictures from Christmas 2008 and all I remember thinking was "That's not Pop. Pop's not that skinny." I'll spare you any more details (mostly because I don't want to gross you out, but also because it's stuff I'm not comfortable sharing on the Internet).

Of all the people confident in my writing talent, and there are a good number, Pop's voice was the loudest. And no wonder.

Pop was a consummate storyteller; he told tales about his childhood in the Depression, about my mother and her brother and sister when they were kids, and even about worlds he made up wholesale in the furnace of his imagination. He told me my great grandmother -- his mother -- wrote plays that were performed on stage in Philadelphia, and he talked about the short stories he published before going off to World War II.

Pop told me once that he'd had the chance to write full-time. A magazine offered him a contract to write more of his short stories, and he would've taken it, except he had other responsibilities then, so he started working at Bethlehem Steel instead. As far as I know, he never tried to publish another story. By the time he retired in 1978, and had time, he was already deep into a list of family responsibilities that stretched as long as my arm. Pop never thought twice about taking care of his family, and for that I respect him.

He's the only one who ever read ROSEFIRE (the original version of SON OF MAGIC) front to back. My aunt (mom's sister) said that he was reading it every time she turned around. The "book" was just a printed draft that I'd signed and put in a 3-inch binder for him. He loved the story, and was absolutely floored when I said my first published novel would be dedicated to him. That's how humble he was.

I've said before that I write because I can't not. Well it's also because of Pop. I want to see my name in print so I can see his name there too. That's the best gift I can give the old man, even though he's passed on.

How about you, my loyal readers? Have you already planned your first dedication? Or have you not even thought about it yet?

P.S. http://www.matthewdelman.com is mostly up and running. I'm still trying to work out some design kinks, but everything's set otherwise.

10 comments:

Renee Pinner said...

What a rich family history. Your Pop sounds like he was super cool dude. Thank you for sharing.
In answer to your question, I've only given a passing thought to a dedication. I'd definitely include my older brother. He is the one in the Army and supports me without doubt or hesitation.

Steph Damore said...

See, what a nice heartfelt reason to be published. Super cool. I won't even share mine now :)

As for your dedication question, of course I've given it thought. I fully plan on dedicating my first novel to my husband.

Stephanie Thornton said...

This is my favorite post you've done to date, Matt. I've always known I would dedicate my first book to my mom. She encouraged my writing when I was little and her death put the world into focus. I am highly motivated (to the point I rarely sit still) because of her. I want to accomplish everything she didn't get to because she died so young.

And now I've officially depressed your comments. Sorry!

Matthew Delman said...

Renee --

Oh, he was a stinker that one. My favorite Pop story is one my mom tells of him walking out on the front porch and shouting to the neighborhood that my grandmother wouldn't make him a cup of coffee.

Steph --

I figure spouses/significant others are some of the most common people to dedicate to -- mostly because they're the ones that have to put up with our writerly dreams day in and day out. :)

Stephanie --

Your perfectionist post about your mom is a big reason I decided to write this at all. I never intended to even mention Pop on here until I read that. So thanks for opening the floodgates.

Bane of Anubis said...

A very touching tribute, sir. Nicely done.

L. T. Host said...

I have something in my eye.

This was beautiful, Matt. Thanks for sharing.

I have given my dedication page a lot of thought, and I must say that come the day I have one, it will be very hard to decide. I might have a rather long dedication, AND acknowledgments page.

K.M. Weiland said...

This story isn't a downer - not at all. It's a marvelous ode to the kind of love and support and encouragement that not everyone is lucky enough to get from their families. I'd say you were a very blessed man to have a grandfather like that. And your drive to see *his* name in print is inspiring!

Rick Daley said...

My first dedication will go to my wife.

Many years back we were walking in the woods.

"I think I want to write a novel," I told her. To my surprise, she didn't laugh.

"What will it be about?" she asked.

I told her the basic premise behind FATE'S GUARDIAN. Again, she did not laugh. She encouraged me to do it.

Without her support, I never would have started. Without starting, I never would have gotten where I am today.

I doubt FATE'S GUARDIAN will be my first work published, but the first on and FATE'S GUARDIAN will be dedicated to her.

Natalie said...

What a sweet memory of your grandpa. It's so hard to watch people we love get old and sick. I think seeing his name in print in your own work is a wonderful goal.

I'll probably dedicate my books to my husband and kids. I don't think a dedication would mean as much to anyone else.

The website looks great by the way.

Laura Martone said...

I agree with everyone else, Matt. This isn't a downer at all. Nope, not at all. It's truly poignant and inspiring - you were very lucky to have someone so supportive in your life, and your Pop was very lucky to have someone like you to support.

I've thought about my dedication long and hard, and this might sound terribly pessimistic, but just in case I never publish anything beyond my first novel, I'm thanking the four people who have kept me on the writer's path at various points in my life:

For my parents, who nurtured my dreams; my husband, whose love inspires me; and Pawws, whose spirit will never be forgotten.

Sappy, I know, but that's what I want it to say. (Pawws, incidentally, is my dearly departed kitty, who used to sit on my lap while I wrote.)