Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sometimes it gets so hard to hide it well

Three years ago, I found out something about me that made much of my life make sense. 

I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome.

For those who do not know what Asperger Syndrome is, it is a form of high-functioning autism. If you asked someone what an autistic person is like, they would probably say Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man. (While that character was based on someone who was not autistic, there are some similarities.) Autism actually varies widely and affects people in different ways. Most autistics are not afraid of flying, nor are they especially adept at counting cards. 

Some of the characteristics of AS include difficulties in basic elements of social interaction, restricted and repetitive interests and behavior, speech and language abnormalities, and problems with motor skills. I have all of these characteristics.

It is hard for me to write this, but I think it is important to try, because I feel that my experiences are things that people can learn from—Aspies, their families, and perhaps even myself. 

I could spend a month of blog entries on each of the Aspie characteristics and how they have impacted my life. The most prominent one is the inability to read people. It has been only recently—since my diagnosis—that I discovered that I have a big problem understanding people and their motivations. I tend to take things people say literally, which often gets me into trouble. Case in point: I was in law school for a year—the mistake of my life. At the beginning of the year, one of the officers of the student bar association spoke to the first-year students. Among the things he told us was, “Don’t worry about your grades. They’re like the lottery.” I took this to mean that your grades somehow did not matter. I’m still not sure what he really meant—maybe that you can work your butt off and still get a C. Regardless, it’s way too late to figure out that statement. 

One might look at my Facebook profile and wonder how I can have a problem with people. My college major was, of all things, public relations. But I saw PR as more of a writing job, and it appeared to be a way to write that promised more job opportunities (or so I was told) than majoring in journalism or English.

The irony is that I actually thought I was good at working with people back then. The reason I thought this seems silly in retrospect. I figured I was good with people because—are you ready?—math and science were my worst subjects in high school (and I think that might have had more to do with how those subjects were taught than any lack of ability on my part). I’m bad at math, so that means I’m good with people, right? There’s a lesson in that. As I learned, in rather humiliating fashion, during a seventh-grade field day, just because you can’t hit doesn’t mean you can pitch.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Words are all I have

Why do people blog? I think it’s because it gives them an opportunity to make a difference. Blog and you could end up on the news or make a difference in some way. And we all want to make a difference. Not many people want to just exist. 

I have not blogged in quite some time, mainly because I work six days a week. Any spare time is devoted to spending time with my wife, cleaning up around the house, feeding various animals, and falling asleep in front of Penguins games. 

I also, frankly, don’t have much stomach for being involved in controversy. There have been past blog entries where words have offended certain people, even though those words were not aimed at those people. Incidents such as this keep me from saying what I want to say and take all the fun out of blogging. 

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what kind of legacy I will leave on this earth. If few people want to just exist, even fewer want to not exist. The thought of becoming nothing is too horrible for most people to contemplate—that’s why religions were created.

I will be gone someday. It does not appear that I will have any children. So what can I do that will live on after me?

Writing seems like the most logical way to leave something on this earth. I have written a novel, which is available at (end of commercial). All the people who have read my novel could fit comfortably in my house. I still say it’s a pretty good read. 

A blog seems more alive than a book that will sit on a shelf for 20 years and end up in a yard sale, anyhow. With a blog, I can say what’s on my mind at any given moment and it’s always out there, for better or worse. It will stay out there as long as there’s an Internet.

So you may see more blog entries from me in the future. I’m not sure what form the blog will take. I’m not one to bore people with the minutiae of my life. I don’t share pictures of my dinner or rant about the jerk who shut me off in traffic. I don’t feel comfortable doing that and I don’t think a whole lot of people are interested in it, anyhow. 

I would like to turn a blog into a kind of memoir—sharing parts of my life and the lessons I’ve learned from them. I feel as if I have a lot to say about certain subjects and I think people could be enlightened by them. 

You might hear from me again soon. Or you might not hear from me until I rededicate this blog, again, two years from now. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

You need not wonder why

In between betting races online at Oaklawn Park, I decided to take a look at this blog, since I haven't been to it in a while.
I see two posts from 2013--which was an improvement over one in 2012. These figures are down from a record 28 in 2008. (And Jamie's and my sports blog, The Fritz Blitz, hasn't been touched since 2012.)
Why has my interest in blogging dropped off?
It's simple. I have no time.
In September 2012 I became a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. This job is six days a week (and will be for the foreseeable future, regardless of what you might have heard on the news) and is very demanding. I have already blogged about the time pressure, but the physical demands are also considerable. My over/under for weekly falls would probably be in the 1.5 range.
When I come home, I'm usually exhausted. My new hobby is falling asleep in front of the TV. I've slept through a lot of classic movies lately, not to mention the Winter Olympics and Ken Burns' Jazz.
I guess I have no right to complain. I'm not going to bore you with the many convolutions of my career, but, as I look back, I really have myself to blame for winding up in a job that isn't very enjoyable and leaves me with no free time.
There's a big upside to the job, though. It pays much better than any other job I've ever had, so I now have the opportunity to pay some debts and make my limited spare time more enjoyable. I have to keep reminding myself that, while I was on my previous job, I had to take a second job to make ends meet. And the U.S. Postal Service is still a pretty secure outfit, regardless of what certain Congressmen may try to do. 
The only reason I'm blogging right now is that, being a government employee, I have President's Day off.
So, while you won't hear from me as often as you used to, I'll try to blog when I can. Here's to Washington and Lincoln and all the rest (OK, I'm not sure about Nixon). And Oaklawn Park. I'm winning.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

An open letter to Suzy Lee Weiss

Dear Miss Weiss,

I read your recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, “To (All) the Colleges that Rejected Me,” with some amusement and a great deal of confusion. Since you attend Taylor Allderdice High School in Pittsburgh, it appears that we live only a few miles from each other, but it seems that we do not live in the same world.

In this piece, you accuse colleges of lying to you, and you attack their emphasis on diversity and extracurricular activities. You now say that the piece is satire, but the tone is insulting. To imply, for example, that Elizabeth Warren got where she is because she is of Cherokee descent, when many Native Americans live in poverty you cannot imagine, is offensive to both Warren and Native Americans.  

I can empathize with you in one respect, though. I, too, remember the college search as very frustrating. It was my first realization that the achievements in which I took great pride were actually quite ordinary. Colleges didn’t care about my prowess in my local TV station’s quiz-bowl game, and their definition of community service didn’t include being my dad’s designated driver on the way home from the racetrack.

But the similarity of your experience to mine ends there. I grew up in Columbus, Ohio, in a neighborhood that was near the middle of the bell curve as far as income and social standing. My father ran a barber shop and put four of his five kids through college—and the fifth one makes the most money, of course.

You’ve listed some of the colleges that rejected you—Princeton, Yale, Penn and Vanderbilt. Getting into these colleges was not something my peers and I needed to worry about. Nobody from these schools recruited us and no teacher or counselor mentioned their names. These were mythical places that topped lists that we read in news magazines while waiting for the dentist, nothing more.

For most of my classmates, the college search began and ended with two words—Ohio State. Now, I have many OSU alumni as Facebook friends, so, before they think I’m putting down Ohio State, let me say that it’s a very good school in many respects, and their football team doesn’t suck, either. On the other hand, I’ve never read a magazine article titled “How to Get Your Kid into Ohio State.”

Why Ohio State? Proximity was a factor, as were its size and the ease of admission. But the school’s most important feature was its relatively low tuition. The kids in my neighborhood wouldn’t have been able to afford Princeton or Yale, even if they were accepted by those schools.

In the world where I grew up, being accepted by a college wasn’t an issue so much as paying for it.  I was accepted by four schools—Ohio State, Ohio University, Michigan State and Otterbein. I went to Otterbein, a small liberal arts college in Westerville, Ohio. Most of the people in your social set haven’t heard of it, and those who have probably have it confused with Oberlin. It was not my original first choice, or the second, or the third, or the 50th. Frankly, the only reason I applied there was that there was no application fee at that time. And the main reason I went there? It was the only college that offered me a scholarship--which meant a lot to me, and even more to my parents, who were footing the bill. And Otterbein worked out well. I graduated four years later and have a lot of happy memories of the place.

I think the college search is getting to you, Suzy. Maybe what you really need is a year off. Not to go “find yourself,” whatever that means, but to try a different approach. The U.S. Postal Service is currently taking applications for City Carrier Assistant, which is the job I’m working now. After a year of delivering mail under tight deadlines in all kinds of weather, neighborhoods and road conditions, I guarantee that you’ll be happy to go to any college that will take you.

Might I suggest Otterbein? Who knows? You might like it.

Best wishes,
Bob Fritz

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Between you and me and Grant Green

2012 rolled by with one lousy blog post. Well, it wasn't lousy. It was kind of funny. But it makes me think--whatever happened to my desire to write.
I have this novel (which is still available through, thank you) and I think I did a pretty good job on it. Sometimes I think I said all I really wanted to say in that book. It's a good story, if I do say so myself, but I don't feel like it should be the last word on my life.
A lot has happened since my last blog entry. In July I lost my job. Nine years with the company and they decided my job performance just wasn't good enough. Still trying to figure out why that happened. I felt like I was going nowhere there anyhow--hadn't had a raise in four years.
In August, my dad passed away. He was 88 and died of liver cancer. He ran a barber shop in Columbus for 56 years. It's closed now and has been cleaned out down to the tonic case. My mom has been left with a lot of work to do and a lot of old racetrack tickets. The racetrack was where Dad was happiest, if you could have called him happy. And it was where I was happiest for quite a few years. Money is too precious to me now. I can't believe now how much I used to bet on horses back when I was working for the Racing Form. And dogs, and blackjack, and...
Then, in September, I was hired as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. It's much better paying than my previous job, and also a lot more work. It's not your father's Postal Service. The clock is everything there. Get the mail out and be back by five. The carriers are very supportive and I've learned a lot from them, though. I was supposed to have a 90-day evaluation, but the manager said the other day that I'm "past that now," whatever that means, so I'm assuming that I'm good. Having a job situation so up in the air has really made me live life one day at a time. Each day that I still have a job seems like a bonus to me now. It does make me wonder what might have happened had I worked half this hard on any of the other jobs I've had in my life.
So, here I am. Jamie isn't feeling well and went to bed early and I'm listening to Grant Green playing "A Day in the Life" on YouTube. Not a bad way to spend a Wednesday evening, I guess.
So why do we blog? I look through other people's blogs and there seems to be so much repetition. Someone's photographs here, some teenager who can't stand life anymore there. How much is really worth wading through? I remember when blogs were new and seemed more interesting. When I first got a computer, it was so neat to go anywhere in this thing we call cyberspace and discover new people. Of course, there are some people you wish you'd never discovered.
Perhaps Facebook is the reason why I haven't blogged. Whenever I have an opinion that I want to share, I can just do it more directly over there. But there are times when it's just me and Grant Green and my dog scratching in the background when I just want to let loose and solo. I was always fascinated by the way Jack Kerouac wrote--first thought, best thought. Then again, it resulted in some inconsistent writing.
Maybe I should try blogging more. If nothing else, it's fun to look at your thoughts in print and try to figure them out. So you may hear more from me, maybe not.
All I know is that I've got a lot of mail to carry in the morning with my seven years of college. You can see me walking through Homewood or Point Breeze or Shadyside in all kinds of weather. And maybe I'll see you. It might help to live in Pittsburgh, though.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Night(mare) At The Opera

Hard to believe this is my first Fritzburgh An’at entry of 2012.

I’ve been pretty busy doing important things like working two jobs, catching stinkbugs, mowing grass and devoting several weeks to a two-minute horse race and having no profit to show for it. Still, I have not abandoned this blog. I do have the hope that people will read it for more things than finding out who Polly Archer is.

I haven’t written a song parody in a while, and I was inspired to do so last night by a post I made to Facebook. I was going down an early ‘80s punk/new wave rabbit hole on YouTube and played “My Sharona.” I thought that it must be the most parodied song in history—just off the top of my head I can recall “My Bologna,” “My Menorah,” and “Ayatollah,” and that doesn’t count all the unofficial ones that kids made up back when the original was a hit (the summer before I started high school). Just about any phrase that came close to scanning with the title became a parody of the song. If coronas were mentioned in science class, it was “Dah dah dah dah dah dah, my corona…” And even in the locker room, it was “Dah dah dah dah dah dah, my sca-rotum…” I guess you could say we all got The Knack that year.

So I asked if “My Sharona” was the most-parodied song of all time and was answered with a page that says it isn’t even close. I question the accuracy of the page, mainly because I doubt that “Sk8er Boi”—a song I’ve heard exactly once—is the second most-parodied song of all time, and because I haven’t heard that many parodies of the alleged champion, “Bohemian Rhapsody.”  It didn’t seem like the easiest song to write new words to—or so I thought.

That night, as I was doing dishes, inspiration struck me like a family of drunks caught smoking in PNC Park. So I submit to you:


Is this the real song?
Is this just parody?
Is AmIRight’s list
Even based in reality?
What is this site?
Is it made for kids only?
I’m 46, now
Pop’s passed me by, you see
Because I don’t know Avril Lavigne
Beatles, yes, maybe Queen
Anything the kids like
Doesn’t really matter to me,
To me.

It sucks my time—
Frat bros recall getting high
High school classmates proselytize
Though the night has just begun
Before too long, I’ve thrown it all away
Facebook, ooh ooh ooh
Didn’t mean to stay so long
I just sat down to play some Words With Friends
Share some old videos
And click to say I like gay marriage

It’s too late,
The night is gone
Now it’s time to go to bed
Benadryl turns off my head
Good night, everybody
I’ve got to sleep
Got to get up in the morn and go to work
Facebook, ooh ooh ooh
(Where did all the time go?)
Where’d the hours go?
I sometimes wish I’d never signed up at all

I see a little silhouette-o in my sleep
It’s a dream, it’s a dream, is it people in Mensa?
Or is it a horse race
That takes all my snore space?
Go! (Number seven!)
Number seven! (Number seven!)
Number seven, give me fifty bucks to show
And there they go, oh, oh, oh
Now it’s the Mensans, I’m at an RG
Yes, it’s the Mensans, we’re playing Jeopardy
Barry, shut up—who is Dostoyevsky?

Now it’s 5:44
Can I sleep some more?
(Miss Lily!) No, you cannot sleep some more! (Sleep some more!)
(Miss Lily!) You cannot sleep some more! (Sleep some more!)
(Miss Lily!) You cannot sleep some more!
Cannot sleep some more!
Cannot sleep some more!
No, no, no, no, no, no, no!
But I’m still sleepy, I’m still sleepy
Please, I need to sleep some more
But can’t you tell that the dog has really got to pee?
To pee-e-ee,
To peeeeeeeeee?

So we walk through the front yard at break of the day
Then I watch Dennis Bowman on KDKA
Oh, Jamie,
Give a kiss to me, baby,
You’ve got to get out,
You’ve got to get right out of here.

Doesn’t really matter,
Frankstown Road or Penn,
Off to work each morning,
Then at five I come home again.

Pittsburgh traffic really blows….

Lyrics copyright 2012 Robert A. Fritz

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It's alive!

That's right--my novel, A Witch to Live, is now available at


[The following is a transcript of a presentation I made about A Witch to Live earlier this year at the Columbus (Ohio) Mensa Regional Gathering. It was not given as it is presented here, but contained quite a bit of last-minute editing, ad-libbing and stage fright.]

At this RG, you are going to hear presentations from best-selling authors who have honed their craft into the basis for a career that has blessed them with the opportunity to make a living doing what they love, as well as the respect of their friends, readers and fellow writers.

This is not one of those presentations.

Instead, this presentation is about struggle—the struggle with putting the right words on the page, the struggle with rejection by agents and publishers—but most of all, the struggle with my own self-doubt.

It might help to provide you with some background. Some people were born to be writers. I’m still not sure if I was or not. My favorite books as a child weren’t even fiction—they were the World Almanac and the Guinness Book of World Records. I would have rather read the Racing Form than anything by Shakespeare. Still would. As a teenager, I did develop some favorites: Animal Farm, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, To Kill a Mockingbird. I enjoyed mysteries, especially those by Dick Francis. Big shock there, huh?

But the idea of writing for a living was far from my mind. If you’d asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I probably would have said a high school band director.

All that changed in my junior year of high school thanks to an English teacher named Bonnie Auletta. There was a class assignment about the end of the world and I wrote a story for it called “Crimson Haze.” Miss Auletta liked it so much that she had it published in the school newspaper. And so, to steal a line from William Butler Yeats, a terrible beauty was born.

The thought occurred to me—how cool would it be to make a living by coming up with ideas? No heavy lifting, no nine to five, and I could get out of taking most of those math and science classes that I didn’t like. And lots of people would know my name!

OK, so my motives weren’t the most noble in literary history. The important thing was that I wanted to be a writer.

So I went off to college thinking I was going to take the local literary community by storm. There was a literary magazine at the college, and it seemed like destiny that I would submit “Crimson Haze” to the magazine and the staff would fall over in awe. Turns out that the only things that fell were my literary aspirations. I received the story back with a note reading, “Please do not submit this again unless you like rejection.”

OK, so I wasn’t going to be John Updike. My true calling seemed to be journalism, anyhow. I was Sports Editor of the college paper and wrote for the college sports information department. And I did eventually get published in that literary magazine, for what it’s worth. I found it helped to join the magazine staff.

I made my living, meager as it was, as a writer for several years. I was a news reporter and sports editor for ThisWeek Newspapers, which many of you who live in Columbus know quite well. After that, I wrote for the Daily Racing Form, the national horse racing publication. You might remember it as that paper Yemana was always reading on Barney Miller. To answer the first question that non-racing fans always ask me when they find out I worked for the Form—no, I was not able to make a living betting on horses. I would not be standing here talking to you (at least not about writing) if I could.

All along, I wanted more. I always had some sort of side writing project going, usually something that I considered Literature. With a capital L. There were poems—mostly whining about how tough life is when you travel the country hanging around race tracks. There were songs that sounded like a cross between George Gershwin and Charles Manson. There was also an extremely transgressive novella that I wrote after reading Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs and getting the idea that True Art is supposed to drown the reader in a sea of vulgarity. I think I might have missed Burroughs’ point a wee bit.

For all my literary efforts, all I have gotten so far is a lousy T-shirt. OK, that’s an exaggeration. It was actually a polo shirt bearing the logo of a bar in Shakopee, Minnesota. I won it by finishing second in a poetry slam there. I think I gave it to St. Vincent DePaul while cleaning out my closet a few years back. I imagine some hipster in Pittsburgh is wearing it now, wondering where in the hell Turtle’s Bar and Grill is over his Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Well, actually there was one other thing I got out of my attempt to be the next Jack Kerouac. When I was between jobs (or about to be) in 1993, I read an article in the Columbus Dispatch on the MFA program in creative writing at Ohio State. I thought I had found my big break, which only goes to show that I was unfamiliar with both the competitive nature of MFA programs and their correlation with success as a writer. I applied to the program and didn’t make it. But I took the GRE and got pretty good scores, so I decided to send them to the national office of a certain social organization—and guess what happened! This is my favorite of my life’s many ironies—my GRE scores were high enough to get me into Mensa but not into grad school.

While my journalism career is now dormant, I’ve never given up the glimmer of hope that I could make my living as a novelist or a creator of some other form of fiction. I’ve even tried to actively kill that idea sometimes, but it doesn’t work. As they said in the movie Halloween, you can’t kill the boogey man.

So how did A Witch to Live come to be?

First of all, it wasn’t originally called A Witch to Live. The original title was The Lord and The Lady, but I changed it because I thought A Witch to Live sounded more provocative.

I’m reminded of the story Joseph Heller once told about Catch-22. He said that the first scene he wrote was actually the book’s final scene. If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie, I won’t ruin it for you—it’s too good.

So it was with A Witch to Live. The year was 2005. George W. Bush was President, a young Jimmy Fallon taught us how to laugh, and I had developed an interest in paganism. One morning before I left for work, I was reading an invocation of the Horned God online when a vision came to me in a flash. That vision turned out to be the final scene of A Witch to Live. Again, no spoilers here.

So I had a final scene involving the novel’s three major characters. I spent the next 15 months finding a way to get them to that final scene. I worked on the novel bit by bit until it was completed on January 14, 2007. Sounds easy, huh?

Then came the hard part—shopping the novel around to agents and publishers. The miracles of Microsoft Word and the Internet made my job a bit easier than it was back in the ancient days of the word processor and the U.S. Mail—but the results were still next to nonexistent.

It was hard to get a response. A couple of agents turned it down in a friendly manner—one just said she wasn’t in love with the idea—while one publisher did offer a bit of constructive criticism. That publisher had a problem with the book’s omniscient viewpoint. Which led me to a host of writing websites to find out what omniscient viewpoint was.

For those of you who have never driven yourselves crazy trying to write a novel, omniscient viewpoint means that the point of view shifts from one character to another regularly during the novel. I’m not sure why publishers consider this a problem. I asked a novelist at the Pittsburgh AG about omniscient viewpoint once, and she said that it’s considered old-fashioned, but that many writers have used it. She gave Dorothy Sayers as an example. I think that’s pretty good company, so I’m not changing it.

At the same time, I was starting to lose enthusiasm for the project, mainly because all the rejections were starting to get to me, and I was starting to think I was wasting my time. I know that getting published is not easy—there are people in this room who will tell you that. At the same time, the cumulative effect of those rejections gave me the same message I got from that college literary magazine—“Please do not submit this again unless you like rejection.”

How strange that one of those rejections pushed A Witch to Live back to the front of my mind. It was pretty standard—an agent said that it wasn’t quite the thing they were looking for, yada yada yada. What made this e-mail different was that I received it three years after I sent the query! Nice to know that someone is a bigger pack rat than I am. Amused by this e-mail, I mentioned it in my Facebook status message and people started asking about the novel again. I sent it to a few friends and never heard back, so, again, I figured that the tribe had spoken.

So here was a novel that I couldn’t get anybody to read—so what could I do with it? I have a blog and I decided that I could use it for something other than posting misheard song lyrics and making fun of politicians. So, between January and April of this year, I posted the novel on my blog.

Then a funny thing happened—I found out that people actually liked it.

Not only did I receive positive comments from some of my fellow Mensans, but my blog received hits from the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, France, Lithuania and Malaysia, just to name a few countries.

One suggestion I received was to publish the novel myself on CreateSpace, a self-publishing arm of The procedure seems simple—just set up an account, copy and paste the novel using CreateSpace’s own template and sell it on the website. It was such a thrill when it dawned on me that A Witch to Live had its own International Standard Book Number.

There are currently some technical glitches. Several chapters of the manuscript have lines running through it in strange places and I haven’t been able to remove them. There have been some personal financial setbacks this season and I’m working two jobs to make ends meet (and, yes, that’s one of the main reasons why I’m publishing the novel), so I’m working on getting the kinks out in between obligations. In the meantime, please feel free to give me your name and e-mail address, and I’ll keep you posted on its publishing status.

So what is A Witch to Live about?

The easy answer is that it’s about a 17-year-old girl named Alaina Cole. Alaina lives in a small town in southern Ohio called Shady Glen. She’s been raised in a fundamentalist Christian family, and, while she is quite intelligent—I’m sure she would qualify for Mensa—and has always hoped for a life outside Shady Glen, she has never seriously questioned her family’s worldview—until now.

Several factors are contributing to her crisis of faith. She meets a boy named Will Clayson, whose mother, Mary Jane, has recently opened a pagan shop in Shady Glen. Encouraged by her church, she starts talking to him about Jesus, with predictable results. At the same time, she feels drawn to him for a reason she can’t quite define. Then she visits the pagan shop, meets Mary Jane and is surprised by how non-threatening the experience is. Meanwhile, she finds out that one of her best friends, Justin Fitzgerald, is gay, which conflicts with her church’s teachings. When she sees the way Justin is treated by members of her church, she starts to question those teachings. How does she resolve the conflicts in her life?

Some people may read A Witch to Live and get the idea that I don’t like Christianity, which is far from the truth. I was baptized as a Methodist and went to a Methodist college. I have had issues with organized religion of many stripes and have never felt welcome in any church. While I’ve explored many spiritual paths, Mensa is the closest thing to a religion I’ve ever had.

I suppose I was inspired by a teenage girl I knew when I was writing for ThisWeek. At one point, she joined one of the largest evangelical mega-churches in her area (and one of several that inspired “The First,” the church in A Witch to Live) and was very enthusiastic about it. I asked myself—did she really know what she was getting into? (I know the answer to that question now: Of course not! She was a teenager!)

But A Witch to Live is not an endorsement or criticism of any one religion so much as a story of one person’s struggle to go against the majority in order to do what’s right. As Mensans, we all know what it’s like to be in the minority, right?

What will happen from here? Who knows? My literary odyssey is certainly not complete. It is a journey without a map—only fragments and rumors of maps that have been used by others—so I have no idea how long it will be or even where it will go. But to steal a line from Jim Croce, if it gets me nowhere, I’ll go there proud.

Will it become a best seller, or even help me buy groceries? It’s hard to say. If nothing else, I hope that my six-year journey will inspire other writers out there.

I keep coming back to that note I received in college—“Please do not submit this again unless you like rejection.”

I’d like to leave you with some comments publishers have made about a few novels:

“I haven’t really the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say… Apparently the author intends it to be funny – possibly even satire – but it is really not funny on any intellectual level.”

That was said about Catch-22, which also became an excellent movie and added a new phrase to the English language.

“Overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian … the whole thing is an unsure cross between hideous reality and improbable fantasy. It often becomes a wild neurotic daydream … I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.”

That was said about Lolita, which sold 50 million copies and inspired a really cool song by The Police.

"We are very impressed with the depth and scope of your research and the quality of your prose. Nevertheless ... we don't think we could distribute enough copies to satisfy you or ourselves."

That was said about The Clan of the Cave Bear by Mensan Jean Auel.

"The girl doesn't, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the 'curiosity' level."

That girl’s name? Anne Frank, whose diary has sold 30 million copies.

"...she is a painfully dull, inept, clumsy, undisciplined, rambling and thoroughly amateurish writer whose every sentence, paragraph and scene cries for the hand of a pro. She wastes endless pages on utter trivia, writes wide-eyed romantic scenes ...hauls out every terrible show biz cliché in all the books, lets every good scene fall apart in endless talk and allows her book to ramble aimlessly ..."

That was said about Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann. OK, even if those words are true, it still sold 30 million copies.

Like rejection? Maybe the secret is to learn to love it!