Thanks, Jill, for what has truly been a delightful Summer Spotlight on your blog. I have very much enjoyed meeting so many talented and interesting people each Friday. Before I answer a few of the questions, I think I should introduce myself.
I’m Mark Anderson, a retired middle school language arts teacher, who has not had one iota of a problem grasping the whole retirement scene! It has always amazed me that there are those folks who, once they finally retire, can’t seem to figure out what to do with themselves and all of their new-found freedom.
A long time ago, I told myself that when the day finally came that I could retire, I’d be that writer that I’d always dreamed about being. When that wonderful day rolled around in June of 2007 after thirty-five years of teaching, my wife Carolyn and I sold our house in Naperville, Illinois, had a new place constructed several miles further west in northern Illinois—out among the corn and bean fields—and have enjoyed the simpler, quieter, less-hectic lifestyle ever since.
Soon after our move, I resurrected many old half-started manuscripts, jottings, doodlings, and other rough drafts from the large file box I’d kept in the back of my closet for many years. Most of the scribblings I found sparked many memories—for better or worse. The mere act of opening up that kind of “time capsule” was all the impetus I needed to get my writer’s mind moving toward the novel and short stories I’d vowed to write for as long as I could remember. Here was stuff I could use to ignite ideas and propel me into the writing mode.
As a result, in 2010, I published Black Wolf Lodge. That experience gave me the confidence that I could actually write a book—start to finish—and sell a few copies. Of course, I realize the formatting was not very good, but I’d learn all about making it so much better in my second novel a few years later.
And about this time, I discovered the challenging project known as NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) that fills up November with the efforts to produce a 50,000 word novel by month’s end. The result of that experience was the draft for my second novel, The Good Luck Highway, published in the spring of this year. Talk about a fun book to write and put together! By this time, too, I’d discovered and learned the fantastic writer’s software known as Scrivener, making me a much more organized and efficient writer.
Currently, I’m enjoying more reading than writing while spending time up at our 101-year-old cottage on a wonderful lake in southwest Michigan. Though summer has proven to be less productive overall, I’ve still managed to get well into the draft of my next novel, a story featuring the main characters from Black Wolf Lodge.
Besides devoting my time to writing short stories and novels, I have a blog named Down Many Roads (http://cortlandwriter.wordpress.com). And when I’m not writing or reading, I am usually plying the waters on our pontoon or splashing in the water with our two grandsons. It’s all very special—this life—and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else!
Now, onto Jill’s questions…
If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet?
For a very long time, particularly as I’ve aged, I have had a romantic notion that it would be neat to hook up with all of my ancestors (living and dead) and be able to get to know them and what exactly their lives were like, and the interesting twists and turns in their lives—their stories—that eventually paved the way to my entering this world. I would be most interested in seeing the people I most resemble and, perhaps, behave like.
I would love to have one more family gathering—like so many holidays past—with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins in attendance. Those who have gone before me, I’d love to be able to tell them what they meant to me and how they each have an influence on my life even now. I’d hug my dad and thank him for all things I might have failed to thank him for back then. I’d hold my mom and let her know that she’s not forgotten even though she lives away and not getting any younger.
What do you miss most about being a kid?
I miss those afternoons and evenings, playing baseball with my friends, in the hot Indiana summers until it was too dark to see, and having to be reminded a million times that it was time to come home! I miss the love of a wonderful mom and dad and all of the very special things they did for my two sisters and me. My dad always found time to play catch or hit me fly balls or take me to hockey games in Fort Wayne in the winter or to White Sox games out in Chicago in the summer. At the time, I wasn’t always so appreciative, and I regret that very much, especially since he passed away suddenly in 1978, just before he turned 50.
If you could go back in time to change one thing what would it be?
I think I’d enjoy having applied myself much more diligently as a student growing up and not been quite such a class clown. Don’t get me wrong, I had a good time, but that was the problem most of the time, especially when I was supposed to be learning multiplication, fractions, and long division. I could never see the importance of stuff such as that, so I goofed off instead. But I regret that now and wish I’d learned it then. It wasn’t until later, when I was working on my master’s degree during my teaching career, that I buckled down and actually earned good grades.
What do you think the greatest invention has been?
Without a doubt, the greatest invention was the typewriter/keyboard. Without either one, I would have fallen far short of becoming a writer, especially if anyone has had the pleasure of trying to decipher my handwriting! To this day, I consider my high school typing class the most important class I ever took. It’s the one skill I learned, honed, and put to use more than any other (not counting learning to read or to write, of course).
If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
Playing the piano. I have always imagined myself walking into a party, with a room full of people having a wonderful time, and sitting down at a piano and reeling off all kinds of tunes—boogie-woogie, ragtime, jazz, classical—and bringing the entire room to silence as they all turn, spellbound, totally captivated by my unleashed talent. Of course, I’d really just enjoy being able to play for myself whenever the spirit moved me.
Thank you for taking the spotlight, Mark. I love that you’re enjoying retirement and fulfilling your dream of being a writer. Up next week, it’s Pauline King.