Wednesday, July 11, 2012

All Because of a Big Bag of Potato Chips

Please Welcome today's guest geezer gal, Phyl Manning

Yes, I’m a writer with four books plus another contracted under my belt—and largely because of one humongous bag of potato chips! 

It must have been 1936 when the Omaha World Herald announced a Children’s Poetry Contest. At five years old, I qualified. The newspaper even prescribed the title: "If I Could Fly." Whee-ee!
So yes, I rhymed up a poem of three verses: "If I could fly, I’d go up high/And catch hold of a cloud as it went by" and so forth. And my undistinguished literature won first place! So Kitty Clover Potato Chips (of Omaha) rewarded me with a crisp new dollar bill AND the aforementioned bag of potato chips—a delicacy not experienced previously in those years of economic depression. The World Herald contributed a modicum of fame in printed words read aloud to me by proud parents.

Suddenly and permanently, I knew how to answer grownups who were always asking what I wanted to be when I grew up: a writer! Define "grown up."

At age 22, leaving university with an undergraduate degree in English Writing and Speech, Dr. Walter Van Tilburg Clark (Oxbow read my small writing collection and told me, "You write very well indeed. Unfortunately, you have nothing to say."

 True. By age 24, I was essentially widowed with two small children to support. In writing? You jest! So I continued teaching school, but applied successfully for overseas venues in places (by choice) with strange-sounding names that sat softly on my tongue and contained potential for adventure: new ways of thinking and (my beloved) wildlife. My children were raised in the West Pacific before returning to the U.S. to finish high school and go to university. By then, I was loving doctoral studies in anthropology on the traditional culture of the Inupiat (look ‘em up!) and then later and happily working in schools overseas.

Finally retired, I decided that I might by now be sufficiently "grown up" and actually have a few things to say. Now at (as Abraham Lincoln would say) "four score" years of age, I have dozens of articles and stories published and some books on the shelves . . . and it all started with a dollar bill and a really BIG bag of potato chips!


jill said...

I would love to hear what you ache to say! It sounds like an adventure-filled life because you chose to make your life instead of let it happen, even with real obstacles.

Patty Froese said...

You're so inspiring! I think you had a lot to say. I hate it when people who are already successful knock the legs out from under those who are still trying to get up. It's mean. But a PhD, travel and novel-writing... you have an amazing life!

Caroline said...

I love your perseverance & your search for an adventurous life! Congrats! Great post.

Liz Flaherty said...

I love your whole story! I'd love to spend an afternoon--even dinner--hearing more!

Paula Martin said...

Wonderful story!

Linda Rondeau said...

On behalf of Phyl

thank you all for your comments. Technology can be difficult sometimes.

Linda Rondeau, Editor

Tanya Hanson said...

Enjoyed hearing about your writing journey, Phyl. And I'm sure it's not over yet by a long shot!

Phyl said...

Thanks for reading (and being amused), folks. I'm having tech troubles in reaching you individually. If you want to "talk" to me, try


Donna B said...

Sounds like an amazing story you've lived!

dawn said...

I think I know what that guy meant when he said you can write but you have nothing to say because he was probably a lot older and thought you were too young to have anything worthwhile of experience yet. He should have realised, even children experience life (too much life in the cases of Dave Pelzer etc). But, even in your blog, I'd say you have such a wonderful way with words that you wouldn't need much of a story to keep people reading. Some writers are like thaT. I remember a brilliant book from Helen Hanff called 84 Charing Cross you? You so remind me of her, reading this blog