Who I Am, What’s This About, Anyway?

Hello, and welcome to my blog/website/whatever-this-morphs-into.  I appreciate you stopping by!

First, introductions:  I’m Cal, and the title of this blog pretty much sums up the world as I see it:  Read, write, eat, sleep.   For me, these are among “the essential facts of life,” (to mess with the famous quote by Henry David Thoreau), right up there with shelter and clothing.  The eating and sleeping parts are self-explanatory.  (For the record, I prefer seven hours a night and am a practicing omnivore.)  As for reading and writing, let’s talk books, let’s talk writing.  And while we’re at it, let’s talk about the book I wrote. (More on that later.)

Now, about this writing thing.  I’m a writer, and to be honest, it’s more like this identity chose me than I chose it.  Before I could write stories, I drew them with crayons, created them with Play-Doh, and acted them out with stuffed animals.  As soon as I could spell, I was writing and illustrating my own little books.  In elementary school I remember raiding the math paper supply to tell my stories instead of doing math.  (Which explains a lot in regard to my math grades.)

I sent my first book to a publisher when I was nine years old.  The title: The Poor Macaroni Named Joany.   It’s goofy story (elbow macaroni characters who talk, make friends with storekeepers, and are reincarnated as noodles), but a wonderful and encouraging art teacher named Mrs. Carr urged me to submit it for publication, and so I did.  Mom typed up the words on our manual typewriter, I carefully created drawings in pen and India ink.  The result?   I received my first official rejection letter from a publisher at age nine.  Sigh.

Facing her own mortality.

Actual art from The Poor Macaroni Named Joany by Cal, age 9.

Yet, I kept writing.  Not because I’m a determined person with tons of initiative, (not at all, I’m a lazy slob), but pretty much because I didn’t have a choice. After getting a BA in English at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania, I got a job writing commercials at a radio station while freelancing for local newspapers, then eventually wrote for The Chicago Tribune, and Shape magazine.  Writing feature articles about people and worlds that already existed was safer than fiction, which requires whipping up people and lives and plots from scratch like a master chef.  (And as we have established, I’m more the macaroni-from-a-box type.)

Because I’m a glutton for punishment—or simply don’t know better—I tried fiction again. This time it was a children’s book about a girl, a wishing well, and time travel.  It was, in a word, terrible.  Yet I still couldn’t kill the dream that someday I would, could, had to, write a book.  One that would actually get published.  But I needed help.

So I went off to graduate school at the University of Southern Maine, the Stonecoast MFA program, where I had my writing trashed and encouraged in equal parts by mentors and peers.  Sometimes I hated the process, more often I loved it, and ultimately, I survived and learned.

Fast forward to today, and finally (wait for it—I want to savor these words):  I am about to become a published author.  The official launch date of my young adult novel, Being Henry David, (publisher: Albert Whitman & Company), is March 1, 2013.  That makes it almost nine months away.  (The countdown is on–check the update near the top of this page!)  Kind of like a pregnancy, even though the book-to-be is already a full-term manuscript.  Now to prepare for its long-awaited arrival.

Instead of putting together a crib, I’m creating a website.  Instead of buying him (it’s a boy!) new clothes, I’m discussing cover art and author photos.  I’m also making a list of people who will receive “birth” announcements.  (Let me know if you want to be on it.)

There’s absolutely no way I can pretend not to be thrilled about this.  I am just not cool enough.  It’s winning the lottery, falling in love, finishing a triathlon, climbing Mount Everest.  It’s a lifelong dream come true, and my heart is full.

I welcome you to stop in to visit from time to time, to read my blog and hear about my journey.  If you’re interested, it would be my honor to share it with you.


Filed under BHD Journey

24 responses to “Who I Am, What’s This About, Anyway?

  1. Mark Dollins

    Wonderful first blog! Thanks for sharing your story and
    go get ’em on the book!!!!

  2. Carol nathe

    Cal, congratulations on the birth of your….dreams! Please put this old friend on the list to receive an announcement!

  3. Sandra Hall

    Wow, best wishes from here. I love hearing good news and yours is great.

  4. Brian Schimpf

    Great start, Cal. And I love the picture at the top. It’s Walden Pond, I assume?

  5. Esther Powell

    You go, girl! I can’t wait to read your story!

  6. Mary Portwine

    This is so awesome and I am thrilled for you. Congrats!!

  7. Bernie

    Cal, this is an inspiring announcement and a “kick in the side” for all us “50 somethings” who found each other in a choir room all those years ago. You have our love and support. Can’t wait to read the book. Heck, I haven’t even gotten my fill of “the Macaroni kid”. NOw that has potential!! Congratulations again. Love, Bernie

  8. Well done, Cal! I’ll make a point to stop in.
    Nine months…it will fly by.

  9. Karen Jersild

    Congratulations, Cal! I love the story of your journey so far. And I can’t wait to follow it forward. Put me on the list for the birth announcement!

  10. Great looking web site. I’m definitely feeling the joy! Congratulations!!!

  11. Love it when a dream comes true! Congratulations.

  12. Cliff Taylor

    Do GOBs get free copies? Signed of course…

  13. Marcia Rawlyk

    Good work. Is it coming out on Kindle?

  14. Maryann Bogovic Tracy

    Firstly, congratulations on acheiving your dream!! I am so very happy for you! I remember reading some of your stories in HS. They were very good–cannot wait to read your book!

  15. Susan Anderson

    Cal! How wonderful for you! We love your blog and wish you great success with your boy, oops, book.
    Best wishes, Sue Price

  16. Shahn Knights

    There is nothing more wonderful than seeing the fruits of your labor grow and mature, and then sharing the fruit with family, friends and the world! Congrats on a achieving a life long dream!

  17. Karen Byrnes

    Hi! I read about your upcoming book through Skip Albertson’s email. He thinks I am married to Dan Byrnes (from your class) when I am actually married to Dan’s younger brother. I’m not going to correct him because it gives me cool stuff to write about in my community need column in the Suffolk Times! If it’s ok with you, I’d like to include your good news in a future column. You can let me know what you would like me to say or you can just give me the basic info and I’ll put it all together. Congratulations and I look forward to hearing from you.
    Karen Byrnes SHS class of 1983

  18. Christine Campbell

    Congratulations Cal. i look forward to hearing of your journey towards the publishing date.

  19. sonia biggar

    Woo hoo, my beautiful, cousin! Many congratulations, wrapped in love! So darn exciting, and of course I want to be on the anouncements list : ) Can’t wait to see you in a couple weeks to celebrate together! I am so proud of you – Mwah! Sonia

  20. Julie Kendall

    Well, my beloved buddy Cal Claypool Armistead, alias Calbert and Cal Cumulus… it’s your friend, Julie Kendall, with the BIGGEST, WIDEST smile on my face and love in my heart, reading about your success!!!!!!!!!! Stacey Lyon found you in the Allegheny Magazine and sent our “Shore Reunion” a note about you!!!! I saw your photo and I just cannot stop smiling today!!!!!!!

  21. Thanks for the marvelous posting! I seriously enjoyed reading it,
    you happen to be a great author.I will make certain to bookmark your blog and will eventually come back in
    the foreseeable future. I want to encourage one to continue your great job, have a
    nice day!

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