Budding Writer, 1979: A very strange letter

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Henry Fielding, after William Hogarth, line engraving, after 1762. NPG D11271 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Who’s that handsome devil up there? He looks familiar. If you think there’s any resemblance to yours truly, well, like Rick in Casablanca, you were misinformed.

Like Rick, who said he came to Casablanca for the waters, I was misinformed. (Casablanca, 1942).

Don’t feel bad, though. In 1979, everyone in my family was misinformed about our relationship to Henry Fielding, the author of “Tom Jones.” (That didn’t keep my parents from going to see the movie when it came out in 1963. They left me at home because it was too bawdy.)

As I continue my journey through the journals I kept during my first year as a writer, I came to this entry from this date 44 years ago:

… Again, a day in which little was accomplished, but my mind was working a bit on the Church Herald piece and on various stories, and I finally finished the Chicago manual.* Otherwise quite bland.

I did receive a very strange letter from Dad, expressing pleasure at my writing (Fielding blood and all that) and encouragement to continue doing so, then outlining his plan for a trip and giving details on his estate. A bit creepy, to say the least.

Howard W. Fielding
Journal, Volume II
23 February 1979

This was the only time my father ever shared with me anything about his will, which he changed after he remarried. To do so on the eve of a long trip isn’t so unusual. I did the same for our kids when I was at about the same age. Still, it was creepy, especially in retrospect. He did take fatally ill while on a similar trip with his second wife to Europe, 25 years later.

Other than the creepy bit, the letter showed a complete turnabout from his previous position on my writing career. In my sophomore year of high school, I first thought that I might want to become a writer. I drafted some outlines of the universe I was creating, along with character sketches and maybe a short story, and showed them to my father.

He read them without comment, then handed them back and suggested diplomatically that I should wait and get some life experiences first. Then I’d have something to write about.

And nine years later, on a cold, windy hill in New Hampshire, I was doing exactly that.

* The Chicago Manual of Style is not exactly light reading. However, I was determined to use the proper tools should I ever land a job in publishing.

3 thoughts on “Budding Writer, 1979: A very strange letter

  1. Funny how we all seem to crave approval from our parents for our shenanigans in life. You were blessed to get your pop’s approval.

    1. Yes, I was! We didn’t talk often about jobs and careers, and he didn’t approve of some other personal choices I made. This short part of a longer letter was enough to make an impression that helped me move forward.

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