The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Sub Terra Vita Chronicle #53: The Life That Fell Upon Me: Confessions of an Underground Writer

Sub Terra Vita Chronicle #53: The Life That Fell Upon Me: Confessions of an Underground Writer
By Tim Krenz
September 27, 2018
For NormalcyMag

This Autumn, as I approach the age of 48, I need to reflect on how on the god's good earth I got to this point, to my role as a writer, let alone an editor and publisher of cultural magazine??!! I graduated from the university in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, twenty-five years ago this past summer. Much transpired in my professional journey and personal adventure since those post-school pretensions to pursue scholarship in the academic field of history. All that has happened took place within the personal dialectic of successes and failures, leading to more successes and failures, and so on.

Some of the journey should not surprise me, even if the entire adventure looks incredible in retrospect. Yet, the career in writing all began even long before my high school graduation in the spring of 1989. I know, in fact, that the story begins before starting kindergarten, with the day I first spelled my own name.

Having my sisters teach me the “ABCs” caused me no end of struggle, particularly as I thought “and” in the “-n-Z” made up its own two letters, repeating a second “n.” Somehow I managed to eliminate the second “n” as most people should do. Then, I do not remember the exact date, or the year it happened. One day at home, with sunshine coming through the roll-out living room windows, my siblings off at school, I remember I had an over-sized pencil in my hand. On a piece of paper, on top of my toy yellow semi-truck car carrier as a desk, I wrote (rather imperfectly in penmanship), the proper noun, “tim.” I took the paper and ran into the kitchen, where my mom did the dishes. “Is that my name?” I asked her. “Yes,” she said. I proceeded to jump around in joyful blast of energy. Strangely, both at that time and still now, I knew that I would grow up and become a writer. A stranger journey began in earnest. I have followed it, willingly and even with resistant, ever since.

In grade school I wrote stories in and out of class. I wrote letters, even “strategic” memorandums to the president of the United States. On one warm summer's night, in my bedroom at a fold out desk in the corner, I copied out on the backside of three small sheets of my father's scrap paper from work a “gazette” of sorts: My first newspaper publishing venture. The next day I sold all three copies to my sisters and brother for a dime each. I made the equivalent of 15 cents an hour for the effort. Even then, like all struggling writers, I could never manage to put a proper profit margin on my efforts. I found out since that all writers struggle with that throughout their lives.

I remember Mrs. Hartman's fifth grade homeroom at Osceola Elementary School. Our home room class put together a school newspaper issue as our spring project. As an avid reader of newspapers, news magazines, and history books from the assorted school, public and private libraries, I used my interest in that area for my contribution to the “Hartman Times.” I still have the extant copy in my archives. The article from the spring of 1982 examined the Falklands War and the sinking of the Royal Navy ship, H.M.S. Sheffield. Also, in Mrs. Hartman's class, we had to keep a journal on various assigned topics or for general writing. I do consider that my first journal, and, yes, I still have that theme book edition in my archives, too.

Writing always came easier than reading, but I had to work hard at both of them growing up. I still do. I could never spell well, and I fought a discouraging dyslexia all through high school. Sometimes, it still crops up. Yet, as a result of writing and reading, two major themes in high school became apparent concerning my future. I would do something that involved writing. Second, I really, really did well at history, current events, and philosophy.

Two bad things about middle and high school surfaced, too, and would cause me some degree of trouble. First, I hated manipulative controls on my own inquiry into the world. And worse, I hated bad people who either failed, tormented, or humiliated kids—or all of the above combined. I did, though, learn a critical insight. The lesson: All private and public institutions, indeed ALL things involve the interplay of politics, personalities, positions, and power. The good people in institutions remained humble and kept their humanity and empathy intact. Funny, I learned this vital curriculum before age nineteen. The lesson rarely fails me when I put it in the perspective of whatever I do. These matters all pertained to the “what” and the “why” I write.

On the positive side, more than a few teachers and administrators and support staff really delivered HUGE gains to students, and to me in particular. For the students who could perceive it, these wise and honored ones earned more than their weight in pure salt in how they carried their lives, their personalities, and their empathy into us and for what they taught. They treated us as fairly as possible. These good ones let us inquire and develop. These teachers and the other people just had the knack, to teach us to live and think, and to express ourselves and explore ideas and the world without fear. They held us accountable, yes. And, yes, sometimes we deserved a little punishment. The big difference? They never acted unjustly or in retribution. I have too many to mention in such a short article, but those teachers know already and some have passed. Thank you, for helping make me a person who writes!

Not a very good grade-oriented student, for obvious reasons, I somehow made it into university. I started as a journalism major for one semester. That first year, though, I had a two-part history survey course of western civilization. In those classes, I had a professor who subsequently remained a life-long mentor, friend, and motivator in all that I would do professionally. Because of Dr. Walter J. Wussow, Ph.D., I changed to a history major and declared a political science minor right before registering for second semester classes.

I found my three and a half years of history course work intellectually challenging, and the writing very intensive. I started keeping a regularly written journal my sophomore year, a series of notebooks which continues to the present. Including two English professors who taught history degree required writing courses, August Rubrecht and Gloria Hochstein, my biggest challenges came from the writing for each history class. My senior year, I took my two-semester capstone methods and writing series from my adviser, Dr. Maxwell P. Schoenfeld. I earned that paper to graduate with every tear, nightmare, blood- and ink-stained finger I devoted to it.

For health reasons four weeks before graduation, I had to take a leave of absence. Demoralized, depressed, sick and unsightly and defeated, I remember seeing my mentor on the elevator. We had not yet become such friends that we made after he retired the following year, but Walt Wussow knew my struggle, understood the circumstances, and he saw me, and he spoke to me amid the crowd riding the car down to the ground floors. “IF you need ANY help at all through this with the administration, you come and SEE ME, or Warlowski,” the latter name referring to the department chair. As physical skeleton, pale as a zombie, and without a soul in my eyes, that ONE vote of confidence in me, that one act of kindness by Walt saved my future. Somehow, that summer I returned to school, earned my degree, and ran like hell with no destination in mind.

What next? I had no fucking plan. I had no money. I had little hope. I really had no future. I knew little. I started a career in the political adviser field. Within two years of graduation I had started The Cepia Club as a little project. I could write non-fiction under my own real name. I had already adopted a pen name my junior year in university as a lark, as a way to keep the creative writing separate if I chose to do that. I had never before thought of anything else but writing in high school. Now, I needed a purpose. How to bring it all together?

I understood two things. I could really, really learn to write so others could read it. Therefore, I kept up my journals, and I sharpened my skills everyday for years to develop a written style of clarity, simplicity, precision, and brevity in the American language. As I healed that summer of 1995, I still had not found my calling, but I knew I needed to write to help me with self-understanding. Could I use writing to help others understand the world and their lives just a little better? I meant not just in the political field, but in the inner ways that can make light bulbs glow off?

At the end of that summer 1995, I sat watching the Packers opening game at my sisters with my brother-in-law and nephew. Then, in a way that President Carter had once discussed world policy with his teenage daughter (without such fraught fears from the national press), I consulted with my eight-year old nephew, Andy. Rather, he consulted me and asked me questions about my future. Huh? I had no idea. “Why don't you really just become an real author or something?” Well, I never wanted to disappoint anyone, but I had done enough of that. I resolved not to disappoint my nephew. Nor could I refute his logic. In the mind of the children things look so very clear. May we all achieve that clarity we had when youthful. To my nephew's question, I answered, “Yeah, why don't I.” That sealed the fate and I have not stopped my quest for writing better, and writing with more empathy and honesty, ever since.


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