Reflections on Writing

J. Arthur Moore

I started to write when I was in elementary school.  It was only to fulfill writing assignments from my teachers over the years.  As the years went on, I started to save my schoolwork.  Assignments varied in nature from creative writing to report projects.  Probably one of the most significant early saves was a fifth grade report on the states of the United States.  I was in high school before I began something that was only of my own.

 My mother had a subscription to The Saturday Evening Post, a magazine I knew at the time as a great source for some really neat short stories.  It carried a series about Tugboat Annie which I came to enjoy.  I don’t remember who wrote the stories, only that I enjoyed them. 

It was the April 30, 1960, issue that began my writing career.  In it I read “The Drummer Boy of Shiloh” by Ray Bradbury.  It struck me that it was just a two-page conversation between a drummer boy and his general.  There was no action.  I determined to rewrite the story and put some action in it.  And I did.  But I can never publish the story I wrote.  About 50% of it was plagiarized from the original. 

However, out of that story came the seeds of a story about my own drummer boy, Duane Kinkade.  Bits and pieces were written over the years, and a story outline was created.  But I realized if it were to be done right, I had a lot of research to do and wasn’t ready.  So it became a campfire story over the years, gradually growing in the retelling. 

In the mean time I did write a number of other things, some short stories, a poem or two, and a play for a fifth grade class I found inspiring and excited about sharing in the experience. 

The summer of 1979, I worked as a counselor for Camp Good News on Cape Code, Massachusetts.  I really enjoyed the experience and met some great boys there.  In the year that followed, I wrote the manuscript for Summer at Stewart Creek, creating the three main characters for three of the boys I had met at the camp and blending the story with my model railroad.  Diana Kingman, mother of Andy, one of my students, offered to do some drawings for the book.  She created the original character portraits from some photographs I shared with her.  The manuscript was typed and reproduced by copy machine and given to the class as a Christmas gift.  Copies were also mailed to Brett and Adam Thomas, and Jason Jones, for whom the main characters were created.  The following year, I wrote the epilogue, added it to the manuscript, and gave that.

In 1980, I began another story, Stranded in Snow Shoe, about a boy’s experience being lost from his father.  It was the story of Scot Robinson, a character created for Scot Robbins, my assistant while at Good News.  It was never finished.

In the fall of 1982, I began Summer of Two Worlds, featuring three characters created for Mike Flanagan, Larry King, and Scot Robbins.  This time I did photo sessions with the two boys who lived locally, Mike and Larry, to use within the story.  Since there was no way to return to Massachusetts and do a photo shoot with Scot, a third photo was not available.  His mother did sent a school picture, but it wouldn’t work as a character shot.  The book was finished within the year and copies given each of the boys and the members of my class for that year.  In 1983 I began the sequel, Twelfth Winter.  That, too, was never finished.

The following year, while telling the story of Journey to a camper on a Frontier Day encampment at Warwick County Park in Pennsylvania, one boy stayed awake for the entire story.  Once finished Charley French offered to represent the main character, Duane Kinkade, if I would finish writing the story.  Michael Flanagan was on that encampment, too, and asked if I did, would I please make it a series of books because he hated thick books.  I agreed.  I also asked Charley if he was sure, it would take a few years and multiple photo sessions as Duane grew older in the story.  He was sure.

As a result, I met with Charley’s parents to be sure it was okay, and the adventure began that would last for the next four years.  Another camper, David Rowland, agreed, with his parents’ permission, to represent Johnny Applebee in the story.  The second book of the series became the first to be researched and completed.  It started with the Shiloh story, begun back in the late 60’s and completely rewritten to fit the new context.  A local printer typeset the Shiloh part of the story and it was printed as a paperback short story.  With the help of camper Richie Christman, the first book of the series was photographed and written.  A Civil War encampment at Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation within Ridley Creek State Park, Pennsylvania, became the source of hundreds of images of stock footage to be used with the story as it evolved.  Over the next four years, with the added participation of campers Matthew and Christopher Oswald, the four manuscripts were completed.

Technology came into play.  Upon completion, the Summer at Stewart Creek manuscript was typed before it was duplicated by copy machine.  The first copies were made by spirit master on a mimeograph machine.  Summer of Two Worlds was typed, then sent to my sister-in-law, Diane Moore, who had advanced computer skills and equipment, and scanned it into a word processing document.  The four Journey manuscripts were typed into a digital document with software I had and an early Apple IIE system.  Formatted in two-page book format, they were printed out, copied on a current copy machine, hand folded into fifty copies.  The photo material was printed by a local printing company, pages folded, then each book assembled.  These fifty sets were sent to a library binding company and bounded into hard cover copies.  Book jackets were printed by the local printer and fifty final hardcopy sets became a reality.

A career change took me to the Penn Treaty Middle School in Philadelphia in the summer of 1995.  In the fall of 1997, Eric Malave was a member of that year’s class.  He became a part of my life to this day, and a part of my writing as well.  With new computer technology I was updating Journey and Summer files to Word document upgrades.  I asked if Eric might fill in for the missing third portrait in Summer of Two Worlds.  He was exited to do so.  The files were upgraded and became resource material as a part of my social studies program.  At this point a busy teaching schedule took precedent and, with one exception, writing took a back seat for the next dozen years. 


                                                                                         To be continued