"BLESSED BY MENTORS"
My life story is no Homeric epic, but I’ve been blessed by mentors nonetheless.
“BLESSED BY MENTORS”
A mentor is defined as a wise, loyal adviser, teacher or coach. Mentor was a key character in “The Odyssey,” a trusted friend and guide to the protagonist and his son. My life story is no Homeric epic, but I’ve been blessed by mentors nonetheless.
Dad taught me the fundamentals of sports and sportsmanship and was my role model as comedic performer, public speaker and raconteur. Mom demonstrated the virtues of resilience and persistence while fostering a love of reading, politics and the creative spirit.
In later years other mentors guided me as writer and educator: Bill Silverman, Frank Bentayou, Lee K. Abbott and Lauren Kessler. I met Bill, Frank and Lee while living in Cleveland from the mid-1970s to early ’90s. Lauren was my journalism professor, thesis adviser and champion during graduate school (1992-94) at the University of Oregon and long after.
Bill Silverman was my first full-time boss. In 1975 he took an ambitious, raw young man with a sociology degree and turned him into a professional communicator. For the next seven years, he worked me hard physically and psychologically. Though we almost came to blows on occasion, Bill gave me invaluable opportunities for growth and maturity. I’m grateful that a year before his death, we reconnected. At long last, I could thank him for his tutelage.
Frank Bentayou was a writing instructor, editor and close friend—an incredible trifecta. I would not have become a successful freelancer had Frank not gone out of his way to guide me while publishing my early stories in Cleveland Magazine. We maintained our strong ties until his untimely death in 2018.
The late Lee K. Abbott was an inspiring teacher. His “liar’s art” was fiction, and he was a master short story writer. From Lee I learned of the “imagined real world” and “willing suspension of disbelief.” He changed my life by planting the idea of grad school in my dubious thirtysomething noggin. And he graciously wrote many a reference letter as I pursued my master’s degree. I will always treasure his communiqués, inscribed with his distinctive salutation (“Amigo”) and valediction (“Thrive”).
Lauren Kessler came along at a critical juncture (aka: mid-life crisis) and catapulted me into a new and exciting world of literary journalism, which was to become my craft in subsequent decades as narrative nonfiction author and educator. Like Silverman, Bentayou and Abbott, Kessler believed in me and my potential for reinvention, which is the greatest gift any trusted friend, guide and mentor can bestow.
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