HOW WRITER ROGER PENMARK
GOT HIS MUSE BACK
The Wonderful Rise, Fall, and Rise of a Good Man — to Whom Terrible Things Happened — Thanks to a Eureka Moment
of Essay: Roger Penmark, a down-and-out ex-newspaper writer/editor, is
a great believer in the concept of the epiphany, or “eureka moment”,
where one encounters a brief but powerful flash of insight that can
turn people’s lives and fortunes around [as a
one-time pulp scifi writer, he has done stories with the epiphany
theme.] But after 4 years of unemployment, writers’ block, and failure
at other projects, Penmark has lost hope for his “revel-vision” or
revelatory vision to ignite his creative sparks. However, a former
psyche professor turned tavernkeeper suggests to Penmark that the
McLuhanistic cool medium of television might be the “deus ex machina”
that will help revive Penmark’s dormant “Muse” or writing spirit.
Lo/behold, he watches an old “Father Knows Best”
episode revolving around an aged wannabe writer, one
Harper Eames, who quits his teaching career to pursue, for 30 years,
writing an unpublishable book while dependent on dreamer-enabling
handouts from “Father” Robert Young, who should know better. As the
rerun ends so does Penmark’s waning creative powers
which begin to “wax again,” thanks to long-awaited epiphany. The essay
ends on an “It’s A Wonderful Life” Cinderella note with Penmark writing
plays, books, essays, foundation grants, monographs, poetry,
etc.---writing venues he had never attempted before. All thanks to the
old “Father Knows Best” scrivener Harper Eames wallowing in
self-smothering Mitty-like fantasy, and the instant revitalizing
electronic impact on Roger Penmark.
“I sure wish a eureka moment would last a week — maybe a year really.” — anonymous
“Chance favors the prepared mind.’ — Eric Hoffer, philosopher
“It is said that when the pupil is ready, the teacher appears — and when the poet is ready, the Muse appears.” — Buddhist saying
DEFINITION OF “EUREKA MOMENT”: Also known as an “epiphany” as well as other nomenclature (light bulb moment, aha moment, lightning flash of insight, revelatory vision, et al) — A sudden understanding of, or revelation about, a heretofore insoluble, incomprehensible, or completely misunderstood problem or concept. At its function as a sudden, if fleeting, burst of self-enlightenment, the epiphany or eureka moment cannot only be a problem-solver, but a totally life-altering occurrence.
The word “eureka,” of course, dates back to ancient Greek scientist/alchemist Archimedes and his immediate perception involving body weight displacing water volume in his bathtub, causing him to run up and down the street in emperor's clothing exclaiming “Eureka!” which translates roughly into “I’ve found it, found the answer!”
More recent examples of eureka moments and its life-morphing potentials:
Inventor, theorist/poet Buckminster Fuller, ready to drown himself in Lake Michigan before having his sudden montage of revelations about Spaceship Earth and his substantial role in improvements to it, such as geodesic dome;
J.K.. Rowling, sitting in a stalled passenger railcar gazing dreamily out the window and suddenly experiencing a micro-minute daydream-scenario about Harry Potter;
Bill Wilson, founder of Alcohol Anonymous, in hospital for umpteenth time for alcohol dissipation, receiving a divinely inspired spiritual experience setting him as his way to organizing AA.
It was such a eureka moment or epiphany as these that lifted my longtime friend Roger Penmark out of the “grismal” pit he seemed to dig himself into.
May I bring in some exposition concerning Roger P.’s epiphany: To a mention a couplet that I have in an engraved sign next to my office nameplate that says, simply, “Harper Eames, Full of Beans, Lives on Mush and Empty Dreams.” And etched under that; FATHER KNOW BEST. That, of course, was one of the most popular 1950s family sitcoms in its long ago heyday, a heartwarming scoop of light vanilla video featuring the eternally gray-haired, gray flannel Robert Young as the Eisenhower-esque title character.
It was a particular episode of “Father Knows Best” — in which the Harper Eames couplet was the theme of the episode — that turned Roger Penmark’s life around completely, almost miraculously.
But, again, I’m getting ahead of my story/essay about Roger Penmark, who might be — in looks, manners, good old-fashioned dapper sensibility — a near-double for another Robert, that of Taylor, except for a receding widow’s peak and an Roman nose. Penmark, in his 28 years with the Deltona Beach Clarion, had risen through the newspaper’s ranks: copy editor, obit writer, rewrite man, education reporter, local government/politics reporter, police beat, environmental writer, science writer, entertainment/arts reviewer, sports editor, and assistant managing editor, which position he would hold for 23 years. Unfortunately due to cybernetic mega-trends in the journalism industry, the Clarion would become a sinking ship, and he, as well as scores of fellow editorial room crew members, would be swept overboard.
HOW CYBERJOURNALISM SANK THE CLARION — AND WITH IT, ROGER PENMARK
The end of Deltona Beach Clarion as an independent, family-owned, tradition-steeped, community newspaper was the result of a combo of trends — dubbed in the mass media industry as media cluster or media convergence — that has reached pandemic proportions in this age of the internet.
According to various sources, newspapers have suffered dramatically with the onset of the internet. The simple fact is that more and more newspapers are losing out, taken over, and being shifted into online publications run by huge media conglomerates, with fewer and fewer calls for ‘stop the presses!’ since there are fewer and fewer presses — i.e., those of print newspapers — to stop.
FOR CLARION’S NEW OWNERS, GORGON GATEKEEPERS,UNLMTD., THE CORPORATE CREDO WAS: “ LESS IS DEFINITELY MORE, AND WE LIKE IT THAT WAY”
If there were tombstones for defunct newspapers, the Halifax area’s leading newspaper’s would read “The rise of Gorgon Gatekeepers Unlmtd. spelled the fall of the Deltona Beach Clarion.”
The longtime family newspaper — owned by the Robinson family since the 1920s, during which time it evolved into the bellwether newspaper of the Deltona Beach/Halifax area and a staple item of the community at large — had been experiencing financial and morale problems for some years that had chewed up precious revenue sources.
In this economically unstable situation, Gorgon Gatekeepers Unlmtd. stepped into the picture.
Unlmtd. has ownership of 130 daily papers, 640 community
publications, and 340 local market websites in 36 states. Gatekeepers
is a trendsetter in acquiring, operating, and streamlining local news
businesses, with an emphasis on STREAMLINING. The corporate colossus
transforms local news product from PRINT-CENTRIC to multimedia (read
ONLINE) enterprises — thus Gatekeepers Unlmtd. is both
trend-follower and trendsetter in the movement to centralize and
economize the small print newspapers via the buildup of online
newspapers and reap profits from the
centralized and economized husks of the aging and ailing smalltime newspapers it takes over.
Thus, the corporate policy of “centralizing and economizing” is a somewhat ambiguous one, unless the reader adds “streamlining” to this company slogan, which entails mass layoffs of staff.
Among the casualty list of Clarion employees was Roger Penmark, after 28 years as one of the most senior — and most devoted — staffers of the Clarion. He had even offered to take a substantial cut in pay and benefits to remain on the job — something which the very few of his fellow scribes at the Clarion were willing to sacrifice. But Gorgon pulled the gore-stained red carpet out from under him and at 53 he found himself an unwilling inductee in the growing army of the unemployed.
Roger P. took the pink-slipping by Gorgon Gatekeepers much closer to heart than most — after all he was not figuratively but literally married to the Clarion, had grown as a writer and editor with the growth and diversified number of news beats that emerged with its growth, most of which he had been assigned to, and had a shelf-full of press awards and kudos, including a PEN literary prize along with a two-year entry in WHO’S WHO in the South, as proof of his capabilities. All mementoes of the glory years that were now useless relics in the early 2000s.
Roger Penmark, like most ace journalists, needed a certain quotient of stress and pressure — headline and deadline-style pressures and stresses — to thrive, professionally and personally. Plus, of course, he needed that weekly paycheck, like most working stiffs do. Now cut off from his beloved job at Clarion, those impelling forces of his life evaporated, and it took a toll, leading to the onset of a long dormant, hereditary mental illness. (Both his aunt Mary Jane and his half-brother had been temporarily institutionalized for mental dysfunction. Penmark would sometimes say, quite sardonically, “Insanity doesn’t run in my family — it gallops.” Or remarks such as “if mentally ill people are the chosen ones, as one authority postulated, then mental illness made a bad choice with me — I kind of wish I wasn’t chosen.”)
And, press awards and prizes aside, a man approaching his mid-50s whose experience was mainly with a small-town, smalltime newspaper, was not a valued commodity in the youth-oriented, ever-computerizing, ever-downsizing world of 2000s cyberjournalism. So Penmark’s newswriting/editing career was essentially ended. As he put it,” the old shoe-leather newsman was discarded like an old shoe.” He had halfheartedly applied to various papers around the Southeast, for reporting and editing but got no takers: “My functional resume couldn’t conceal my true chronological age and experience, and read like an obit of a still-breathing corpse,” he would bemoan.
After his last paycheck from Gorgon Gatekeepers, Roger P. wandered around in a midlife crisis daze for some months.
As mentioned above, one unfortunate byproduct of this midlife disaster was the sudden appearance of behavior changes in the form of mood swings, appearing subtly at first, then starting to take on roller-coaster proportions. He would do somersaults and Irish jigs in public places one day, and contort himself into a fetal position in a corner of a public place, whimpering or talking to himself, the next.
He was hospitalized several times for observation and diagnosis — the result was no surprise: Severe untreated bipolar syndrome, which family members past had suffered with, with a tad of PTSD tossed in, from his discharge from the Clarion. He was prescribed a variety of psychotropics (valium, Librium, Xanax, Klonopin). And, thankfully, was receiving Social Security disability benefits (of $800 and a low-rent housing subsidy which kept him off the streets, “bouncing up and down on the safety net without falling through” as he put it.
He spent most of his time at his old haunts, especially the Wendigo Inn, a “family tavern” that was run by an old college chum, Fletcher Bloomgarden, who went from college professor to tavernkeeper as a happy career move. As another old college chum in the communications industry__namely, press agent/publicist for a p.r. firm__I would often wind up after office hours at the Wendigo Inn myself.
One day Roger Penmark was watching the barroom television with one eye and noodling on a notepad with the other.
“What are you scribbling there, you old scribbler?” Bloomgarden inquired, mopping the counter.
“Oh, just some story ideas for a magazine or two. Nothing major. Doesn’t matter anyway, I haven’t sold any freelance stuff in years.”
“You keep saying that you’ve abandoned writing.”
“Other way around — writing abandoned me.”
Bloomgarden: “You need to get your Muse back.”
Penmark: “My Muse?”
Bloomgarden: "One of the nine Greek goddesses inspiring learning and the arts. In the case of the writer, the Muse is the goddess that inspires the author to write.”
Penmark: "Yes, I know what the Muse is. My question is, how do I accomplish this return of my Muse? Have you been, excuse my Greek, musing this over?”
Bloomgarden: “By invocation. I know a Greek Orthodox priest who says one of his parishioners can do such things. Kind of séance-style, where you sit with others sharing the same goals in life and, presto, the spirit in question — in your case, the Muse — is re-instilled in your mind, heart, soul.”
Penmark: "Then a gypsy soothsayer materializes and tells my fortune, followed by the daily out-of-body experience, then potluck dinner. I’ll think it over, mi amigo, but I know what I really need. Another Greek literary entity — deus ex machina. You’re a budding playwright, you know what that is.”
Bloomgarden: “Vaguely — it’s kind of an obsolete term, like legerdemain and 23 skidoo. Let us look up deus ex machina courtesy of the gaggle at Google.” He pulls his laptop out from a shelf on the wall and clicks it on.
“Lessee — deus ex machina: 1.) literary expression derived from Greek drama where a god is literally introduced onstage via a crane to decide final outcome of the play; 2.) a person, thing, or event (as in fiction and drama) that appears or is introduced suddenly and unexpectedly, providing a contrived solution to apparently insoluble plot difficulties. Heck, that’s one I totally forgot about.”
Penmark: "Well, let me give examples: Like, in the final episode of 'The Fugitive,' the deus ex machina is the next-door neighbor who actually witnessed the one-armed man killing Helen Kimble and after four years fesses up, clearing Dr. Kimble. Or in the holiday tearjerker ‘It’s A Wonderful Life,’ the angel Clarence who appears out of the blue to rescue George Bailey. Or the proverbial cliché of the Army troops coming over the hill unexpectedly to rout the redskins attacking the wagon train. I don’t have to tell you, you already know about deus ex machina.”
Bloomgarden (kidding): “Damn, I thought the police lieutenant Philip Gerard killed Mrs. Kimble.”
Penmark: “There’s something tugging at my cerebrum that tells me such a deus ex machina for my alleged Muse does exist, like almost under my nose, the tip of my tongue, the edge of my perception. My inquiring intellect — what’s left of it — keeps dangling this feeling in my brain.”
Bloomgarden: "Well, they say highly creative types such as yourself — and I like to think yours truly as well — have dormant psychic powers that emerge in unexpected times. Maybe you’re having a latent subconscious foretelling of some such incident —oops, there’s my latent professorial side coming to the surface.”
Penmark: “Please, keep it latent. Myself grows weary of your psychobabble, James Joyce Jr. You’re too old to be so precocious. Could you turn the boob tube on to the classic movie channel? Maybe they’ll have a good Bogart flick on, or Sherlock Holmes, or an Alec Guinness playing five or six roles, or Ali Baba with his ninw or 10 wives.”
Bloomgarden (turning to the classic movie channel): "Hey, this is supposed to be a sports bar, pallie — but I’ll be a sport and turn it on — have another cappuccino and rum, on the house! (Chuckling) Somebody else’s house preferably.”
HOW THE COOL MEDIUM OF TELEVISION BECOMES PENMARK’S DEUS EX MACHINA TO EPIPHANY AND A NEW LEASE ON LIFE
It was the ever-prescient Bloomgarden who tipped off Roger Penmark as to how the theories of the great 1960s media guru/pundit Marshall McLuhan could be the key to the “phantom feeling” that had become an idee fixe but still elusive, the visionary ‘McGuffin’ that could somehow lead him to his deus ex machina, which in turn to his eureka moment.
I was sitting behind Roger P. at Wendigo Inn, having a few after-hours aperitifs; Penmark was seated at his customary stool just under the Wendigo house TV, engulfed by a classic movie/TV series channel noir film titled “Scandal Sheet.” “Scandal Sheet” was a 1952 B-movie programmer with heartless news editor Broderick Crawford, '50s heartthrob John Derek, and '50s heart warmer Donna Reed, working for a sensationalistic tabloid newspaper, Derek and Reed as Crawford’s star reporters. Penmark was, as usual, glued almost enraptured with the TV, when Bloomgarden, wiping glasses and mugs, sauntered over.
“Movie any good, Roger P.?”
“Just about any movie about newspapers is good to me.”
“That’s a hoot — according to McLuhan, newspapers are a hot medium and television is a cool medium. You’re sitting there getting a mix of both and don’t realize it.”
“Tonto not understand what white man sayeth.”
Ever the barroom philosopher/intellectual, Bloomgarden intoned,“You’re a baby boomer, in college in the '60s and '70s, you should remember Marshall McLuhan. Remember his theories about the mass media are an extension of our senses, and how the different influences on mankind’s five senses by the mass media caused leaps ahead in technology and communication, which in turn caused leaps forward in culture and civilization.”
“Oh, yeah, vaguely. He said that Andy Warhol’s pop art of Marilyn Monroe and soup cans were a reflection of America’s plastic culture, or something. He said that the reason JFK beat Nixon in the 1960 election was because JFK projected some kind of warm fuzzy image, in addition to sex appeal on TV in their debates.”
“That’s right. JFK projected a blurry, shaggy, eye-pleasing image on the cool medium of television, while Nixon projected a hot, sweaty image. Nixon was too stark, too hot of an image to jibe with cool TV, and thus lost the debates, and thus the presidential election.”
"Myself, I was always cool to Nixon.”
“I knew we had something in common — so was I.”
“What was all that folderol about hot and cool media? And, more pertinent, what’s it got to do with me?”
“Let me look it up on ye olde laptop here again and get a dictionary definition.
“ ‘The mass communications media, as pointed out by Marshall McLuhan, Canadian professor of English and author of several books on topics relating how advancement in technologies helped shape the cultures of various periods of history, can be divided into hot and cool media ...
'McLuhan declared that all mass media are extensions of the 5 human senses, with the following schematic:
'1.) He divided the mass media into two forms of mass communication that cause differing sensory experiences to the media user:
a.) the hot media — where the medium is of high definition and engages only one of the five senses completely — metaphorically ‘spoon feeding the content’ to the medium’s user, demanding little participation on the part of the user. Examples are radio and film as media that occupies one sense exclusively over the other four.
Then there’s b.) the cool media. The cool media project a low definition of content to the user, and because of this decreased content invites and engages several of the five senses. Thus the cool media, when perceived by the user, demands a great deal of participation and interaction from the user. This interaction process literally demands a great deal of the viewer’s participation, to fill in the gaps, blurs, burry imagery characteristic of the cool media. Examples demonstrate the ‘two-way’ interaction process, such as game shows inviting audience participation, comic books, telephone conversation —and most revolutionary of all, television. So you can understood how the tan, tousled, toothy-grinned JFK engaged and invited more intense, more participatory viewer interest than the dark, gothic, uninviting Nixon who failed in audience appeal.'"
“Then McLuhan gets into this postulation that TV will eventually homogenize all the world’s cultures into one global village, hopefully a utopian one.”
“Obviously Prof. McLuhan didn’t have an Apple or Macintosh iPod or personal computer in his garage. Television ain’t no longer the dominant medium, hot, cool, or lukewarm. It’s the World Wide Web that created your so-called global village!”
Bloomgarden: “Well, consider — McLuhan was widely considered a prophet. But he was a prophet in his time and place, decades before the personalized computer hit the mass media marketplace, of which he had no inkling."
Penmark: “OK, ol' pallie old buddy, how does all this — this hot and cool media business got to do with me?”
Bloomgarden: “Simple. You are a super junkie of the cool medium of TV. You come in and you’ll be glued to the TV for seven, eight hours, sometimes longer, totally engulfed in it. To put it simply, you OVER-INTERACT with the cool participatory sensory experience of viewing TV. I remember days when you’d come in here and sit in a booth reading a book, or doing sketches for your art classes, or listening endlessly to radio with your earphones, awash in a sea of classical music. All of which are hot media. Now you’re ensconced in the 5th or 6th dimension of HDTV. I’ve noticed over time, as your best friend, subtle changes in your opinions of things, even your personality. For instance, you used to be a big ‘Star Trek’ fan; you even went to a couple of Trekkie conventions. Now, whenever ‘Star Trek’ is on, you nearly blow a gasket and, pounding fist to counter, demand it be turned off. Why? Possibly because you’ve filled in all the blanks, the peepshow aspects of the show and outgrown it! It’s as if you’re telling Scotty to beam you back down so you can find new venues to interact with.”
Penmark: “OK. Doctor, send me your bill in the mail. Better still, send somebody else your bill in the mail.”
Bloomgarden: “I have a funny feeling — and I mean really strong vibes — that all these dreams with premonitions in them that you’ve been having are related to your TV obsession — and also something to do with your writing talent.”
Penmark: “Uh-huh. Maybe I’ll write a sci-fi book titled ‘It Takes a Global Village to Raise a Child.’ I’ll put it on the bookshelf next to my other unpublished works, 'The Lighter Side of Franz Kafka’ and 'Men are from Mars, Women Are From Hunger.’”
Bloomgarden: “What about that book you were halfway, 2/3 of the way finished, that memoir of yours. I think the title was ‘From Stringer to Sunday Editor.’ I recall when you started writing it — hell, you’d gotten a small advance for it from an agent, and you talked day and night how you were going to make this little tart of a booklet a masterwork, a textbook even, that would make you professionally. Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, move over and out.’
Penmark: “Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, stay where you are. Leave us steer away from this artsy-tartsy fantasy that I could write any sort of a book, whether it be it creative nonfiction, like ‘Down and Out in Cold Blood in Paris and London,’ or fiction such as ‘The Return of the Stepford Husbands,’ or a textbook version such as the above-cited ‘From Stringer to Sunday Editor.’ I did do some tech manual writing as a sideline, and some adjunct teaching at the local college but that was a fur piece ago. Let’s face it, old chum, this old bard has worn out his welcome in the world of letters."
By this time ‘Scandal Sheet’ was showing its closing credits. “Heck golly josh darn, I missed the ending,” Penmark sighed.” Maybe I am overly participatory with the boob tube.”
Bloomgarden (joking): “Broderick Crawford gets the girl, Reed, and the young heartthrob reporter, Derek comes out of the closet and goes off into the sunset with the newspaper’s gay fashion editor. Or maybe he goes off with Broderick Crawford as the father-figure he never had.’
Penmark [joking back]: “What is this — an Ed Wood movie marathon? What’s on next, 'The Three Stooges Meet Godzilla?”
The TV picture went from colorized celluloid to black and white film ala the 1950s. On the screen came a familiar surge of opening cornball music. Then appeared the gray gravitas Robert Young, with wife Margaret, played by Jane Wyatt striding towards him, apparently late for an appointment, Young looking at his watch and shrugging, giving Wyatt a goodhearted kiss with their three kids — Elinor Donahue, Billy Gray, and Lauren Chapin__looking on. Pure Eisenhower-era greathearted unsyrupy, unsappy blandness.
"I used to watch this show a lot when I was a kid," Roger P. said. “I could only take so many westerns.’
Bloomgarden: "I used to watch ‘Ozzie and Harriet’ until Ricky Nelson said how they were sitcom’s most dysfunctional family. Then my puberty hormones skyrocketed and I watched ‘Sheena Queen of the Jungle.' She helped me avoid teenage dysfunction.”
The title of this particular F.N.B. was “Spaghetti for Margaret,” which was very misleading, since the episode had little to do with spaghetti or Margaret. Rather, as the storyline unfolded, we see the Young character, Jim Anderson, in his office, with a tweedy, monocled, white-haired man in a seedy three-piece suit, whose name is Harper Eames, to whom Anderson was giving some folded money. Supposedly this was a small sum from Eames’ insurance policy — which had lapsed 16 years earlier.
Then the old geezer, pocketing the money, picks up his briefcase, patting lovingly like a pet dog, and announces, "Jim, my publishers are after the old scribbler to get my book ready for publication. And they want to throw a banquet for me! Of course you’ll be my guest of honor!” Then the old coot opens the office door and exits. Anderson’s secretary comes, looking indignant. "Well, Mr. Anderson, how much did the great author get from you today while he’s finishing the book he’s been writing for 30 years?” Anderson pooh-poohs the secretary’s being miffed for his kindly if slightly misguided enabling Harper Eames and his Walter Mitty alter-life with money and support for the ‘great author.’ “It helps Eames to keep his dignity with this phony indemnity — I wouldn’t want him coming in telling me he’s broke and hungry.”
Later on, Margaret explains to Donahue the bizarre bonding between Harper Eames and husband Anderson. “He was a high school teacher and your father was one of his students. Your father gained some kind of idealistic wisdom from him that helped your father in his business career when he had some black days when he first opened the office. Anyway, then Harper Eames sold a small piece to a second-rate magazine and that was his undoing. He quit teaching and never sold another thing, and was never employed again. On top of that, he’s been writing his book — his masterpiece about the history of man — for the same 30 years. And he’s been coming to your goodhearted father for handouts for goodness knows how long.’
Then Billy Gray enters the kitchen. “Are you talking about that old guy who pretends he’s a great writer? The kids at school have a rhyme about him — ‘Eames, Eames, full of beans, Lives on mush and empty dreams.’”
Then Gray gives Wyatt a raffle ticket door prize for a free meal that entitles her, as well as 50 or so other door prize winners of the community, for a promotional spaghetti marathon dinner as a publicity stunt (hence the title “Spaghetti for Margaret”). When Jim comes home and hears about the spaghetti-thon, he realizes this is the opportunity to fete old Eames with his long-fantasized dream of a banquet in his honor.
So things end happily for old Harper Eames; he gets the banquet he’s dreamed about for decades, and Jim Anderson even helps the old geezer get some paid stringing work with the local newspaper — so the “old scribbler” see his byline again with pay. Cinderella couldn’t have done better.
I was sitting next to Roger Penmark while he was viewing all this, and I felt “strange vibes” seemingly emanating from him. Then I noted something even more off track; it seemed as if Penmark was surrounded by some barely discernible glow — something akin to the preternatural aura that spiritualists and scientists claim that everybody possesses but which manifests itself only on rare occasions. As when a person is having a spiritual experience, or an epiphany.
Suddenly Roger P. pounded his fist on the bar-counter. “I may not be Woodward/Bernstein, or Scotty Reston, but I’m no Harper Eames either! Excuse me everybody but I have some work to get to!” Bloomgarden and I looked at one another in mutual astonishment; this was a totally different Roger Penmark, a “new and improved,” assertive, and goal-oriented version shedding the four-year shell of passive, half-shell-shocked existence.
To list just a few of Roger Penmark’s accomplishments in his epiphany-revived writing career within days of his eureka moment at the Wendigo Inn:
* In one day he completed a long-neglected whodunit story for a pulp magazine, Baskervilles Bugler, submitted it, and within two weeks received a letter of acceptance and a $100 check, his first in years;
* He unearthed the dusty manuscript of his long-buried memoir, “From Stringer to Sunday Editor,” polished it off and had it finished and professionally bound in less than a month, then gave it to an old literary agent friend who shopped it around and found a buyer, a vintage old publishing house that printed biographies and historical works; Penmark received a $5,000 advance and a contract giving him reprint rights and royalties;
* As a proposal writer-for-hire , he put together a 10-page narrative for a grant proposal for a nonprofit agency he had been a client of, the Center for the Mentally Impaired, which in a short time was approved by the grantee foundation which funded mental wellness programs, in the tune of a $30,000 grant bequest for a mentoring program for mentally challenged teenagers, for which he received a finder’s fee;
* Collaborated on a journalism textbook with trustees of the local junior college for its hotel/motel front desk procedures classes, drawing on his experience as Oceans 11marketing copywriter [a hotel chain run by a friend] and summer jobs as a day clerk at a motel, for which pub lication he received a handsome commission;
* And to top things off in less than a year of supra-high octane creative versatility, collaborated on a numismatic manual for beginning coin collectors, drawing upon his own years as an avid gatherer/trader in collectible coins, a hobby which he began to pursue again as his financial picture grew in scope.
As Roger Penmark’s “new and improved writing career” took off, he became in demand for lectures and seminars. He was hired by a consulting firm to be an educational broker for setting up a nonprofit organization through which volunteers assist senior citizens seeking college degrees, training for a second career or taking refresher courses in various occupations, as well as provide professional counseling on goal setting in the current job market. He got a grant from the PEW Endowment Foundation for this education brokering activity, which opened the doors to other similar grants, and set up fellowships in higher education, among other accomplishments.
Need I say that a once highly regarded professional man, tasting the ashes of nothingness with his job loss and nullified career, then rising from the same ashes as a Phoenix aglow with achievements, prospects, and a whole new self-actualizing outlook and vocation, was an inspiration to all who knew him and had even once commiserated with him.
Roger Penmark was no Harper Eames failure, not anymore.
Roger Penmark got his Muse back, because he WASN’T Harper Eames, full of beans and sh and empty dreams. And it was that eureka moment that had helped turn other lives around — and hopefully someday, mine included.