It’s kind of weird that I should recall an incident that took place so long ago, that it should become a key catalyst in my contemporary determination to become a novelist.
When I was a kid, maybe about 11 or 12 years old, I loved baseball. I couldn’t get enough of the dusty diamonds and weedy outfields in the dry Oregon summers. From sunrise to sunset I’d practice, if not with the team, then chasing fungoes hit by my dad or swinging at baseballs held together with duct tape as he threw batting practice.
I wasn’t a great player or a star, but I was decent, at least in the kid ranks.
I played on a pretty good team one summer. We made it through the state playoffs and into the championship game. After the semifinal game, I should have been overjoyed, thrilled, jumping up and down. But I wasn’t. I was miserable. Through the playoff run I’d gone 0 for 13 at the plate (I remember that distinctly), a non-contributor to my team’s offense.
My dad bought me a chocolate milkshake after the semifinal. In frustration and anger at myself, I pitched the drink into a flower bed. Instead of reprimanding me (which I deserved), Dad merely patted me on the shoulder and said, “Keep on swinging, the hits will come.” No long philosophical speech, no sermon, no batting stance analysis, just “keep on swinging, the hits will come.”
I did and they did. In the championship game I went 2 for 4, scored a run and had an RBI. I wasn’t the hero, but I seem to recall I got our offense going and we won the game handily.
So, decades later, it’s those simple words, keep on swinging, that kept me going over 10 years and 4 manuscripts, to a place where I could finally touch home plate with EYEWALL and do a fist pump.
There was encouragement from many others, to be sure, including Brian Jay Corrigan and Steve Berry, but it was Dad’s voice that carried me over the roughest parts of the road to becoming a published novelist.
Photo: What do baseball and becoming a novelist have in common?
You have to keep on swinging.