June 13, 2018

Where Stories Come From: THE JOY OF JOE

(Revised 03/09/2024)

Now I know what you're thinking, and yes...I have been away. Freelance work has been pretty steady, my life is...well, it's there. I've been getting back into the swing of a semi-regular life, and have focused more time on the other blog, discussing comedy stars and free speech issues as well as recent celebrity passing.

But sometimes, I get so busy with the work/writing grind that I forget that I write things that will later be published...and they usually come from the most innocuous of sources.

For example, Jim Beard - he's the editor of Sequart Publishing's Gotham City 14 Miles; he's also put out a ton of great stories. He also looks like Bill Mumy and acts like Jonathan Harris.

(I kid, I kid).

Anyway, Jim reached out to fellow writers via Facebook; he was looking for people who played with G.I. Joe as a kid. Not just any G.I. Joe, mind you, but the classic large, 12-inch action figure; not the 4-inch monstrosities from the 1980s. He was also interested in having people write essays about their experience for The Joy of Joe, celebrating the classic toy line.

Although yes, I owned a GI Joe...I had no idea what to write about. It wasn't the centerpiece of my collection (my Mego Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, and DC Comics figures were my main focus of play), nor could I write about how I owned all the equipment. And I wasn't going to write about how my father would scold me for playing with dolls...

Oh, [expletive], I thought, I'm not going to have to...aw, [another expletive]. I have to, don't I...

See, one of the things about my childhood...was that I was an atypical male. I played with a baby doll at three years old. I was more sensitive than other kids. And I sewed GI Joe a sleeping bag.  That was the memory that I chose to focus on, and how that memory led to me becoming more than just a manly man who does manly things...

(Of course, I am still a manly man who does manly things; I'm just much more open and flexible about being a man).

Writing my essay "The Ultimate Accessory" for The Joy of Joe also allowed me to reconcile some of my feelings for my late father. My dad and I rarely, if ever, got along - Dad was a heady mix of Ken Titus, Ron Swanson, and your local neighborhood douchebag. Look up toxic masculinity in the dictionary, and you'll see my dad's picture...

(As you can guess, June is a rough month for me since Dad was born in early June and...well, Father's Day...and for those without a dictionary, just picture me with a mustache.)

But my essay allowed me, on some level, to embrace some of the more unique aspects of growing up male. It also allowed me to look back with some nostalgia, viewing the past through half-rimmed rose-colored glasses. Yet it also allowed me to let go of my upbringing and continue the cycle of self-assessment and self-acceptance that I have been experiencing since...well, since I moved to care for Mom after last year's health issues.

Although it may seem trivial, writing my essay for The Joy of Joe was a bit of a release for me. It's a bit more self-revelatory than most of my other writing (including my blogs), but it's a great next step before my latest pulp fiction is published...

But check out The Joy of Joe, available in softcover and Kindle: you won't be disappointed.

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