One book leads to another...

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

IWSG Sept. Defining Passion

 Welcome readers, writers, authors, and bloggers!

Happy September! It's the First Wednesday of the month when we celebrate IWSG Day, in the form of a blog hop featuring all of the members of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Founded by Alex Cavanaugh and fostered by like-minded associates, IWSG is a place to share the fabulous views and exciting news that occurs along our fascinating writing journeys. So pull up a chair and join us!

Our awesome co-hosts for this month's posting of the IWSG are: 

Rebecca Douglass, T. Powell Coltrin @Journaling Woman, Natalie Aguirre, Karen Lynn, and C. Lee McKenzie!

This month’s optional question is:

How do you define success as a writer? Is it holding your book in your hand? Having a short story published? Making a certain amount of income from your writing?

I have to admit, having that first short story (Tortilla Bandits) published was an undeniable thrill! But I also love the unmistakable sense of achievement you feel when you write the last sentence—the ending line of the story you needed to tell.

Here’s another writer’s view of the craft:

"It is my rather subversive opinion that a writer's feelings of anonymity-obscurity are the second most valuable property on loan to him during his working years." ~ J. D. Salinger

It may have been his father (a Kosher cheese trader) insisting that he enter or at least acquaint himself with the meat-processing industry that prompted Jerry, the name he called himself since age 13, to become a vegetarian.

An average student with above-average intelligence, Jerry continued school with a flair for writing and an aptitude for acting. But, with the exception of a few short stories published in Story magazine, neither seemed a viable option.

After upwards of sixty rejections, a story called “A Slight Rebellion off Madison” was accepted and slated for publication by The New Yorker in late 1941, which unfortunately coincided with the attack on Pearl Harbor. The story was subsequently shelved indefinitely. Jerry was understandably devastated and consequently drafted.

He kept his journals on his person at all times, and while his intelligence earned him prestige in the war, it made little difference to his girl back home as she ran off with Charlie Chaplin. However, his position afforded the unexpected pleasure of meeting renowned war correspondent Ernest Hemingway, an influential writer for whom Jerry held the highest regard.

By all accounts, the war had changed him. But fate had even bigger changes in store as “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger was published in 1951. Reviews were mixed and sensational. People either loved or hated the book. Nonetheless, within two months after publication, the book had been reprinted eight times and remained on the New York Times Bestseller list for 30 weeks. Yet, paradoxically, as the book’s notability grew, Salinger himself was gradually withdrawing from public view.

Growing ever more reclusive, Salinger bought an expansive yet secluded plot of land in Cornish, New Hampshire. His closest neighbor and perhaps last close friend was semi-retired Federal Judge Learned Hand who freely offered inspirational insight.

“The spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded,” ~ Learned Hand 1944


Happy Writing, and take care, everyone.


  1. Yes, typing THE END can give you a sense of accomplishment. And thanks for sharing about JD Salinger. I didn't know much about his life.

    1. Hi Natalie!

      I can't imagine having your greatest accomplishment alternately banned from public view and taught in public schools. I think I'd be a recluse too ;-)

  2. Replies
    1. Hi Alex!

      Even one homerun is better than none ;-)
      Controversy notwithstanding, he unintentionally created a timeless classic. I bet his editors were as surprised as he was.

  3. Reading Salinger's story made me feel a lot better about all the bad timing issues in my writing career. I'd like one major hit. Maybe if I had one of those I could rest on my laurels--are laurels still available?

    1. Hi Lee!

      I felt the same way, though am grateful to not have lived through what he did.
      Yes, I believe laurels are still available ;-) I love that phrase!

  4. Firsts are always a thrill!

    J.D. had a few challenges in his life, to be sure. Today he'd fact the Twitter mobs. God help us.

  5. I love the name of your short story! Hooray for Tortilla Bandits!

    1. Thanks, Karen. My editor helped ;-) She didn't like the word 'capers', and escapades just didn't seem right either.

  6. Hi Diedre - yes I agree with Karen - love the title 'Tortilla Bandits'. Interesting about JD - I didn't know the story ... while checking on Learned Hand (apart from his name) a very interesting character ...

    An interesting inspiring post - thank you .. cheers Hilary

    1. Hi Hilary!
      Thanks, I like the title too.
      The name Learned Hand intrigued me as well. I also delved into it - and intended to provide a link - sigh. It seems right that the two were friends.

  7. Diedre,

    First, your title is fantastic. Does those bandits come with salsa on the side? :D I have not read "Catcher in the Rye" but I enjoyed reading a bit about the author of this well known book. Interesting piece!

    1. Hi Cathy!

      Ha! You'd be surprised by what those bandits didn't make off with ;-) though not for lack of trying.
      Glad you enjoyed!

  8. Hi diedre! It's been a while...☺
    It must be thrilling to see your work published. Love the title, Tortilla Bandits. Interesting to read about the life of J.D. Salinger. How great that he got to meet Ernest Hemingway! Catcher In The Rye will forever remind me of John Lennon's murder, but I enjoyed the book in my youth. I hope you and your family have had a good summer. Cheers!

    1. Hi Debbie! Good to see you!
      Indeed, Salinger managed to travel in a few extraordinary circles.
      We've had a remarkably wet summer here, which thrills me no end ;-) Sooner or later, I'll have to tackle the jungle out back. But for now I'm enjoying the butterflies.
      Welcome back!

  9. Howdy, dIEDRE ~

    I had heard so much about 'Catcher In The Rye' prior to reading it, that when I finally did get around to it, in my early twenties, I had a kind of ho-hum reaction.

    I can't even recall anymore what happened in that story, but it sure did influence and intrigue a lot of people at the time.

    I also recall that in the same time period when I read 'Catcher...' I had been reading primarily a great deal by Thomas Wolfe, John Steinbeck, Charles Dickens, and some William Faulkner. So, by comparison, 'Catcher...' seemed kind of like a lightweight teen book to me. I wonder what I would think of it if I reread it today.

    Interesting details about J.D.'s (not James Dean's) life, though. [;^D

    'Tortilla Bandits', eh?
    I like the sound of that.

    By chance did you ever see the movie 'Tortilla Flat', based on a Steinbeck short-ish story? The book was OK, but this was one of the very rare times when I liked the movie better. (It's one of my Top 10 favorite movies of all time, with a much happier ending than the book had.)

    ~ D-FensDogG

    1. Hi Stephen!

      Thanks for stopping by, I know how crazy busy you are these days.

      I'm sure others would agree with your review of "Catcher..." Who says writers don't have competition?

      There's a great deal I didn't say about Salinger because, ironically, much like James Dean, he had his share of personal scandals ;-) Albeit, James led a notably more exciting life, and two posthumous Academy Award nominations? I don't know whether to clap or cry!

      I had never even heard of "Tortilla Flat" until a couple of weeks ago (researching authors of banned - both Salinger and Steinbeck - and one-hit-wonder books) But your mention of the movie (which I'd love to see) brings up another aspect of Salinger's persona: after one fiasco he never wanted a movie made of his work, fearing it would not accurately depict the story ;-) His Last Will and Testament left future decisions up to his estate executors.

      Thanks for the invigorating comment - I'm off to find "Tortilla Flat"! :-)


Any thoughts? Join the conversation, comments welcome here!