On Becoming a Writer

I am a writer because of Wolf. I fell in love with Wolf in 1968 when I was fourteen. That dog saved my life, but I couldn’t save his.

Twenty-five years later, in 1994, even though it was still hard to think about how he was taken from me, I had to write his story. His story was my story.

The next thing I knew, I was in Office Max buying a Brother WP-1400 D word processor, ready to write our story.  “Wolf” is the first story I wrote. “Wolf” is the first story of my memoir, Stories from the Stoop.

In 1994, at the age of 40, I finally told myself the story of Wolf. I liberated myself from my childhood, a childhood that for a long time I didn’t want to remember.  The first person I shared the story with was my sister, Amy. “Wow Steve, who knew you could write!” Next she said, “This is an important story. What are you going to do with it?” What I did was I went back to Office Max, again, and made fifty copies.

Since my mid-twenties I have been helping at-risk teens become successful at life. That is my mission, my joyful mission.  As I began to share “Wolf” with my teens, a funny thing happened. “Wolf” was an invitation for them to open up and tell their stories. And most often, these were some really tough stories. In opening up, young people were able to free up, as I did. Best of all, they listened to each other’s stories, with empathy and compassion.

“Wolf” didn’t make me a writer. That happened another twenty years later in 2014 when I noticed a classified ad about a local writing group. I clipped the ad and put it on the fridge. There it sat for two months until I woke up one day and said to myself, “Today’s the day.”  I showed up at that group once a week. I wrote six other stories about growing up in the Bronx in the 1960’s. A year later I announced as much to myself as to my writer friends, “I’m writing a book.” A year after that I published Stories from the Stoop.

Writing “Wolf” showed me the way to freedom; writing my memoir set me free.

Today, I call myself a writer.

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