Art ~ Writing ~ Life

Steve Campbell's Blog

My baby picture. Circa, December 1957.

Today is my birthday. Another year older and closer to death.

Death is a common theme the older I get. But that’s life for all of us.

I was born on Sunday, 62 years ago. My mother said she went into labor while laughing at Jerry Lewis. She and my father were watching Hollywood or Bust at the movie theater. She loved watching Jerry Lewis movies. My dad didn’t like Jerry’s style of humor, but he enjoyed Dean Martin’s singing. It was Dean and Jerry’s last movie together.

So I came into this world around 11:30pm that Sunday, during a typical February snowstorm in northwestern Pennsylvania. I was Mom’s second child and the first to survive childbirth.

In 1957, Dwight Eisenhower was the US president and a postage stamp Cost 3 Cents. Some of the news during the year told us…

  • Congress approved the first civil rights bill since Reconstruction to protect blacks’ voting rights,
  • Hurricane “Audrey” destroyed Cameron, Louisiana killing 390 people,
  • National Guardsmen barred nine black students from entering previously all white Central High School in Little Rock,
  • The Russians launched Sputnik I, the first earth orbiting satellite,
  • The FBI arrested Jimmy Hoffa and charged him with bribery,
  • The Milwaukee Brewers won the World Series,
  • The Detroit Lions won the NFL championship,
  • The Montreal Canadiens won the Stanley Cup,
  • Jack Kerouac published On the Road,
  • Dr. Seuss published The Cat in the Hat,
  • And Laura Ingalls died in Mansfield, Missouri.

I became an avid reader by the age of 5 and wrote my own stories. My schoolteachers encouraged me to write. Comments in report cards and letters to my parents said

  • Steve loves to daydream;
  • He has an amazing mind;
  • His writing is extremely original.

But I wanted to be an artist more than a writer. I drew every day. Even later in life, I knew I wanted to be an artist. Aptitude tests for the Navy and college said I was creative and artistic. And the Navy said I would make a good leader. I think my Myers-Brigg personality type indicator listed me as an ISTJ. Strengths for an ISTJ are responsible, reliable, and hardworking. ISTJs get the job done. They make great business executives, accountants, and lawyers.

But I wanted to be an artist.

I have always had a very active imagination. I live in a bit of a dream world when I can. I’m a visual person and I appreciate beauty and design. And most of all, I feel extremely anxious in the wrong surroundings. Working a job that shut me in an office would have likely driven me insane.

So, I headed to the outdoors and became a wildlife artist. I didn’t become rich or famous, but I did well enough doing what made me happy. Later in life, around 45, I began writing again. I had too many stories in my head, many leftover from my high school days, that I needed to let out. A writing quiz for authors suggested that I write Young Adult stories. It summarized me as someone who “loves to write about years gone by” and is “flexible enough to write like a teenager, with the wisdom and perspective of an adult.” So I did.

Since then, I don’t write or make art as often as I did. Now, I read and think a lot. It’s only natural. I’m in the Thinking and Judgement part of my ISTJ personality, doing some soul searching. I have always been philosophical and contemplative to seek an understanding of the deeper reasons for life. Now, more than ever, I’m intrigued by the unexplained, the mysteries of life, and the phenomena of nature. My kinship and love for the outdoors sparks a deep appreciation for the wonderment and beauty of nature. When I’m outdoors in nature, I feel fully alive.

It’s that feeling that has me looking forward to full retirement from the 9-to-5 working life that I do to pay the bills. 4-and-a-half more years to go.

Quiet and serious, you are well prepared for whatever life hands you.
—An ISTJ personality strength

I am me; not who others think I should be.

When I write, I write for me. I know what I like, so that’s what I write about. I stay away from topics I find offensive, which places me among writers whom many of our critics label “conventional” and “old school.” I don’t think being conventional is a bad thing. But it seems many critics believe writers should be avant-garde, pushing the envelope of taboos to acme just to shock and titillate their audience.

I don’t like vulgarity, but it’s a common theme in contemporary adult fiction. However, I prefer not to read extreme foul language, extreme violence, sex, or any other types of debauchery in literature. If there is an audience for it, I’m not a member. Keep it in the porn shops.

But it’s in all the bookstores. Even in the children’s section.

I know this because one of my critics suggested I read current books written for the age group of adolescents I write about in my books.

Imagine my surprise and disbelief when I read a recent popular YA novel about werewolves and vampires where foul language and graphic violence and sex occurred in almost every chapter.

Why are YA authors making this crudeness a reality and turning their young readers into voyeurs?

Perhaps they mimic life in the city, which hardened some of my relatives and made them crude, rude and almost criminal. Or maybe they find it on TV and the Internet, which are cornucopias of everything mentioned. I don’t know. I grew up during the late 1960s and early ’70s out in the country, went to a small school in a rural town, and kept my virginity into my 20s. It’s how life was for me. I know it well, remember it easily, and write about it a lot.

And that makes me “conventional” and “old school” to certain others who try to manipulate what’s inside the books we read.

Bah! I enjoy reading what I write. It’s the innocence of youth, when becoming an adult was years away and adolescents didn’t worry about pregnancy and STDs. It’s out of touch, I’m told, with most of today’s adolescents, but it’s in touch with me.

And when I write, I write for me.

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