My Writing Life: 2

After that initial short story I wrote in high school, my next foray into fiction came about fifteen years later, when I decided to start writing novels. I had plenty of plots in mind and just needed to decide which one to start with. At the time I was working as a typesetter for the Chicago Tribune, and each work day I reported to the dark nether regions of the old Tribune Tower on Michigan Avenue. Working the night shift gave me an idea for a mystery novel. At the same time, I was interested in writing a novel about a woman playing shortstop in the major leagues.

I remember that Phil and I would talk about these two books on our evening walks. Which one should I write first? We both felt that a woman entering Major League Baseball was not that far away. After all, Pam Postema was an umpire in AAA ball, and rumor was she would soon make her way into the majors. Could a female baseball player be that far behind?

So we agreed that I would write the book that became She’s on First (which was finally published in 1987). Because, after all, we didn’t want real life (i.e., a woman entering the major leagues) to occur before my book was published.

As if. 

Here it is, 35 years after the publication of She’s on First, and women are still barred from the minor leagues — which are the gateway to the major leagues. You have no doubt heard the saying that “truth is stranger than fiction.” Well, here’s a case where truth is more backward than fiction.

From the time I wrote the first draft of She’s on First until the time it was published, I wrote lots of fiction. Lots and lots of fiction. Most of it was in the form of short (150-400 word) stories for educational publishers. Usually these stories were meant for language skills workbooks. As the writer of the educational workbook, I asked the student users questions about the story they had just read, testing their knowledge of vocabulary, figurative language, cause and effect, inference, and so on. Not only did I write the story, I wrote the questions based on the story, and then of course I had to write the answer key for the parent or teacher.

A few of the workbooks I wrote are: Vocabulary Vampire; Logical Logic; Reading Baseball; Categories; Eating Right; Geography Skills; Racing Math. And about 150 others — many of whose titles I no longer remember. 

I wrote so many activity books for so many different educational publishers that I put a cork map of the US on my office wall and inserted a pin into every home state of a publisher I had worked for. When I finally gave up writing activity books (I returned to it later, but at a slower pace), I had pins in 29 of the 50 states.

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She’s on First is available in paperback and ebook versions.