Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Purpose, Passion, Perseverance...and Ambrose Bierce

Just 26th story in 23 Chicken Soup books!

It's been a bit over a hundred years ago that journalist and satirist Ambrose Bierce mysteriously disappeared while reportedly traveling with rebel troops during the Mexican Revolution. Few these days may remember his short stories, his columns in the San Francisco Examiner or the satirical The Devil's Dictionary. Thanks to Project Gutenberg, I have the latter on my Kindle.

Back in the early sixties, when I taught high school journalism, I used to ask students to choose famous news stories from the past for classroom term project presentations. I'd provide a list of suggestions...disasters such as the sinking of the Titanic, the explosion of the Hindenberg, the Lindbergh kidnapping, the Snopes Monkey Trial, the Sacco and Vanzetti case...and I'd tuck in the names of noted journalists as well, always taking care to mention Bierce.

I've been invited to submit a guest blog on perseverance to a website that features tips for writers. The hostess suggested I might want to write on perseverance, since my true stories have appeared in well over a hundred anthologies in less than a decade. It's been a busy morning for me, and I've not yet written the piece. I've browsed through my own posts, though, and note I've written three previous entries that address the topic. I'll use some of these thoughts as springboards for the new piece.
 I opened my Kindle to see if he had included a definition of it in his dictionary. He had.
Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce, 1842-1914(?)

"Perseverance, n. a lowly virtue whereby mediocrity achieves an inglorious success."--Ambrose Bierce

(He also had something to say about plagiarism: "Plagiarism, n. A literary coincidence compounded of a discreditable priority and an honorable subsequence.")

I'm still laughing. Yes, perseverance enabled me to fill a bookcase with books that include my stories. Is this a credible achievement? Should I give myself a pat on the back?

I remember my lofty ambitions as a high school journalism student. I'd planned a career as a writer...I'd hoped to combine journalism and novel writing...I'd be a modern distaff Hemingway. I'd win accolades...maybe a Pulitzer or even a Nobel. There'd be no stopping me.

Something did stop me, though...and it was life. My life took other turns. Though I continued to write and edit, I never made a career of it. I'm delighted that my son, Steve Elders, copy chief for the Los Angeles Times Sunday Calendar, has. He's lived my dream of devoting a life to the fourth estate.

I've done other things, though. And I write about some of these for such anthology series as Chicken Soup for the Soul and Publishing Syndicate's Not Your Mother's Book. Among those other things...I've a long history of volunteering.

So I'm thrilled that one of my stories about a volunteer activity made this latest book...Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering and Giving Back. I need some inspiration I'm going to read a few of these stories before I write that blog on perseverance.

Though Bierce makes me laugh, Nelson Mandela gives me words that spur me on:

“It always seems impossible until it's done.” --Nelson Mandela

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