One of my editors recently shared with me, and two other columnists, a delightful missive from a reader praising us three. It’s always a thrill to hear from a reader and I want to thank Carol Allison for her kind words. I especially like the quote from Michael J. Fox in AARP that she noted: “Gratitude makes optimism sustainable.” I live by that doctrine every day and every day I express gratitude for everything I have. It lifts me up, and yes, makes me a diehard optimist.

In my early teens, I wrote a thin newsletter about the Beatles and got permission to make copies on my school’s mimeograph. I charged my readers about 25 cents for it and soon, I was mailing them to new readers who heard about it from friends. I did it for the fun of sharing my wild enthusiasm over my favorite band. Eventually, I received a cease and desist letter from an attorney who told me I could not use the name “The Beatles.” Heartbroken, I asked if I could use a drawing of their mop-tops instead. He thought about that for a minute, then said that could be done, so I carried on.

I also submitted a letter to a columnist who wrote in the Hartford Courant about the garage rock band scenario. I told her I was the publicist and booking agent for a four-piece band and was always scouting new venues and making regular calls to the DJ’s at WDRC about the group. She used stories that I sent about Battle of the Bands events, TV appearances and interviews I did with the most popular DJs.

When I graduated and went out on my own, moving from Connecticut to south Florida, I pored through the Writers Market which was annually updated, and began sending short stories, reviews, poems, etc. everywhere. Luckily, postage was affordable back then because I was sending to the Miami Herald and Sun-Sentinel daily until I finally decided to just drop off my stories in person. I made friends with everyone there, including executive editor Tom Shroder, and was relentlessly persistent until I began to get published, often on the same page as my hero, Dave Barry.

I never got to meet Dave Barry in person, but I sent him a long letter once, asking him what Stephen King was really like, telling him that we were page buddies and since his secretary brought her pet to my vet, we were practically kin. I received a postcard from him that said (in his own writing) “Jo Ann, Thanks. - Dave Barry”. I still have it.

Since the Writers Market listed several universities that published their own literary magazines, I chose The Gettysburg Review, a Quarterly published by Gettysburg College, a private liberal arts college in Pennsylvania dating back to the Civil War. The student editors accepted unsolicited submissions of poetry, fiction and essays, and I sent to them often. I was also drawn to this particular college because it was voted, out of 50 other colleges and universities, as the “most haunted.” The editor I dealt with had a sense of humor, though, sending me a t-shirt with a drawing of the Gettysburg Review on the front and a quote from the Washington Post on the back: “Carrying literary elitism to new, and annoying, heights.” I still have that also.

Connecticut Media Group