Writing has been a part of my life since my early years growing up in Brookline, Massachusetts. In third grade, I embarked upon an ambitious project for a child of that age to write a story about a fictional character from the American Wild West. My father began to type the story in his spare time, but was unable to finish, and in my childhood disorganization, I lost the manuscript to the sands of time.
During my 7th and 8th grades, I used to fashion dozens of letters to entertain my older brother who was lonely during his first two years at Cornell University. I would make up dialogues, some based in truth, of arguments and discussions between my younger brother, my parents, and me. My older brother told me that he roared at each letter with laughter, and always looked forward to my next installment.
Between the 6th and 10th grades I took a stab at writing and acting in short plays. I always thought that I was an extravert and so I enjoyed acting. However, the fact that I enjoyed writing even more was an early clue of my hidden introverted personality. The problem with my plays was that they were composed almost entirely of gratuitous sex and foul language, and since nobody liked to read plot less plays that were strictly vehicles for my sordid imagination, I was not encouraged to continue in playwriting.
My 8th grade English teacher thought I had the wildest imagination she’d ever seen, but often lamented that I was so incapable of expressing myself clearly—or appropriately. Nevertheless, at the end of the 8th grade, I received a glowing evaluation for my book report on Vance Packard’s The Hidden Persuaders. This showed me that I could write, and probably also planted a social scientific seed in my mind that resulted in my eventually obtaining a doctorate in sociology 14 years later.
During high school, my writing languished because I became very interested in the tennis team and in the various choirs of the school. Since I excelled in both of these areas, most of my extra time was taken up there rather than in extra curricula writing pursuits. What little extra time I did have, I devoted to a rock and roll band, which, while not very popular, nevertheless had the distinction of being the first group to play a folk mass in North America—not bad for a band of five Jews.
Although I graduated cum laude with an unusual combined degree in geography and sociology, I initially struggled at Boston University with my writing. Occasionally, some brilliance showed through, however. In one phenomenal philosophy paper, for example, the teacher couldn’t believe I wrote it because, as he told me, from my class participation he was “convinced I was a moron.”
In graduate school, I had the great fortune of taking a class with an erudite writer, whose dissertation read like an exciting novel from cover to cover. His class on writing for public relations, an area in which I obtained my master’s degree, gave me the goal that writing should be elegant, as well as eloquent. He also taught me about the Law of the Seven Rewrites.
My eminent professor in my doctoral program showed me that good writing demands that the writer stay close to the audience. When he thought that my 429-page dissertation, about the paradigmatic nature of language and how it manifested itself in various parts of a social system, met that standard, he allowed me to defend it. He also allowed me to write three appendices to my dissertation, which, while not central to the thesis itself, nevertheless infuse my writing still to this day.
Throughout my varied professional life, including work in universities, a think tank, a museum, a military reserve unit, and in business, I have written journal articles, newspaper articles, screen treatments, feature stories, and exhibition catalogs, along with a whole host of counter cards, letters, sales catalogs, brochures; and I have also contributed to the content of books. Perhaps my crowning achievement so far has been my executive producer role in the historic documentary, “Hibel’s Russian Palette,” which garnered a Cultural Award from the American Association of Museums, and was aired on nearly 100 public television stations and countless cable and network stations across the country. And earlier [Can you begin a sentence with a conjunction? I don’t know. I just did.], I thank Publish America for granting me the publishing accomplishment of my first book “The Red Sox and the Devil’s Handmaiden.”
In 2020, after 5 years of collaboration with fellow educators, and social scientists including my mentor, Professor Bernard Phillips, Ph.D. a new book will be published for which I am very proud. Creating Life Before Death. We hope you enjoy it.
Another aspect of Andrew Plotkin’s life is his long time involvement with barbershop quartet singing since he was 19.