ASSOCIATES (2004, November, v. 11, no. 2) -

*Getting To The True Story*


Charlie Fox
Editorial Director, Library Mosaics

What’s the story? I can’t remember how many times my parents asked me that question when I was growing up. The answer seemed simple; if they wanted a story, it was my responsibility to make one up. When I think about it, my stories never kept me out of trouble, but they were always a great source of entertainment for mom and dad. Those stories were probably the thing that set me on the writer’s path as well. Thankfully I was blessed with a wild imagination and could take any situation and create a suitable story around it. Writing has continually led me through a series of experiences that have ultimately led to my work in Media Services at El Camino College, and editorship of Library Mosaics magazine.

My first regular writing assignment came to me about eight years ago. I had been published here and there, mostly poetry and heated letters to the editor of the Los Angeles Times. But this was the first assignment in which my opinion was being asked for. To me this was my first legitimate writing job. I was given 1000 words per issue in my division’s quarterly newsletter, the Lamppost; 1000 words of my choosing, on any subject I felt was relevant to the library where I worked and on campus life in general. My column was called “Walking the Stacks.”

At first I wasn’t sure how ready I was to take on such an assignment, but the newsletter’s editor assured me I would do fine. How he came to that conclusion based on the content of one piece of short fiction puzzles me still, however, given the direction my writing has taken me, I shouldn’t complain. As fiction led to a newsletter column, and that newsletter column led to editorship of an international publication, my experiences in both library work and writing have blended into a beautifully balanced existence between the two parts. It’s one of those instances where I can look back and say it was either God or chaos but somehow I landed exactly where I was supposed to be. I’m continually amazed by personal evolution and the way we seem to move toward a logical end, even when it looks at the time as though we might be driving off a cliff.

As Library Mosaics begins its 16th year of publication, I like to think back, not to my first year as editor, but all the way back, to the time when Raymond Roney’s interest in library support staff and the issues unique to the field evolved into the creation of the publication I now edit. If we are to believe that our experiences allow us to evolve into what we are today, then I have to believe that, while Raymond Roney and Ed Martinez sat in a small meeting room in the North Branch of Redondo Public Library, mapping out the publication’s first issue, I was across town, somehow preparing for my future role as editor by starting my work in aerospace. I was designing and drafting layouts for computer systems by day, and playing music by night, nursing the last gasp of a career in the recording industry.

Again, in retrospect, it’s easy to look back and see a logical path. I couldn’t have advanced as far as I did in the aerospace business had I not eventually chosen to give up on a musical career. If I had not given up on my musical career my sister might never have planted the seed that I should try writing prose instead of lyrics. And even though I couldn’t have said it at the time, how lucky for me that I was laid off from aerospace and found a job in the library.

But it was not until recently that I realized both of those components of my work are a part of a single thread. From my first short story in the 4th grade and my first library job in the 6th grade, I was destined to follow this single thread: the need to communicate ideas to others – the need to tell a story.

Whether we care to admit it or not, I think many of us are driven by the same need. We can tell ourselves we only work in order to pay the bills and we can satisfy ourselves with routine, but in our hearts the story is constantly being told, and it comes out of us whether we want it to or not. We tell our friends, our relatives, or maybe just the parakeet, what happened during our day because to do otherwise, to hold these experiences in, is to defeat our purpose for even being here (provided, of course, that we truly are not the product of chaos and the random smashing together of dust particles).

We’re here to help each other tell our stories. We help by listening, and we help by speaking of our experiences and communicating our ideas to others – even the parakeet. We are held together by the adhesive of words, spoken and written, and when we hold these words back, we cheat ourselves and others. It may seem banal, it may mean nothing, but to another, our words can be just the spark of wisdom needed to propel a new idea into existence.

Technology has made this so much easier. In the six years since taking over as editor, I have gone from hand inputting each article into a mighty Mac II, to being able to work with and send completed articles from wherever I happen to be, having never touched a piece of paper. After about five years I have finally given up my status of “technosaurus” and accepted e-mail as a valid form of communication and, God help me, I’m thinking of starting a blog.

But it really doesn’t matter whether we use the latest technology, or pick up a pencil and a legal pad and write a letter. The purpose will always be the same. Each of us has a story to tell and the more people who hear it, the more our thoughts will become the seeds of wisdom. If you look at your own story, you’re sure to find two things: First, the life you think may have been an easy walk was actually an intriguing path, and second, that the true story of our lives will beat fiction every time for entertainment value.

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