Memories of How The Joy of Writing Began For Me
Oct 20 2017

Memories of How The Joy of Writing Began For Me

By: Keith John Paul Horcasitas

I am writing this Where Y'at submission in thanksgiving for Mr. Greg Langley, former Advocate News Features Editor, who helped encourage this neophyte of an author in a neat and indirect way. 

Back in 2004, when I was working as a medical social worker at Baton Rouge General Hospital (BRG), I felt inspired to try and pen a little story that I then could only have dreamed could possibly get published in the “Human Condition” column of the magazine section of The Advocate. While I may have previously had a few Advocate Letters to the Editor published, thanks to the late and great Bill Bankston and now per Danny Heitman, I never really thought I could write decently. 

In college at Loyola of New Orleans, I actually had to take a remedial writing course as a freshman, since I hadn't taken an interest in or put in much effort at prose in the past. 

While I'm thinking about it, I should also give thanks to John Biguenet, an accomplished New Orleans writer who was my remedial English professor at Loyola, as he gave me great lessons and inspiration to improve my writing skills. 

Since I was in the social work curriculum at Loyola, it was critical that I had developed a better sense of the written word, as that was part and parcel with term papers, a thesis, and narrative-like documentation abilities that helped me to complete both undergraduate and graduate degrees. These learned abilities have also greatly facilitated me in my professional social work career. 

So what would I choose for a topic to use in my first stab at writing for "Human Condition"? Kim, an ICU Nurse at BRG, did a great prank Halloween Day 2004 on many of her fellow staff. My first column, thus, recounted the fun way that Kim had convinced me and other staff members to attend to “Jacko,” reportedly a critical care patient in the hospital that day. 

Most of us attempted to interact and talk with the fake patient, made up of sheets and pillows stuffed carefully in a hospital bed with all kinds of monitors seemingly connected to it to make it life-like. We all eventually discovered, upon closer examination, that it had a pumpkin head. Fellow pranksters got to laugh at us as we took our turns making fools of ourselves, as they were in a separate nursing area that connected to the camera monitoring which was used for patients. 

While we, as staff, always strove to provide dignity and care to all patients in need without any disrespect, in our own “MASH-like way,” we knew how to laugh at ourselves, at times, to de-stress from the sometimes emotionally draining work. 

So the "Human Condition" column was neat when it appeared the Sunday after Halloween—nothing had been edited as I perused the published gem! But what perplexed me was how DIN (David Norwood), former Advocate graphic artist, could have depicted my cartoon face so accurately in the created image used with the column, since it looked so much like me. I had never met Greg or David. 

I found out later that, unbeknownst to me, Greg's wife worked in the BRG Admissions Department right next to my office; I had always used her first name in passing and had never made the connection at the time with Greg. Apparently, Greg had checked to see if his wife knew me and after confirmation, she must have shared with him a copy of my family picture found on my desk.

So thanks, Greg, for that first column that you used from me in "Human Condition," as well as many more since then. Writing is really a fun outlet that I thoroughly enjoy! 

And thanks to some other Advocate writers, Leila Pitchford English and William Taylor; I've had my fair share of contributions through them used in the Religion/People & Faith Section. Per another contributor to the latter column, I eventually found out about and enrolled most of my own writings on the authorsden.com website. 

How can I forget the neat story that the late Laurie Smith Anderson wrote about our inter-generational family when we had first moved to Baton Rouge in the early 1990s? Before she died, she shared so many inspiring and poignant stories about her dealing with death and dying in her “The Patient Person” columns. 

And how can I overlook some of my wife's wonderful recipes, like pralines, that we have sent in for the Food Section that got published. Also, it has been fun to send in requested info for Advocate theme stories like Valentine's Day for the FUN Section or, most recently, to Carol Ann Blitzer for Mother's Day.
 
Certainly, Smiley Anders has provided this "closet writer" with many ops in his column to share my "Yat" experiences with readers—especially as now da Advocate has taken over print media market share in New Orleans for da Times-Pic, where I had a "Grey Matters" column in the late 80s per my work then at da NO Council on Aging.
 
Lately, I've been blessed to get some writings published in the great Where Y'at publication!

Well, I'm old fashioned, as this current submission is being handwritten with a pen—even though I do so much typing on laptops these days.

I guess it will always be like Ben Franklin once noted: “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Right/Write on! 

So thanks again to Greg and all Advocate and Where Y'at editors who have given impetus to my writing. Now, as my friends tell me, if I can just get The Advocate to include stipends for these submissions; who knows—I may have the chance to begin a second career? 

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