You could see me, an undergraduate student, sitting in the small office that belonged to a Professor of Communications for Aurora University. His name was Walter Sublette. He was taking time to explain the craft of writing to me.
I honestly don’t remember why I had the appointment. Probably he had rejected something I submitted to the school paper (which he edited); and me, being who I am, demanded an audience. Yes, that feels right.
But he spent a good thirty minutes explaining Point of View to me.
Even at the time, I recognized it as a distilled masterclass-style lesson. He was a former Assistant Editor for Fiction at Playboy—in charge of their slush pile, as we say these days. He passed along a remarkable lesson in that cramped time-space.
I wasn’t a writing major. Nor did I aspire to a career in writing (except perhaps in secret desires). But he commended my skill. Said I clearly had a way with words. He took the time.
My reflex is to say it was all wasted. The wrong person at the wrong time. I was a person just beginning on the path of discovering myself. It was far too early in that process for the lesson to matter. Generally, I have to know myself before I know what needs to be written.
Also, it was the wrong time. Back then information was so rare that you could blink and miss it. And so I did. Not like now. Now, we have the Internet. Museums, thousands of museum’s worth of information at our fingertips. We can realize its importance later and look it up. Now, for example, I can Google and find out that Walter (he wanted me to call him Walter, I do remember that) wasn’t just a Professor, he was an Artist In Residence.
Now I do aspire to be a writer. And now I do understand POV. And, even now, more than six years after his death, I can feel the warm generosity that motivated the gift of his time.
So I say it was not all wasted. He is part of the reason that, now, here in my easy chair, I can be the Artist in Residence. If only for a few moments.