ON WRITING

By Richard Frisbie

 

I can’t separate my writing from the story of my life. One day when I was in eighth grade my teacher beckoned me to her desk. Sister Florentine, O.P., had been glancing at a stack of student papers. I saw her laugh. When I stood beside her, she looked up from my story and said, “Richard, this is really funny.”

That’s when I learned who I was–a Writer.

I worked on high school and college publications. I majored in journalism. I found myself at the Chicago Daily News, where an assignment to cover a press conference brightened the rest of my life.

Mundelein College (since absorbed by Loyola University) scheduled the press conference to introduce a new faculty member. In 1949, Elizabeth Bentley, already notorious as the “Red Spy Queen,” had repented of her role as courier for a Soviet spy ring that included some government officials. Converted to Catholicism by Monsignor Fulton J. Sheen, the television personality, she confessed all to the FBI and found a job with the BVM nuns who ran Mundelein.

The conference attracted national as well as local media. I remember seeing a correspondent from Time magazine among others. I was greeted at the door by a charming young woman with dark curly hair and a big smile. She was wearing a green suit and a white blouse. I would have reason to remember these details.

She introduced herself as Margery Rowbottom, Mundelein’s public relations director. I knew of course that being nice to the press is the job of a public relations director. Even so, one thing led to another and four months later we were engaged. It seemed appropriate to invite Ms. Bentley to our wedding, but she didn’t come.

Now Margery and I have been married for 68 years with eight children, 12 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

The writing went on. It turned out that Margery was also a writer. We wrote our first book together. She became at various times a columnist for three different newspapers. She wrote six books and numerous magazine articles.  Not that writing was ever easy. Margery and I sympathized with and laughed at a scene in the 1979 movie Julia in which Jane Fonda, playing the role of a frustrated Lillian Hellman, pitched her typewriter through a window. Well, that was only a movie. We laughed again when the famous investigative reporter Seymore M. Hersh described in his memoir how in real life he hurled his typewriter through the glass window of his office at The New York Times.

I left full-time journalism and became an advertising agency creative director, using words another way to name products and write headlines. But I found time to write six more books and at least 100 magazine articles. Eventually, I became a self-employed publishing and marketing consultant for more than 40 years, creating brochures, newsletters, industrial film scripts, almost everything but skywriting.

If you are reading this, although I will soon be 92, I must still be a Writer.