How to Honour the Heroes of 9/11 by Alan Jankowski

At the time of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, I was driving North on the Garden State Parkway here in New Jersey. I lived in Parlin at the time, and scheduled to start a new job at 10:00AM that morning, up by Exit 156. I distinctly recall the initial radio reports, speculating that perhaps a small plane had accidently hit the tower after taking off from one of the local airports. Though I didn’t see the actual hit, I could clearly see the smoke rising from the towers through my windshield. When I arrived at the new job, there were people huddled around a small TV crying, and I recall one worker there who was an EMT saying he had been called in to report to the scene. Needless to say, that when I got there, I was sent back home for the day.

Back then I had yet to take up writing. My first short story was written and published April 21, 2009 on an erotic story site, and my first attempt at poetry followed several days later. Though my first poems were rather humor based, with an “adult” theme, throughout 2009 my poetry gradually became romantic rather than humorous, and love poems were not unusual, though all were publishable on the erotic story sites I started on. By early 2010 though, I had discovered dedicated poetry sites, and this opened up new possibilities for me. So, when I saw a thread in the forum over on erotic story site Lush Stories titled “September 11. Nine years later.” it wasn’t out of character for me to come up with the idea of writing a poem about 9/11, since I had already found places to publish poems that were neither erotic nor love poems.

At first, nothing immediately popped into my head. Then a couple of days later, on September 13, my netbook got stolen from the Somerville, NJ library. I was living in Somerville at the time, and spent a fair amount of time at the library. For the next three months after my computer got stolen, my writing became limited to writing poems on paper, usually on the back of library flyers. I would maximize my time on public computers by going to both the Somerville library, and the nearby Raritan library, which is only a short ten minute walk. One day, while walking back from the Raritan library, I got the idea of writing a poem honoring the heroes of 9/11. That day was September 29, 2010. I grabbed a library flyer, sat down at a table and wrote the lines “Heroes that would not turn their back, With determination that would not crack.” That whole first draft took me about four hours, to the best of my recollection. This is what it looks like. Note that I use parentheses around words I’m not sure I want to use, and underscore words I’m considering changing. The diagonal lines mean I used those lines in the next draft. It appears I used all the lines in the first draft except for “Who walked among us standing tall” which is probably a good thing.

first draft

Here is the opposite side btw…

first draft 1

The second draft was apparently done the next day, as is dated on the bottom. Note that it is missing a verse. I can’t recall the exact reason for that, but I do remember I spent a significant amount of time, at least an hour, finding a replacement for the word “source” since I had originally written one of the lines as “A source of goodness on that day” and was not happy with that at all. If you look at the upper right corner of the first draft, you’ll see “embodiment/essence.” It took me a while to decide on “embodiment” but I believe it’s the most appropriate word.

2nd draft

The third draft includes the missing verse, with the finalized line “An embodiment of goodness on a day” as well as the poem finally getting a title. I believe “We Shall Never Forget” seems most appropriate.

3rd draft

I posted the poem on a few poetry sites that day, September 30, 2010. The first it would have appeared on would be Got Poetry, and someone there commented that it focused on the better aspects of that day, which I believe is a big part of its widespread appeal. I went the extra step that day, and did a search to see if there were any dedicated 9/11 poetry sites, and the first that appeared was a site called “9-11 Heroes.” I posted the poem on that site as well, which I believe to be a contributing factor in its widespread use.

One day in the summer of 2011, I happened to notice a comment left on the poem over on Poetry Craze, which is the most viewed poetry site. The comment read “I would like to use this poem for my church’s 9/11 dedication. It is one of the better 9/11 poems/tributes that I’ve read.”

I was so impressed that someone would actually want to use my poem in their church’s 9/11 ceremony, that I attempted to contact the author of the comment by sending him a message through Facebook. I wanted to thank him, as well as being curious as to which church it was and the like. Since I still hadn’t heard back from him by September 11 of that year, I decided to do a quick Google search out of curiosity, just to see if anything might turn up. What did turn up went way beyond anything I could have possibly imagined, and it literally took me four days to go through all the Google results. I did a public forum post that year, the tenth anniversary, of some of the highlights, mostly print stuff, police, military and school uses, and ceremonies. There was even more, but I had to remove a couple links as they became “archived.” Here is the post.

http://www.storiesspace.com/forum/yaf_postst538_My-911-Tribute-poem-has-been-in-print-at-least-fourteen-times-in-2011.aspx

Anyway, that’s the story of my 9/11 tribute poem, and I’m continually amazed at the extent of its use since. Let me leave you with my poem btw…thanks, Alan (09-10-13).

Recalling the better aspects of humanity on that day…the heroes…

We Shall Never Forget (9-11 Tribute)

Let the world always remember,
That fateful day in September,
And the ones who answered duty’s call,
Should be remembered by us all.

Who left the comfort of their home,
To face perils as yet unknown,
An embodiment of goodness on a day,
When men’s hearts had gone astray.

Sons and daughters like me and you,
Who never questioned what they had to do,
Who by example, were a source of hope,
And strength to others who could not cope.

Heroes that would not turn their back,
With determination that would not crack,
Who bound together in their ranks,
And asking not a word of thanks.

Men who bravely gave their lives,
Whose orphaned kids and widowed wives,
Can proudly look back on their dad,
Who gave this country all they had.

Actions taken without regret,
Heroisms we shall never forget,
The ones who paid the ultimate price,
Let’s never forget their sacrifice.

And never forget the ones no longer here,
Who fought for the freedoms we all hold dear,
And may their memory never wane,
Lest their sacrifices be in vain.

09-30-10b. 

Featured Author – Alan Jankowski

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Hi Alan, I’m so glad you’re finally here! 🙂 

People let me introduce to you Alan Jankowski! Poet, lover of the Exakta, and penguins, but first and foremost a fantastic guy and author.

Alan W. Jankowski is the award winning author of well over one hundred short stories, plays and poems. His stories have been published online, and in various journals including Oysters & Chocolate, Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal, eFiction Magazine, Zouch, The Rusty Nail, and a few others he can’t remember at the moment.

When he is not writing, which is not often, his hobbies include music and camera collecting. He currently resides in New Jersey. He always appreciates feedback of any kind on his work, and can be reached by e-mail at: Exakta66@gmail.com

With the official introduction out off the way allow me to give you this dirty Martini and offer you a seat, because the grilling hour is here. 

Comfortable? Okay, lets get on with it then.

Can you tell me how you celebrate finally getting that tricky chapter (or para) right?

Oh, I only write one paragraph at a time anyway. I usually write one paragraph, then go off and have a cigarette or something while thinking about the next paragraph. I come back to the computer and type it out. I just keep doing this, and by the end of the night, or early morning, I have a whole story. So, I guess the answer to your question would be having a cigarette. Sorry I couldn’t come up with anything more festive than that.

It’s okay, still sounds like you know how to party. But how do you work around those moments when the muse has gone and done a runner on you?

I’m one of those people that doesn’t always feel like they have to be writing. In fact, the last year or so have been relatively unproductive for me, as far as actual writing goes anyway. I did put out a book last year though, and it seems I get involved in writing related stuff a lot even during the times I’m not actually writing. So, it really don’t bother me if the muse isn’t around. Don’t get me wrong btw…I can be very prolific at times. For instance, I wrote 41 short stories in the first three months I started writing, and have been known to crank out a 6700 word short story in a night. So, even if I don’t pound on the keys for a while, I make up for it when I actually do.

Right, you might just have a winning formula there. Now, let’s first do a few of the yada yada questions before we move on to the fun. And by yada yada I do not mean boring, or in any other way stupid questions, but just the traditional ones. You know? The ones we secretly all want to know the answer to.

First, what is the title of the book you would like to talk about?

I Often Wonder: A collection of poetry and prose.” On Inner Child Press.

324-Final Mock 5

I love that cover! It is actually entered in a cover contest and currently leading if I’m not mistaken. Check it out once you’ve read the full interview.

Did you have difficulty coming up with the title?

No. It’s a book of 78 poems and 4 short stories. I just used the title of one of the poems.

If you would have to change the genre in order to be able to publish it, what would it be then? i.e. would you conform to the market?

The book is poetry and short stories. There was a concious effort to keep the book relatively G-rated because of the extensive use of my work, notably one poem, in schools, church bulletins, military, police and other assorted service publications…that sort of thing. I wouldn’t really call it a genre change, but I definitely was keenly aware that I had to conform to certain accepted “standards” so to speak.

Right with that out of the way and to confuse you we’ll take the alternative route now.

What don’t you like about writing.

Having to actually type stuff out can really suck sometimes.

Voice control? They say it only takes about six months to teach it to understand you. 🙂

What do you do marketing wise and what do you think generates the most attention to your books?

Well, I really only have one book out. It came out this past September, 2012 and I have to admit I haven’t done a huge amount yet to market it, for various reasons. My first real author event will be this coming September at the local library here in South Amboy, NJ. The library director, Elaine Gaber, has me scheduled for Tuesday night September 10, so it will be a bit of a 9/11 related thing, with me reading the poem I’m most famous for, as well as other things from the book. After that, the library will be selling the book at the counter, with a portion of the proceeds going to the library itself. I need to do more events like this, and not just every September, but I’ve had some transportation issues for one thing, which hopefully will be resolved in the next couple of months. In other words, I need a car.

Btw, for those reading who may not be aware, I became rather well known for one poem I wrote honoring the heroes of 9/11. I created this post in a public forum following the tenth anniversary, which is the first 9/11 my poem was out for btw. This link will give you some idea, but even this is just a tip of the iceburg, so to speak…

http://www.storiesspace.com/forum/yaf_postst538_My-911-Tribute-poem-has-been-in-print-at-least-fourteen-times-in-2011.aspx

So, I kinda have that advantage of having my name come up every year, and in a good way I might add. I think it’s fairly safe to say that nothing I do in life, writing or otherwise, will ever generate quite as much publicity as far as getting my name out there as that one poem. And I have a hunch it will get quite huge as time goes on, the trick being to connect the publicity generated by that with anything else I may put out in the future…and without being percieved as trying to profit off of 9/11. I think I’m in an unusual situation in that respect, with the guaranteed publicity every year, and no doubt one that most authors would be glad to be in. I just have to make it work, though I have a feeling that as time goes on, that won’t be a big problem.

I think you might be right. With the right people working for you, and I don’t mean for money but simply because they want the poem to get national coverage, you have the chance to become huge!

Tell me, when you’re on a roll, the muse is in the house and happily guiding your pen, what would seriously drive her/him away?

Oh, some stressful, unexpected event will drive old Musy away every time.

What does your muse look like and does he/she ever play tricks on you?

I’d like to think my muse is a rather hot looking brunette, but I could be wrong. Actually, almost anything could be my muse at times, so that’s sort of a loaded question.

Ooohhh, Alan it could even be a bit saucy. Hahahaha

Do you ever speak to your characters and do you get along all the time?

I tend to write mostly in the first person, so essentially I would be talking to myself. You’re asking if I talk to myself? I beg your pardon…go ask one of my imaginary friends, they’re not speaking to me at the moment btw.

Hahahaha.

Is there any food or beverage that is a constant factor in either your books or life?

Lol…if it wasn’t for coffee, I’m quite sure I’d never write anything.

Would you be able to come up with a credible excuse why you haven’t written a whole day? Remember, I have to believe it!

Oh yeah, well…as I said earlier, I’m not one of those people that feels they have to always be writing. I’m not really sure if you’ll belive that, but I believe it.

And finally why would you ever want to live life behind a keyboard slaving over a manuscript?

I had no idea I wanted to do this until about four years ago when I stumbled upon a writing site on the internet. Believe it or not, I had never even thought about being a writer, or even writing anything, until I was 48 years old. I still really consider myself the “accidental writer.”

Okay now that we have the mandatory questions out of the way, shoot your mouth off. Tell me whatever you want the blab about. But please no cat’s, dogs, or children. Make me laugh, or cry, or even envious. Tell me something none has ever heard before from you. hehehe, love those little dirty secrets, real or make believe. 🙂

Damn, no cats, dogs, or children? How about penguins? Only kidding…jeez, something that hasn’t been heard before eh? That’s probably nothing nowadays, thanks to the internet and social media sites, and btw…don’t believe everything you hear. Here’s something I hate to admit, but I seriously need to get back to writing. I had started a novel back in 2010, and my progress got cut short rather abruptly when my computer got stolen from the local library back in September of that year. I lost all my notes, which amounted to about fifteen pages. Since then, I’ve sort of been dragging my feet about getting back to it. I admittedly dread the thought of rebuilding all the notes again, and I hate doing “double work” so to speak as it is. I like to think things happen for a reason, though we don’t always see it at the time, and a lot of events in my life have proven that to be true. I’d like to think I’m a better writer than I was three years ago, so perhaps in the long run I’ll be better off.

But, I really do need to get back to it. Short stories can be fun, and poetry can give you a warm fuzzy feeling, and do a lot towards name recognition, but it’s never been known to pay the bills. And it would be nice to see some real book sales, and novels are the inevitable next step for me anyway. I have ideas for at least three, it’s just a matter of putting fingers to keys…or something like that.

And right you are Alan. I’m very glad you took this much time for my interview. Have a penguin, take care and success with the September reading. We’ll be speaking soon again.

For now I’d like to tell the people they can find you on Facebook, Goodreads, Google+AuthorsdB, and on Twitter.

Featured Author Wayne Zurl

And today I feature the policeman turned writer Wayne Zurl.

WZ photo- Deadwood, SD

Hi Wayne, thanks for allowing me to ask you a few questions. Let’s not waste time and get a move on with it.

Can you give me your best Whoop? Unless you have another one which works better for you?

How about, “Hoo-ah!” That’s a contraction of the more familiar, hurrah.

Okay, sounds like a winner that one, but does it work all the time, even those times when the muse has gone and done a runner on you? And when did you first start with it?

It’s a universal cry understood by old soldiers, indicating extreme happiness. Not too many G.I.s admit to having muses, but the statement itself is inspirational. I first heard it (and used it myself) when, as a twenty-one year old Army recruit, I stood on a field with more than two-hundred other young soldiers and tried to sound enthusiastic about physical training at 5:30 in the morning.

Right, sounds like you are on the right track there. Let’s do a few of the yada yada questions before we move on to the fun.

What is the title of the book you would like to talk about?

My third full-length novel in the Sam Jenkins Smoky Mountain police mystery series, HEROES & LOVERS.

HEROES final cover

Oh, sounds exciting, but did you have difficulty coming up with the title?

Yes. I started off with the terribly “blah” title of CHRISTMAS IN THE SMOKIES. Somewhere along the line, I dreamt up the equally stupid: A KIDNAPPING IN THE SMOKIES. Then I came to my senses and HEROES & LOVERS flashed before my eyes.

If you would have to change the genre, what would it be then?

I could turn this into a western quicker than a gunslinger can draw his long-barreled .45 caliber peacemaker.

Just to confuse you we’ll take the alternative route now.

What don’t you like about writing, or whatever you need to do marketing wise?

Writing is fun. Post-publication marketing and promotion is too much like work. Actually, it stinks. I hate it. I had envisioned writing a book, (or books) going to traditional book signings and smiling for all my adoring fans, and then going home and writing more. I have a couple of traditional publishers, but I do most of the publicity myself. It takes up too much of my time.

Tell me, when your muse is visiting and you’re on a roll, what would seriously drive her/him away?

I can lose interest at the drop of a hat and anyone with me would flee from my workplace. All the little necessities of life get in the way—a clogged toilet, bird feeders that need filling, vegetables from the garden that need to be processed and frozen, automobiles that need to be washed—you get the idea.

What does your muse look like?

I’ve given up trying to figure out what or who brings me the inspiration for a new book or story. Sometimes, I wake up at three o’clock in the morning with an idea. Or, I might be driving at 75 MPH on the Interstate and something reminds me of an old case or funny occurrence from my working days and I see a story in it. But if I had to put a face on the one who can help me through writer’s block best, it would be my wife’s. I’m lucky. She’s quite beautiful.

Do you ever speak to your characters and do you get along all the time?

Being a writer would be no fun without having imaginary friends to socialize with. I like the regular female characters from my books best. We get along famously.

Can you name the food and drink that will surely get you started?

I like to cook and food may do more to stop my writing process than spur it forward. I love all kinds of ethnic food—Chinese, Korean, Thai, Mexican, Middle Eastern, you name it. But if I had to zero in on only one type, I’d pick Mediterranean, specifically, Italian or Greek. I’m pretty good making either.

If I’m writing in the afternoon, I generally have a drink sitting on the lamp table next to the wingback chair where I do my writing—with a pad and pen. In the summer, I like a cold gin and tonic, in the winter, a smoky, peaty-flavored single-malt whisky from Scotland’s western isles. Beer is always good. I like dark beer.

Would you be able to come up with an excuse on why you haven’t written a whole day, and have me believe it too?

For a guy who’s spent much of his adult life working in military or para-military organizations, I’m a pretty lax and undisciplined writer. I can be persuaded to abandon the pen and pad easily. Conversely, if the spirit moves me, I can scribble away incessantly. At my age, that may be necessary so I get all my thoughts on paper before I forget them forever. Having said that, if someone calls and tells me the fish are biting in the river or a nearby lake, I’d be out of the house like a shot. The taste of fresh caught trout or walleye is a powerful deterrent to meaningful work.

And finally why would you ever want to live life behind a keyboard, slaving over a manuscript?

I’ve always needed a creative outlet and writing has, so far, been good to me. But if I never published another piece and I only continued to write for my own enjoyment, manuscripts would be easier to store than oil paintings or model airplanes.

Okay, now that we have the mandatory questions out of the way, shoot your mouth off. Tell me whatever you want to blab about. But please, no cats, dogs, or children. Make me laugh, or cry, or even be envious. Tell me something no one has ever heard from you before. He, he, he. I love those little dirty secrets, real or make believe. 🙂

I spent five years on active duty in the Army and sixteen years in the Reserves. Since serving in Vietnam, I can count the good night’s sleep I’ve had on my fingers and toes. After separating from active duty, it took me more than a year to find a job. The New York State Employment Service said I had no marketable civilian skills. So, I became a cop and the job wasn’t too different from that of a soldier. After twenty years on that job, I retried. But I still don’t sleep very well. The dreams I write about and assign to my protagonist, Sam Jenkins, are mine—and maybe his, since we share a similar background. Often, they recur, sometimes in variants, but always with the same theme. I’ve given up trying to analyze them, it no longer matters.

If you read my books or stories, you’ll learn about real police work and what happens to those who protect and serve.

Wayne, I am duly impressed by both your work, your personality and the way you know how to present yourself.

Thank you, Lucy, for inviting me to your blog and allowing me to meet your fans and followers. When I write something new, I’ll name a character after you.

Wayne! You honour me, I’ll be looking forward to that. It must be a character with a smile not far away though. 🙂 But now that we know all this about you, where can your fans find you? You know to follow/stalk ? (erm, I mean find out more about you and keep track of what you’re up to.)

For more information on Wayne’s Sam Jenkins mystery series see www.waynezurlbooks.net. You can read excerpts, reviews and endorsements, interviews, coming events, and see photos of the area where the stories take place.

Okay, and do you have any links that lead to you?

Author website Wayne Zurl 

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Amazon author page

B&N author page

And where can we find your book?

Amazon direct link

Barnes & Noble direct link

Mind Wings Audio author page