Inside a wooden case that once held a children's-model telescope, I keep a slip of paper from the second grade. It's a test result, revealing that my seven-year-old self had the reading comprehension skills of a freshman in high school. This was a pattern that would continue in later years. My sixth-grade teacher stopped giving me any but the bonus spelling words (the basic words being a waste of everybody's time). In high school, I hated every English class I took, and got A's in all of them.
Looking back, it's amazing that I never got into my school's honors humanities program. I was clearly a natural writer, one who was not being challenged - and that was why I hated English class. But it was the '70s, and everybody seemed to be focusing on the other end of the spectrum, making sure the problem kids would at least make it to graduation.
Fortunately, my SAT verbal score finally tripped the wire. I was invited to San Jose State's honors humanities program, where a corps of professors from different disciplines took us through world history - from Genesis through Nixon - touching on the music, art, philosophy, science, history and literature of each era. And boy did we write! Constantly. At the end of the two-year program, for my final project, I wrote and performed in a play in which Aristotle, attempting to tutor Alexander the Great, has his idealized forms rudely disassembled by Copernicus, Darwin and Freud. It was hilarious, especially when Craig Carter, playing on Freud's cocaine addiction, emptied two dozen packets of sugar on a mirror, performed his part with a wacky German accent, and then managed to accidentally snort some of the sugar into his nose. I found him in the hallway, hacking and snorting like a rodeo bull.
Since then, things have worked out well. Craig finally cleared his sinuses and became a gonzo-style journalist. I went on to write a dozen novels, seven of them published, to win a few poetry awards and fellowships, to cover theater and opera for several different Bay Area magazines, and, recently, to write on poetry and fiction for Writer's Digest.
So would I have taken this route without that honors humanities program? To be frank - yes. I ran into my sixth-grade best friend Maurice a few years ago, and he said, "Oh yeah. You were always talking about writing novels." Clearly, I'm one of the obsessed.
But I worry that it took so long for my obvious needs to be noticed - that other talented kids with just as much talent but perhaps less determination might not have received the kick-start that their gifts merited. Which is why I'm so glad to see a website like Diane's. Not that kids with learning disabilities don't deserve every attention they receive (let's talk about my brother Larry, who overcame his to win an MBA, and is now a Silicon Valley CFO). But let's not forget about kids with special abilities, talents that need to be challenged in special ways.
Living His Dreams
Michael grew up the son of a Navy pilot; his family wandered the country from Maine to Hawaii and eventually settled in Sunnyvale, California. He has a journalism degree from San Jose State, where he also sang tenor in the college choir, often in professional performances with the San Jose Symphony.
He is the author of seven novels, including the opera novel Gabriella's Voice. He is a long-time poet, and a regular contributor to Writer's Digest magazine. He has covered the performing arts for 25 years in the San Francisco Bay Area, currently for The Wave magazine and theoperacritic.com. For more info on his novels and poetry, see geocities.com/michaeljvaughn
Check out Michael's Amazon Page
Michael is a highly gifted author. His writing is "enticing". From the first paragraph, he pulled me in and as I read further, I couldn't put it down. Learn more at Amazon.com
And He Sings Too...
When Michael is not writing, he is pleasing us with his wonderful singing voice at area Karaoke bars.
I always look forward to hearing Michael sing because he is so entertaining.
As an entertainment coordinator, I've known a lot of singers. But only a few really shine. Michael is one of them.
See Michael's blog: