've been in New York City for 45 years now, longer than I’ve lived anywhere else. Does that make me an official New Yorker? I’d like to think so. My wife, who was born here, would beg to differ.
I arrived in New York the day after I graduated from Manhattanville College, $14.95 in my pocket. There was no yellow brick road, but this was my Emerald City. If you want to be part of that greatest of living art forms, theater, and I did, then this is the city where its heart beats. I’d done internships in college, so I had a network; my older sister was here so I had a place to crash; and I had two summer jobs lined up, one of them as assistant stage manager at an Off Off Broadway theater. It paid car fare. Luckily for me the other one paid an actual salary. By September, I’d found out what a lot of people already knew: the road to a career in the theater is long, hard, unionized, and littered with those broken dreams you hear so much about when you’re starting out, so I made my way into publishing, journalism, advertising and corporate entertainment positions that actually paid the rent. Along the way, I got a Master of Fine Arts in playwriting from Columbia University. It opened doors I wouldn’t have been able to get to on my own. Where else can you spend two hours schmoozing every week with the top-notch agent Helen Merrill because you’re reading scripts for her? I still miss her a lot.
I wrote plays. I sent them out. And then I got hit by writer’s block. For twenty years.
There’s a point when you know what you set out to do isn’t going to happen. But like Langston Hughes said, “Hold fast to dreams.” An unexpected turn of events found me with a sabbatical. And I heard Helen telling me what she told me every week when we talked. “Just sit down and write.” I followed her long-ago advice, the writer’s block disappearing with each word on paper. What poured out was a novel. To my surprise, it was accepted by a publisher. And here I am, in the life I dreamed of when I was eight years old, living in New York, arising at noon like my “Act One” playwriting hero Moss Hart did, and spending the day writing. Not plays. But you can’t have everything.
I hope my books transport you to places you’ve never been, even if they’re lands of emotional reality you didn’t count on visiting. Those are the kinds of trips I like the best as a reader.