Wry writing captures contest

After 30 years, a resident returns to hobby, and wins

November 12, 1999|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

It is the ordinary events and experiences that have inspired Jack Winder as a writer.

His son's snake collection.

His observations about golf.

Trumpet lessons given to him as a boy during the Depression in Southwest Baltimore.

Stories based on such everyday memories are filling up the days -- and the notebooks -- of the avid golfer, former boxer, Navy veteran and retired district manager for the former Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Co. of Maryland, now Bell Atlantic.

"I've always liked to write, and if you're going to write, you have to write about what you know," said Winder, 73, of Westminster.

Winder won first prize for humorous fiction this fall in a writing contest sponsored by the Carroll County Arts Council Writer's Group as part of the annual Random House Book Fair, to be held tomorrow at Carroll Community College in Westminster.

His entry was one of about 30 stories in the humorous fiction category, one of four categories in the adult writing contest. A separate student writing contest attracted 500 entries, and had numerous winners.

Winder's entry, "Music, Music, Music," is a four-page account of trumpet lessons taken when he was age 6. It also details the school recital he gave and the expletive he muttered when he tipped over his music stand in front of his mother and classmates.

"A deadly silence descended. I was alone, stripped to my soul for all to see," he wrote.

The award represents an affirmation for Winder, who took a 33-year hiatus from writing after two short stories he wrote in the early 1960s were rejected by publishers.

"I got the rejection slips, I put away the writing and my job started making demands on my time anyway, so I let it go for a while," he said.

But Winder took to writing again three years ago, taking a humorous look at his life's experiences.

Winder was born in Baltimore and attended city schools until 1943, when his mother and stepfather split up and he dropped out of Polytechnic Institute to help support his mother and a younger brother and sister.

He worked as a messenger for C&P until 1943, when he enlisted in the Navy. He served during World War II as a radio operator on convoy ships in the North Atlantic and the Panama Canal region.

In the Navy, he took up boxing, seeing it as a way to eat better and avoid work details.

"We were having an inspection one day and everyone was working like crazy getting ready, and I saw these guys laying in their bunks and I asked about it. Turned out they were boxers and they were excused from work," he said. "So, I became a boxer."

At 147 pounds, he fought as a welterweight. He worked less and ate better, in dining areas reserved for outgoing seamen at the former Bainbridge Naval Training Center in Perryville.

But he also had his nose broken twice in the ring.

When asked if it was worth the pain, "No, not really," Winder said, with a wry smile.

When the war ended, Winder went back to work for C&P, as a lineman and equipment installer.

He spent 40 years with C&P, moving to Westminster when he was promoted to district manager in 1963. He retired in 1985.

Winder began writing a second time in December 1996 after surgery on an arthritic foot laid him up. He began writing humorous essays about everyday life that were printed in the Carroll County Times.

A golfer who plays about 150 rounds a year, he soon turned to the sport as a subject. One article about cheaters was rejected by three magazines, but another article was accepted by Washington Golf Monthly magazine. The 100,000-circulation magazine has printed four others, and has five holding for future publication.

Winder writes in longhand, specializes in wry humor and has a breezy, down-to-earth, easy-to-read writing style.

He is working on an autobiography, and is collaborating with a South Carolina editor on a collection of golf stories to be published as a book.

He will begin searching for an agent when the books are further along, he said.

"I think his stuff is wonderful," said Lane Lee, a retired English teacher, longtime friend and golfing partner who serves as one of Winder's critics and editors.

Before Winder submits anything for publication, he also runs it by his wife of 49 years and the rest of his informal team of consulting editors -- three other golfing buddies and their wives.

"I know them well enough that they'll tell me if it's no good," he said.

Bruce Villard, one of the group and a friend for 40 years, said he thinks Winder's writing is comparable to much of the prose he reads in many best sellers.

"I think he's got a real touch," said Villard, a retired C&P manager from Bel Air.

The Random House Book Fair runs from 9: 30 a.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow on the Carroll Community College campus, 1601 Washington Road. Events will include writing and publishing workshops, readings by authors, book sales and story times for children.

Proceeds will benefit the Carroll Community College Foundation.

Information: 410-386-8150.

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