birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

My Mentor

The man flipped the page of a newspaper as if he'd done it a million times before.

I would [guess] that it was probably more like two million times.

For the grey-haired jolly man who had a side profile that looked like Santa Claus was actually an editor of a paper in northeast Ohio.

He was wise with knowledge and stuffed full with advice.

Our friendship began with a smile.

I was a student photographer, hired to take photos at a convention. He seemed like the perfect subject to capture: an old dinosaur reading an old medium.

He'd laugh if he read that line and knew that's what I first thought because he would tell you not a word of that statement is out of place.

I slowly raised my camera lens to capture him in his natural habitat, but I was not skilled yet in subtly. He caught me in the act and smiled.

I surrendered and walked over to the round-top bar table he stood at and extended my hand.

"Who is your mentor," he asked me.

"Me?" I said, cringing at my bad question. What a bad first impression I was making.

He smiled at me. We were, after all, both waiting for the Meet Your Mentor event to begin for all the first-time attendees.

"Oh,I don't have a mentor," I said. "I'm just the photographer."

"But it's your first time?" he asked.

"Yep!" I said. Cringing again at my bad grammar.

"Well then, I'll be your mentor," he said with a smile.

That was the beginning. Eight years later, I've called him probably more times than I've called my own mother — and I call her almost daily.

My mentor has taught me about how to handle good times and bad, how to pitch a story, how to realize that there's two sides to every decision made by management and that every time I say "But they just don't understand." My editor is likely saying the same about his group of writers.

Since that table in Salt Lake City, I've visited my mentor every fall and even some springs. In fact, I lived with him for a few months when I, myself, got a job at his old newspaper. We've shared many happy hours with many more glasses of Jack Daniels where we've talked about story structure and the business and old dinosaurs like him.

He has been my rock. The one person in the industry I can count on to always support me and encourage me.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but who knew not capturing one is worth so much more.

Second Sight

A Fresh Start