That’s right, it was Archie Comics and an Archie Fan Club letter that got me started down the literary path.
It probably wasn’t how I first became interested in writing because I had already been writing little stories about one thing or another (it just sounds cool—or in the vernacular of the time, groovy—to say that it was a comic book that got me started) but it definitely was my first publishing credit and a paid one at that.
I hadn’t thought about that fan club letter I had written back in 1969 for many years until 1998 when I had gone back home to visit my Mom who had moved back to Illinois from Texas the previous year. One day she asked me to go through some of my personal mementos of mine like photos, postcards, letters and other stuff that she had been holding onto for me in a small trunk ever since we lived in Oglesby, Illinois back in the 60’s and 70’s.
That day one of the things I came across was this letter from Archie Comics, dated August 19, 1969 and informing me that I had won first prize in their fan club contest. I thought that was pretty cool of Mom to hold onto that letter for all those years and I decided to take it with me back to Korea.
I had just started to use the Internet back then and one day, a few months after I had returned to Korea, I thought about that letter again and wondered if I would ever be able to find a copy of that issue of Archie Comics with my letter. I searched the Internet for Archie Comics, got the publisher’s email address and sent them an email.
Shortly thereafter I got a reply back from one of the editors thanking me for writing the email and my interest in finding a back copy. However, he informed me that he wouldn’t be able to help me and then went onto say that Archie Comics has gotten many similar requests from people just like me over the years who also had letters published and wanted those issues. He wished me luck in one day finding that particular issue.
I never thought about it again even when I did—a few years later—find some back issues of National Lampoon and Trouser Press through used booksellers on Amazon. I suppose if I really wanted to I could have found a copy—on eBay or some other site—but I forgot all about it.
It was only when I scanned a copy of that letter and posted it on my blog not long ago—musing about writing career—when I thought about it again and wrote how it would be cool if I could get my hands on a copy of that issue.
And that’s exactly what one of my best friends from back home Bob Patelli did when he read that blog posting.
Right around Christmas last year I got this Bubble Mailer from Bob with—you guessed it—a copy of that Archie Comics issue inside. I couldn’t believe. As soon as I saw the cover, my hands started shaking as I turned to the fan club pages inside and saw that letter I had written over 38 years ago.
That was one of the best Christmas presents I had ever received and it couldn’t have come at a better time because last Christmas I was feeling really down and homesick that I couldn’t be home with my family and friends.
At the same time, what made it just a little more special was that Bob and I had been out of touch for a few years and had just started exchanging emails again. And then, out of the blue, he surprises me with this wonderful gift. Thanks a lot Bob.