Paul Stapleton

Paul Stapleton

As a young boy I was a writer, but of verse, dedicating poems to any baseball team I could contact via the U.S. Postal Service. At age six, a friend had taught me my first “phila-baseball” lyric, and I was deeply impressed: “I like the Yankees/ because they’re big and bad,/ and if they lose,/ I’ll be sad.” On the way home it occurred to me that the integral word Yankees could easily be substituted with the name of any team you wanted, a nuance that thrilled me, and the minute I got upstairs, I sharpened pencil on paper, churning out variations of what I now considered my poem with its single, devious alteration to that one metrical foot. Pretty soon effusive praise was pouring in from all over the continent, the initial response from the San Francisco Giants who informed me that my poetry had been taped to the locker-room wall. The laurels could not have been more grand.

To this day I have yet to grow tired of what amounts to the very same process. I read a short story or a novel, and I say to myself, I’d like to do that, too. So I take my best shot at my favorite writers, the likes of T.C. Boyle, Denis Johnson, Thom Jones, Tobias Wolff. Then I ship out a manuscript with boyish excitement and anticipate the response. As all writers know, however, most replies express some form of “we regret….” Such rejections come by the score.

Yet with J Journal, I have been fortunate to find editors who appreciate my work perhaps even more than the SF Giants of 1972. In fact, J Journal has not only published my work, but the editors have helped me improve it, with one story transformed into a Pushcart Prize winner. In volume 9.2, they are giving five men currently in prison, who were my students in a literature class in 2015, the chance to experience the same excitement that drives all of us who send out our work to literary journals. Thank you, Adam and Jeffrey.