TK writing and drumming

Writing & Drumming: Finding A Voice

I ask many authors who I interview the same question: Do you write for a wider audience, or do you write for yourself? Not surprisingly, most of the independent authors I’ve interviewed are writing because of a passion for a specific subject or because they just want to write and, essentially, write for themselves. 

I’ve been writing since high school, writing professionally since college, as a newsperson, and then later as a communications director for a company. I’d have to say that today, I write for my own enjoyment. Some of my characters are based on composites of actual people, but no one individual. I can fantasize and find a way to make stories come alive on the page or as an audiobook so that a total stranger might be interested in reading it. My theory is, if I’m interested in it, I think other people may be interested. 

In the fall of 2021, I had the opportunity to attend the annual convention of the Percussive Arts Society, a global collection of drummers and percussionists gathering once a year to hear music, workshops and see the latest gear. One of the workshops reminded me of writing. It was presented by a drummer named Tommy Igoe. He is an astonishing technician. He led a big band in New York for a number of years, but he also plays funk, blues, jazz and rock. He’s what I would call an aggressive drummer. He’s not afraid to really attack the kit and he’s got an ego the size of New Jersey and I mean that in a good way. He’s very driven and he’s very passionate about the instrument. During his workshop, he talked a lot about finding your own voice as a drummer, as a musician, the way you interpret music, the way you interpret songs.

I found so much of what he said relevant to writing. It’s one thing to learn grammar and spelling and sentence structure and all that’s important. But you really have to find your voice. You have to find out what it is that you want to write about and why. What is your motivation for writing the way you do? In my case, I am now able to tell stories that I wasn’t able to tell in 25 plus years as a journalist when I was reporting the news as unbiased and as fairly as possible, a process that keeps you within certain guardrails. Now, I can make things up. I can come up with stories.

You look in the mirror and you look at the guy or girl looking back at you and you ask, what is it that person trying to say? What is it that you’re trying to do? And once you figure that out, I think you can move forward with a lot more nimbleness in terms of coming up with storylines, plotlines, figuring out what you want characters to do, and why.

And finally, there’s the search for truth, as my 10th grade English teacher Mr. Corasick used to say. If you can get to a universal truth, large or small and express it without ambiguity, you’ve achieved a worthy goal. If and when you do, you’re at the threshold of artistic greatness.

I talk more about this subject in my podcast, Type. Tune. Tint.. The relevant episode is below:

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Karen Fox Schneider, a tribute

Even though I hadn’t seen her in the flesh in over 30 years, Karen Fox Schneider has been with me every step of the way during my career as a journalist and writer. It never occurred to me that she wouldn’t be there. So, when word came that she passed away, it shook me.

From our first days together at WCAU radio in the 70’s, Karen influenced and taught me to keep asking questions until I got the answers; don’t be satisfied with what is obviously bullshit; don’t take the easy way out as a news writer; get to it, don’t dance around the truth. All these lessons have influenced me every time I’ve sat down at a keyboard to write anything.

Karen Fox 1978
Karen at WCAU 1210 AM in 1978. She was always either on the phone or at a typewriter.

During our days together at WCAU 1210 radio, Karen’s devotion to the craft of the news propelled a nascent all-news radio station into a competitive battle with established all-news powerhouse KYW Newsradio. Later, we both ended up together down the hall at Channel 10 where Live at Five was becoming a thing and her depth of knowledge of the Delaware Valley news scene kept that operation’s journalistic ship on course. Sometimes, Karen’s prickly side would come out during conversations about her occasional impatience with coworkers’ lack of follow-through (including mine) and I’d suggest she cut us some slack. Her answer was, “Don’t edit me.” I love that. I didn’t get it as a know-it-all in my 20’s, but I get it now. She worked hard in male-dominated newsrooms during her early career and that tenacity served her well later in more diverse print, radio and television newsrooms. She was proud to maintain an identity independent of that of her first husband, legendary Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Tom Fox.

Among her stand-out achievements as a writer is The Chalfonte, a detailed and affectionate history of the Chalfonte Hotel, a landmark in Cape May, New Jersey, the lovely shore resort town where Karen and her husband John spent much of their time later in life. The book is an enduring tribute to both the hotel and Karen’s talent as a writer, researcher and producer.

Karen was a mentor and inspiration to a generation of journalists, including me. She’ll be with me for the rest of my life, and I’m grateful to have her.


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Old School Hoops: Basketball after 60

Running up and down a basketball court isn’t something that many of us (most of us?) in the 60-plus age category would even consider. But as Jim Sweeney proves in his book Old School Hoops, age is just a number when it comes to playing out a lifelong passion for the game. It turns out that Jim is one of thousands of men and women around the world who not only love basketball, but play it competitively well into their 60’s, 70’s and even 80’s.

“Our last World Championship that we had in Espoo, Finland, which is right outside of Helsinki, they had eight 80-year old teams,” recalls Sweeney of just one tournament. “So all the men on each team were 80 or older. They played full court with a shot clock. They talk junk, they push the shot, they enjoyed themselves in front of a packed house. The attendance in the gym was maxed out. They had a sign on the door, 2500 people, standing room only to not just watch these guys, but to celebrate that.”

A celebration of keeping fit and having fun is what Maxi Basketball is all about. They have their own federation, called FIMBA, representing these die-hard athletes who range in ages from 40 and up, 35 and up for women. Jim’s book gives you a window to this world of international travel, interesting people and a love of sports. Proceeds from the book sales benefit a recreation center in Trenton, NJ, his home town.

Jim Sweeney in uniform
The author, #3, in good form.

“I’m 63 years old, and I started doing this only, what 12 years ago,” Sweeney says. “So there’s plenty of opportunities out there, not just for basketball players. But from what I understand stuff like this exists for people like soccer or international football, hockey, baseball, volleyball, so there are other senior things that are out there. And as the world’s population grows and matures, I think there’s going to be more people that will be interested.”

Old School Hoops is an eye-opener and a fun place to visit. Learn more in our conversation on the Independent Author podcast episode below.

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Independent Authors Book Expo 2021

Independent and self-published authors are welcome at a unique book expo coming this August. The Independent Authors Book Experience, a non-profit based in Roselle, New Jersey, is sponsoring its 8th Independent Authors Book Expo. It’ll be an outdoor event under tents featuring 30 exhibitors, mostly authors. Last year, the event was held virtually because of COVID, but it’s back to in-person fun this year. The event features author readings, a children’s corner, giveaways and the opportunity to purchase books and speak with their authors. TK Books and many other indie authors will be there. Admission for spectators is free. Exhibitors pay a fee but there are only 10 spaces left. Here’s more info on the Independent Authors Book Experience and the expo from founder Renaee Smith on the Independent Author podcast.

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Jersey Shore beauty, inspired and remembered

After a career traveling around the world as a photo journalist for the Associated Press, Brian Horton’s most recent work focuses on the beauty of nature around his home on Long Beach Island, New Jersey. His photo book Beaches, Bays and Backroads is filled with photographs of sunsets, ocean vistas, birds and the natural beauty of the Jersey Shore. But it’s more than just a photo collection. It’s a tribute to his late wife Marilyn, a fellow journalist and life partner who succumbed to cancer in 2020 and lived for 13 years before that with disability caused by multiple sclerosis.

“We spent 13 years fighting that battle together,” Brian recalls. “And, it just really gave us a chance to learn a lot about each other and how hard she would fight and just wouldn’t give up. It’s very inspiring. You couldn’t think you were having a bad day when you thought of what she went through every day.”

During those times, Brian and Marilyn took drives together to talk and appreciate life.

“We used to go out and drive in the back roads along the shore. There are vast areas, thousands of acres of grasslands all along the shore and we would go out there just to spend a nice afternoon out in the sun, especially in the offseason. And a lot of the pictures come from those trips.”

The book started as a modest commemoration of his time with Marilyn, but its popularity has taken off beyond his wildest dreams. Brian is making copies available for those willing to make a donation to the Robert Wood Johnson Center for MS, where specialists helped him and Marilyn navigate the disease during those 13 years. If you’re interested, send Brian an email to to start the process. Below is the conversation I had with him on the Independent Author podcast and my favorite photo from the book, which I had framed and hanging in my office at work.

Seagulls by Brian Horton
Seagulls on Long Beach Island, NJ, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020. (Photo by Brian Horton)