Smiles and I

There isn’t a person who makes a living painting pictures with words who does not identify with the old Dorothy Parker lament “I hate to write; I love to have written.”
Except one. Jack Smiles.
And because of him, another. Me.
Jack and I were colleagues at the same weekly newspaper for nearly 15 years, he a full time Jack (no pun, honestly) of all trades, and I his part-time editor. I arrived late one afternoon after teaching all day at the community college and told him we had been discussing the above Dorothy Parker quote in class.
“I can see that,” Jack commented when I said my students, all budding professional writers, agreed with it. But then he added, “Actually, though, I like the whole process: the coming up with an idea, the research, the interviewing, the searching for the right verb, the editing …”
“Come to think of it,” I interrupted, “so do I.”
I’ve been sharing Jack’s assessment with my students ever since.
Those who’ve read my work and Jack’s over the years might say we could not be more different. And they’d be right.
But, in many ways we also could not be more alike. Most of those ways involve our approach to writing, and this newspaper business in general.
We traditionally take on vastly dissimilar topics, Jack and I, he leaning more toward politics and issues, I more toward those warm stories of everyday life. But no one tells a story better than Jack, and no one writes with more warmth when the subject matter calls for it.
But don’t take my word for it. Go back to the May 10 issue of Greater Pittston Progress, or go to the home page of and find the article Jack wrote under the headline ‘Happy Mother’s (and like mothers) Day.’
The best compliment I can pay a writer is to say “I wish I wrote that.” That’s what I thought after finishing Jack’s piece.
It opens with:
Empty-handed, I try it every Mother’s Day, telling my wife, “but you’re not my mother.”
This year, I faced the truth: with my birth mother gone for 25 years, my wife is my mother. A flower basket is in order.

That’s mighty sweet writing.
And what I’ve come to expect from this complex yet simple wordsmith who, to my delight, is my teammate once again.

Ed Ackerman