About the Author

Imperfectly Ordinary Author – Robert Benjamin

Whether or not they have the courage to come right out and say the words, as often as not people who meet me want to ask “Are you a real writer?” The answer is not all that hard to figure out. The real question, the one most people can’t bring themselves to ask, is “Do you do this full-time? I mean, do you have a real job, too?”

That’s tougher to get right. Trust me…to create something that passes for a real book, to get it to the point where somebody else can actually pick it up as text between covers and read it, is a real job.  Whether or not having done that earns you enough money to live on is something else, and the difference is often as much a matter of luck and timing as it is the reward for skill, hard work, and not knowing how to quit.

I have been fortunate. For reasons I’m not sure I fully understand yet, my wife Teryl and I have been able to arrange our lives so that I can choose to devote myself entirely to being the person who builds those model airplanes and writing about what I’ve managed to learn along the way.  We are not rich, but we have everything we need. In retrospect I’m not sure I could have learned to live with myself had it not worked out that way. These things have become a calling for me …an obligation to share what I have learned in sixty-some years of living  and especially with others who have discovered that they are good at something that means they will always be different.

This is me just a bit over two years old with my mother, coming as close to being an ordinary little kid as I would ever get. It’s 1946, and the Ford was a gift to my father from my Great Aunt Margaret when he came back from the War.

Even so, the question “…and what did you do before that?” is a good one, so I will fill in the Previous Employment box for you by quoting the Author Bio from I Promised You Daisies:

As a boy Robert A. Benjamin came to understand that he was different, without knowing why or whether that was good or bad. Over the years he has earned his way through life as a drugstore clerk, a commercial clam digger, a seafood restaurant cook, a boiler  insurance underwriter, a computer data collection manager, a big-city hospital emergency room clerk, a waiter, a certificated public school teacher, a security guard, a life insurance salesman, a truck driver, a commercial printing production planner, a Civil Air Patrol instructor, a gallery artist on contract to a nationally recognized publisher of fine art prints, and a free lance magazine author. Along the way he managed to earn a private pilot’s license, to restore a classic light airplane, and to learn to build flying scale model airplanes well enough that he was inducted into the U.S. Model Aviation Hall of Fame in 2006.

It took me a while to understand that for me, the real answer to  “…what did you do before that?” could only be “Learning to understand myself.”

Not so many years later at the age of ten, I had already learned to build some pretty complex model airplanes, like this one constructed in the time-honored tradition of cutting all the little pieces out of sheets of balsa wood, gluing and sanding forever, and covering the finished model with tissue and airplane dope. As you can see, I had also learned how to be unsure of myself.

Some of those learning experiences came with one or another of the part time and summer jobs I held as a boy back in Essex, Massachusetts. You can read all about them in the pages of A Gift of Dreams, the first book of my Imperfectly Ordinary trilogy. Some were what I honestly believed were the first steps of following my true calling…a lifetime of being a public school teacher. In I Promised You Daisies , the second book of the trilogy,  I share the new experience of learning that I might have been wrong about all of that. It turned out that life had a lot more in store for me, and it will be through my third book, Side Door To Heaven, that I’ll get to share those adventures with you.

By the age of thirteen I was still unsure of a lot of things. The model I’m holding is the one that I crashed and then rebuilt in an early chapter of A Gift of Dreams.

As I write these notes at the age of sixty-something, I am sitting in a comfortable chair in front of a well-worn computer keyboard in the rural home near Olympia, Washington, that I share with my wife Teryl, a retired teacher herself, and the cats we have been rescuing from abuse or abandonment over the years. It’s not difficult to imagine that this is the sort of thing a writer ought to be doing, but I have to concede that some of those other adventures were pretty interesting in and of themselves.

Those of you who have read A Gift of Dreams will not be surprised to learn that I have maintained a love of the world of flight, and especially a deep commitment to the building and flying of the most sophisticated model airplanes I can manage to dream up. Nor should it come as a surprise to attentive readers that not very many photographs were taken of me as a younger person. So far as I am aware no photos exist of me at work in a classroom, but there are some that show me with various model airplanes over the years. As those of you who share my interest in making miniature flying machines can see, I am still very much involved with them.

A lot older and at least a bit wiser. In 1999 I was privileged to compete at the prestious, invitation-only TOP GUN scale model contest in Florida with this ¼ scale 1941 Taylorcraft lightplane built from my own plans. Without my wife Teryl at my side I would never have made it to places like this.

In both A Gift of Dreams and I Promised You Daisies I have let slip only the most subtle  hints that one of the talents that came with my being gifted would turn out to be some ability as an artist…most specifically, as a realist/representational painter. That part will come out in detail in Side Door To Heaven, along with the reasons I don’t do painting any more. Because people seem to want to know about my life as an artist, though, I have included images of a few of my paintings here. It should be a surprise to no one that my primary subject matter was aviation.

In 2002 I earned a place on the United States International Radio Controlled Scale Model Team. Teryl and I are trying to relax between flying rounds at the World Championships in Ontario, Canada, so our team photographer could get this picture of us with the ¼ scale 1937 Aeronca “K” I built expressly for this level of competition.

The long and short of it is that no matter how sweet the taste of what success I managed to achieve as an artist, no matter whether I ever again find myself at the front of a classroom, no matter what outrageously wonderful model airplanes I might yet manage to build and fly, it has become clear to me that my true calling in this life is to share what I have learned about all of those things.  I am a writer.

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