Thank You Steve Johnston · 12 June 2010

I have read Steve Johnston’s column, Sunday Punch, for many years in Pacific Northwest, the Sunday magazine of The Seattle Times. When it stopped appearing weekly, I wondered what happened, but not enough to email him to ask. I did not figure I knew him well enough, and besides, he might have had some health problems. Or worse, he might have gotten fired.

Thankfully, it was not the latter, but unfortunately, it was the former reason. In his latest column, appearing on May 30, 2010, Mr. Johnston described some of the ups and downs in his life. He described being in Vietnam, being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and later cancer. But he also talked fondly about meeting his wife of thirty years and raising their four children together. And he talked about his writing. I read his latest column with both sadness and lightheartedness. Mr. Johnston put humor into both his pleasant and his most unpleasant moments. It was wonderful writing combined with great perspective.

As much as I have enjoyed his Sunday Punch column, some of my favorite writing by Mr. Johnston has been in the form of a few emails. In those emails he gave me treasured aid, advice, and affirmation.

Mr. Johnston first helped me by suggesting a good nickname to use for my wife in my column. She did not want to read her name all the time and liked that Mr. Johnston gave his wife a colorful nickname. I actually changed my wife’s nickname from what he suggested, but his aid was sound and came from thoughtful consideration. After all, he had actually read the letter I sent him and at least a couple columns I had written.

Mr. Johnston also gave me advice in the form of words of wisdom I can pass on to all aspiring writers. “Don’t quit your day job.” I know these are words of wisdom because both my wife and my mother have said them to me too. Of course, Mr. Johnston’s words were given from a pragmatic point of view. From somebody who has lived on his writing income and is able to compare a steady paycheck with a freelance one. On the other hand, the two most important women in my life had just read something I wrote when they said that phrase. Their words of concern were really words of wonder, “Who even reads your stuff?”

Mr. Johnston also gave me wonderful words of affirmation in the first email I ever received from him. He told me that seldom in his long writing career had anybody written him to tell him they enjoyed his writing. It was when people thought he wrote a stinker that they wrote. While those words would have been encouragement enough to keep me writing (few people have written me either), he also referred to the first letter I wrote him as “funny stuff.” Coming from such a successful writer, those were words that for better or for worse, continue to help keep me writing.

After reading Mr. Johnston’s May 30th Sunday Punch, I decided that I needed to write to him again. Even though it had been almost three year since he gave me advice and words of wisdom and encouragement. I merely told him that I enjoyed his column and that he has been part of my inspiration to keep writing (even when many of my fans are still imaginary). I let him know that I have taken his advice and still have my day job. And I told him that I would pray for him and his family. I did not tell him that I was going to write this column, but I hope he likes it. I have enjoyed his writing for years and hope that he enjoys this small tribute to him.

I have enjoyed Mr. Johnston’s column since my wife first introduced it to me years ago. His words of wisdom and encouragement have helped me with my writing. And so I say, “Thank you Steve Johnston. For Sunday Punch and for your personal words to me.”

By the way, I will continue to take your advice (that you keep reiterating in emails). I will keep my day job. (If you thought that you just heard and felt a gust of wind, that was a collective sigh of relief from my family.)

© 2010 Michael T. Miyoshi

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