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Author Information: John Gilstrap

 
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Biography:

I've always been a closet-writer. As a kid, I lived for the opportunity to write short stories. I was the editor of my high school newspaper for a while (the Valor Dictus, Robinson High School, class of 1975), until I quit ("You can't fire me! I quit!") over a lofty First Amendment issue that seemed very important at the time. My goal, in fact, was to become a journalist in the vein of Woodward or Bernstein. Okay, I confess, I wanted to be Woodward; Robert Redford played him in the movie, and chicks really dug Robert Redford.

I graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1979, and armed with a degree in American history, I couldn't find a job. I ended up settling for a position with a little-noticed trade journal serving the construction industry. They called me the managing editor and they paid me food stamp wages. I hated it. About this time, I joined the Burke Volunteer Fire Department in Fairfax County, Virginia, if only to find relief from the boredom of my job. Running about a thousand calls my first year with the department, I was hooked, and the volunteer fire service became an important part of my life for the next 15 years. In the early eighties, hating my job, I went the way of all frustrated liberal arts undergrads -- back to graduate school. Earning a Master of Science degree in safety engineering from the University of Southern California, I started down a whole new road. For the next decade and a half, I became an expert (don't you hate that word?) on explosives safety and hazardous waste. Meanwhile, I kept writing. I didn't tell anyone, of course, because, well, you just don't share artistic dreams with fellow engineers. They look at you funny.

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