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"You'll learn a lot more by watching people and listening to them, Mikey. Keep your mouth shut and your eyes & ears open. Listen to their stories. Listen to the way they paint their picture. Listen to the way they use language. And remember the emotion in their words. " Gram & Gramps
I guess I became a writer in the usual way like so many others, by reading and listening to stories particularly those of my grandparents. Depending on who told the story would set the mood; the Russian side of the family usually told mostly sad stories; the Irish stories were somewhat melancholy with some touches of humor and the Czech stories that were usually light hearted. But like a good homemade stew, all went into the same pot and added their own flavor. Through their tutelage, my observational skills and tonal dialects were honed at a very early age.
Born and raised just outside Chicago, I got to grow up in an atmosphere that would make any seasoned writer jealous. What a list of characters! Priests. Politicians. Mobsters. Union leaders. Actors. Poets. Drunks. The high-lifes. The low-lifes. Strangers who would give you the shirt off their backs. Relatives that would take your last 5 cents. I would find out at a very young age that some of the people that you were supposed to look up to were the ones that you should look out for and that more often than not some of the bad guys were the good guys. It wasn't by accident that my first book,'Some Things My Grandparents Taught Me'  was an homage to my instructors. All that I had learned about life and story-telling I had learned at their knees.
Next up was a screenplay for the story, 'Golf In The Kingdom'. Six months after completing the three year project, life threw Mike a hard curveball. One massive stroke. Then another. Writing, or the thought of writing, would have to take a backseat for a while until an off-handed remark by one of his doctors would set up his next work. 'Rising From The Ashes: A Spiritual Odyssey' is based on his journey through the stroke rehab process, taken from journal notes he wrote to himself while in the hospital. He broke new ground with that first book  because it contained a 45 page exercise section.
But the strokes and the subsequent paralysis would have an adverse effect on his otherwise stellar golf game. The second in the Rising From The Ashes series: 'A Golfer's Tale About Starting Over' is based on his golf experiences, friendships and teachings while rebuilding a golf swing damaged by the strokes. Could he climb as high as he had in the past? Actually, he would climb higher for what he was able to find inside of himself. Not just a book about golf & strokes, this is a book about life no matter your circumstances.
Then, Mike began a series of short stories which would become 'A Box of Shorts'. Each of the stories reads like a movie. A few of the stories were dark and somber [must have been the Russian side] that fellow writer & friend H.J. Weinand wondered if Mike should turn his pen towards a lighter fare for his next book. That suggestion would give birth to 'Pendleton The Penguin and His Magical Friends', an ongoing series of children's books that focus on the values of being assertive while being polite, being respectful and seeing the magic in all that is around us on a daily basis. Time and time again, Pendleton also shows us that our dreams can only be limited by the breadth of our imagination. The books are now being translated into different languages by children helping kids all around the world learn to read. Hopefully, one day these children will be able to tell stories of their own.
Weaving his way through all of these books and stories, Mike has also penned over 120 columns aimed at the people who made our country great, our forgotten middle class, a humorous common sense look at the changes we are going through on a personal as well as national level in his books 'Life in America' [vol.1&2].
Mike Proko continues his wide range of writing genres as well as other multi-media adventures. He & his family currently live in the southwest but will always call Chicago home and answers to being a citizen of the world. Pax.