“As I Knew Him: My Dad, Rod Serling” goes beyond what some would view as the ‘expected’ biography. I don’t cry reading biographies or memoirs. I don’t. And, I did.
Anne Serling’s account of her father and the love and joy their family shared transports the reader into the very heart of the family dynamics. Through Anne’s mastery of the written word, we are invited to partake in the memories as if they are current events unfolding before us. All I can say is be prepared to laugh, smile, and go through a box or two of tissues. “As I Knew Him” is writing at its finest.
Anne holds a degree in Elementary Education with a minor in English. She’s been a substitute teacher, worked with children with special needs, and was a preschool teacher at Cornell University’s Early Childhood Program and Cooperative Nursery School. Her poetry has appeared in publications such as The Cornell Daily Sun and Visions. Previously, she adapted two of her father’s teleplays to short stories which were included in the anthology “The Twilight Zone.” Anne and her husband currently live in upstate New York.
“As I Knew Him” has been described as a “lyrical tribute” to Rod Serling’s legacy. That may be a fair assertion. However, it is Anne’s ability to bring to life her father’s empathy, kindness, and sense of social justice through her words that separates this book from the pack. Shared personal correspondence and photographs help to paint the picture of the man, father, and confidant Anne knew. She takes us from her father’s early days, his military service during WWII, the meeting with the woman who would become his wife, and allows us to sit on her shoulder as the daughter plays with her father in the yard. We ‘hear’ Rod’s stance on censorship and his deep rooted love of animals. Most of all, this is a book of family and how our futures are molded by the values instilled within us by those who love and guide us. Buy this book. You won’t regret it.
Q) I’m certain that writing a book about your father was suggested numerous times over the years. What made you decide that now was the right time?
A) Writing the book was actually never suggested. It was just something I needed to do. Initially I began another book about ten years after my dad died--IN HIS ABSENCE. I was unable to finish it though as I was still so much, even then, in the throes of grief and unable to navigate my way through that minefield. After several years I heard things that had been written and said that described my father in a way that could not have been more removed from the person I knew and it made me angry. I decided it was time to set the record straight. And so I wrote this book as a tribute to my father.
Q) You are an extremely talented writer. Why haven’t we seen a book (regardless of genre) from you before this? I noticed on your web site that you have started a novel. What genre will it be?
A) Thank you so much!
Poetry was, initially, where I was comfortable. Writing a book seemed like such a daunting task.
When I began AS I KNEW HIM, I wondered, not only emotionally, but also realistically, how I would reach the end. As I went on, I found the process became easier and although there were certainly more than a handful of frustrating days and blank pages, there were also moments when I reached the end of chapters and felt a sense of completion.
What I am writing now is a novel called AFTERSHOCKS. It is about the dissolution of a family and the fractured interpersonal relationships involved.
Q) No doubt this has been asked, but what do you believe was the greatest gift both of your parents gave you?
A) At an early age I learned of the insidious nature of prejudice and how my dad felt it was our world's "greatest evil."
Both my parents shielded my sister and me from "the Hollywood scene." And I am grateful for that. Although I think that environment would be even tougher to grow up in now. Not to say it wouldn't, at times, be exciting.
From my father I learned that unconditional love is the greatest gift a parent can give their children. Also the ability to laugh at one's self.
Q) Several renowned celebrities came out in public support of “As I Knew Him.” Their support is a
A) I am grateful and humbled beyond words that these kind people took the time out of their busy worlds to offer me these quotes.
My dad was once quoted as saying he felt his writing was "momentarily adequate" and that it wouldn't "stand the test of time." These endorsements, after all of these decades, touched me deeply, as they would have him.
Q) The Fifth Dimension is a grade school program designed to enhance the life skills of children entering middle school. It utilizes Twilight Zone episodes to focus on such issues as prejudice and mob mentality. How involved were you with creating this marvelous program?
A) I was not involved in creating this program. Credit goes entirely to the superb teachers that implemented it, organized it and made it successful through their creativity and belief in the idea. It is focused on enhancing the life skills of elementary students as they prepare to enter the tumultuous years of middle school with its peer pressure and bullying.
And these students really "get" these moral messages. When asked by one teacher, after viewing the episode "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” "Who are the monsters?" The entire class stood up.
I believe my father would have considered this program his greatest accolade.
Q) Any parting thoughts for your readers?
A) I hope I have been successful in presenting the human side of my father and that readers come to know "another dimension" of the man beyond his public persona and the mistaken portrayal by some as a morose, depressed angry man.
Additionally, I hope that I have helped others by opening up about getting through my grief. Grieving the loss of someone is so difficult. I hope my sharing lets others realize that they are not alone and that there is no "right" way to get through it. No "appropriate" measure of time. It's tough and it's messy and can take years before you feel "right" or "normal" again and that is ok.
DA Kentner is an award-winning author www.kevad.net