About Me

Cat in hatI grew up in a small northern Wisconsin town where a bicycle with one gear and coaster brakes got you everywhere you wanted to go in plenty of time. Small town life in the 1950s might sound constraining to a child of today, but consider this: Mortal threats to children were unpublicized in those days, and the main child care technique for harried stay-at-home moms during the summer was banishing their offspring to the outdoors as much as possible. For the most part we left the house after breakfast and returned for dinner, having snacked at various friends’ houses during the day. And the best part? No one asked what we’d been up to.

I remember learning to read by the “Dick and Jane” system of memorizing words by sight and repetition. Besides giving generations of readers a metaphor for stultifying conformity, those insipid siblings provided a strong incentive to branch out to real books. My favorite summer activity in bad weather was to lie out on our screened porch, which had a tin roof, and read while the rain played snare drums overhead. To this day, if I have no obligations, there is no better indulgence than an afternoon spent with a book and the sound of a downpour.

My favorite…

Books: My Family and Other Animals (Gerald Durrell), True Grit (Charles Portis), The End of Vandalism (Tom Drury)

Twilight Zone broadcast: An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (based on a story by Ambrose Bierce)

Fastener: Paper clip

Holiday: Snow dayCafe hat

Vegetable: Lima bean

Destination goal: Lima, Peru

Dream dessert: Key lima pie

Annoyance: Informational graphics that suck

Writer Philip M. Heckman’s background page

4 thoughts on “About Me

  1. Good morning,

    I am currently a Graduate Student in Childhood Education and chose your lovely book, “The Moon is Following Me”, which was also beautifully illustrated by Mary O’Keefe Young, to use for my “Book Talk” assignment in one of my Graduate Literacy classes. I am writing to you today to inquire about the background information pertaining to why you wrote this fascinating book.

    Kindest regards,


      • Yes, I would like to know what inspired you to write the book “The Moon is Following Me”. I would also like some background information on your writing/playwright career if possible! Ty!

    • As a child I had few choices for passing the time while riding in my parents’ car because commercial radio was our only electronic diversion. So I could either talk to family members, bother my siblings, or look out the window. The first two occupations were routines that quickly grew boring while the third often brought glimpses of new and strange wonders. I learned early the pleasures of day dreaming, whether it was day or night, especially when the moon helped focus my attention.

      In the mid-‘80s when my children, a girl and a boy, were about three years old they separately observed that the moon appeared to be following our car no matter how the road turned. They seemed to find that this reliability made the moon a soothing companion. The thought that this might be a widespread feeling among children of that age inspired me to record my own memories as a way of comforting others.

      I love Mary O’Keefe Young’s artwork, which I believe faithfully evokes the mood I recalled—cosmic and private at the same time. Her daughter was the model for the girl in the illustrations. You might find it interesting to learn that I’ve never met or spoken with Ms. Young. The publisher discouraged communications between little-known writers and commissioned artists on the assumption that nothing good could come from allowing “too many cooks” to spoil the story. The publisher had all the leverage. Although I wouldn’t have suggested any changes in the artwork, I would’ve liked to feel more a part of a collaboration.

      I’m retired after working for 30 years as an editor for a trade association. My creative writing career is modest. You’ll find lists of my published books and selected plays on my web site. The play scripts are provided in their entirety, so you can read them if you’re so inclined. Some of the short plays were written overnight for performance the next day as a “blitz challenge” based on some mandatory element such as play title or prop drawn from a hat. Other short plays were originally written as part of an informal “30-Plays-in-30-Days” commitment.

      I’m in the process of coding my card-catalogue art installation, a spoof history of my state, for online access. You’ll find On Ouisconsin: An Illustrated Historical Catalogue, nearly complete, linked from the Interactive Mixed Media tab on my site.

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