Tim Black Discusses The Story Behind One Of His Most Personal Books
Tim Black started his writing career in the pursuit of a paycheck. But when his daughter became ill, Black discovered a more meaningful, theraputic form of storytelling.
With a gift for turning a phrase and a family to provide for, Tim Black spent years chasing down writing opportunities with the speed and single-mindedness of a cheetah breaking a fast. His byline graced The Times in London, Miami Herald, Reader’s Digest, even the now out-of-print Indian River Pictorial.
“I had kids, and I needed to make money,” says the 69-year-old Stuart resident, who framed a photocopy of the $25 check from his first literary earnings in 1975. “But now, I can write what I want. If people don’t like it, I don’t care.”
But people do like what Black writes, as his readers—based all over the world—regularly remind him.
“I get emails from people in Cairo, Melbourne, Australia and Bangladesh—it’s been used at Syracuse University in a class,” he says. “I think I wrote that book five times.”
The book is Daydreams and Diaries, which he co-wrote with his daughter, Taylor Black.
“I put her as the author first,” he says, “I figured because it was the only book she ever wrote.”
Taylor died of brain cancer in 2001. She was 18.
Her fierce fight against the disease provided inspiration to many. A YouTube video captures her speech to the American Cancer Society. Her short hair concealed under a bandana, she tells a third-person story of a young girl whose Friday night plans with friends get drastically derailed. An odd leg injury worried her mother enough to end up at the hospital, where a CAT scan discovered a brain tumor.
“How do you tell a parent that their worst fear has become a reality?” Taylor asks as her “character” contemplates telling her father. Describing his worry and bewilderment at the news, she continues: “After a while, her father responded, ‘You can beat this,’ he said confidently. ‘I hope so,’ she thought silently.”
Taylor’s talent as a storyteller is undeniable.
“She was a little poet,” Black remembers. “We decided we would both keep a diary. I would keep it from the parent’s point of view and she would keep it from the patient’s point of view.”
While under the treatment of an acclaimed oncologist, Taylor was interviewed by “60 Minutes.” Then Sept. 11, 2001—and subsequent coverage—delayed its airing until after her death.
Years passed. Taylor’s diary disappeared. In 2008, Black launched a run for Martin County School Board. The night he lost the election, he discovered the diary.
“It made losing the election so much sweeter,” he says.
Finally, it was time to finish their book. Published in 2012, Daydreams and Diaries uses a chronological order sprinkled with Black reminiscing about Taylor at different ages and life stages.
Black’s other works—all fiction—are available through his publisher, Untreed Reads. The science-fiction novel Eye, published in 2011, tells of a Florida neighborhood transported back in time during a hurricane. Tiva is its sequel. Tesla’s Time Travelers is a young adult book about the American Revolution. The Man from Banner Lake, published in 2015, is a historical novel set during World War II about the unlikely discovery of a Nazi assassination plot on FDR. Writing fiction provides Black with respite—vastly different than working so diligently on Daydreams and Diaries.
“Writing the book, and writing it over again, was going through the grief process, anger, and getting to the acceptance stuff,” he says. “It’s very therapeutic for people to write stuff about their loved ones, and it’s important for me to keep her spirit alive.”