Wednesday, November 30, 2011

So Very Happy to Have Earl Staggs on the Blog Today!

Derringer Award winning author Earl Staggs has seen many of his short stories published in magazines and anthologies. He served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine and as President of the Short Mystery Fiction Society. His novel MEMORY OF A MURDER earned thirteen Five Star reviews online at Amazon and B&N. His column “Write Tight” appears in the online magazine Apollo’s Lyre. He is also a contributing blog member of Murderous Musings and Make Mine Mystery. He hosts workshops for the Muse Online Writers Conference and the Catholic Writers Conference Online and is a frequent speaker at conferences and writers groups.  Email:  Website:


 Here’s How I Roll
by Earl Staggs

When School Bus 117 rolls off the lot in Southlake, Texas, the driver is concentrating on picking up his students and getting them to school safely and on time. He may also be thinking about the next story he will write. I know because I’m that driver.

A few years ago, I retired from full time employment in sales and began writing. I wrote some short stories and even started a novel. After a while, I discovered I didn’t like retirement. If you don’t have to get up in the morning, go somewhere and do something, you can grow old. I was not ready to grow old. There was too much I still wanted to do. The solution? A part time job.

Finding the right part time job wasn’t easy. I wasn’t ready to put on a Walmart vest, stand by the entrance and say, “Welcome to Walmart. Want a cart?”

After a few weeks of looking, I discovered the local school district had openings for school bus drivers. I’d never thought about driving a bus, but decided to check it out.

The hours, I learned, were perfect for a writer. Drivers work two hours in the morning getting the kids to school and another two hours in the afternoon taking them home. In between, I’d have  about six hours of time free for my writing. Sounded good, so I signed on.

After four weeks of studying for the Commercial Driver’s License test and actual training on a real bus, I was ready. Was I nervous the first few times I got behind the wheel? Oh, yeah. Those babies are huge. Plus, there’s that tail swing thing.

Tail swing comes into play because the rear wheels of a bus are some ten feet in front of the rear bumper. When you turn, the tail end makes a wide swing, easily taking out anything in its path. In my first year of driving, I destroyed a mailbox and clipped the side view mirror off a parked car. Not just any car, mind you. A brand new Cadillac.

I started with a Special Needs route. Two people are necessary on a Special Needs bus. In addition to the driver, an aide rides in the back to keep an eye on the students. Some of our students were in wheelchairs, some were autistic and non-communicative, most had learning disabilities. But they were beautiful and I came to know and love them.

Not that there weren’t problems.  We always had to be on the lookout for seizures, which are not uncommon. We also had to be ready for outbursts of any kind. Some of the kids would suddenly scream for no apparent reason or decide to take off their clothes.

Tyler, a wheelchair boy of eleven, announced every once in a while he “had to go to the bathroom.” There are no bathrooms on a school bus. While I pulled the bus over, the aide undid his straps and belts. I then carried him off the bus and held him upright beside it while he “went to the bathroom.” I’m happy to say he was capable of unzipping and lowering his own pants so I didn’t have to do that.

I’ve since switched to another school district and no longer drive Special Needs. Now I have regular kids from kindergarten to eighth grade, and I love them all. Well, most of them. I still love the job, though, and still think it’s the best part time job in the world for a writer.

As a writer, I may never turn out the Great American Novel, and as a citizen, I may not find a cure for cancer or a solution to world peace. But as a school bus driver, I can make sure sixty-five kids get to school and back home safely every day. Maybe one of them will cure cancer or achieve world peace. To me, that means something.

And about that Great American Novel thing? I still have a shot at that.

While we’re waiting for that to happen, you’re invited to drop by my Blog/Website at: and visit with my special guest for the day.  

While you're there, you can read Chapter One of MEMORY OF A MURDER, my first mystery novel, which earned thirteen Five Star reviews.

You can also read for free, “The Day I Almost Became a Great Writer,” which some say is the funniest story I’ve ever written.  There’s another one called “White Hats and Happy Trails,” about the day I spent with Roy Rogers. 

Also while you’re there, don't forget to sign up for the drawing on December 9. The first name drawn from those who leave a comment will receive a print copy of MEMORY OF A MURDER.  The second name drawn will have a choice of an ebook or print copy of SHORT STORIES OF EARL STAGGS, a collection of sixteen of my best short stories.  


Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Loved reading about your bus driving job. My daughter did that for many years with a most horrible route on twisting mountain roads. I rode with her a couple of times, and believe me, I would never do it. The kids were great while I was on the bus. I don't think they knew who I was.

Alice Duncan said...

Thanks for joining me on my blog today, Earl! Love learning about how you ride :-)

WS Gager said...

Earl: I loved that post. I do not have a fondness for bus drivers but I would love to have ridden your bus. Could you drive in the snow and miss the Cadillac?
W.S. Gager on Writing

M.M. Gornell said...

That tail swing thing would certainly intimidate me. I have a brother-in-law who teaches special needs in Atlanta and I visited his class once on a trip there--awesome people! I got lots of hugs. Love the picture, though, seems like I always end up behind a school bus--out here in the middle of the desert no less! But our drivers are wonderful--as I'm sure you are.

Most interesting post!


Timothy Hallinan said...

Wonderful story, wonderfully written. It's the kind of thing that looks easy until you try to do it in a way that looks easy. Thanks, Earl.

Jacqueline Seewald said...


Congrats on the new novel. I have a school bus story in a yet to be published novel. It's a really important job.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Wonderful post, Earl. I loved reading your short stories and have your novel on my to-read list. I wish all school bus drivers were like you.

john M. Daniel said...

Earl, you tell a good tale, and you're obviously a great guy. I bet those kids think the world of you.

Jackie King said...

Earl, I've always thought that anyone who drove a school bus must be mad. Personally, I thought, I'd rather drive a garbage truck. But after reading your post, I understand why (at least some) choose this occupation. And the kids who have you for a driver are very lucky.

Mike Orenduff said...

Hi Earl,

You said you may never write the Great American Novel. Well, let me quote from your host today, Alice, who said she not only didn't want to write the Great American Novel, she didn't even want to read it.

Earl Staggs said...

Thanks to everyone for their comments. Driving the bus is my favorite gig of all time, right after mystery writing.

Wendy, this is Texas. We have very little snow to worry about, but plenty of Cadillacs to target.

Tim, the hardest part of the job is getting up so early.

Jacqueline, I'd love to see your school bus story.

Jean, most of the drivers are like me. They don't have to or want to work full time and, of course, like kids.

John, a few of the kids don't like me, I'm afraid. I introduce a new concept in their lives: follow the rules.

Mike, that settles it. If Jean won't read the Great American Novel, I won't write it.

Karen Mayers said...

I seldom got to ride in a bus. I had to walk to school every day. I am sure that it will keep you young. Alice mentioned that you and she discuss Billy the Kid. Did either of you see the Decoded episode on Billy broadcast last night? It might have been a repeat. (I only watch when I visit my Mother.) Interesting and I think I side with the Pat Garrett did not kill Billy team.

Alice Duncan said...

Oh, no! Not another one! That's okay, Karen. :-)

Earl Staggs said...

Karen, I watched that episode and saved it. As soon as I can figure out how to copy it, I'll send it to Alice. She needs to face the truth and I've made it my life's focus to help her.

Alice Duncan said...

Ha! Thanks, Earl :-)