Friday, March 15, 2019

Anne Blake turns ‘I Cant’ into ‘I Did’ for students and athletes

Anne Blake

By Matt Pascarella

Anne Blake loves her job. She has been a physical therapist for RSU14 for eleven years and has been working in some form of physical therapy for over thirty years. She, along with assistant coach Brittany Taylor, coach the Unified basketball team at Windham High School. Blake also runs the adaptive swim program and, coaches the special Olympics track and field in April, taking student athletes up for the state Special Olympic games in Orono.

As a physical therapist, she works with students who need special requirements to access the school environment. Blake’s job is to figure out how to help or make these students stronger, give them more endurance, better balance, or provide assistance in some way to make the school environment easier for them.

Blake started doing physical therapy in Boston in acute care hospitals and rehabilitation centers. In addition to acute care and rehabilitation, she has also done nursing home care. “I’ve done the whole gamut. I’ve loved it all,” she said.

Her goal as an educator is to take students who may need some extra help and turn those students’ statements of “I can’t, I can’t” into a statement of “yes, I can.” She believes basketball has been an excellent avenue for this. Students may not think they could do something but now they’re on the court scoring baskets. “The biggest thing is to give them the confidence and show them they can do more than they think they can and where their potential really lies.” 

Blake got into coaching as a volunteer for the Special Olympics. Windham’s athletic director, Rich Drummond, saw how well Blake was working with the student athletes and asked if she’d like to be a coach for the Unified basketball team. She is very knowledgeable of the student’s needs and has a love for the students that is obvious if you only observe her interacting with them.

The most important lesson she wants her players to walk away with at the end of a season is ‘I did my best and I had fun.’

Blake, a Windham resident and graduate of the University of New England, has two boys in college. She loves the outdoors, whether it’s paddle boarding, biking, walking or just being outside, she enjoys taking in all that Maine has to offer.

Before the memory fades: Lawrence J.Keddy: industrialist, philanthropist, entrepreneur, animal lover, genius

By Walter Lunt

Two disparate Windham institutions bear the name Keddy. One rescues and rehabilitates abused and neglected horses, the other is now an abandoned mill that once employed dozens of workers in the manufacture of steel products.

Lawrence James Keddy was born New Year’s Day, 1918. His father died when Lawrence was young. He and his two brothers were brought up in a modest household by their single mother in Lynn, Massachusetts. To help keep the fires burning during Depression-era winters, the brothers would scour nearby railroad tracks in search of chunks of coal that had dropped from train cars. While in high school, Lawrence bought a cow and sold milk to his neighbors for 7 cents a quart.

Lawrence James Keddy, 1918 - 2000.
Keddy graduated high school and attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he studied engineering. He left before graduating, feeling he had learned all M.I.T. could offer.

A friend once told of a chance meeting he had in a restaurant with Keddy. The friend, who also had an engineering background, was befuddled with a design problem at his plant. The two pondered over the issue briefly before Keddy picked up a napkin and drew out a corrected design. He had solved the problem on the spot.

During World War II, Keddy was recruited by the Defense Department to improve the guidance system in the noses of bombs.

A friend once called him a genius.

By the 1960s and 70s, Keddy, feeling the entrepreneurial spirit, began researching investment in certain industries, particularly steel. He purchased and ran several mills and hydroelectric stations around the state. In 1978, he bought an aging plant on the Windham side of the Presumpscot River in South Windham. It was formerly a pulp and paper mill, then a steel manufacturing facility. Keddy renovated the structure and redesigned its power plant. For the next 15 years, Keddy Mill Enterprises produced flanges (steel ribbing) that sold all over the world. It was an economic shot-in-the-arm for the small Windham-Gorham neighborhood that had begun the slow process of deterioration. Later, the mill would switch to the production of rebar, but ultimately foreign competition would force closure in 1993.

Keddy became a wealthy industrialist, overseeing his various properties in a private helicopter. But his life was about to change.

It was during this time, living in Falmouth, Maine that he met the love his life. Through a mutual friend, he was introduced to Marylyn Goodreau, then a bank worker. The two discovered they had a common interest: a strong and abiding love of animals.

 “He was a workaholic,” said Goodreau, “(but) I think, through me, he recognized there was something else in life.”

Sickened by the reality of abused and neglected pets, they vowed that, together, they would do something “to enhance the lives of (abused) animals.”

Keddy learned of the State of Maine’s intention to sell or lease a farmhouse, barn and 124 acres of property on River Road near the Maine Correctional Center in South Windham. He and Goodreau visited the site. Both saw the potential of its open fields, woodland and rolling hills as a perfect place for the “enhancement of the lives of animals.” Keddy, who was now president of the Maine State Society for the Protection of Animals, leased the property.

Up to that time there was no facility in Maine for abused large animals. Keddy moved the M.S.S.P.A. headquarters from Portland to Windham where he and Goodreau established a sanctuary for abused animals, large and small. Goodreau recalls the first animals to be placed at the Society:  Silver and Rawdy, a pair of horses from out of town. “You could see their backbones and ribs.” Ultimately, the two were nursed back to health and adopted into a new home.

Most of the animals at the Society were placed there by State Humane Agents, who investigate abuse and neglect complaints. It was felt by many that animal welfare laws in the late 20th century were weak by modern standards. Keddy lobbied successfully for the establishment of an animal welfare board that would promote education and stricter regulations for the protection of animals.

Goodreau remembers one case of cruelty that highlighted Keddy’s selfless dedication to animal welfare.  A standard-bred mare named Hannah was brought to the Society early one evening in late winter.

“She was malnourished and had a broken pelvis. It was like taking a skeleton and applying flesh over it. We called a vet who recommended euthanasia, but I would have no part of that.”

Keddy agreed. That night he called in workers from his mill; working all night, they fit the horse, too weak to stand, into a sling, which hung from the rafters of the barn. Hannah required 24-hour supervision for several weeks. Goodreau, who slept on hay bales in the barn, provided round-the-clock care, tending to the mare’s every need. “Towards the end we had to lower her gradually,” 

Goodreau explained, “slowly increasing the weight on her legs. Keddy visited every day to monitor the horse’s progress. Miraculously, Hannah survived and lived out the remainder of her life on a farm in Fryeburg.

By 1989, Keddy had purchased the farmhouse and its 124 acres. The Society now owned it, free and clear. In addition, he financed construction of a large horse barn with 24 new and spacious stalls. Goodreau says it’s impossible to know how many horses have been placed and rehabilitated over the years, but easily, its numbers in the hundreds.

As the president of M.S.S.P.A., Keddy was responsible for hiring both paid and volunteer staff. An applicant for a part-time public relations position in the early 1980s described the interview process this way: “Resume in hand, I arrived on time for my interview with Mr. Keddy. We met in his tiny office at the M.S.S.P.A. farm in Windham. He greeted me warmly and put me at ease right away. He noted that my credentials fit the job description and started asking me questions. 

The session went well, and I felt the job offer was imminent. Although friendly and affable, my interviewer seemed restrained, so I waited for the loaded question. Instead, he signaled by voice command to someone in the adjoining office. At that moment, a door opened abruptly and like the collective energy of a microburst, nine dogs of all breeds and sizes came bounding into the office – all aimed toward me. Tongues were flapping, tails were a blur, and soon my face was smeared with spittle and my new suit coat and pants coated with dog hair. That they were friendly and eager to greet a stranger was obvious, so I was not alarmed. All competed for my hand to pat heads, but most of my welcoming gestures missed the mark due to their frenzied excitement. I glanced over at Mr. Keddy during this frenetic display. He was grinning ear to ear as he exclaimed, “You’re hired young man. I just had to make sure you were comfortable around animals.” It was, to be sure, the most unusual and creative job interview I ever had.”

Keddy’s interest in animals went beyond household pets. In addition to purchasing the River Road property for the Society, he also bought land off Gambo Road in the Newhall section of Windham. He kept the land in its natural state for conservation and for wildlife protection. While surveying the property, he discovered a mysterious gravesite. The headstone was moss-covered and overgrown in trees and bushes; the inscription read “In memory of Malsee, General Hooton’s faithful Greyhound. Born in Montana 1894. Died 1908 with First Regt at Chickamauga in Spanish War.”

In addition to being puzzled by the solitary placement of the grave site, Keddy was moved by it. He had a steel fence built around the headstone and kept it free of bushes and fallen tree limbs.
Keddy and the late historian Kay Soldier researched the information on the headstone for over a decade with no success. Keddy died in 2000 never having learned the story behind the mysterious dog grave.

Over the following years, local resident Alan Anderson researched and uncovered the story of Gen. Hooton and his dog (The Windham Eagle - June 15, 2018, The story behind Gambo’s mysterious dog grave).

Goodreau said, “Lawrence would have loved to (read that story). It would have popped the buttons right off his shirt.”

Marilyn Goodreau and Lawrence Keddy were together for over 40 years, and in that time built a sanctuary for abused animals and a relationship built on understanding, respect and deep love.

“He was a very good man, generous and kind-hearted. And he had a beautiful smile. One that I can still remember.” shared Goodreau. “And the animals, he had a very deep and honest sensitivity to their being. And, he was a genius, you know.” <

Friday, March 8, 2019

Plan for state bridge and road projects unveiled

AUGUSTA – Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, is pleased to announce the details of Maine’s three-year transportation infrastructure work plan, and what it means for the state and region. The plan is released annually with an outline of the Maine Department of Transportation’s strategy for road, bridge and other transportation projects throughout the state.

“As Senate Chair of the Transportation Committee, I am very pleased to see a strong investment in roads, bridges and other critical infrastructure across the state,” said Sen. Diamond. “Upgrades to Route 302, in particular, are much needed.”

According to the MDOT, the work plan includes more than $2.44 billion worth of construction and maintenance, which includes more than 1,900 work items. The three-year plan estimates MDOT will invest in 199 miles of highway construction and rehabilitation; 1,142 miles of pavement preservation; 1,800 miles of light capital paving for roads and highways; 203 spot and safety improvements; and 203 bridge projects.

The following breakdown is the planned capital and maintenance work for some communities in the region in 2019:

Paving projects
Long Hill Road in Baldwin and Sebago beginning at Route 107 and extending south 2.23 miles to Route 114.
Route 5 in Baldwin, Cornish and Hiram beginning 0.19 of a mile south of the Baldwin town line and extending north 5.96 miles to Route 117.
State Park Road in Casco and Naples beginning at Sebago Road and extending south 4.22 miles to Route 302.
Route 302 in Casco, Naples, Raymond and Windham beginning 0.17 of a mile north of Whites Bridge Road and extending northwest 11.28 miles to 0.03 of a mile north of Route 11.
Route 85 in Casco and Raymond beginning 0.09 of a mile north of Egypt Road and extending north 4.15 miles to Poland Spring Road.
Route 114 in Sebago and Standish beginning at the south intersection of the Wards Cove Road in Standish and extending north 2.13 miles to the West Shore Road.
Route 302 in Windham beginning at Whites Bridge Road and extending north 1.42 miles.

Ditching/culvert maintenance
Large culvert improvements on Route 302 in Casco located 0.10 of a mile north of the Bramble Hill Road.
Ditching and culvert replacements on Route 302 in Windham beginning at the intersection of Route 302 and Whites Bridge Road and extending north 2.37 miles to the Windham-Raymond town line.

Bridge improvements
Replacing the Watchic Bridge over Page Brook on Route 113 in Standish located 0.08 of a mile north of Connor Road.
Replacing the Doles Bridge over Colley Wright Brook on River Road in Windham located 0.11 of a mile south of Willow Drive.

Safety improvements
Rehabilitation of River Road in Windham beginning at the Westbrook town line and extending north 3.07 miles.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Windham author advises WHS students to follow their dreams and make the most of what they have

By Craig Bailey

You only live once - make the most of it, was the primary reason Hawreh Haddadi’s parents fled the Kurdistan region of Iran, over 20 years ago, with their small family, to ultimately settle here in Windham. The alternative to fleeing wasn’t just a loss of opportunity - it was quite literally the prospect of sudden death.

Hawreh Haddadi is interviewed by Adrianne Shetenhelm, WHS APEX Program Leader.
On Friday, March 1, Windham High students and faculty members had the opportunity to hear Haddadi, a 2013 graduate of WHS, speak. He covered the experience that led him to writing his book, “Finding Kurdistan: A Kurdish Iranian American’s Journey Home”, as well as the importance of not taking for granted all that we have here in America.

In 2010 Haddadi’s family visited their home country for what was a truly eye-opening, even culture shock, experience. The sweet moments, when he was able to hug his grandparents and visit cousins, were overshadowed by the harsh realities of that part of the world.

An example of the realities that exist include, “Women are not treated fairly in the Middle East. When our plane was about to land in Iran an announcer came on to review regulations of the country, one of which meant that my sister had to cover up. Just think about it. What if you couldn’t wear that necklace or coat to school. And, you had to cover your hair. In Iran there is mandatory attire for woman not only in grade school and college, but throughout your entire life.

Soon after their arrival in Iran, Haddadi had another wake-up call when he and his family were detained and threatened, being accused of spying for the US government. “It was the first time I had seen an assault rifle; and it was in my face. This showed me everything I needed to know about the Iranian government.”

Haddadi reiterated the fact that we Americans are so fortunate, “We have all these resources, protections and economic opportunities that we can do and be anything we want. We have the ability to speak freely and do so without fear. These freedoms simply do not exist in many parts of the world.”
Haddadi recounts how many of the people he met in Iran had the impression that all Americans are rich, wear suits and ties, and drive Cadillacs. These perceptions were obtained from Hollywood and YouTube, which don’t provide realistic portrayals of the average American lifestyle. A lesson we can all heed.
Haddadi considers the trip to his homeland a mental journey and process which showed him just how beautiful America actually is. “We are people from around the world who unite under a single name (American). While we are still working to make things better, we are far ahead of other parts of the world where, for example, women aren’t allowed to drive or vote.”

It was this perception of America that led to his parents’ decision to flee Iran, to a country where the government recognizes individual rights and the value of being a human being.

Haddadi reinforced, “That doesn’t mean it is going to be easy. There will always be some sort of struggle (e.g., graduating from high school, applying for college). It is all about planning, structure and follow-through. I had no experience writing a book. You just need to do your best, believe in yourself and bring people along who want to support your project. Realize there are far more people who will tell you it cannot be done, it is too expensive, or whatever. Have faith and trust in yourself to follow-through on your dream.”

A key educational experience that Haddadi recommends is traveling, “The importance of hearing and seeing other people’s perspective is an unbelievable education. We are all on a unique journey to happiness, each with our own personal struggles.”

Haddadi has fond memories of his upbringing and schooling in Windham. “Maine is a warm and supportive environment and the Windham High teachers are great! I am thankful to be here as there is no country like America.”

Supporting student success after high school

By Lanet Hane, Director of Community Connections for RSU14

Many Juniors are just starting to consider potential career paths, while simultaneously being asked to make significant decisions regarding their future. And as the end of the school year comes closer, with application deadlines for many colleges and other educational programs creeping up, anxiety is increasing for not just these students, but their families as well.

While a certain amount of stress surrounding what comes next is natural, staff at Windham High School are doing what they can to help everyone with the process. The school is working to not only provide resources and support as families work through their own answers to “what’s next?”, but also to change the conversation surrounding plans after high school.

“Too often students are asked to figure out their entire career path. I work to help them understand that, for now, they only need to figure out a next step,” shares Kerry Kowalczyk, College and Career Specialist, “One step at a time, they start to see a picture of where they are headed.”

While the majority of students go on to college, there is always a good number who choose not to continue formal education. And with the growing need for individuals in the trades here in Maine, WHS is working to highlight alternate possibilities for these students. Encouraging a highly individualized approach to the conversation of next steps, students learn to consider which pathways make sense for them and what they hope to accomplish, whether that means formal education, an apprenticeship, the military, work, or even something else.

College visits, application help, assistance with FAFSA completion, essay editing, and scholarships are all available for those students who are preparing for 2- and 4-year schools, as well as frequent informational meetings during school for students and in the evening for whole families.
Additionally, the school provides opportunities for students to visit businesses, participate in mock interviews, and have one-on-one meetings to consider possible next steps after high school.

“Not every student takes the same path, and we encourage our students to explore their strengths and figure out what the next step looks like for them,” says Megan Fleming, school counselor, “Part of supporting this exploration includes providing the necessary resources to dive into various options.”

Upcoming dates:

March 14: High School Parent Teacher Conferences 2:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
March 14: Junior Parent College Meeting 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (located in the auditorium)
April 24: Financial Aid Information Night 6:30 p.m. (located in the auditorium)

Friday, March 1, 2019

Book Review: “Boy, Snow, Bird” by Helen Oyeyemi

Reviewed by Jennifer Dupree, Circulation Supervisor at the Windham Public Library

Helen Oyeyemi’s “Boy, Snow, Bird” was not at all what I expected, even though I don’t know exactly what I expected. I didn’t expect a complex story about race and identity cloaked in something like a Grimm’s fairy tale. I also didn’t expect to be so enchanted by the protagonist, a young woman named Boy.

The novel opens in New York in the 1950s, just as Boy Novak escapes her father, the abusive “rat catcher.” She takes the bus to the end of the line and settles in a charming small town in Massachusetts. She ends up working in a bookstore and eventually marries Arturo Whitman. Boy becomes the stepmother of his daughter, Snow, whose beauty unnerves Boy.

When Boy gives birth to a daughter named Bird, it becomes evident that Arturo’s family has been passing as white but are, in fact, black. Soon, our beloved Boy sends Snow away—perhaps to protect Bird and shield her from knowing how disliked she is by her grandparents, whom she has outed by the darkness of her skin and the curl of her hair. Or, maybe the sending-away is because Boy can’t stand the way Snow enchants everyone around her, including baby Bird. The best thing about this book is that Oyeyemi lets the reader make up her own mind.

The second part of the book is from Bird’s point of view. At thirteen, she decides she wants a relationship with her sister and the two begin exchanging letters. Through these letters, good and evil become even less clear.

In the end (and I can’t give too much away), it is not only beauty that’s called into question, but identity itself. What does it mean to be who we say we are or not?

This novel is a deceptively easy read. But, like beauty itself, it’s much more than its surface.  

Loon Echo Land Trust hosts hike for mental health at Bald Pate Mountain Preserve

Our lives are so busy and complex nowadays, and it can be hard to see the forest through the trees. Loon Echo Land Trust (LELT) and Bring Change 2 Mind invite you on a rejuvenating morning hike up Bald Pate Mountain Preserve in Bridgton on Saturday, March 9th at 9:00 AM. Join fellow community members to connect with the forest, its critters, and enjoy views from the summit of Bald Pate Mountain Preserve.

For over 30 years, LELT has been guiding folks in our community to better physical and mental health through access to the outdoors. Bring Change 2 Mind, a Lake Region community campaign focused on encouraging conversation and ending the stigma surrounding mental illnesses and substance use disorders, partnered with LELT in 2018 on a hike aimed at encouraging participants to experience the connection between a walk in nature and positive mental health and well-being.

For this second collaboration, Maine Master Naturalist Leigh Hayes of Bridgton will bring her expertise on animal tracking and winter tree ID to point out all the subtle signs of spring that can be missed in the gray days of March.

This hike is free and open to the public, however registration is required. To register, contact Loon Echo Stewardship Manager, Jon Evans, at or 207-647-4352, or Jana Richards at Snowshoes or traction devices may be required and layered clothing, water and snacks are always encouraged. Find more information about the hike on Loon Echo’s website, and the LELT and Bring Change 2 Mind Facebook pages! 

Loon Echo currently protects 6,700 acres of land and manages 31 miles of multi-use trails in the northern Sebago Lake region. Its mission is to work with the local residents to conserve the region’s natural resources and character for current and future generations. Loon Echo serves the towns of Bridgton, Casco, Denmark, Harrison, Naples, Raymond and Sebago. For more information about upcoming events or ways you can support Loon Echo Land Trust, visit their website or call 207-647-4352.

Fasting from hurry and worry: A unique Ash Wednesday service

People of all faiths and spiritual perspectives are invited to a gathering of contemplation and restoration; a time to journey into your own heart to find your quiet center, as Raymond Village Community Church (UCC) holds its annual Ash Wednesday “Indoor Pilgrimage” on Wednesday, March 6, at 7 p.m. 

“This service will be meaningful to people of all spiritual perspectives, from the most devout church-goer to agnostics and even atheists”, says RVCC Pastor Rev. Nancy Foran.

“We live in a time of great troubles and bother and live our lives at a breakneck pace.  We are all stressed and worry deeply about the future, losing perspective on those things that are most important to us.”, says Rev. Foran.  “Let’s use the rituals of Lent – quiet contemplation and meditation, confession, and reconciliation - to better help us find our way through these challenges.  Let’s find a way to fast from our worries.”

Using the ancient concept of the processional, participants will move from place-to-place within the Church.  The service will immerse people in sights, sounds, tastes, touches, and smells as they help spread candlelight throughout the church, drop stones in a clanging bowl to symbolically release their burdens, sing while moving from place to place, and – if they wish to -experiencing ashes and Communion.  There will also be readings and time for quiet meditation at each location.

Those who are not able to process around the church will have the contents of each location brought to them.  The service will last from 45 minutes to an hour.

For further information, email Rev. Foran at, or call the church at 655-7749.

Safety tips to prevent accidents due to black ice

Thousands of injuries and fatalities occur every year from accidents on snowy or icy roads.  Many
drivers are unaware of a common culprit in many of these crashes – black ice.

“Black ice is a transparent glaze that forms without bubbles, allowing it to easily blend into the surface of the road,” explains Windham State Farm Agent Tricia Zwirner.  “Black ice is most likely to form when there is a sudden temperature drop, such as in the early morning and evening hours.”  

Common problem areas are bridges, overpasses and shaded areas of the road.  These areas have much colder surfaces that rapidly freeze when air moisture makes contact – especially if they’re near lakes or rivers.

“Following these simple tips may keep you and your vehicle safe on icy roads,” advises Zwirner:

How to react when encountering black ice

Avoid making sudden moves or turning the wheel.  Smoothly lift your foot off the accelerator and glide across the ice in a straight line until you find traction.

If possible, slowly shift to a lower gear for added control.

Brake wisely.  If you begin to skid, firmly press on your brakes to activate the anti-lock brake system (ABS).  If you don’t have ABS, pump the brakes gently.

Avoid spinout.  If your front end is sliding, steer in the opposite direction of the skid; if the back end is sliding, steer in the same direction.

Look toward where you want to go.  Avoid looking where you think you might crash – you might inadvertently veer the car in that direction.

Learn possible warning signs of black ice
Black ice looks a lot like wet blacktop.  Other indicators include:
Absence of water spray on seemingly wet roads
Cars suddenly swerving or skidding
Brake lights ahead
Car or tire tracks in a ditch
Shiny surface next to a dull black

Zwirner also suggests switching out your standard tires to winter tires once the temperatures start to drop.  “If your vehicle is regularly exposed to driving in snowy and icy conditions, the grip and handling provided by weather-specific tires will be better than all-season tires,” she adds.  “And, always remember to slow down when road conditions exist for an increased possibility of black ice.  My staff and I want you safe on the roadways.”

Bringing fantasy to reality at Windham High

By Craig Bailey

On February 26, Windham High’s science fiction and fantasy class had the opportunity to listen to and interact with Shawn French of Los Angeles-based Hyperkinetic Studios, on the topic of video game development.

The event was well-attended by approximately 30 students and a few faculty members, many of whom asked thoughtful questions regarding the industry, how one breaks in and what it takes to succeed.

Shawn French
In short, French is an example of someone making a good living, working from home, here in Maine, developing video games. However, French’s story of getting here, isn’t quite as short. As he stated, “I hammered my head against the wall until I broke through.”

As a youngster, French wanted to develop video games. Upon completing school, he moved to California to land a job doing so. On arriving he realized the opportunity wasn’t real, at least for him - at that time. He then moved to Maryland, on the same quest, but simply couldn’t turn things into a full-time position. At this point, he moved back to Maine, blaming his lack of success on “not getting a break.”

Upon further reflection, French recognized the reason for this outcome was the fact that he didn’t have anything tangible (other than desire) to offer those who might otherwise hire him.

French then began working as a writer, for a newspaper which had a ruthless editor. He mentions that he learned more from the experience of getting his work repeatedly “tore up” than anything else. The result: he evolved from a story teller to a writer, which is a core element of video game development.
French reinforced the importance of carrying a notebook to capture ideas, sharing that, “There will be times when you can’t create something of quality from scratch, like when I was required to produce a new story in less than 24 hours.” He stressed that the only way he could provide something he could be proud of was by tapping his notebook for ideas.

While his notebook is paper-based, he leverages technology to its fullest extent. He mentions, “With today’s technology anyone can develop a game on their own. There are no barriers. So many things are possible today that weren’t available 20 years ago when I started.”

In addition, French reiterated the importance of having skills beyond writing, to make you more attractive and valuable to an employer, separating yourself from others. He stated, “I know there are many people who want my job and will take it if I slip for one minute.”

“Spreadsheets are incredibly useful to keep track of storylines and all the related moving parts. And, if you’re seriously interested in game development your spreadsheet skills need to be super sharp.”

When seeking competitive jobs, French suggests that you should not wait for the specific job opening you are looking for. “I saw that Hyperkinetics was looking for a social media resource. I was hired for this position, getting my foot in the door. They liked my work and, over time, I became the lead developer for the game Epic Tavern, available online, in “Early Access” stage.”

To the question: How do you handle disagreements, when members of your team don’t like your ideas? French responded, “If you’re working with competent people, you need to listen. There have been times when I’ve had something I really like, that didn’t resonate with the rest of the team. The choice is either to accept their feedback or make your pitch better, so it works for everyone. Compromise is big. Protecting your vision is one of the biggest traps to avoid.”

The class teacher, Mr. Levine, was asked: What is the most important point you’d like students to take from this talk. His prompt response was, “The importance of hard work which requires much more than being a good gamer. You really need to bring a variety of skills to the table.”

In closing, French reinforced, “The most important thing for a prospective writer / video game developer is to get something out into the world. With today’s technology, you don’t need anyone’s permission. You can build something from start to finish, on your own!”