Who Is ZooDoc?
I was born in Hobart, Oklahoma, 1946. However, I was raised in the Oakland/Alameda, California area.
Though I was named after Dr. Bernell who assisted in my birth, Mom nicknamed me “Babydoll.” Unfortunately, the name stuck until I was six years old. I remember how even the neighbor kids called me Babydoll. I got other nicknames over the years, like my Alameda High School chums in the 1960’s called me “Ron the Bomb.” And later, because I was always trying to “psychoanalyze” everything and diagnose everyone’s symptomatic ailments, I got the nickname “Dr. Zawonald.” That was probably more appropriate because Mom always wanted me to be a doctor or a missionary when I grew up. My interest was more with animals than people. I was frequently nursing injured birds back to health. I especially recall the thrill of dropper-feeding a ruby-throated hummingbird, or releasing a revived sea gull, like my own living glider…until it finally gathered the strength to fly away.
Interestingly, because of my love for animals, when I worked on the rough draft of Curse of the Black Jaguar (the modern sequel to War Star Rising!), I decided to give my heroine the fictitious email address ZooDoc@aol.com since she happens to be a zoo veterinarian.
My first published material—I was not attending college in 1971, but my wife was taking a creative writing class at California’s Cypress J.C. and she was asked to write something for the school yearbook. Since she was too busy at the time, and because she thought I was good at expressing myself, she asked if I would help her with the school project. I had the time, so I decided to give it a try. “Worms For Sale” was published in the college yearbook called Hoofbeat, and it was a whimsical newsy item about people trying to make a living raising mealworms. (The idea came from my “hippie” neighbor who was then “growing” the little critters in his garage.) My article was enhanced by a student’s comic artwork of a gigantic smiling worm. Well, the piece was a smashing success! My wife got the A+ and rave reviews, and I got the writing bug.
My next published material—FREE contributions of essays and poems to the Alameda Times-Star newspaper in 1972-3. The paper held a couple of writing contests in that period and I was shocked when I won first prize, and then second prize, $25 and $15. I continued contributing freely to the paper and was generating good public response, so much so that the managing editor asked if I would write a weekly column for $25 a pop. I was thrilled at the prospect, but had to turn it down because I needed more money to support my growing family. Nevertheless, I continued to write stories over the years for the entertainment of my family. My children loved to hear me read my stories, like Diary of a Harried House-husband and The Briggs Avenue Zoo (both humorous satire about a laid-off laborer raising his kids while his wife worked at the phone company). Then there were: The Littlest Burden; The Worm In The Green Jacket; the poetical Relative Duck; as well as the “Miss Penny”series: Miss Penny Meets Frogbert; Miss Penny Meets Monk-a-bunk; “Funner Than Eating Ice Cream”; and Miss Penny Meets Hector—The Next-Door Neighbor’s Bulldog. Those are many of my personal, though not yet published, treasures.
Currently, I’m a “Contributing Friend” to The Wilderness Classroom Organization based in the U.S., and a Diamond Member of San Diego Zoo (Zoological Society), and I donate financial support to the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation in the UK, as well as I’m a contributor to My Writer’s Circle in the UK, and a member of The Belize Forums in Central America.
My wife Tamara and I now live on six acres north of Sacramento, where we have a nice koi pond, which also happens to be a great heron and raccoon magnet, and, for that reason I’m now known in the community as the Raccoon Man.
While Tamara is a talented sculptor in bronze figurative art, she calls me her “sculptor of words.”—ZooDoc