Thank you, Zander Hollander

Jul 28

In recent months, I’ve wondered where I ever got my love of writing.

It’s not a money-making career choice, that’s for sure.

I could have been anything. Like most kids, I had the normal dreams. A professional baseball player. A firefighter. An astronaut. Who knows what else. That was a while ago, after all.

But somewhere, I started to love writing. And someone probably forgot to mention how unless one is a prize commodity, he or she likely isn’t cashing in the bank on this career.

Still, somewhere I started to love writing. And reporting. And news. Somewhere.

I know I used to write things as a wee youngster and got, of course, encouragement from family members. There were a few people at the local weekly, too, who encouraged it because I wrote my first published article when I was in seventh or eighth grade. Some of my teachers in high school also pushed me and one even gave me a portfolio to use when I graduated. He had been pushing me toward writing for several years.

Heck, I was even given the award for Best Sports Editor in my seventh-grade reading class. (Truth be told, it was an in-class newspaper we did as a project and I’m not sure I was actually an “editor” or how many “sports people” were even on the “paper.” Still I got a cool plaque out of it and as a seventh-grade kid, that was sweet).

Still, even with people pushing and encouraging, something had to really make me love writing.

I’ve finally figured it out.

Zander Hollander.

If you don’t know who Zander Hollander is, he’s an author who wrote sports books with his wife Phyllis. The first one I truly remember reading was “Amazing But True Sports Stories.”

The book really amazed me. I was intrigued. The way he wrote and the way he told a story was awesome. I was hooked.

Every year our school had a book fair that ran a week. During the week, students invited authors to the school to speak and visit the book fair. If your author came, you got out of many classes to escort the author around, introduce them etc.

So, I wrote Zander Hollander and got a letter back saying that he would love to come (he was downstate, so not too bad of a trip), but he was unavailable that week.

Every year, I kept trying.

At some point, the trying stopped. I can’t remember if I was in ninth or 10th grade, but I got a letter back saying that Zander Hollander would be happy to attend that year.

Sweet!

He and his wife came to the school for an afternoon. They spoke to classes. They hung out at the book fair. They talked to me. And Zander Hollander talked to me about writing. What he did, how it works and everything else.

He encouraged me.

Can you imagine, being a young teenager and being encouraged by someone you looked up to — but someone beyond teachers, parents etc.? It was amazing.

In my eyes, Zander Hollander made writing cool. He wrote about sports and made it interesting. He had a great style. He was one of the most influential writers in my early life. Though I can’t remember everything he told me, I have the idea of what items he told me. I know he told me some basics — rules which every writer should know sort of thing. After all, I was still young, so telling me basics was a good thing.

I got thinking about this not too long ago as I uncovered a copy of one of his books. I did a quick Google search and I couldn’t find a lot about him. No website. Nothing. That’s not too surprising as I would imagine he would have to be in his 80s by now. I found the company that he and his wife run/own and the directory seemed to have been updated in March, so I’m wondering if I should blind call there one day. It’s actually a little nerve-racking, but I almost want to thank him for being such an influential person in my writing life.

It’s really something else, in this day and age, that you can’t find information on somebody with a Google search. But there’s not much on Zander. I have to figure out if I should try and call the number listed on their company site or if I should just do a tip of my cap from afar. What do you people think?

Either way, Zander not only helped my love of writing, but my love of sports as well. I read many of his books at a young age and it really gave me a different view and perspective on sports.

For all of that, I thank Zander Hollander. Maybe one day, should I write a book or two, I’ll be able to be that person who helps another youngster along the path of writing. It’s becoming a creative path that many people won’t take anymore. Especially with the Internet growing, the small amount of pay you can make and the amount of work it takes.

I still love to write, however. Zander Hollander is a big part of that. And he always will be.

Feel free to leave a comment, or e-mail P.J. at hoohaablog [at] gmail.com.

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4 comments

  1. Eric Hollander /

    Zander and Phyllis are my beloved uncle and aunt. This is a beautiful essay, which I have forwarded to Phyllis. Zander is almost 90 and is not doing well mentally, unfortunately. They also lost their son, my cousin Peter, a couple of years ago. It’s not so easy for Phyllis these days but she can take pride and joy in their daughter and son-in-law and their two grandkids. Thanks again for these lovely thoughts which give me more perspective on Zan.

    • Brian /

      Hi Eric,

      I am sorry your uncle is not doing well. I was hoping you could confirm whether your uncle, Zander, sold a bunch of his items through Hyee Auctions a number of years ago. I am soon to acquire a Wayne Gretzky item that I was told came from your uncle’s collection a part of which was auctioned off through Hyee.

      Any information you, your aunt or other family members may be able to give would be appreciated.

      Thanks

      Doug

    • Thanks to everyone for their notes and memories here. I *adored* the Complete Handbook series and bought them for just about every sport as a kid in the late 70s and through the 80s. MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, college basketball, soccer. In later years I combed used bookstores, hoping to discover one of the older ones I missed, and I’ve bought some of them retroactively through e-bay. They are treasured books to me. I even gave a recent 1980 handbook to my girlfriend as a gift (she is cool enough and wise enough to realize what the books meant to me).

      I’m a sportswriter now, too. Those books influenced me, shaped me, encouraged me, and certainly entertained me. I don’t feel like I can ever thank Zander and Phyllis enough.

      Eric, I don’t know if you’ll see this note, but if you do, please let Zander and Phyllis know how much I (and so many others) appreciate their work and passion. I’m sorry to hear Zander isn’t going very well these days. He left an impressive footprint (maybe I should say inkprint) on the world.

      scott

  2. Zander has just passed away obituary in the New York Times

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  1. Notes from my noodle: May 20 | A 'lil Hoohaa - [...] A couple of years ago, I did a blog post about Zander Hollander. [...]

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