Joe Sutton

Joseph Sutton was born in Brooklyn and raised in Hollywood. He played football at the University of Oregon and graduated with a degree in philosophy. He earned a teaching credential and a degree in history at Cal State University Los Angeles and taught high school history and English for many years. Sutton, who has been writing for almost 50 years, has published a total of 14 books. His essays and short stories have appeared in numerous national magazines and journals. Sutton lives in San Francisco with his wife Joan.


A More Detailed Biography

After playing two years of junior college football in Los Angeles, Joseph Sutton entered the University of Oregon in 1960 on a football scholarship. He didn’t become an All-American running back as he had wished. What happened was that a knee injury led to his getting on the bad side of his coach. Hence, he was a fourth string football player who saw sporadic action.

One day in his senior year a fellow fourth stringer asked him, “What are you going to do in life?”

Sutton burst out with, “I’m going to be a writer. I’m going to let the whole world know what it feels like to be treated like cannon fodder.” It was the first time the thought of being a writer entered his mind.

Upon graduating Oregon with a degree in philosophy, Sutton joined the Coast Guard reserve. Late in the morning on November 22, 1963, their ship docked in Alameda, CA, the crew heard the news of President Kennedy’s assassination. That night, because the president’s death hit him so hard, Sutton did something he had never done before: he picked up a pen and started writing down his thoughts and feelings. Little did he know he’d be doing the same thing to this day.

After completing his military obligation, Sutton earned a secondary teaching credential and a degree in history at California State University Los Angeles. He started teaching social studies at Fremont High School in South Central Los Angeles. Five years later, in June 1969, he quit the teaching profession to follow his dream of becoming a writer. His first project was a novel, A Class of Leaders, about a history teacher in a predominately black high school who throws away all conventions and lets his students teach. Sutton’s next work, a novel called Highway Sailor, deals with a man hitting the highways of America in search of himself and his country.

Ever since his Coast Guard days in Alameda, Sutton had always wanted to live in San Francisco. In 1977 he made the move. Within a span of four years, he met Joan Bransten, married her and they had a son, Raymond. Before Raymond was born, Sutton’s cycle was to write, wait till his money ran low, substitute in the secondary schools of San Francisco and start writing again. After his son was born, writing took a backseat to supporting his family, so he returned to teaching full-time.

Sutton taught for three years until he contracted asthma in 1984. He took his doctor’s advice and quit teaching due to the stress it caused him. He quickly landed a job as a sales rep for a costume jewelry company, and within six months his asthma had faded away. Although he was making twice the pay as a teacher, selling costume jewelry didn’t offer much meaning to his life. The only thing that mattered to him was getting back to writing. But how was he going to support a family when all he had earned in fifteen years as a writer was $4000? In his fourth year of jewelry sales, Sutton came upon the idea to compile a book of quotations on all aspects of health. His idea caught a publisher’s eye and Words of Wellness: A Treasury of Quotations for Well-Being was released in 1991. He’s published 13 books since, the last four being e-books: The Bar of Soap: 31 City Stories, The Life and Death of Abraham Massry and Other Stories, This Writing Life: A Writer Writes On! and Trump Times: Three Essays.

Sutton never forgot what he told his Oregon teammate. His story, “The Fourth Stringer,” was published several years ago in his collection, The Immortal Mouth and Other Stories.