About Neal J. Conway (NJC)
Neal J. Conway was born in Washington, DC, has lived all but two months of his life there and very seldom travels away from it. He is a distant cousin of the Rev. Mr. Neal T. Conway, deacon of the Archdiocese of Washington.
NJC's parents were Neal J. and Jean Bradshaw Conway who came from Sugar Notch and Ashley, Pennsylvania ouside of Wilkes-Barre. The Conways lived in the Washington suburb of Bethesda, Maryland, home of many political and media bigshots. One of their neighbors was Surgeon General C. Everett Koop.
NJC was educated in private, Catholic schools including the prestigious Georgetown Preparatory School. Established 1789, Georgetown Prep is the U.S's oldest Catholic school. One of NJC's teachers at Prep was Father John Nicola, a real-life exorcist who was technical advisor for the movie, The Exorcist. Sitting as a senior in Fr. Nicola's Philosophy class in 1978, the year John Paul II became pope, NJC developed an interest in Philosophy and dogmatic thinking years before JP II has inspired such interest in the next generation.
Moving on to the Catholic University of America in Washington's Northeast quadrant, NJC studied as a Political Science major. One of his professors was Dr. Norman Ornstein and one of his classmates was Martin O'Malley, now governor of Maryland.
The CU faculty during NJC's enrollment included son-to-be-expelled Charles Curran, the dissident theologian who had led the rebellion against encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968. Always a mediocre student, NJC blossomed academically at Catholic U. His homework was put on reserve as suggested reading for his fellow students and he was nominated to the International Honor Society in Social Science. His diploma was signed by the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin.
Although his writing was noticed and praised, NJC was published only occasionally and did not seriously consider a writing career until he had spent several years in the working world. He worked in management jobs at DC law firms, including Hogan & Hartson. An attorney on the Hogan & Hartson staff at that time was young John G. Roberts, now Chief Justice of The United States. During his law-firm career, NJC observed and learned how to relate to the many different kinds of people who inhabit Washington. He also honed his practical side by learning how to work, act and expect like a big-city professional.
With this experience also came stress and by 1992, NJC was suffering from anorexia. He began a recovery and a transition to a writing career by getting a job in the development office of a private Catholic high school. He also began a 5-year stint of writing and editing articles for the young Catholic newspaper circulating in Montgomery County,Our Parish Times. He was the closest thing to a journalist that OPT had. During this time, NJC also contributed articles and photos to The Catholic Standard and the Arlington Catholic Herald. He briefly served as a business reporter for a local secular newspaper but quit when paychecks for the news staff were put off far too long.
In early 1993, NJC's mother died and over the next year and a half, it became apparent that his father was suffering from something greater than her loss. What was probably Alzheimer's led to the elder Conway's death in 1997.
As his father's illness became evident, NJC realized that his life and career were going to be disrupted by caregiving. He had to come up with something to do in order that the supervision of his father's decline and affairs would not be a total setback.
The something NJC came up with was Tales From Old Bethesda, a volume of 12 short stories. Tales was a unique work of Washington fiction in that its characters were not politicians or spies, but the "ordinary" prep-educated genii that only occur on the Northwest side of DC. It was also an attempt at Catholic fiction with its themes of the healing power of love and of the propagation of waste and loss through years and lives, especially in the commission of little acts of evil that people tend to dismiss as "part of life."
There have been two books attempting to imitate Tales From Old Bethesda since it was published, but Tales remains the first (and best.)
Following his father's death in 1997, NJC enrolled in the prestigious George Washington University Publication Specialist Institute and completed 1.5 years of course-work in only 9 weeks.
In early 1998, he suffered a second life-threatening illness, acute Deep Vein Thrombosis. During his hospitalization, he quit a 20- year smoking habit. That was the smartest thing he ever did.
Also in 1998, NJC went to work as a production editor and webmaster for a Catholic non-profit near his alma mater, Catholic U. One of the publications that he worked on was Share The Word: Scripture Reflections For Today's Disciples.
In August of 2005, NJC went to work as an editor at a world-wide publisher's subsidiary that focuses its coverage on the U.S. Congress.
Continuing a tradition of service started by his parents, NJC has, over the years, served as a publicist and worker for a charity to help poor nursing home residents, as a Minister of the Word (Lector) and as a volunteer at the Capital Area Food Bank. Since quitting smoking, his voice has mellowed to a bass and he occasionally sings with a contemporary music ensemble and Easter Triduum choirs. He has many interests, chief of which are toy trains (on which he has published several articles in that subject's leading magazines) and 78 rpm records.
More biographical details are sprinkled throughout his essays at nealjconway.com.
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