This is why husbands and wives shouldn't collaborate on writing projects: When Juli Ocean sought to turn one of husband Jack Petersen's play projects into a novel, he claims she introduced him as a character on page two and killed him off by page three.
She has a different version. Ocean said she and Petersen challenged one another by starting in the middle of the play and novel, then working toward the beginning and end in email exchanges. Eventually, she came to discover that Petersen's character was a ghost.
"There was only one thing left to do and that was to figure out how he became a ghost," Ocean said.
The Northland couple enjoys bouncing ideas off one another.
Ocean, who ghostwrites while working on her own fiction projects, and Petersen have been married for six years. They met a dozen years ago when both enrolled in a writing group at Vineyard Columbus on Cooper Road.
Ocean was seeking a sort of catharsis after going through a divorce, and Petersen has been turning out plays, as well as directing them, much of his adult life.
Petersen said he will direct a production of the comedy "Veronica's Position" by Scott Orloff for Evolution Theatre Company, July 18-28, weeks after his own play, "A Bride for Kai," is performed as part of the sixth annual Columbus Black Theatre Festival on July 6-8.
Petersen, who had a long career in broadcast television, including stints at WCMH-TV (Channel 4) and WSYX-TV (Channel 6) locally, directed the recent Imagine Productions version of "Godspell" at the Northland Performing Arts Center.
Ocean, 57, was born in Akron. Her family later moved to the small town of Sterling, which she left by enrolling at Kent State University, only to drop out.
"I spent all my time writing instead of going to class," she said.
Petersen, 78, was born in Chicago and grew up for the most part in Indiana. He attended Indiana University and UCLA, where he majored in broadcasting, the result of having gone to work at a local television station when he was 16.
"To me, it was just a job, but the more I became involved the more I was drawn to it," Petersen said.
His career in theater began with a professional troupe in Fort Wayne, Indiana, when he was 14.
Ocean, who had intended to become an artist, was married after leaving Kent State and moved to Florida, where she drew caricatures. She and her then-husband later moved to North Carolina where she gave birth to a daughter.
He brought the family to Columbus to "refresh his degree" at Ohio State University. Eventually, she said, the relationship soured.
It was while she was going through the divorce, Ocean said, that a friend and mentor urged her to write, even just in journals and blogs.
Petersen, who worked in television during the day and directed plays for theater groups in the evening, enjoyed his career a great deal.
"It was a great life," he said. "I'd go in one day and never know what was going to happen."