Saturday, September 25, 2010

My Writing Credentials

It is said that you don't need to have credentials to become a successful fiction writer... but it sure helps.  In the vast quagmire of slush that circulates in this modern era of easy information, it is increasingly hard to get noticed by the commercial presses.  Being able to tout yourself as a doctor or professor no doubt helps catch the attention of certain editors, and saying you're a graduate of xyz writing workshop might help push your head above water.

Sadly, I have no such notoriety.  I never went to college, and I haven't spent hours in workshops to craft my writing talent.  But that does not mean I am ignorant and have not honed my skills.  I have simply done so by other means.

Dean Ingham (Martin's Father)

I come from a long line of writers.  My great-grandfather, George Sylvester Counts, was an accomplished writer of non-fiction.  His son-in law (my father's father) tried his hand at fiction, though had limited success.  My father tried extensively to sell fiction in his youth, and came very close to getting published.  You could say writing is in my blood, though that's only a start.

When I was six years old, I came to the realization that I wanted to be a writer.  Seeking to help along the way, my father began to cultivate my writing talent, working with me as a child to draft fantastic stories.  It was from him that I learned the basics at an early age.

Following up with that initial training, I had the assistance of my mother's brother, Doctor Stephen K. Alexander, who taught me the finer points of editing during my teen years.  We spent hours together, going over my fanciful stories, weeding out typos and rewriting paragraphs to clarify narration and dialog.  After his tutelage, I was able to craft professional manuscripts.

Last known photo of Dr. Stephen K. Alexander (left),
taken shortly before his death in September 1998.

Beyond my schooling and familial training, I grew up surrounded by books.  I had access to great knowledge in my father's private library, and I supplemented that with tomes from the Calais Free Library.  I can't recount all the books I read growing up, and it wasn't all fiction.  When I was 11, I went on a collecting spree and bought as many copies of The National Geographic Magazine as I could find, and I read virtually every issue from 1960 to 1990, and some even earlier.  I can't recall every single article off the top of my head, but all that knowledge is still in there, rolling around my subconscious, fueling my fictional creations.

In recent years, I have continued to advance my knowledge base, reading as much as time permits.  I hone my talents by bouncing ideas off of educated colleagues, assuring that my stories are as polished as humanly possible.  This is, of course, what every serious writer must do.

These are my writing credentials.  They may not elicit the kind of attention that a PhD or a workshop certificate would, but I have equivalent knowledge and skill.  Perhaps, someday, enough people will recognize the truth, and I shall gain the attention necessary to achieve commercial success with my literature.  Until that day, and beyond, I'll keep striving for the ever elusive mark.

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