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Loose Change #2

Hi. I want to tell you a story. It’s only natural. I’m a writer. And maybe you want to tell a story as well. So, what’s the secret? How do you do it? How do

Hi. I want to tell you a story. It’s only natural. I’m a writer. And maybe you want to tell a story as well. So, what’s the secret? How do you do it? How do you start?

The first, best answer is – to write. If you have an idea, write it down. Describe your characters and pen out your setting. Make your actors do something and create an ending. Ta Da! You’re done.

But is it really that easy?

You’ve heard the story about J.K. Rowling, the author of the universally known Harry Potter series. She wrote into existence what would become a billion-dollar enterprise. Much more importantly in my view, Rowling changed society and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone became the first of seven books that changed popular culture forever. The story goes like this, Rowling, a poor, single mother wrote in a diner after work while on public assistance. This description leads to all sorts of conclusions, one of which is that she has a true ‘rags to riches’ story. And it’s true. But, it’s not the whole story.

What you don’t hear about is this: she graduated with a degree in French and Classics from the University of Exeter in South West England. She became an English teacher. Rowling learned good writing skills (by all accounts she was well thought of by her teachers) in both primary and secondary school, where she formed and wrote ideas into coherent, legible papers that communicated her ideas to others, including university professors. The point is Rowling didn’t just wake up without any idea of how to put together words. She was taught how to write and how to tell a story.

Sure, there is more than one way to learn how to pen a story. Learning the craft from traditional education is only one. Another is to use what you have and do your best. There are many others like you who have the same passion. Find your tribe and have fun. Either way, a set of skills to help you write a story to be proud of will be needed. That’s what this column is about. Here’s my story.

After many years of military service, I began to research master’s degrees in Creative Writing and applied to three schools. I choose Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction MFA program and for good reason. It is staffed with published writers and poets with years of experience. It was the right choice, not just for me, but for anyone with an open mind and desire to learn about the craft of writing. Simply put, if you are able to go to a writing program, this is the one. Being taught by published authors who work at their craft and interact daily with the publishing industry is the most valuable education a student can get in this field.

Led by Dr. Nicole Peeler, the program boasts writers of all genres. Imagine Dr. Peeler pairs you with a mentor named Victoria Thompson. This talented writer is the author of twenty historical romances and is the bestselling author of the Edgar and Agatha Award nominated Gas Light Mystery Series. Or Rebecca Drake, author of the thrillers Just Between Us, Only Ever You and more. Or Dr. Michael Arnzen, winner of multiple Bram Stoker awards for Horror. Or Dr. Lee McClain, a well-known romance writer, or any of the other highly qualified professors. How much could you learn from them? Check out their website and click on faculty. You’ll see what I mean. For a perspective from a graduate of the program, check out one of our writer’s blogs on the program.

This column is about writing tips. My tip this week is that if you are able, apply to Seton Hill University. Next week I’ll talk about genre and why it matters.

One thought on “Loose Change #2

  1. Fascinating. Lessons to learn from this include that a person can break the cycle of poverty, so don’t give up (many who are in poverty feel trapped by it, and they give up trying), and that falling into it can happen to anybody, not just “those people”. Thanks also for shedding light on the perception that Rowling just sat down and wrote a best seller out of thin air because she had nothing better to do. Developing skills and using them pays off. Credit to the strugglers.

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