In a recent class I had a student ask me about my personal journey to be a creative writing instructor as well as being a freelance editor. It occurred to me that it might be helpful for other writers to learn how I got to my current position as they consider possibly stepping into the service side of the literary world.
It started when I was in my final year of pursuing a BA in creative writing at the Evergreen State College. My professor suggested that I start attending writing conferences and submitting work to creative writing contests. I decided on the Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s annual conference and their associated contest. I submitted a Weird Tales-style short story (“Disconnected” which you can find in my collection Magic, Mystery and Mirth) which eventually received a score of 199 out of 200. Based on that success, I was invited to serve as the contest’s Sci-fi and Fantasy Category Chair for the following year. It was a volunteer position, but I was excited to accept the honor and to get a chance to become more involved in the writing community. It was also good practice in giving feedback of others’ work, since at the time the contest included critiques of the first 28 pages submitted by each contestant.
At the end of the first year’s judging, I was hand-delivering the completed critiques for my category to the PNWA office when the president of the organization struck up a conversation with me. She asked if I had noticed any trends in the stories that I’d judged. Since this was during the Twilight-craze, there had been an inordinate number of vampire stories that all seemed to be written by authors desperate to show off that they had a large vocabulary. I talked about how it seemed like too many writers wanted to sound clever, when in fact their verbosity was nothing but a distraction from their plots and characters. The president seemed intrigued, mentioning that they would frequently offer workshops to their members and asked if I had a class on this subject that I could teach.
I said “Of course I do!”
I was placed on the schedule, and after a lot of false starts, I came up with a rough presentation outline, drawing upon what I’d learned while studying for my BA, my experiences with the literary contest, and observations of the stories I’d read throughout my life as well as my own writing. I showed up to my class with my notes, no publication credits except a handful of Keltin Moore Serial episodes posted on my website, and a confident-looking smile. Luckily, the workshop was a success, and people started asking for more classes.
My teaching career continued on from there. In a lot of ways, I got my credentials to teach as I was teaching. I spoke at writing conferences, evening workshops, and retreats. In addition to PNWA, I started getting regular teaching gigs with the Romance Writers of America, which opened a lot of doors in other venues throughout the Pacific Northwest and beyond. As I started publishing books, I added book selling events to my speaking engagements. Eventually, I found myself doing multiple engagements each month, sometimes two or three in a single week.
All of that changed when my wife and I learned that we’d be parents. I can still remember my first coherent words when I learned that not only would I soon be a dad, but that we were going to have twin girls: “I’m going to need another job.”
Trying to come up with a solution, I remembered that another book seller had mentioned to me that a local community college was looking for continuing education instructors. I went to the website for South Puget Sound Community College and found that they had no creative writing offerings. I reached out to the Program Coordinator and told her that I wanted to be their new creative writing program. I told her that I had five four-part courses focusing on all aspects of my craft, each class honed over years of presentation on the road. She told me that not only was she interested, but she was also an amateur writer herself. She took the first class I taught for the college.
That’s been nearly four years ago now. I continue to teach for SPSCC and I love the relationships I’ve developed with my students over the years. While COVID has prevented me from seeing them in person, we continue to do our classes online and I look forward to the near future when we’ll be able to meet again in person. In the meantime, I’ve supplemented my reduced class load by doing freelance editing work for fiction writers. Recently, I was accepted into the Northwest Editors Guild, which has expanded my reach and credibility while opened up a whole new way of helping writers to make their stories the best that they can be. I readily admit that being where I am right now is the product of faith and multiple blessings for myself and my family. I think that a lot of it can also be attributed to hard work, a professional attitude, and infectious enthusiasm. Of course, nobody’s journey is going to look exactly like mine, but I hope that seeing the sometimes-odd twists and turns I’ve taken in my path thus far will give hope and confidence to other writers that might be considering reaching outside themselves to help other writers to develop their craft.
A big shout-out to the wonderful members of my Writers Community:
Christine Herbert, Michele Cacano, Chelsea Mancilla, Jessica Mormann, Naltath, and Jo Sal.
If you’d like to learn more about my Writers Community, check out the following link: