In hindsight, this episode would become a pivotal moment in my life as a writer. Because while my teacher believed I was not capable of writing anything of merit, her doubt planted some unusual ideas in my head. Primarily, by saying the writing was “too good” for me, it meant that on some level, the writing was good. I had been devouring fantasy and sci fi novels for over a decade, but it took my teacher’s doubt to convince me that I might someday become a writer myself.
This pursuit would dictate my future. After high school, I got a degree in English from Cal State Fullerton, then later earned a teaching credential. All of this was with the understanding that I would teach to support my wife and kids, then spend summers pursuing a writing career. Since 2008, I have been actively pursuing this goal. It was my Prime Directive. In the time since, I have realized that the road traveled by writers is often a lonely affair. The way is marked with dangerous pitfalls, dizzying highs, and soul-crushing lows. The last few years have presented some mild victories. First starting with my first paid publication in a Sci Fi magazine, followed by contest recognition, agent representation, and an on-again-off-again book deal, I find myself with just enough encouragement to keep going.
Along the way, I am grateful for the English program at Cal State Fullerton. It has provided me with a foundation in literature and theory that I could not get anywhere else. As French essayist Joseph Jourbert once said, “One who has imagination without learning has wings without feet.” The CSUF program has given me the “feet” in which to stand. Over the course of both the graduate and undergraduate programs, I have been exposed to all sorts of literature that has helped shape my understanding of the medium.
Dr. Caldwell’s presentation of Medieval Literature made me fall in love with episodic storytelling within a larger frame narrative. Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales has been a huge influence on my writing. This brand of storytelling mixed with the fantastic, sci-fi elements found in Dr. Sander’s Romanticism courses have helped establish the kinds of stories I want to write myself. And while Medieval Literature and Romanticism have helped me develop a flavor of writing, other courses have provided knowledge and confidence on how to present my ideas. Some of the many highlights include speaking at the 2018 Acacia Conference, Dr. Blaine’s course on ancient comedy, Dr. Stanton’s course of the Sonnet form, and Dr. Ruiz-Velasco’s course on shifting perspectives within the American novel have all contributed to my love of reading and writing. In addition to these courses on literature, Dr. Kelman and Dr. Westgate’s courses on theory have helped me understand how literature works and communicates across global paradigms. Their courses have only deepened my appreciation for this field of study.
Looking to the future, I cannot foresee any reality in which I am not writing. Shortly after beginning the Master’s program in the Fall 2017 semester, I began working on a novel-length project. My studies in Classical Mythology, Medieval Literature, Shakespeare, Romanticism, and Critical Theory have all played a part in its development. I am excited about the project, but if anything, the last few years have taught me to be cautious.
Near the end of the Spring 2018 semester, my literary agent contacted me with an amazing opportunity. Apparently, the publishing house, Berkley, an imprint of Penguin Random House was interested in my writing. My agent had previously submitted one of my stories to them for consideration. I was asked to pitch several ideas to them about a sci fi thriller they wanted me to write. I spent a month drafting and editing proposals and was pleasantly surprised when they offered a book deal. This was definitely a high in my writing career, but it would not last. After working on the project for a year, the contract was terminated. To say this was devastating is perhaps an understatement. But oddly, just like my sophomore English teacher, the rejection has only encouraged me to try harder.
By the end of the Master’s program, I should have a completed novel ready for query. Dr. Sander’s Creative Writing class and Dr. Norton’s Project Writing class have both served or are serving to help workshop the project so that it can be as good as possible. I have already pitched the project to my agent who expressed confidence. That said, I hold no illusions about my prospects. I understand how difficult it is to get into the publishing world. The good news is that whether the book is published or not, I know I will not stop trying. Writing is in my blood and I will forever be thankful to CSUF for giving me the confidence and motivation to keep going.