2013-04-15 11.07.25The first time I sat down to be “interviewed” by Mrs. Riley’s fifth grade class I didn’t know what to expect.  So when I sat down to talk about what it was like to be a writer, I was stunned by how many hands shot up eager to ask me questions.*  When I told them that I spent twenty years as a scientist and the last ten as a professional writer, one kid had this quizzical expression on his face like he was studying an insect he hadn’t seen before.  When I asked him what was the matter, he said “but you look just like me.”

I didn’t get here alone.  I’ve been blessed by having a lot of mentors and encouragers in my life.  Starting with my fifth grade Sunday  School teacher who nurtured my love of science fiction and Stephen King, letting me know that it was okay and didn’t make me weird.  Then my high school A.P. English teacher who not only kept after me to keep writing, but gave me a specialized reading list (a lot of Poe, Stoker, and King) to challenge me.  In college, when I was toying with the idea of pursuing writing, I was paired with a professor who did his dissertation on Stephen King and Clive Barker (and who fatefully handed me a copy of Cemetery Dance and told me this was what I was to be aiming for).  Each step along my professional journey, some writer has come alongside me at just the right time:  Wayne Allen Sallee, Gary Braunbeck, Brian Keene.

It wasn’t until I was well into my professional career that I learned of Octavia Butler, Tananarive Due, Brandon Massey, and Charles Saunders.  Too few people who looked “just like me” doing what I dreamed of doing.  I can’t imagine what it would have been like for that “fifth grade Maurice” to talk to one of them, work with them.  I count my blessings and I try to give back where and when I can, because it’s too easy for dreams and desires to be squelched.  That’s why I work with Second Story.

I won’t lie:  the biggest charge I got from doing the interview and then the workshops was the fact that my son was in my class.  He sat right next to me with a big grin on his face because it was his dad who captivated his class with stories and excited them about the idea of creative writing.  Someone who wrote.  Someone who read comic books.  Someone who liked weird science fiction shows.  Someone who loved cartoons.  Someone who played Magic: the Gathering.  Someone who was just like him.

 

*Apparently there is this wide-eyed innocent belief that all writers are secretly rich.  Which meant the first twenty questions involved how many thousands was I paid per story, how many houses I had, why did I chose to live in the neighborhood I did (instead of on the north side with the other rich families), what did I do with all of my money, and whether or not a million dollars was too much to ask for a novel.