During the past two weeks I have had the privilege of addressing students and teachers at a local college and at a private high school. The field of study for students in attendance ranged from English and writing to law enforcement. The audiences at these public speaking events were a bit of a departure from my usual library and bookstore crowds in that they were less interested in my mystery series than in my police experiences and the path that led me to becoming a published author.
I relish each and every opportunity to share my experiences with those preparing to make their way in the world. Hopefully, I can provide some inspiration for their journey. It wasn’t so long ago that I was sitting where they sat, with big dreams for the future, asking the same questions.
After a quick summary of the high points of my police career, I confessed to the students that my initial aspirations had nothing to do with law enforcement. In fact, I wanted nothing more than to be a published novelist. I dreamt of becoming the next Stephen King. Enamored was I as I thought of Stephen banging away on an old typewriter until late into the evening, pounding out the words which would eventually become the manuscript for Carrie. I wanted to create characters and spin yarns that people couldn’t get enough of. I longed for the day that I might hear: “When’s the next book coming out?”
My dreams were shattered during my freshman year at college when my creative writing professor and I had a difference of opinion regarding my ability. I thought I was a pretty fair writer. He didn’t. I never returned to collect the short stories I had penned during the semester-long class. Too discouraged to face him, I walked away.
Forced to reconsider my future, I chose the field of law enforcement, due mainly to the influence of my Uncle Wayne who had enjoyed a distinguished thirty-six year career as a cop in the nearby town of Gorham. In 1985 was was hired by the Portland police department. It was the start of a wonderful career, and the end of a dream. I thought writing was over. And for a long time it was.
It would be nearly three decades before I would attempt to write another short story. That story ‘Fool Proof’ was published in November 2015 by Level Best Books as part of the anthology Red Dawn, Best New England Crime Stories. The following year ‘Fool Proof’ was named one of the twenty best short mystery stories published in North America during 2015 and was reprinted in Best American Mystery Stories 2016.
My message to the aspiring cops and novelists is simple. Never let anything or anyone stand in the way of your dreams. Keep pushing, keep working, and keep believing in yourself. It can happen if you want it bad enough.
At both events, after I’d finished making my remarks, I asked the audience if anyone had a question. I pointed at a student whose hand was raised.
“When’s the next book coming out?” they asked.