Howard Shirley, Writer
Oddly enough, while I find it easy and indeed exciting to write about new worlds, odd facts, unusual people, and even philosophy, writing about myself is strangely daunting. Perhaps it is the dryness of the questions, “What do you do,” and “What have you done,” that make answering them so unappealing, while the answers themselves always seem stale and stilted to my writer’s ear. Or perhaps it is that lists of achievements, whether impressive or mundane, simply cannot truly tell you about me, no more than a person can be defined by a listing in a phone book or even a resumé, however lengthy. But let us pretend you are sitting on my couch peppering me with the questions, however nosey, and I am answering you, however discomfited.
How long have you been a writer?
Since I was old enough to realize that words could become sentences, and sentences, paragraphs, and paragraphs, stories. The first story I recall writing was a delightful little science-fantasy piece titled The Time-Magic Belt, involving time travel, a dungeon and of course a magical belt. There were also some dried leaves and a surprise ending where the story turned out to be all a dream... or not. I remember thinking it was very clever, and that my fourth grade teacher loved it, and that it was proudly stuck on the family refrigerator. I was nine, and I was hooked. (Where is that masterpiece now, you ask? I have no idea. Probably lovingly ensconced in keepsake box of my mother’s.)
I have been writing ever since.
How long have you been paid to do this?
Aren’t you the nosey one? Fine, fine, yes I am a professional (so don’t try this at home— you might show up the rest of us). I was first paid to write (a brochure) in 1989, and followed that up with a host of other paid work including advertisements (print, radio and, yes, television), marketing materials, technical articles, feature articles, book reviews, video scripts, instructional materials, dramatic sketches, and a novelization. You can find out more about my published works here and here.
So, you can make a living at this?
Rumor has it. (And if I ever meet Rumor, I plan to mug him and take his pocket change.)
Where do you get your ideas?
Everywhere. Ideas surround us. The secret is to notice them, and then ask the right questions. Every thing, every place, every event, every person are infused with story; the writer’s challenge is to draw the story out, like pumping water from a deep well. Asking the right questions is like sucking on a siphon; soon the ideas will come rushing out, pouring down the hillside with the story tumbling after.
How do I become a writer?
You must take two actions:
You must read.
You must write.
Reading exposes you to new ideas and old ideas. Old ideas give you a foundation, a place to begin. New ideas give you a challenge; a demand to think. Writing is the way you answer that challenge and spread it on to others.
What is the secret to good writing?
Always remember the three Cs: Clarity, Creativity and Conviction.
Clarity: You must be clear in your writing, so that readers will understand you.
Creativity: You must be creative in your word choice, your story and your characters, so that readers will appreciate you.
Conviction: You must believe what you are writing, so that readers will believe you.
Master the three Cs, and you will master good writing.
Name: Howard Shirley
Gender: Male
Age: 40-ish
Birthday: July 26th
Status: Married
Hometown: Franklin, TN
Acts for God
The Weaver of Atreia
The Fists of Capoda
The Luck Thief
Pencil Pusher Golf
Felt-tip Flicker Game-0-rama
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Questions asked, answers given.