*When I was in third grade Wilson Rawls, author of Where the Red Ferns Grow, visited my school and talked about the process that had produced what was, at the time, my favorite book.
*In fifth grade, each student in my class had to write a letter to an author. I chose Donald Sobel, author of the Encyclopedia Brown series. He wrote back, answering my questions, and included a sticker that read: Encyclopedia Brown, America’s Sherlock Holmes in Sneakers.
*Several years later, after my family had moved to Fairbanks, I got an after school job at a small local newspaper, the All-Alaska Weekly. During my four years there I met numerous regional writers and also earned my first publication credits, writing Police Blotter blurbs.
*In college, I took my first writing class. As Hans Ostrom, my professor, read the attendance list on the first day of class, he said, “Mark Roughsedge: what a great writer’s name.” It sounded good to me!
*By the mid-Eighties I was back in the Seattle area and the Elliott Bay Book Company began advertising author readings. A friend and I went to see Roberta Smoodin – and we were the only two people to show up! The three of us sat at a table and talked writing for an hour.
*As this “author readings” idea became more popular, the events soon became standing room only. I was there in the crowds, dozens of times, being inspired by the likes of Thomas McGuane, Jim Harrison, David Foster Wallace, Jim Welch, and many others.
*Back in Alaska for the Nineties, I made do with reading author biographies and interviews in the CLC and DLB collection at the Fairbanks library, where overstuffed chairs and a fireplace provided comfort and warmth throughout the brutal winters.
*After writing my own version of the Great Alaskan Novel (A Garden Path) my list of story ideas seemed more suited to MG or YA, so I began honing my craft in that direction. Workshops and residencies ensued. Over the last few years I have studied with authors ranging from David Greenberg and Stephanie Bodeen to Kirby Larson, Patricia Hermes, and Mel Boring.
*I joined SCBWI several years ago and now belong to a critique group that includes Stephanie Bodeen and Joni Sensel.
*Looking back, I can see how each of these experiences inspired me at different points in my life. With any luck (and more hard work) a young third grader might some day list my name as someone who encouraged his or her own aspirations of becoming an author!