“No Learning Without Effort” By Gregory Howard
To many writers, Reginald Harris’ literary achievements may seem incredible. An undeniable talent, Harris’ career highlights include winning Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist awards in both fiction and poetry, publishing a book, 10 Tongues, and seeing his pieces featured in dozens of journals and anthologies over the years. But whether or not the name Reginald Harris is new to you, the 49-year-old’s humble beginnings and lifelong literary journey are likely to strike a familiar chord.
Writing has been Harris’ passion since childhood. When asked about his background and evolution into a writer, the Baltimore-bred author chuckles. “I feel like I’ve always been writing a lot, even when I was a kid and should’ve been doing homework or something else in class,” he reflects. “I was always reading a lot. I was fascinated by the way words fit together, how people express themselves.”
It wasn’t until about fifteen years ago, though, that Harris fully gave himself to the craft. “I would talk to people who took their writing more seriously, and who took my work seriously,” says Harris. It was then that he decided to commit to a life of writing. And as most writers would attest, Harris encountered some tough times. The rejection heartache; and in most cases, the catastrophic dip in income are inevitable realities of a writer’s life. Still, Harris stuck with it.
“You have to [write] because you love it, and almost to the point where you can’t not do it. You have to think, ‘Well, why am I doing this?’
“You’re doing this for yourself,” Harris continues. “You’re doing it for the long haul.” It’s this realization, this introspection and self-discovery that separates writers from, well, people who write. But the author claims that to truly become a writer, you need to go even further. You need to change your identity.
Harris uses his own life as an example, recalling his experience of working in a library. He realized that to truly achieve greatness on paper, writing could no longer be just a hobby. “At one point you have to turn it around and say, you know, ‘I’m a writer that works at the library. I’m a writer that does XYZ.’”
With this change of identity came success. He began writing more prolifically, submitting pieces to various publications. In 2002, his first book of poetry, 10 Tongues, was published. When asked about some of his accomplishments, the author mentions 10 Tongues, saying, “I have a book, and it’s amazing to look at it and say ‘wow, I did this.’” He then concedes that he doesn’t have a clear favorite career accomplishment, joking that naming one would be “like picking your favorite child,” which, apparently, people aren’t supposed to be able to do.
It should be obvious that throughout Harris’ long, celebrated career, he would have stumbled upon numerous bits of advice for budding, upstart writers everywhere. Harris mentions the importance of reading as much as possible, even if something is out of your comfort zone or fails to tickle your fancy. But the most important piece of advice, Harris saves for last.
“Just keep at it,” he says. “Just keep going.”
“Not Just a Writing Professor- But Also a Life Professor” by Courtney McNamara
Short stories, essays, novels, and an archive of stories about natives on the Marshall Islands – you name it and Ron Tanner has written it. With a keen sense of how to relate to students, Ron Tanner provides inspiration to varying styles of undergraduate writers with his expansive body of work. The classroom is just one place where Ron finds himself at home; you can also find him performing the percussion element of his musical entourage known as Jazz Caravan. One of the most impressive aspects about Ron may be his wide range of experience, but this certainly has not resulted in a subdued sense of passion for any of his endeavors.
As students in his Senior Seminar course required of all Writing Majors at Loyola University, my classmates and I learned that as a writer, you should do what you love, but certainly cannot pigeonhole yourself. Adaptability is a talent that comes with time and will only bring you further along in the writing career.
Ah, the writing career. With his multitude of success, Ron Tanner was able to offer all us guidance in terms of what to do with our eager pens and minds itching to be creative. He cued us in on a secret about the “real world”: everyone needs writers. Ron is lucky to do what he loves and to all of you aspiring writers out there is good news for you. No one can ever take away your talent to arrange those half a million words in the English language into coherent sentences. Ron Tanner certainly has that talent and knows how to use it, and how to pass it on.
His short stories can be found in publications ranging from Urbanite magazine, based in Baltimore, to The Iowa Review. His published works include A Bed of Nails, a collection of short stories that received such honors as the first annual G. S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction and the Towson Prize for Literature, given to the author of the best book written by a Maryland author. This dynamic collection displays Ron’s ability to use his wit and make ties with his readers, all while mastering the difficult genre of short fiction, including flash fiction pieces.
Beyond this well-known collection lies Ron Tanner’s project known as the Marshall Islands Story Project. Ron Tanner, Loyola professor and published short story author traveled to the Marshall Islands in 2008 to create an archive of stories preserving the culture of the native islanders thanks to grant money from the U.S. National Park Service. He taught us that it takes investigation, persistence and some damn persuasive grant writing in order to get the money to pursue your most fantastic endeavors.
The truth is everyone has a story, and sometimes as a writer, you need to be the one to step up to make sure the world hears these clandestine stories. You can check out the Marshall Islands project at mistories.org and get a taste of this island culture and history through various mediums of creativity. In terms of his most recent accomplishments, Ron’ story collection Wheels was published in May 2010, and expects to release his illustrated novel, Kiss Me, Stranger in June 2011. His body of work is about as dynamic as you can get and the best part is he shares updates and excerpts on his website, ronaldtanner.com.
Our captivating professor at Loyola University in Maryland gave us Writing majors a peak at the possibilities out there for those fascinated by the written word.
Current profession: Writing Professor at Loyola University in Maryland
• Ph.D., Literature, with a concentration in Creative Writing, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
• M.F.A., Creative Writing, University of Iowa
• B.A., English, with Honors in Creative Writing, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill