Writers and Education

theshackThis was sent to me in an email recently from someone I’ll call “D”:

I did not want to discourage you from writing or photography and I think you have a gift for both, but I am a firm believer in getting an education before trying to make something a career, and so it was hard to encourage you to try to make money at something you loved but for which you did not have the educational background.

The suggestion that I couldn’t write for a living because I did not have the appropriate educational background irritated me enough that I had to write about it.  I also did some research.  While it’s true there are successful authors that have the appropriate degree(s), there are many that don’t.

Here are just a few examples:

  • S.E. Hinton wrote her first novel, The Outsiders, when she was in her sophomore year at High School.  Published in 1967, it became the one of the most successful young adult novels in publishing history and has sold over 8 million copies. She subsequently obtained a B.S. degree.  The Outsiders and Rumble Fish were both made into movies. S.E. Hinton continues to write.
  • Christopher Paolini, the author of the Eragon series, wrote the first book of this series at the age of 15.  Eragon was subsequently adapted into a movie. From wikipedia:

Eragon was the third-best-selling children’s hardback book of 2003, and the second-best-selling paperback of 2005. It placed on the New York Times Best Seller list for 121 weeks.

  • William Paul Young, author of The Shack, has an undergrad degree, but in religion.  His book has, as of March 2009, according to http://www.warnerpacific.edu/news.aspx?id=5179 sold over 5 million copies since first being published in May of 2007.  It’s  been translated into many different languages.  There’s also talk of a feature film.
  • J.K. Rowling’s degree was in French and likely not terribly useful  to her as she wrote the Harry Potter series. As most people know, these books have sold gazillions of copies and several of the books were made into movies.  She seems to have done alright for herself–it is said she is one of the few millionaire authors.

I’m sure there are many other successful authors that do not have the requisite degree.

I’ll give “D” a call when I become a successful, published author and have my own photography exhibit. Maybe.