Bruce Fergusson ’73
Wesleyan took a chance on me, a high school football jock from upstate New York who wanted to write novels someday.
I only played freshman year--illness wiped out my sophomore season--and after that I discovered Wesleyan's rugby team. But the writing has never stopped. Wesleyan is a big reason why I managed to keep on with a dream I'd had since I was a boy.
You need help with those, whatever they are.
Writing is a solitary endeavor--you, a keyboard and a room where the Muse knows where to find you every day--but you need help to get into that room, to believe you're worth the effort; that others may find your writing worth reading. You begin not knowing if it is, and early on along the way such a dream can be crushed. It doesn't take much.
I lucked out with Wesleyan. Three professors in particular, in their own ways, saw a spark, added tinder. Small classes helped. You can't fake it in those. If you want to be challenged, go to Wesleyan. But it was more than being in classes where the professors knew you by your first name.
Richard Greeman, who taught the Humanities course I took freshman year, didn't have to let me write a science-fiction novelette for a term paper, giving Plato's Republic a little spin.
Howard Needler didn't have to let me write a novella in lieu of a final term paper for his course in Fantasy Literature. After I graduated I expanded that novella into a novel, The Moons of Mooring, that was never published. The next one was.
Frank Reeve, who taught a Creative Writing class, didn't have to meet me one evening at O'Rourke's, an off-campus diner much frequented by Wesleyan students, to talk to me about my writing. He strongly urged me to apply to the Breadloaf Writers' Conference (of which I'd never heard) and promised a recommendation.
After several years as a sports and feature writer for the Hartford (CT) Times, I realized that to give a dream a better chance of survival you need time to give it some space. Enter a succession of 'writers' jobs' that aren't often found on the resumes of most Wesleyan graduates. The novels did come, interrupted only by attention to matters more important than writing stories.
The Shadow of His Wings was a finalist for the Crawford Award for best first fantasy novel. The second book in my Six Kingdoms series, The Mace of Souls, was a Nebula Award nominee. Pass on the Cup of Dreams was published last year. I'm currently writing the fourth Six Kingdoms novel.
As for my suspense novels, The Piper's Sons was nominated for best novel by the Pacific Northwest Booksellers' Association. Morgan's Mill weaves history of the Civil War and Underground Railroad into a contemporary narrative. (Professor Slotkin, if you read this, let me know if I got the history (mostly) right). Two Graves for Michael Furey will be published next year--along with apologies to James Joyce's story, "The Dead", which was the inspiration. I read it sophomore year.
Sure, I could have read it at any other college. But it's like what my brutally honest high school football coach told me when he learned I was thinking of applying to Wesleyan: "You can go to a bigger school--and you'll probably sit on the bench. You won't at Wesleyan."
He never knew it but he wasn't merely talking about his starting halfback's chances for playing at the next level.