IASFFeb1988I don’t have a degree. Not a bachelors or a masters. No PhD. In fact, I don’t even have an associate degree. Yet I have held a number of job positions that “required” a college degree. I work as an editor, and I often teach. Many times those in the audience hold higher degrees than I do.

I’m an autodidact. One who is largely self-taught. This is not a sigh of my genius or a consequence of an extremely high IQ. I don’t claim, and am pretty sure I do not have either of those things. The most valuable thing I gained from being educated in a private school was the ability to research, and learn on my own. It all started with one small thing.

I loved to read. Not just one thing, everything I could get my hands on. I learned about places I had never been, subjects I had never heard of, and people I had never met. For a boy who grew up in Southeastern Idaho, poor, and without the advantage of world travel, the results were astounding.

Science fiction led me to do a research report my freshman year on anti-matter, something I thought a thing of fiction before I visited the local library. Astronomy caught my eye for a brief semester of college (it was really a girl, but then I digress).

Ribsy (Beverly Cleary) and Black Beauty led me to a love of animals. The Hardy Boys series made me a child detective, forever wanting to find and solve mysteries. Later, reading Asimov, Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke caused me to question many of the things resting at the core of my beliefs.

I could go on, and bore you for hours about the authors I read, the influence their stories had on me, the interest they sparked that caused me to dig deeper, want to learn more. The short story “Put Your Hands Together” by O. Niemand in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine (February 1988) changed my view of church in a few short pages. Every now and then, I read it again to remind myself of a lesson I should have learned the first time I heard it.

The point is, reading shaped my life. It sparked learning, and ignited a passion inside me for what I do today. I still read, a lot. I write almost as much. I learn new things every day.

Reading gave me something school just couldn’t. I studied, and received my education outside traditional means. I took the path less traveled, and that has made all the difference.

Read. Encourage your kids to read. I promise, it will change your life.