Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Words of Encouragement for My Peers

Fellow writers, if you’re feeling discouraged I ask you to consider the career of John Dunning.

A high school dropout, he was rejected by the Army after only two weeks service because of a broken eardrum and then spent a period working for $1.05 an hour in a glass shop and later as a stable boy at a horse-racing track.

In a biographical sketch on his webpage,,
Dunning explains his problems in school were the result of attention deficit disorder (ADD), which wasn’t diagnosed until years later. John’s life might have continued in that distressing state save for one thing—he had a dream. He wanted to write.

And he wasn’t ready to give up on his dream. Dunning persevered. He got his GED, got a job on The Denver Post and gradually worked himself up from clerk to copyboy to reporter. In 1975, Bobbs-Merrill published his first novel, The Holland Suggestions.

Since then, in addition to a slew of novels including the fabulous Cliff Janeway mysteries, Dunning has earned regard as a radio historian, taught writing and journalism at the University of Denver, worked in film and operated a bookstore with his wife. The first Janeway novel, Booked to Die, won an Edgar in 1992. Despite some recent health problems, he is reportedly back at the typewriter (yes, I said typewriter. It’s his preferred instrument, which he refers to as “an honest machine”.).

So what advice does Dunning offer most frequently to aspiring writers? You guessed it: Don’t give up.

I must credit Margot Kinberg for giving me the idea for this blog when she wrote about books as an element in crime novels in her Confessions of a Mystery Novelist blog (


  1. John - Thanks for the mention of my blog : ). More importantly, thanks for sharing John Dunning's story. Quite an inspiration! I think writers need as much perseverance as anything else...

  2. This man is an inspiration to us all.

  3. Hi John,
    Great article. John Dunning's story is certainly inspirational. Perseverence is the key to success, no denying that.