About Ryan Edel
(a.k.a. the person writing this page that you are currently reading)
About Ryan Edel
What do you say in an introduction to yourself? Should you make yourself sound "smart" and "educated"? Or should you make everything "hip" and "down-to-earth"? I've heard that jokes are good way to start any introduction — I've also heard that my own jokes are terrible, so this is likely a bad idea.
This much I can say for certain: I've spent many, many years in school. I earned my MFA in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins in 2010 and my PhD in English Studies from Illinois State University in 2017. I also have a BA in English and German from Case Western and an AA in Arabic Language from the Defense Language Institute. Before that, I studied two years of engineering. No degree for engineering, however — in many cases, life doesn't award partial credit.
As a writer, I primarily write speculative fiction. I often joke that I'm a science fiction writer who snuck his way into grad school, though it goes a little deeper than that. I love reading and I love writing and I love zombie stories. No, it doesn't necessarily make sense. Then again, does it need to? In the past, I've assigned too much importance to being on the "right track" for one's life and career. In reality, we don't always know what to do with our lives, let alone what to write. And here, I think, is where many students and teachers find friction.
What kind of teacher includes a picture with an A-10 Warthog? Good question. I almost forgot to mention that I served in the U.S. Army for five years, including three years in the 82nd Airborne. I've never flown an airplane, let alone an A-10, but I wanted to be a fighter pilot when I was a kid. That lasted until third grade, when I got glasses.
The downside of glasses? I'll never be an astronaut. The upside? I can see objects more than two centimeters in front of my face.
From Engineering to Creative Writing: Loving Writing
I began writing stories back in sixth or seventh grade. At the time, I wanted to write the next Lord of the Rings. Naturally, I had no idea what I was doing — I was maybe thirteen years old, and I knew I wanted to be a "famous" writer.
My grade school and high school didn't offer creative writing courses, though many of our reading and literature courses incorporated creative projects. We wrote a few poems and children's books, but most of our assignment focused on essays. In this, I was very fortunate — I had excellent teachers. They required us to use clear sentences, specific details, and substantial outside research to support our points. But in this, I had an unfair advantage over many of my classmates — I loved writing. At home, I would spend hours at my desk just handwriting science fiction and fantasy stories. No, they weren't good — reading them now makes me cringe. But they did help me develop the skills to become a better writer with time.
In college, this pattern continued, but with a key difference. In high school, we took courses in all fields, from math and science to history and literature. In college, however, I had to specialize. Since I was good at math and science, it was assumed that my entire life should center on those two areas — engineering was recommended as the "perfect fit." But it wasn't. Don't get me wrong — I still love engineering, and engineers make my current life possible. But I have always been a writer, and I never found the balance to be both.
Hence, a long road. Rather than becoming an engineer, I later joined the army, continued writing, took a detour as a bartender, and then finally headed to grad school. An MFA and a Ph.D. later, and here I am teaching at Heartland.