I have a question for you. And it is this: What Makes Someone An Expert in Something?

The reason I ask is because, a couple of days ago, someone called me an expert on the short story. It was a strange thing to hear. Flattering, of course, but it has got me thinking, mostly, because I don’t think I am.

I mean, I know how to write short stories (I think), I know how to judge them and I know how to teach others to get better at writing them. But does that make me an expert? I’m not so sure. Competent, yes. Good, probably. In love with writing and reading them, and sharing them, without doubt. Experienced, yup.

Pretty much everything I’ve learned about writing has been achieved through reading, through trial and error and, to a lesser extent, through online work-shopping. It’s all been done on my own and it’s been hard work and pretty much completely unstructured.

I’ve never been to a workshop (except from when running them!), I’ve never used a literary consultancy (despite running one), I don’t have a degree in literature or creative writing – let alone an MA.

Does that mean I’m not qualified? Or less qualified? When you work in the arts – what does make you qualified?

I suspect part of this could be my natural shyness coming out. You know, it’s only recently I’ve been comfortable calling myself an ‘author’ (despite my first book being released over four years ago).

Whatever it is, I do think it’s a very interesting question.

So, folks, over to you. What do you think makes an expert?

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In other news…

I thoroughly enjoyed the event I did with Caroline Smailes and Jon Mayhew at Heswall Library on Friday. Thanks to all who came and who asked such interesting questions. I’m just sorry I was a little late and that the event went on far longer than planned AND that we didn’t get to answer everyone’s questions. We tried!

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