Dennis E. Hensley

Why I Started Writing:

Since my childhood, my love of reading has partnered with my love of writing. However, it was not until I was thirty-one when a life- From my mother, I gained a voracious love of reading at an early age. When doing creative writing assignments, my teachers very often would have me come to the front of the class and read my stories, always commenting about my ability at storytelling. In high school I wrote short stories for the school literary magazine and received a lot of positive feedback. I majored in English in college, and I began freelancing. However, my success was limited. I got a lot of rejections, and the Sunday school take-home papers that bought my stories in those days only paid half-a-penny a word. Thus, a 1,200-word short story in 1968 garnered only six bucks; but I loved seeing my name in print. I worked as a reporter for my college newspapers and took a lot of writing classes, but too often my professors focused on poetry or essays about current events, whereas I wanted to learn how to make money as a writer. I met a literary agent at the end of my college senior year. He told me my writing mechanics were solid but my content was shallow because all I had was book learning, not real life material. He also told me to get away from college writing teachers and to start hanging out with real editors, journalists, novelists, and playwrights.

I enlisted in the army to broaden my horizons. I spent a year with the tank corps at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and then a full year in Vietnam. With military assignments and my leave time, I was able to be in Hawaii, Guam, the Philippine Islands, Japan, Thailand, and Taiwan. I came home in 1972, married my college sweetheart, Rose, and earned a master’s degree in English from Central Michigan University. I spent the next year trying to build a freelance career. My wife was an elementary school teacher, and I worked a few days each week as a substitute teacher. I sold a lot of manuscripts, but, once again, the pay in Christian markets was pathetic. So, I started writing for music magazines (I play several instruments); I sold interviews to news publications; and I began to write comedy pieces.

In the fall of 1974, I left Michigan and enrolled in the doctoral studies program in English (literature and linguistics) at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Rose left her teaching job at the end of that year when we found out our first child was on the way. I took a part-time job as a reporter for The Muncie Star, which was a fabulous training ground. I covered sports, political material, business stories, entertainment, education, crime, and society events. The editors were ruthless in editing my copy, and I loved it. I worked there three years and earned more than 500 bylined articles and columns. After finishing my coursework for the Ph.D., I accepted a job as Public Information Officer at Manchester College, where I worked from 1978-82. I completed my dissertation in 1982 and became a doctor of English, and my second book, Positive Workaholism, was a huge hit, selling thousands of copies, and then becoming a successful book on tape, and finally being made into a training film after I sold the movie rights.

I left my PR job and spent the next fifteen years writing books, scripts, articles, interviews, and short stories. In 1997, I accepted an offer to develop a professional writing major at Taylor University, where I spent the next twenty-one years as a full professor, retiring in 2018 to return to full-time writing.   

Authors Who Have Influenced Me:

I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the life and writings of American author Jack London (1876-1916). London had been my favorite author since first reading The Call of the Wild when I was a high school freshman. What I admired most about London was the fact he could produce marvelous works of literary brilliance (White Fang, The Sea-Wolf, “To Build a Fire”), yet he was loved by readers of all ages and all educational backgrounds. He was a communicator. He was poetic, but not pretentious. He was graphic, alluring, tactile, gripping. He was also productive. Although he died at age forty he wrote 185 published short stories, five stage plays, twenty-eight novels, and hundreds of reviews, articles, and essays. 

I have a huge poster in my office of Jack London, there on the wall to motivate me each day. I also enjoy short stories by master storytellers, such as Poe, Stephen Crane, Shirley Jackson, O. Henry, Agatha Christie, Ambrose Bierce, Saki, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. 

Books I Have Written:

I have written more than sixty books, including fifteen books where I was the ghostwriter for someone who was famous in sports, entertainment, politics or business. My first novels were mystery-romances published in the mid-1980s with coauthor Holly G. Miller under our pen name of Leslie Holden and released by Harvest House. I have written ten textbooks on aspects of professional writing, including The Freelance Writer’s Handbook (Harper-Collins), Teach Yourself Grammar and Style in 24 Hours (Macmillan), Writing for Profit (Thomas Nelson) and Write on Target (The Writer, Inc.). My 1982 best-selling book Positive Workaholism (Bobbs-Merrill) was a book, tape, and film; in 2005 I was asked to revise the book in a 21st century version, which as released as The Power of Positive Productivity (Possibility Press), and has been translated and published in Russian, French, Spanish, Italian, Turkish, Ukrainian, and German. My longest running title is Devotions for Christmas and New Year’s (Beacon Hill Press), which has been in print for twenty years. My hottest selling book was Millennium Approaches (Avon Paperbacks), which was released in 1998 and told readers what to expect in the 21st century; it sold like wildfire for two consecutive years and then immediately went out of print because we were then into that new century. 

What I'm Working On Now:

 I was a Regional Correspondent for Writer’s Digest for twenty-two years, then a columnist for Writer’s Journal for seventeen years, and overlapped both as a Contributing Editor for Christian Communicator for twenty years. With the editing assistance of Diana Savage, I now have culled and assembled my best writings from those years, along with many totally new inserts and additions, and created two writing books set for pending release by Elk Lake Publishers: Finding Success with Your Dream Writing Projects and Blazing New Paths for Your Writing Career. My novel Jesus in the 21st Century is now in the line-up for future release by Elk Lake.  A novel co-authored with Diana Savage titled Pseudonym was released five years ago, but Diana and I have been working on a major revision of that novel, and the new version will be released by Elk Lake later this year.  Meanwhile, by myself, I am also writing a sequel to that novel. Additionally, I am developing a series of crime short stories featuring a young sleuth named John David (JD) Waverly. The stories will begin to appear in serial form in the online magazine The Abbey in September, 2020, and I will hope eventually to collect them and get them published in book form. 

Dennis E. Hensley

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