English and Creative Writing
Sam Weller carries on the legacy of friend and fellow creative Ray Bradbury as the late author’s official biographer.
Sam Weller likes to say he encountered Ray Bradbury before he was born. When his mother was pregnant, his father read Bradbury stories out loud to her. Neither expectant parent had any inkling that one day, their son would be Bradbury’s official biographer and close friend.
Today, Weller has penned three biographies on the world-famous author of Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles. But Weller is also an accomplished journalist and creative writer in his own right. Today, he brings all that expertise to Columbia College Chicago’s English and Creative Writing Department.
Why do students choose Columbia for creative writing?
Columbia, I think, is a microcosm of the dynamism of the city. Columbia is energetic, it’s bold, it’s exciting. It’s fun to be here because there are so many artists and creators and people thinking about their projects. When you’re a creator, you walk around in a daze because you’re constantly thinking about your ideas. When you walk around Columbia, you see people all over the place in that zone. For an artist, there’s no better place to be.
What’s something you always hope to teach students?
I occasionally teach a freelance writing class, basically showing creative writing students how their skills translate over to the freelance marketplace. At the end of the day, you can teach people how to be good writers, but you also have to make them job ready. If you can write a short story, you can write a feature story for a magazine.
I’ve taught that class for a decade, and I’m very proud to say it has a strong track record of people getting published for the very first time. That’s really important to me: the connection between discovering your writing passions and your skills and your voice and transferring that over to bolstering your resume through publication.
What’s your favorite Bradbury book or story?
I think the guy is the poster child for Columbia. Columbia offers education in almost every art form you can think of, and Bradbury worked in almost every art form you can think of. TV, radio, theatre, literature. He did architectural designs. The guy was just all over the map.
My favorite would be a story called “The Fog Horn,” which is about the last dinosaur on earth. It rises from the depths of the ocean because it hears this sound [of a foghorn] and thinks it’s the call of its mate. It’s really about unrequited love from the point of view of a dinosaur.