I've had many people I've considered heroes in my life. My father, my mother, my grandparents, my twelfth-grade English teacher...all have passed along to me bucketloads of knowledge that have helped shape the man I've become. Without them, I wouldn't be a good father, husband, person.
As a writer, I've had many great acquaintances, but only one true "hero", one man whose every word has stuck with me to this day and who I always think about when I sit down at the keyboard and tap out sentence after sentence. "How would he approach this scene," I think. "How would he resolve the issues I've presented? How would he make the transition from this plot point to the other?" Yes, everything I've ever learned about writing has been enclosed in the shell of this man's knowledge.
His name is Ben Duiverman, and though it's been a long time since we've spoken, though we've never met in person, I consider him one of the greatest friends I've ever had and, yes, one of my heroes.
Ben is a writer's writer. His grasp of the English language is second-to-none – which is even more amazing considering it's not his first language. His passion for everything, from the craft to the importance of family to social programs, can make him an intimidating figure unless you have the balls to rise up and meet his challenge. He's amazingly generous and kind, though sometimes ill-tempered, which only adds to his aura. But this is not some fictitious creature. No, the mythology of Ben cannot hold a candle to his reality as a living, breathing human being. And as a creator, he has no peer. I've had the privilege of reading many of his short stories, and even two of his novels, and they are, without a doubt, some of the best writing I've ever come across. And it was his advice to me on how to accurately portray female characters that led to the epiphany that allowed me to take The Fall and make it something publishable. If only a portion of what he can do has rubbed off on me, I consider myself a very, very lucky man.
What Ben probably doesn't know is that for myself and countless others, he is an inspiration. His words and deeds, the way he perseveres in the midst of heartbreaking life events, only makes me long to speak with him again. It makes me want to see his name in lights, to see the beautiful words he's crafted reach the heights they deserve. Because if anyone deserves for the world to take notice, it's him.
I love you, Ben. You'll always be my inspiration.
And, of course, my hero.