The profession of ophthalmology has contributed its share of accomplished writers of fiction. Two of the more well known are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Robin Cook, MD. There are many others who have not achieved their level of acclaim, yet are probably no less talented. One of those is our contemporary colleague, William H. Coles, MD.
Dr. Coles has enjoyed a distinguished career in ophthalmology, having served as chair of the department of ophthalmology at SUNY, Buffalo; as president of the Association of University Professors of Ophthalmology and as a regent of the American College of Surgeons. But, if you were to meet him for the first time at a cocktail party, it is likely that you would learn more about his literary accomplishments than his contributions to medicine.
His desire to write literature of superior and artistic merit, especially fiction, began early and paralleled his ophthalmic career. Like any good ophthalmologist, Bill took a very methodical approach to honing the skills to achieve his goals. Over a 20-plus year span, he studied in more than 100 workshops and courses and interviewed more than 30 prominent authors, editors and educators of fiction writing.
And then he went to work, writing five novels, three collections of short stories, two graphic novels, 38 essays and 29 interviews — so far. For his efforts, he has received 34 awards for short stories and seven for novels, including the Flannery O’Conner Award for Short Fiction, the William Faulkner Creative Writing Competition and the Sandhill Competition.
But, also like any good ophthalmologist, he has made it his goal to share with others what he has learned by providing teaching material specifically, and mostly uniquely, for serious character-based storytellers in literary fiction. He has established a website to teach creative writing with resources for the aspiring novelist. He also has an interactive online workshop and tutorial.
His primary goal is not to sell books, but to have his stories read by as many readers as he could reach, embedding them in the collective consciousness of readers of the English language. The basic theme of his writings is “what it means to be human,” some of which he hopes will carry forward into future generations in the way of authors that he especially admires: Austen, Flaubert, Chekhov, Hawthorne and the like.
Dr. Coles is clearly a credit to our profession. Not only has he made major contributions to ophthalmology, but he has distinguished himself (and made us proud) by a dedication to literary fiction with a purpose to engage, entertain, enlighten and teach, as well as to provide resources for aspirant writers. I encourage you to go to his website or visit him on Facebook to learn more about his accomplishments and to enjoy reading his many outstanding works.
Selected List of Books by William Coles, MD
Guardian of Deceit
The Spirit of Want
The Surgeon's Wife
Illustrated Short Fiction of William H. Coles: 2000-2016
Creating Literary Stories: A Fiction Writer's Guide
Story in Literary Fiction: A Manual for Writers