Steve Wedel’s resumé would suggest he spends his day working on press releases, attending meetings and making phone calls. But how Wedel, a 2004 graduate of the University of Oklahoma College of Liberal Studies, really spends most of his day is thinking about werewolves, vampires and other ghoulish characters.
He is a literature teacher at Western Heights High School in Oklahoma City and also a horror author. That’s right – a teacher and horror author. Quite a dinner party conversation starter, right?
“People are pretty used to it, and once they get over the fact that I’m not as rich as Stephen King or as eccentric as Anne Rice, they don’t care too much,” Wedel said. “There’s the, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ question, and the, ‘Do you really think about doing this kind of stuff?’ question. If I can keep a straight face and answer ‘Satan’ to the first and ‘Yes’ to the second, the conversation ends pretty quickly."
“Seriously, most people think it’s cool. I get to go to a lot of conventions and talk about werewolf legends since so much of my writing is about werewolves,” he said. “Then, there are the conversations I get to have with police officers, like, ‘So, if you come across a body that appears to be mauled by an animal, but the footprints in the blood are human, how would you investigate that?’
“Oh, and people shop for my Christmas gifts during the Halloween season. One year my parents got me a glow-in-the-dark skull.”
But how did Wedel go from working in a Safeway grocery store to writing a column for The Oklahoman newspaper to the human resource department at Conoco-Phillips to now author and teacher? He put it pretty simply: “Umm, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up?"
Safe to say though, CLS had a hand in getting Wedel to where he is now.
“The work to get the degree certainly made me a better writer, and the books I write now are better than what I did before,” he said. “The classes I took on campus, as well as the independent study, and especially the guidance of my thesis committee, were absolutely invaluable and fun,” he said. “I believe the degree also helped me move ahead and allowed me the chance to teach the senior Advanced Placement courses after less than two years in my teaching career. They could have hired a more experienced teacher for that position, but they trusted me with it. It’s a respected degree from the best university going.”
Wedel said he really cherishes his time at CLS and said he decided to go with OU over other closer universities because of the convenience of the CLS program and the ability to focus his studies specifically on what he wanted.
“There was a particular book I wanted to write and I knew I needed some guidance. CLS let me focus almost all of my independent study classes on researching and writing that book, which I just recently sold to a publisher. The contracts aren’t signed yet, so I can’t go into detail about it, but I sold the novel that was my master’s thesis. If it hadn’t been for my time at OU I might still be telling myself I’m not good enough to write that book yet.”
Now, in a completely different area than he was 15 years ago, Wedel said he gets more satisfaction from seeing a student come to appreciate Beowulf or seeing the joy in a student who finishes their first short story than any other job he’s had.
“Despite the horrible pay, I loved being a journalist and scoring a front page article, but it was nothing compared to the satisfaction of having a student come to me on the last day of his or her senior year and tell me that I made a difference in his or her life,” he said. “I know that sounds like something off a Hallmark card, and I really didn’t give it much thought before I went into teaching, but that’s just incredible.”