William H. Coles – Bio

William H. Coles – Bio


William H. Coles


William H. Coles, MD, MS, FACS has studied fiction in workshops with Jim Shepard, Lee Martin, Peter Ho Davies, Clark Blaise, Nancy Zafris, Elizabeth McCracken, Susan Straight, Karl Iagnemma, Bret Lott, Bharati Mukherjee, Tom Barbash, Lynn Freed, Richard Bausch, Jill McCorkle, John Casey, Margo Livesey, Tony Early, Michael Ray, Tamara Straus, Jill McCorkle, Carol Edgarian, Charles Baxter, Charles D’Ambrosio, Tom Franklin, Rosemary Daniell; studied in semester academic courses with John Biguenet, Noel Polk, David Bottoms, Michael Ray, Tamara Straus; worked with mentors Tom Jenks, Dianne Benedict, Anne Wood, Ben George, Holly MacArthur, and Otonne Ricci; and attended conferences with James Dickey, Michael Cunningham, Jane Smiley, Robert Olen Butler, Joyce Carol Oates, Michael Palmer, Tess Gerritsen, and others.  He created the website storyinliteraryfiction.com with resources for writers that has had over five-million page views.


For eight years he reviewed poetry for the Journal of the American Medical Association and won the Callenwolde Prize (Atlanta) for best poem (”Unwed Girl”).  His poetry has appeared in the Chattahoochee Review and Miscellany. In fiction, he was finalist (short story) in the William Faulkner Creative Writing (2007) Competition short listed the novel (2007), previously, placed five times as a semi-finalist for novel (2004-2010), and a finalist (2006) for short story. He won both first and second place (two stories) in the Sandhills Writers’ Competition 2006. In 2008, seven stories placed as finalists in the Faulkner Competition, one as three equivalent winners. He was a finalist in the 2010 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. In 2011, 2012, 2013, fourteen of his stories received awards.  He also wrote scripts for editorials and weekly radio segments on jazz for the NPR affiliate WBFO that he presented on air. He published Story in Literary Fiction: A Manual for Writer in 2007, and in 2008, Literary Story as an Art Form: A Text for Writers. In 2010 he published Facing Grace with Gloria and Other Stories, the first collection of award-winning stories, and in 2011, he published the debut novel, The Surgeon’s Wife, a finalist in the William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition.   Recently he published novels and story collections: The Spirit of Want, Guardian of Deceit, Sister Carrie, McDowell, Tour of Duty, The Necklace and Other Stories, The Short Fiction of William H. Coles 2001-2016, The Illustrated Fiction of William H. Coles 2000-2016; an additional book on writing: Creating Literary Stories: A Fiction Writer’s Guide; and two graphic stories, Homunculus and Reddog. He has collaborated with nine acclaimed artists to illustrate stories and novels and has created an online art gallery of the works.

Coles has also produced, recorded and published audio books and podcasts of all novels and short stories and improvises piano background music.  All all short stories are available free for reading online or download for listening.

In film making, he won the Conrad Berens Award Competition for best film on a medical subject, “Essential Bleparospasm”.

He is a former ophthalmic surgeon specializing in ocular trauma who lives in in the San Francisco-area with his wife who is a pediatric retina surgeon and researcher at Sanford. He has served as Department Chairman, State University of New York at Buffalo; on the Board of Regents for the American College of Surgeons, President Association of University Professors in Ophthalmology. He has held academic appointments at Louisiana State University, Medical University of South Carolina, Emory University School of Medicine, and State University of New York at Buffalo where he is presently Professor Emeritus. He has lectured internationally on surgery, Georgian antique furniture, and jazz . . . and presented the lectures, “How Humor Works in Literary Fiction” and “Narration in Literary Fiction: Making the Right Choices” at Kenyon College in 2009-2010. He teaches writing of literary fiction stories online in a workshop and tutorial.

His present aspiration is to make the volumes of his material on writing the literary story and his published works of fiction and education available to all interested writers with minimal or no cost as a nonprofit.


Contact: whc8826@gmail.com

Read more about the author from the American Academy of Ophthalmology newsletter

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9 thoughts on “William H. Coles – Bio

  • Marie Louise Elliott

    Mr. Coles, You seem to have shanghaied two book titles of two very famous authors. “Sister Carrie” by Theodore Dreiser and “The “Necklace” by Guy de Maupassant. Would you explain why you would do this, and fo you explain why in the prefaces of your books?

    Marie Louise Elliott (author of three books of poetry)

    • admin

      Thank you for your comment. As you know, titles are exempt from copyright. So both the book title of Dreiser’s book and Maupassant’s short story, are not “shanghaied.” (In fact, the original title of Maupassant’s short story is La Parure). The titles of my stories are chosen for their effectiveness. The necklace is, I feel, a better than adequate symbol for the story meaning. “Sister Carrie” is the dominant story character in my novella; it is not unusual for characters who are critical to a story to be used as a title. Again, my stories are unique. There is no nefarious reason for using titles that are central to my stories. An my titles are not related to the authors’ works you mention, they definitely are not even an inspiration.

  • Raymonde Zuckerkandel

    I could not reach Dr Coles through his email address. I am trying to ask Dr Coles a question that confounds me. It concerns “…one character dimension.” which seems to contradict an earlier chapter where he stresses that the protagonist has to drive the story with emphasis on Little Red Riding Hood. Yet on Creating Literary Stories,
    page 113 in regard to “character dimension” he writes on page 113 : Have you fallen inadvertently into one-character and /or one dimentional story telling…
    Is he contradicting himself? I might have misunderstood what he means. I would apreciate a clarification. Thank you. Raymonde Zuckerkandel

    • admin

      Hello Raymonde–
      Thanks for being persistent in finding me. You can always reach me through any comment box or through the workshop page. Your query is insightful and I’m pleased you asked. Dimension refers to a measureable extent of something, and when used in creating fiction characters its meaning is stretched a little to include what we unconsciously measure as the composition, or even substance, of the character. It’s abstract but useful. E.M. Forster brought attention to this concept in Aspects of the Novel (1927) when he considered characters to be either flat or round, which of course is dimensional thinking. You mentioned two uses of “dimension” on the website and you can see that and discussion of a character is complex and, actually, always is based on dimension, or the measurement of that character’s substance. Authors build characters’ substance with actions, images, thoughts, opinions, decisions, emotions, desires, motives, etc., all of which relates to the fourth dimension (time, or spacetime) that writers can interpret as the amount of time devoted to the character in the story text.
      Your question is particularily interesting because the two uses of dimension you refered too have special characteristics important for the writer to perceive. In the Red Riding Hood examples,I’m refering to a special dimension of Red’s personality, that is her naiveté (her unwillingness to grow up and beware of danger) and her rebellious nature in refusing to accept her mother’s warnings about strangers, and dawdling in the midst of danger. These willful defects drive the plot. They are a part of Red’s character dimension. Now, the mention of one-dimensional characters in character development and storytelling simply means the author has failed to round out the character (who seems flat in Forster’s conceptualization). So in both circumstances dimension is important–in Red, it’s her dimension of willfully disobeying that allows wolfian danger to destroy her, and when used broadly in a flat-character sense, it means an authorial failure to develop the character to the level a reader feels is necessary. (Note, both “flat” characters and “round” characters may be essential in fictional works of length, but all major characters should have sufficient dimensional development to acheive great-fiction storytelling.) And thanks for getting in touch.
      All the best in your wiriting,
      Regards, WHC

  • Brad Jost

    Hi Bill, Enjoyed meeting you and “M.E.” at the Macula Society meeting. Found your website too! Looking forward to exploring it in detail. Best wishes, Brad

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