Bryon Quertermous — How Being A Nerd Made Me Good With Words

The Word Nerds are happy to have Bryon Quertermous back to the blog today. We know all about being nerds (hey, look, it’s in our name!) and how that let us find our “tribe.” Byron’s one of us, for sure.

querterIt may shock people who know me now, but back in elementary school and junior high I was painfully shy and incredibly awkward around people (okay, that part probably won’t shock anyone). After being pretty energetic and self-confident as a toddler and pre-schooler, a series of moves and bully-encouraging private religious schools had sapped that energy from me had sent me inward.

That may seem sad, and in many ways it was, but it also pushed me off to the invisible sides of life and allowed me virtually unlimited opportunities to watch people, to spy on people, and to learn about people. At this same time my reading habit increased substantially and the mix of those two elements of my life set me up for a transformative experience.

Had I been more popular at that very influential age, especially with the group of spiteful and ignorant kids I wanted to be friends with, I doubt I would be where I am today. I likely would have abandoned reading and would have been less aware of the world around me and less sympathetic and empathetic as well.

As I got older and moved from the private school to a big suburban public school full of opportunity and the kind of cliques and social groups I thought only existed in the movies I was never allowed to see. Separated from the bullies who crushed my spirit and the religious indoctrination that crushed my imagination, my previous personality came back and flourished. In a school with that many people, anyone was able to find a group of friends to suit them. I found mine with the drama and choir nerds. I fell in love both body and spirit and unlike previous times I’d been called a nerd, this time it was self-inflicted and used endearingly and as a badge of honor. Surrounded by my fellow nerds, I was encouraged in my writing and pushed into acting which helped boost my self-confidence and helped me inhabit the various characters of my stories. It also put me on the path of reading the great playwrights which was the single most important element in my writing training I think because it helped me hone my trademark dialogue style.

Now that I’m an “adult” I can add tech nerd to the mix. The Internet has provided me an outlet for finding and communicating with life-long friends, it’s provided me publication venues for the short stories that helped me develop my personal writing style, it gave me a way to stay involved in publishing as an editor which has provided me the financial cushion needed to pursue this less than lucrative field and also helped make me a better self-editor and writer. Finally, it’s given me outlets like this to write guest posts to subtly remind you that my second novel, Riot Load, is now available from Polis Books and you should buy several copies for all of your nerdy friends.

Looking back on my life through the geek chic chunky black frames of life, I can’t help but be thankful for everything that came to me all because I was a nerd.

riot loadBryon Quertermous is the author of Murder Boy and the forthcoming Riot Load. His short stories have been published in a number of journals of varying repute and he was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger Award. He currently lives outside of Detroit with his wife and kids. Visit him at and follow him on Twitter @BryonQ.


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