Teacher Feature: Mr. Philen, Author of When the Color Started

Written by: Lara

Edited by: Keitaro

Visual by: Johanna

Mr. Philen is one of ISM’s English teachers. He has recently written a short story collection entitled When the Color Started, which will be available on October 15. BT Interviewed him to find out more about the book and his writing. 

When the Color Started is a collection of 14 fictional short stories under the genre of literary fiction. Mr. Philen’s stories target a wide audience. While he thinks some of his stories will resonate with ISM’s high school students, he believes that his stories are mostly targeted towards adult readers as they circle around themes of love, loss, grief, and identity. Most of the stories are set in the southern US, while a few take place in Asia, particularly in Thailand and China.

Mr. Philen said he has always enjoyed stories, whether hearing them from friends and family or telling them, and this is what inspired him to become a writer. “I started really writing fiction about twenty years ago. I’m not sure how it all started other than being interested in the fictional novels I was reading at the time and wanted to give it a try. Though I write mostly fiction, I have also written creative non-fiction through personal essays and blog entries.” 

Aside from his new book, Mr. Philen has also written and published a novel called Autumn Falls (2011) and another short story collection called Everything is Insha’Allah (2014).

Getting the book published was something that Mr. Philen described as very difficult: “Not necessarily because of the pandemic, but the nature of publishing anything is very challenging. I have a folder on my laptop that has close to one hundred rejection letters for my book. It is very difficult to publish work; every piece, story, and book that is published should certainly be celebrated. I see many students publish works online and I’m very proud of them. I’d love to see more of that!”

When asked about his reading preference, Mr. Philen stated that though he prefers reading physical books, he also reads eBooks, and listens to audiobooks when working out or when traveling on a long flight. “I think as long as we all challenge ourselves to read–and read a lot–that is most important.”

One piece of advice Mr. Philen gave was suggesting that readers write reviews or comment on the books they read, an action he practices himself, as he believes that it is a good way to be a part of the wider literary community. Before leaving, he said,“I would also encourage everyone to diversify what you read. Read outside your “favorite” genre. Read books by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) authors and books with BIPOC characters! Get out of your comfort zone and READ!”

When the Color Started will be available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle eBook versions. It can also be purchased from the Tailwinds Press website.