In the unlikely event that my books, films, and musicals don’t make me a wealthy man, I have a back-up plan more than 350 people strong.

Theologian Adam Clarke once said:

“The old proverb about having too many irons in the fire is an abominable old lie. Have all in, shovel, tongs, and poker.”

I couldn’t agree more. I like to have as many irons in the fire as possible, hoping that one or more will eventually make me a rich man.


For the past 16 years, one of these “irons in the fire” has been to teach my students about how patronage worked hundreds of years ago. In those days, kings, popes, and wealthy landowners funded the lives of artists such as musicians, painters, poets, and sculptors so that they could focus solely on their creative endeavors.

Every school year, I explain to my students that someday, one or more of them may grow up and invent the next Internet, win the lottery, discover a vein of gold in their backyard, or make their fortune on Wall Street. And when that day happens, I want them to remember their former teacher, Mr. Dicks, toiling away in his elementary school classroom, probably still loving his job and his students but perhaps ready to take a break and write  fulltime.

I won’t need much. Just enough to support my family and live in relative ease and pleasure. A big house. A couple decent cars. Two or three vacations a year. Maybe a membership to a country club so I can play golf when I’m not hunched over the computer. 

I’m not asking for much.

In my 16 years of teaching, about 350 kids have passed through my classroom. The oldest of my students – second graders in 1999 – have graduated college and either begun their careers or gone onto graduate school.

Not quite old enough to have amassed great wealth, but not too far away either.

350 irons in the fire, just starting to get warm.