Defining Success or Finding Myself on Wikipedia


I want evidence that my work has touched another life.

I used to say I would know I had succeeded when I found my work quoted in places I had no direct connection to, but that no longer seems like the ideal measurement of success.

Simpler things matter more now.

  • When my son tears through the first 3/4 of my novel in a morning and tells me, “I love it,” I have succeeded.

  • When an acting student asks when I am teaching again because he wants to learn more from me, I have succeeded.

  • When I help a friend find a new and easier approach to challenging work, I have succeeded.

But, there is still something very cool about having my work out in public spaces that reach strangers.

Which brings me to Wikipedia. If you had asked me two weeks ago if I could be found on Wikipedia, I would have said absolutely not. I would have been wrong.

Don’t misunderstand me, there is no entry with my name, but my maiden name is in the bibliographic notes on two entries.

I discovered this while web-surfing. My friend, horror writer Tobin Elliott, mentioned that Omni back issues are available online–and they are, at the Internet Archive.

As I scanned the Omni back issues, I reflected on my first interactions with the Internet Archive. I met Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, while I was working as the Government Affairs Coordinator for the Interactive Multimedia Association. One of my jobs was to edit the proceedings of a conference on using technology to manage intellectual property in the digital age. Kahle had presented a paper at the conference, so I worked with him as part of that project.

In March of 1997, the volume I edited was listed as “Further Reading” in connection with an article in Scientific American written by Mark Stefik, another of the presenters at that conference.

Thinking about the article, I wondered if it was available online, so I went surfing. After discovering that the same volume of proceedings was cited in the Wikipedia article about yet another of the presenters, Douglas Armati, I typed my name into the search box on Wikipedia, just for kicks.

To my surprise, there I was, in a citation to an article I wrote on the 16th century Anabaptist leader John of Leiden as part of a history class at Starr King School for the Ministry.

It is an obscure paper on an obscure topic. I wrote the paper because I was fascinated by the idea that polygamy was mandated in a city-state for a brief period during the Protestant Reformation. I hardly gave it any thought when my professor asked for permission to publish it online. And, there it is, sitting on the Internet having a little life of its own.

Shortly after it was published, a friend of mine found it, read it, and wrote a play inspired by it. But he found it because he knew me and Googled me. The citation on Wikipedia had nothing at all to do with me.

And that makes me happy.

But, is it success? It certainly fits the “quotation of my work without my direct contribution” criteria, so maybe it is.

Whatever it is, it made my day when I discovered it.

And now, like with every goal that gets achieved, I have new and different tasks I want to check off my “only in my mind and always changing” bucket list.

6 thoughts on “Defining Success or Finding Myself on Wikipedia

  1. Deborah Lynn Harkness says:

    Very Cool Kate!!

  2. Dale Long says:

    That certainly ranks as success in my book.

    I never wrote any papers unless you count the one to the dean at McMaster begging him to let me come back for another year. So you are a step, or two or three, ahead of me.;)

    Thrilling, ain’t it?

  3. It is thrilling, indeed!

    Thanks, Dale.

  4. There are so many ways to define success…and so many ways that you’ve been successful in life. I enjoyed your blog post, Kate. Congrats on the Wikipedia mention!

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