random thoughts on teaching like a writer

Long and difficult week of teaching has me dead tired and wondering if I can return to manuscripts. Revisions of Monte Stories will have to wait until I can read through a mountain of student essays. And this week as I have been teaching I am more and more aware of this disconnect between teaching and writing. Maybe the amount of reading I must do which is such a chore that comes from teaching has me worrying and thinking about time taken from my own work to devote to others’ work. And it’s not because they are student essays and not the best reading material. I do try to shape the prompts to focus on my own interest–specifically literacy and literacy development. But these essays from my students are all communication I have decided. Not much expression. I’ve read the first paragraph of nearly all of them and I will get motivated and focus on them sometime before midnight on Sunday night. And even though I have given them all I got on form–anecdotes and exposition of information–I still believe they are mostly communication. And that’s what they should be. Right?

I get these ideas from Hugo and most writers I enjoy who write essays about writing. Specifically Hugo who speaks about poetry and poets. And I feel like I’ve been talking about Richard Hugo and his essay “The Triggering Town” all week–and Auden too. I don’t have my creative writing students read Hugo because we write essays and short stories instead of poems. I should though. I speak of him so often. I like to profess his thoughts on how a write should love the language of their work much more than the reader. I thought of this line from Hugo’s essay: “In Auden, no word is more his than yours.” I love that line. And I want that in my work though I don’t write poems but I feel the way with form–I love the stories I create more than anyone else. And Hugo gives the opposite example of the article in a newspaper or magazine–zero expression and mostly communication. And, again, even though I want my students to be passionate and I want my students to express moments from their lives I know they will prove thesis or claim of fact I call this first one rather than recreate. So maybe that is why teaching comp is difficult for a guy with an MFA. I don’t know. I might be wrong. Maybe they will learn to create feeling rather than just information. I do have them give scene to their claims of fact.

On another thought, I have some thoughts to return to Monte Stories. I got these from watching interviews with Ray Bradbury. He relates in one interview how he met the Illustrated Man and how he wrote Fahrenheit 451 in a library. Then he mentioned how he sat in the library and generated more to his manuscripts when the characters spoke to him–came to him and found him and he got wht they said down– and then I started thinking of Carlos and what Bruna might say to him–what they both might say to me. Of course they spoke to one another very little in real life. But in the manuscript I might have ideas for more answers to these characters. I came up with these:

Why do you drink?

Why did you let me go?

Why don’t you have nothing?

Why do you treat Lena so badly?

I hope I can get back to Carlos and back into Monte Stories soon so I can find these answers…

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john paul jaramillo

John Paul Jaramillo’s debut story collection The House of Order was named a 2013 Int’l Latino Book Award Finalist, and his most recent work Little Mocos is now available from Twelve Winters Press. In 2013 Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature listed Jaramillo as one of its Top 10 New Latino Authors to Watch and Read. He is currently a professor of composition and literature at Lincoln Land College-Springfield, Illinois.

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