I began an interest in storytelling before I was old enough to type. I remember playing with typewriters but not understanding how to put the words together to make sentences, and so I “typed” randomly, experiencing the joy of pretending to write, and the frustration of not knowing how to use a typewriter.
Writing, for me, has never changed in that regard. The act of writing is both thrilling and frustrating. It takes an effort of will more than an effort of sweat. To write is to be engaged in a struggle with yourself.
As a pre-teen and teenager I continued to fantasize about writing great stories. Beginning with Robert Louis Stevenson and Jack London, then moving on to Robert Howard and Michael Moorcock, I believed for a long time that I was destined to write fantasy, sci-fi and horror stories. Those are the stories I read and wanted to emulate.
My first college classes at Chabot Junior College in Hayward, CA were fiction writing workshops where I explored fantasy and science fiction with metaphysical themes without understanding what I was doing. My first instructor laughingly once told me that I was a metaphysical kind of guy. I didn’t understand what that meant and wrongfully assumed it was a bad thing.
In my twenties I read some books on writing by a writer named John Gardner. I would come to respect Gardner as a supreme teacher, a life-long mentor through books on the writing process and the writer’s life. I was dismayed, however, when I read that, according to Gardner, a writer needs an education. I never thought of myself as college material and the idea of going to school seemed impossible and unrealistic.
That all changed in 1991 when I got the opportunity to become a full-time, degree-seeking community college student. My first semester was one of the most personally challenging times of my life. I was afraid I was going to fail and that, though the effort was worth a try, I would ultimately quit.
I won’t bore you with the long story of the years of struggle and uncertainty about how much longer I could afford to go to college. About the times of poverty and how raising an ever-growing family doubled the pressure I felt to really succeed or quit goofing around and go make some money . . .
I stayed in school. Between 1991 to 1999 I earned an AA in English, a BA in Literature, and an MA in Composition. I achieved the education Mr. Gardner had advocated. Along the way I discovered a whole new universe of writers. In exchange for the fantasists in Stevens and Howard I got Fitzgerald, Hemingway, O’Connor (Flannery), Salinger, Updike, and Carver. I discovered other cultures and the great minds of writers with different experiences from me: Silko, Hurston, Fuentes, Borges, Nabokov, Kafka, Kundera. These writers became my new inspiration.
Today I blend it all together, along with the great influence of music, and create stories that are (hopefully) deeply human, personal, and ever-so-lightly flavored with a hint of metaphysics.
When I’m not writing I teach. I have had the privilege of teaching students at the university and community college levels where I first made my strides into becoming the person I really wanted to be. When I teach writing I teach it like religion. There are elements of faith, prayer and tradition that must be acknowledged in writing. I won’t wax any more poetic than that, but suffice to say writing is where I’ve always supposed to have been.
I am beyond pleased to be here now.