“a certain distinction and excellence in expression”

three

Interview with Three Writers
By Nuala Lincke-Ivic

Three Writers:

Sam Eisenstein, Martin Jaeger and Dan Saucedo

Among the growing number of submissions West received for this Spring 2012 issue were several short story submissions from two writers: Sam Eisenstein and Martin Jaeger. Because we could not decide which of each writer’s short stories to publish—all were equally good and worthy of publication—we decided to publish all of the short stories the two writers submitted. Of course, we couldn’t do so without knowing more about the writers and their art. In the first two interviews below, Sam Eisenstein and Martin Jaeger answer the same seven questions for us about themselves and their art.  The third writer’s interview that follows is with Dan Saucedo. Unlike Eisenstein and Jaeger, we became acquainted with the work of the writer Dan Saucedo through other means: Andrea Leahy, a student whose flash fiction piece "Passion for Life" leads our parade of flash fiction pieces in this Spring 2012 issue. Impressed by Andrea’s budding writing talent, we talked to her about her writing, and learned that she began working on "Passion for Life" in her writers group, led by Dan Saucedo, her former high school teacher. Of course, as teachers, we were intrigued, gratified and touched by this information—bombarded daily, as we seem to be, by dismal student success statistics not only in the LACCD and LAUSD, but also throughout the nation—so we contacted Dan Saucedo, and proceeded to interview him about Andrea, his former student, asking him why he invited her to join his writers group. In the process, we discovered what we already knew—that Dan Saucedo is a writer—but we also discovered what we didn’t know: that Dan Saucedo is a good writer, and as such, worthy of publication.

Enjoy reading these three interviews with these three writers—and of course, reading their works. Each writer has a unique and different voice, but each writer’s work is worthy of publication. As Longinus tells us in his famous work On the Sublime, in whatever form it takes, one recognizes quality writing, sublimity, which Longinus describes as “a certain distinction and excellence in expression.” By publishing their works we give this highest accolade—the affirmation that their works possess this distinction and excellence in expression—to the writers Sam Eisenstein, Martin Jaeger and Dan Saucedo.


Writers

Sam Eisenstein


Martin Jaeger


Dan Saucedo




Sam Eisenstein:  "Fiction is the truest writing. It is about our interiors, the unconscious if you will, our connection with the dream state."

eisensteinEditor's Note:  Asked to provide West with a brief autobiography, the writer sends West this requisite bare bones synopsis of what is and has been a busy and fulfilling life: “I've been in the English Dept. at LACC since 1961, 50 years! I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in comparative literature, another Master’s in Psychology from Goddard, and I am an MFT, marriage and family counselor licensed in California. My daughter Chana is a veterinarian in Willets, California; my stepson David is an ophthalmologist in West Los Angeles; my wife Bettyrae is an interior decorator. Green Integer and Red Hen have published six of my novels with several more under consideration. I have had stories or poems in such publications as Penthouse, Seventeen, and many small magazines. My plays have been done by La Mama, Odyssey Theatre Group, KPFK and others. Reading and writing occupy my leisure time away from the classroom, where my favorite class is creative writing, Writers Roundtable, English 127.”

1. What is a “good read,” in your opinion? Who are some of your favorite writers?

Something about which I know little or nothing, no matter who writes it, someone whose work I am familiar with or not. The London and the New York Reviews of Books I count on to educate me, as no classes in school ever did. In fact, just about everything I know or think about has been since getting a Ph.D., which taught me almost nothing.

2. Tell us about your first experience writing—what did you write? Was it an “aha!” experience—the breathlessness, the excitement of being a creator, making things out of the raw stuff of words? If it wasn’t, did you ever have this “aha!” experience, this “I am a writer/creator; I am MAKING something” experience?

I have always needed to write, to find out what I am thinking and feeling. What emerges is always a surprise.

3. What is fiction? Why should people read fiction—if it isn’t “true”?

Fiction is the truest writing. It is about our interiors, the unconscious if you will, our connection with the dream state.

4. Do you think that the writer begins the writing process with a plan—or does writing “just happen”; we start to write, and we don’t know where we’re going—we discover along the way? What enacts—ignites—this process?

Some writers, the most commercially successful, usually know the whole thing from the beginning. I never know. It is a continuous exploration and revelation.

5. How would you describe yourself as a writer?

I don't try. Other people need to do that, if they want to.

6. Are you ever surprised by others’ responses to your writing—what they “see” that you may not see? Is the reader your co-creator, shaping the meaning of what you write by his or her perception of what you write?

I am constantly surprised. The reader is always a co-creator, with material emanating from his own genetic and environmental background.

7. As a writer, what do you hope for from your writing? There are great writers whose works only received wide acclaim after their death. If you became one such writer…would that be okay? Can the act of writing, of creating, be enough for you?

I want my writing to be published. Which is foolish in itself, as even the most prominent work is very soon forgotten, destined to a dusty place in a library or the wall of a pizza establishment which has bought books by the yard. Since I have no belief in an afterlife, one in which I hover and notice how many of my books are "active," I want publication now, while I'm still around. I think a publication such as the present one is a very great push for other teachers to put aside the curriculum for a bit and delve into themselves. Such an excavation can only benefit their students and make them, the teachers, a more viable presence.

Other Works:

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Martin Jaeger: "The reader of fiction is looking forward to entering the writer's world, experiencing the emotions and new ideas waiting inside thanks to the creativity of the writer."

jaegerEditor's Note:  At Pierce College, Jaeger has taken music and computer classes, and at Valley College, Jaeger took a class in music and orchestration that provided him with “[o]ne of the most thrilling experiences…the performance by the jazz band of a song I arranged, as part of a class project.” His writing credits include: Matilda Ziegler Magazine For The Blind; L. A. Daily Journal; The Jewish Magazine; The Montana Senior News; The Ozark Senior Living Magazine; Nuthouse Magazine; Pill Hill Press; 50-Word Stories; The Cynics Online Magazine; Gumbo Press; Oberon’s Law; Back Page; Indigo Rising UK. He was also the Editor of a Long Island University Magazine. 

In a 2010 article for The Economist, writer and critic James Woodall describes a key figure in musicals set in the shtetl, a Jewish village or small town in Eastern Europe in the 19th century: “In the established image of the shtetl, a bearded paterfamilias with a violin stands atop a little house and plays to celebrate his survival in times of trouble.” To read the short stories of the writer Martin Jaeger is to hear the voice of that violinist as narrator. Of course, Jaeger’s stories take place in the United States, circa now, not in a shtetl, and do not focus on Jewish characters and life, but they possess that same key ingredient of musical works set in the shtetl: celebrating life’s tragedies with humor, and through humor, transcending these tragedies, making them not the vanquisher, the destroyer of life and hope, but merely an inconvenience that sets the stage for a wry joke. In Jaeger’s stories, laughter always triumphs.

1. What is a “good read,” in your opinion? Who are some of your favorite writers?

A "good read" is finding in a story the same things I would want a reader to have. I'm looking for ideas that will elevate me and give me an experience that I can't get in any other way, so that I will want to take off my hat to the writer. My favorite writers are humorists: Woody Allen, Garrison Keiler, Steve Martin.

2. Tell us about your first experience writing—what did you write? Was it an “a-ha” experience—the breathlessness, the excitement of being a creator, making things out of the raw stuff of words? If it wasn’t, did you ever have this “aha” experience, this “I am a writer/creator; I am MAKING something” experience?

I'm eighty, and my earliest recollection was writing a composition in elementary school. I couldn't express myself and asked some of my friends to help. I could see the difference in there writing but they couldn't help me.

When I was in my twenties I wrote a college paper, based on a Mark Twain story, in the style of a ballet. I was pleased the professor enjoyed my "off the wall" writing rather than the "usual" analysis.

I hardly wrote, but five or ten years later I had an "aha" experience. I had written something absurd about a pilot who relies on audible sounds to fly an airplane rather than visual instruments.

In these aha moments, I feel like I'm alone with God, to experience this work of art for the first time. Years ago, I did write music, and achieved the same experiences in writing songs. The magical moment comes when one's own eyes are opened to a new vision and the puzzle is solved. Simultaneously one feels the pride associated with having met the challenge. This unbelievable experience has happened frequently since I've been writing for the last six years, and I feel fortunate each time.

3. What is fiction? Why should people read fiction—if it isn’t “true”?

Fiction, as differentiated from non-fiction, is partly or wholly conceived writing.

The reader of fiction is looking forward to entering the writer's world, experiencing the emotions and new ideas waiting inside thanks to the creativity of the writer.

4. Do you think that the writer begins the writing process with a plan—or does writing “just happen”; we start to write, and we don’t know where we’re going—we discover along the way? What enacts—ignites—this process?

For me, most stories are born with a kernel, and are then developed extensively. I don't see much of the completion of the story in my mind. The day to day writing is hard work, consisting of rewriting and editing, all with the goal of keeping the reader interested. Depending on the editing, the original version frequently changes.

In one of my writing classes, we are given a prompt, which can be a word or phrase at random, and told to write. We learn that we can write without a plan and that we don't need a kernel to ignite the process.

5. How would you describe yourself as a writer?

I describe myself as an imaginative person who has over many years, honed my skills, developed a voice, and is capable of telling a story. I am delighted when I make anyone happy with my writing.

6. Are you ever surprised by others’ responses to your writing—what they “see” that you may not see? Is the reader your co-creator, shaping the meaning of what you write by his or her perception of what you write?

Generally, I'm not surprised by others' responses to my writing. I meticulously craft the piece so that when I intend to make the reader laugh, I am more surprised if the reader doesn't laugh. With serious fiction, I also plan as best as I can to get the reader into my world, and there elicit emotional and intellectual reactions. I don't see the reader as a co-creator, but the person for whom the show has been created by the writer.

7. As a writer, what do you hope for from your writing? There are great writers whose works only received wide acclaim after their death. If you became one such writer…would that be okay? Can the act of writing, of creating, be enough for you?

As a writer, I hope to lasso the interest of the reader and take the reader by the hand through the world I've created. If I have succeeded, I can take pride in having perfected my skills.  When I first began writing, I didn't care about notoriety. I know the pleasure of silently admiring ones own skills. I used to practice my tennis skills by hitting balls against a handball wall, alone.  There are times that I've thought the honor of the creation of a piece is good enough for me. But I found another dimension to writing: the reader's approval. For me, I would like the appreciation and approval to resound while I'm here, if that's a choice. Otherwise, the skillful writing of a story, will do nicely.

Other Works:

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Dan Saucedo: The Chaver

saucedoBefore I can tell you about the writer Dan Saucedo, I have to tell you about another writer: Andrea Leahy.  It was through Andrea that I learned of Dan.  I met Andrea in one of my fall 2012 developmental writing classes (pre-English 101/freshman composition). Like a lot of developmental writing students, she had little experience writing basic academic prose—an “essay” in which the writer provides convincing support for an explicit thesis (a clearly stated opinion about a specific topic) for a purpose—which can also be referred to as a “reason,” “rhetorical intent,” or even “call to action” (how the essayist wishes to influence the reader group to think or act regarding the essay topic). Because students at the developmental writing level often conclude—mistakenly!—that they are “bad” writers, instead of merely the inexperienced essay writers that they are, I always have these students write a short piece of fiction during the semester to show them that they are good writers. From my experience as a teacher, I believe that every human being is a storyteller, and can tell a good story. Additionally, I know that students enjoy telling a story in a way that students usually do not enjoy writing essays—because unlike writing a story, writing an essay seems like “work."  By writing a story, however, students come to understand that there are different kinds of writing, and that academic prose (essay writing) is a specific kind of writing that has to be learned, just like fiction is—because a work of fiction often must go through the same recursive process that an essay does: drafting, editing and revising.

In the developmental writing class in which Andrea was my student, I had Andrea and her peers write a flash fiction piece for a journal assignment. Flash fiction is a short story that has a beginning, middle and end, and is usually not longer than a page or two. The flash fiction piece that I required the students to write could not be longer than 300 words. Andrea, who struggled with academic prose—because she was an inexperienced essay writer—proved herself to be a good flash fiction writer. The piece she wrote is titled “Passion for Life,” and I was amazed at how well developed the first draft was.  Why, I asked, was this so?  She told me that she had been working on this piece—not as a flash fiction piece, but as a longer short story—as a member of a writers group. I was surprised; most developmental writing students (most people) do not belong to writers groups. I asked her how she came to be a member of a writers group. She told me that Dan, one of her former high school teachers, had invited her to become a member of this group. As a teacher, I was touched and pleased by this information. From experience, I know that most teachers do not associate with their students after they stop being their teachers. This fact does not mean that they are “bad” teachers or uncaring; I think this lack of association comes about because of a variety of different reasons, among them location, resources, common interests…how particular personalities work (or don’t work!) together. And…maintaining contact after the classroom experience requires initiative and effort—precious time and energy—in the often frenetic business that is life. For this reason, I believe that it also requires a special dedication, an altruistic desire to help others—what Bracha Schefres, one of my Orthodox Jewish students (who is also a Jewish educator—a librarian) taught me is the Jewish concept known as Tikkun Olam, a Hebrew term that means “repairing the universe”: the desire to make the world a better place.

Inviting a student to join a writer’s group…hmmm! I wondered, was Dan consciously practicing the concept of Tikkun Olam? And if so, had Dan deliberately become Andrea's chaver? A chaver is a Hebrew word that means friend or mentor, and it's another word Bracha taught me.  Of course, most cultural groups encourage the practice not only of Tikkun Olam among members, but also (have I coined a new word?) chavership.  However, this kind of altruism practiced by Dan toward Andrea, of (who coined this word?) lovingkindness, seemed very rare and special to me.  By inviting Andrea to join his writers group, Dan indeed became Andrea’s chaver, affirming her writing talent to her, and thus helping her to grow as a writer—and therefore, a person. When Andrea told me about Dan, I wanted to contact him immediately, to interview him for West, so that I could ask him to share his insights not only about teaching, but also about students like Andrea, who is not only a creative writer, but also a creative writer whose first language is not English, but Spanish. In so doing, of course, he would have an additional opportunity to practice the concept known as Tikkun Olam—by being the chaver of every teacher who would read my interview with him. What was there to question? I contacted Dan, and I asked him to answer seven questions for West. His answers to these questions are below, and following them is an excerpt from one of Dan’s own literary pieces, Camping with Juanita, which Andrea—one of his peers in their writers circle—has read and discussed with him, thus acting as his chaver, too, and bringing the happy (and I think, multi-cultural) concept of Tikkun Olam full circle: We repair the universe by actively offering help to each other.

Dan Saucedo:  "When I was just beginning to teach, our friend Phil was retiring as the chair of the Anthropology Department a local university. At dinner, I asked, "Do you have any advice for a new teacher?" He considered a moment and said, 'Be yourself.'"

1. Why did you decide to become a high school teacher?

I needed a job.

I spent twenty-five years in business before I started to teach. In the late 90's, I happened to be sitting under the proper tree when the fruit ripened, which made it pretty easy to catch it when it fell directly to me. For fun, I was taking a class in Post-Modern Literature at a local college and became friendly with the instructor. He said the department was desperate for someone to teach a section of freshman composition because one of their adjunct faculty had just taken a tenured position elsewhere. That was one piece of falling fruit. At the same time, I found through my wife that the Venice Community Adult School was looking for a creative writing teacher. There was another piece of falling fruit. As such, there I was in the late 90's with a full-time job and, through nothing more than good fortune, teaching two evening classes.

At the adult school, a vice-principal took the creative writing class and liked how I worked with students, so when a position opened to teach academic English, she offered it. I said yes, even though it meant giving up creative writing, which was a difficult choice.

I was, in the early 2000's, the Window and Door Manager at a local lumber and hardware store. It was an eighty-year-old company, but its parent company needed cash and was liquidating the business in order to sell the land.

I was done with business, so I told the vice-principal who had taken the creative writing class that I wanted to teach full-time. It took a couple of months, but she found a position for me. Now, I am tenured with the Adult Division of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

So, I didn't exactly decide to become a high school teacher in the same way that my friend Tim did, who knew it was what he wanted when he was 16. I more opened a couple of doors and was offered a chair to sit in, for which I am very grateful.

2. What kind of teacher do you strive to be?

That's a big question. It can be answered from so many angles.

When I was just beginning to teach, our friend Phil was retiring as the chair of the Anthropology Department a local university. At dinner, I asked, "Do you have any advice for a new teacher?" He considered a moment and said, "Be yourself." I was expecting something more, something practical like when one might teach an apprentice plumber to use a pipe threader. But, Phil's advice has been what I have come to rely on. What the students get is an encouragingly honest response to their work with reference to with how they can improve. They also get an accurate response to their behavior, whether its pleasure or disappointment.

As to your question directly, I find that the focus is not what kind of teacher am I striving to be, but how can teach the material better. As a self-image, as the teacher, as an ego, I actually disappear when I teach. It is a paradox that I have to disappear in order the become completely present.

All there is is the student and the curriculum and putting the two together.

The requirement is to assess the skill level of each student and move each one forward from there. In terms of the material and the student, if they don't get it the first time, explain it again. If they still don't get it, explain it again a different way. Demonstrate it in any way that works. The other half of the sky is knowing when to shut-up, to get out of the way when their light turns green. All of this is what constitutes the strive.

3. Tell us about your parents' background: Were they college graduates; did they encourage you to become a college graduate?

I don't know what my parents were thinking in terms of my going to college. They never asked, "Where are you applying?" or "Have you taken the SAT?" In fact, there was not one discussion about college: where to apply, how to apply, when to apply, scholarship, grants, loans, fellowships, nothing. Maybe they thought the high school was taking care of all that or that I knew what I was doing somehow.

I can see why from my mother there was of no practical help. She never made it past the 8th grade due to violations beyond her control. But you'd think with her children that she would have been at least curious and encouraging toward college, but never a word.

My father is even harder to fathom. He, too, never said a word about college, even though he was a college graduate himself. After returning from the Second World War, having flown over Europe in bombers in the Army Air Force, he went to school on the GI Bill and earned a degree in Electrical Engineering from USC, ultimately having a long career in the space program.

I stumbled into college one my own. In mid-August the summer after we graduated from high school, my friend Richard asked if I was going to college, and I said no, I couldn't afford it, having heard how expensive it was. I had heard about Ivy League pricing and assumed it was that way for all colleges. He explained how affordable junior college was. I was surprised. So, three weeks before the fall semester started, I applied to the local junior college, Mount San Antonio College in Walnut, took the SAT, and was on my way.

My parents were supportive of my college endeavor, providing room and aboard, but their guidance in getting me there did not exist. It's a puzzler.

By the time graduate school came around in my mid-thirties, they were again supportive, though a bit baffled. I was off to earn an MFA from UC Irvine in Creative Writing: Poetry. My father said, "I don't understand what you do when you write, but if it's what you want to do, we support you," and much to my surprise, he handed me a check that helped throughout the two year endeavor. To him, it was the passing along of inheritance. He said, "This is really from your grandmother. She had saved it up with the hope that I would go to graduate school, but I got an job and started a family and never had the time to go back. So," he said, in the only time I ever saw him chock-up, "this is from her."

Did my parents encourage me? Enough, I'd say, which ultimately appears to have been plenty.

4. In your opinion, what are the most common obstacles to student success in California high schools?

I am not really in a position to speak of K-12 high school students. In the mornings, from 8 a.m. - 1 p.m., I teach adults who have returned to school to earn their high school diplomas. Their ages range from 18-70, with the bulges being from 19-25 and 32-42. We run a one room school house where we teach everything from math, to science, to English, to parenting, to psychology, to . . .

Of our population, a major obstacle is working. They come late, leave early, and miss days because of work. But even with all that, they keep on coming. Another obstacle [is] taking care of their families.

There is also a whole batch who come and disappear. They make a resolution to return to school, but school has been such a traumatic difficulty in the past that they being their expectations of failure and difficulty with them to the point that they panic run away. I had one student who, when we went over his math problems, would flinch away. I asked him why, and he said that when he was young his father would hit him every time he got a math problem wrong. I said, "But, I'm not going to hit you." He said, "I know, but that doesn't matter."

For many of the students, in a addition to the course material, we are teaching life skills: how to stay focused, how not to distract yourself, how to read a textbook, how to be organized, how to be patient with a learning curve, how to come up and ask questions, how to laugh in spite of it all, how to laugh because of it all.

With the adults, half my job is to offer kindness and encouragement. I am paid in part to smile and to reward accomplishment.

Some of the adult students arrive angry, mad at authority. They are still in the "us and them" mode between student and teacher. They require a lot of patience, a lot of negotiation about what is proper behavior for the classroom. It helps if we to listen to their concerns and address them as we can, in addition to laying out what is expected. Truth is though, some we keep and some we don't. We can't save everyone who comes to us, but we can save them for later. Some need a few more years away from school to work out what ever they need to work out, and then they return ready to go.

My experience with regular K-12 high school students is limited to those who are making up units because they failed a course. I do not have access to many of their obstacles, but here are some I see from our select population.

The group breaks down into two groups: those who do the work and those who do not. Those who do the work are smart, hard working. They failed a class claiming they did not get along with the teacher, believing the teacher had it in for them and did not pass them, or they did not get along with the teacher and gave up trying. Most failed a class because they lost interest and became bored or became bored and lost interest. Many failed because they found it more fun to ditch class.

Of those who don't to the work, it's hard to say accurately what their personal issues are. The 10% of the iceberg we see is their behavior. The 90% we don't see is why the behavior is there. Some have the identity of failing, of not doing the work. It's their niche. Some are lost or confused about what we are doing and don't know how to get unlost - - - there is a lack of understanding. Some are rebelling and will not do any work, no matter what.

What both groups have in common, the workers and the non-workers, is great distraction. They miss instruction because they love to visit with each other, poke each other in the side, pass notes, text, look at e-mails. They are very social creatures who have a raft of activities that they do, while trying to hide that they are doing them.

What both groups also have in common is this: even though they distract each other, are disinterested, or would rather be somewhere else, the vast majority want to please me, me the teacher, so I can be pleased with them. True, there are some who just want to skate through, but many really want to make some sort of progress that they can be proud of, progress where I can praise their progress. This is true, strangely enough, even of those who refuse to work.

One student said, "You're supposed to like me, even though I am not supposed to show that I like you."

K-12 behavior. The high school student. It's a book's worth. I might be able to describe a few behaviors, but I am still learning causes and solutions.

5. Andrea was born in Jalisco. A Spanish-speaker, she learned English here in the States. What do U.S. high school and college teachers need to do know about the struggles of a student like Andrea? What issues does she face that teachers need to be aware of--and to help her overcome?

What doesn't change, whether someone is native-born or not, is the teacher's ability to assess the student's skill level and move the student forward from there. We need to recognize when students need more basic help than our class level offers and move the students back a step for remediation. We need to be able to remediate ELS issues in terms of the written language, to know what the common errors are and offer lessons and exercises and writing tasks that will improve the written language.

Regardless of the disciple we are teaching, we are all reading teachers. We do not have to become reading specialists, but we should know enough to do some reading first-aid in the classroom: how to skim a text by following the bold print; distinguishing between the main idea of a paragraph and an interesting example; and finding the proper reading speed, knowing that the speed changes with the difficulty of the text . . .

Let the students know that their struggle with the language is normal, and that the issues will resolve themselves with time and practice.

Expect a lot from the students, but be patient.

6. Why is Andrea a success story: a college student?

These qualities are not in order. In fact, many of them will be in play at any given time. 1.) She is curious. When she is reading, she will not only look up a word, she will investigate an entire subject. She studies with her lap top on, which allows her to follow the tangent learning moments that her education presents. 2.) She loves learning. It is an innate drive. She loves solving the puzzles that her education presents. She loves the satisfaction of having wrestled a concept to the ground. We could nickname her Bull Dog in terms of her chasing ideas into understanding. 3.) She is not afraid to work. She is not afraid to be alone in a room with her homework and become absorbed in study. 4.) She knows how to ask questions, process the answers, and have understanding flower. She takes great pleasure in the flowering, the mystery becoming known. 5.) She is able to surround herself with capable instructors and use them. Her desire to learn makes people want to help her more. 6.) She in nice, kind, sincere, and appreciative. 7.) She plows through barriers like an all-terrain four-wheel drive vehicle. 8.) She has confidence in her intelligence and her ability to learn. When her confidence is shaken, as all of our confidences get shaken, she finds a way to stabilize it and move forward. 9.) She does not let lack of surety keep her from moving forward with a project. 10.) She does all the work all the time. 11.) In doing all the work all the time, she tends to start the work early. 12.) By having a clear goal, she knows how to point her efforts in the right direction through all the mini-goals. 13.) She is a self-starter. 14.) She is competitive. When a math problem comes up and pushes her in the shoulder and says, "I bet you can't catch me," and speeds away, she's off running after it as fast as she can until she reaches out and grabs it by the collar and rolls with it to the ground, where they wrestle until she finally says, its arm behind its back, "Who can't catch who?"

No doubt there is more to say, but this is gets us off to a good start.

7. Tell us about your literary circle—and how and why you invite some former high school students, like Andrea, to join this circle.

What we have is nothing so formal as a literary circle. It's even less formal than a book club. It consists of nine writers at many levels, all with the urge, the desire, the drive, the need to write. We enjoy the pleasure of writing and the satisfaction of having written. We are not very old, maybe three months, but we have coalesced quite quickly. I have set it up to be as "leaderless" as possible, so we meet monthly like a floating crap game, moving from one house to the other. We rotate who will bring a writing lesson and a writing prompt. I step in as needed to give direction, but I keep that to a minimum. There is so much that we can learn from each other that it would be silly to be learning from one.

Why invite Andrea? Because she's got the spark. It's internal. It's in the eye. She's a writer. I thought being with other writers would be good for her development as a writer. It will help her develop her sense of poetics, her judgement about what makes solid writing. Something about fellowship seemed important also, the way deer hang out with other deer, buffalo hang out with other buffalo. It's nice to spend time with your own kind.

Why invite Andrea? Part of it is selfishness. I enjoy her stories, her story telling, her need to get the stories out. I didn't want to miss how she will develop next. Besides, there is a long history of my teachers welcoming me beyond the classroom in friendship, so inviting her into the group is not an unusual event.

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