First published in the Journal of Compressed Creative Arts | 28 March 2016
This is a big publication for me in so many ways. All my confidence as a writer of flash blooms from this prose poem. It’s also a perfect bridge between two of my loves: teaching and writing.
I have been a public high school teacher for going on fifteen years, and I thoroughly enjoy my students and learn so much from them. I see things in new ways and better ways because of them. I think that they, too, might say they see things in new and better ways because of me. And last year, three of them (eyes on you, Brad, Elise, and Caitlin…) sitting in the back corner of my period 7 AP Literature class decided to keep a running tab of things I said that made them laugh.
At the end of the year, they presented me with 4 single-spaced, typewritten pages. It was the best gift I ever got from students because 1. I had never had all those gems in one location before, and 2. they let me in on the laughs. I was reading it and saying, “Wait, I didn’t say THAT?” and then 3, 2, 1 laughing out loud because I remembered exactly when I did.
Being a classroom teacher requires stamina. It requires a schtick. You have your costume (I’m some sort of modified business hippie aesthetic) and your laughter and your funny stories you tell about your own life that may or may not be made up but they fit the lesson. And that list helped me see see my schtick from the student’s eyes: language-obsessed, tough-love, empathetic, abstract, random, quite a show. So this prose poem is a jacked up version of the me I’d like to see, if I were my own student. Just manic enough.
You can tell that this was my first ever fiction acceptance because of the biographical note at the bottom. My only publications before this were non-fiction/journalism. So while this is my first story accepted for publication (it was selected last summer), I have had over a dozen intervening publications (with more teed up.)
What makes this story super-special to me (in addition to forever reminding me of why I love working with teenagers) is that I wrote it in a workshop with Randall Brown, and he accepted it out of the workshop. For the duration of the class, I struggled to write flash the right way. I was stuck doing what I wanted to do instead of letting the story find its own way out through the language. Having an acceptance from Randall was affirming: a real confidence-builder.
By the way, of the seven stories I wrote with Randall, most every one has found a home, but this little prose poem is the one that, right now, gets to be Randall’s houseguest at his Journal of Compressed Creative Arts. That’s so cool. It’s such an honor. Many thanks to a great teacher and editor.
Please enjoy A Gust of Wind Blows In Through the Window.