Monday, May 21, 2012

Third Act

Long ago, my freshman English comp teacher told me if I decided to pursue teaching, I should look at a special focus. He didn't use the marketing term differential advantage, but that's what he was suggesting.

I'd written a paper on the American detective and Don Pendleton's Mack Bolan in particular, springboarding from ideas in The Great American Detectives edited by William Kittred and Steven M Krauzer. Their acknowledgements had led me also to Saint with a Gun: The Unlawful American Private Eye by William Ruehlmann. For my paper, all appropriate footnotes were copiously indicated and formatted in MLA style with the help of Liquid Paper.

A specialty such as detective fiction, my prof noted, might make me more viable in the halls of ivy. I cataloged that notion, and went off to be a writer, with day gigs as newspaper reporter, librarian and  corporate communications specialist and webmonkey.

Now I find myself rewinding that old conversation, as I contemplate whether to include Raymond Chandler's "Red Wind" in reading assignments for my new teaching job.

I'm taking a position teaching creative writing at Full Sail University in Orlando. My emphasis is mystery, suspense and horror.

I guess since freshman English, I've been subconsciously heeding that advice indirectly and shaping myself, impulsively and intuitively following interests and opportunities as they've come along.

I corresponded with Vance Bourjaily in the late eighties about pursuing an MFA at LSU, but that never came about. I told myself I'd try to sell a novel, and if that didn't work out then I'd pursue a higher degree. I sold Azarius, a mixture of the mystery tale and horror, and that afforded me a lot of opportunity to write and meet people and move in different directions.

I didn't know until it was mentioned at the AWP conference last year that Raymond Carver wanted to study with Bourjaily. Oops.

I was on vacation in Portland in 2007 when I learned of Goddard College's low residency MFA program. I was staying in a boutique hotel with Bogart photos in the hallways, and we went to a literary festival called Wordstock where I found the brochure. That finally led me to a graduate degree, and a fresh perspective on writing.

Now, how can I help but think about that Green Day tune "Good Riddance"? Since the Seinfeld finale, it has become a standard in the American songbook, pop culture edition, category: transition tunes.

"Time grabs you by the wrist, directs you where to go..." 

Roland Mann, who edited a lot of the comic book work I've done over the years, e-mailed me last September to tell me he'd taken a position at Full Sail. I think we both completed MFAs around the same time, but I was only in the thinking stages about whether or not I wanted to teach.

Then came word of an opportunity in their creative writing program to shape and teach a bachelor's course on mystery, suspense and horror.

It's an interesting challenge, an interesting opportunity to dissect and contemplate great genre works and pass on elements to students who've been struck with that infectious blood disease of all those cursed with the need to put pen to paper.

I could quote another line or two from Green Day, but that would be cliched.

I'll just note that at the moment it feels right, and it seems a better fit for me than my current day gig.
There are details to work out, but I start June 4 if all goes well.  


Rick said...

This post was a great read in itself, Sid!

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm looking forward to hearing how it goes, man.

Sidney said...

Thanks guys, I'm starting to look forward to it a lot as the game plan takes shape - both for the class and for getting to Orlando.

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