Friday, June 12, 2015

Today I Got a Letter ...

... from my University creative writing professor. He's the sole connection I still have to my alma mater - and, while we didn't have a deep mentoring relationship, the stuff of which coming-of-age novels are made, his classes were excellent. And he remembers me, too, which is flattering.

Until he retired two years ago, we were in consistent, if sporadic, touch every couple of years, starting maybe ten years or so after I graduated. But this was the first time in a long time, perhaps owing to email changes along with emeritus-ness.

The letter wasn't just for me; it touches on a professorship in his and his wife's name, and came on University stationery. But he added a substantial note that was just for me - and, again and still, it's kind of wonderful to be remembered.

Even more, he reminded me of something I could hardly have forgotten. He used a story of mine in his classes for about twenty-five years.

I haven't seen the thing myself in that long. The characters are hazily relevant memories, but the course of the tale escapes me, apart from the two main details I remember the professor's commenting on long ago.

The story is the first piece I ever wrote in first person from a male point of view, and I recalled that during the very earliest stages of working on The Ax and the Vase, when I was grappling with that POV and leaving myself open to the possibility of changing that. It's also well before any attempt I ever made to write historical.

On the one hand, I'd love to reach out to my prof and see if I could get another copy of the story. Back then, we typed onto ditto forms, and the English department secretary probably had to make the copies - or the prof himself did. Ahhh, purple ditto sheets. You literally *had* to be there, kids. Mimeographs gave our schools a very subtle and particular perfume for decades before digitality.

It's a curious thing, knowing my most embryonic work has been read by hundreds of students for all these years. It's hard to really feel that, to know it. Belief is a trick; while I accept the literal (har) facts, conception of doesn't really follow. I can hardly conceive of twenty year olds at all anymore, never mind relate to what I was as one myself, or - failing to remember the work very well - what effect anything I wrote back then could possibly have in all the ensuing years, an entire generation away now, since I put it down.

Image: Google image search
Labeled for re-use

I wonder whether any of you has a nimbler imagination than mine ...

And who's still in touch with a former teacher ... ?

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