Monday, July 8, 2013
Hmmm, I thought. This should be interesting.
And it was interesting—completely interesting—as Craig soon proved himself to be a gifted writer, an astute critic, a young man with wild stories to tell. He's terribly bright, this Craig Park—bracingly talented with language, tempo, detail. But he was also quick to admit how tricky memoir is, how hard it is to help a story (even a monstrously good one) transcend itself.
Some students come to us with talent and smarts to spare, and Craig was absolutely one of those. Others come with a willingness to say, I don't know this particular thing yet, but I'm willing to do what it takes to deepen my understanding—and range. Craig also proved himself to be one of those. That combination—in any person—is a powerful one, and as the semester wore on, I gained great respect for the intelligence and heart that Craig brought to his work. I pushed him, and he let me. That, too, counts for a lot.
Still, Craig's sentences—the long, the short, the lacerating, the gentle, the sometimes philosophical. I had nothing to do with them. Craig had that going on from the start.
I'm proud and pleased today to share Craig Park's first published essay, in the pages of the esteemed Pennsylvania Gazette. Great thanks to Trey Popp, who comes to my classroom each semester and makes room for these young writers.
Craig's essay begins like this, below, and carries forward here.
I stood by the highway on-ramp and waited for the next potential ride. I had changed out my selection of signs, and I was testing the effectiveness of a minimalist “South?” on a floppy cardboard rectangle. I hoped the one-word request achieved the necessary generality. People don’t tend to stop for hitchhikers demanding specific destinations, but my open-ended pleas struck me as inevitably effective given my proximity to a north-south highway. “Inevitably effective” might have been a bit too much confidence, though; after the fifth or sixth refusal, I started to worry that I wouldn’t make it out of Jersey by nightfall.To read the published Gazette essays of other students with whom I've had the privilege of sharing the classroom, please visit my Handling the Truth: On the Writing of Memoir page.