John Paul Jaramillo grew up in Southern Colorado but now lives, writes and teaches in Springfield, Illinois. He earned his MFA in creative writing (fiction) from Oregon State University and, currently, holds the position of Associate Professor of English in the Arts and Humanities Department of Lincoln Land Community College.
His work has appeared in the Acentos Review, the Copper Nickel Review as well as in the Antique Children Arts Journal; in Fogged Clarity Arts Journal, InDigest Magazine and Verdad Magazine; Polyphony Online, Paraphilia Magazine, Sleet Magazine and forthcoming in Palabra Magazine. (From author page on Goodreads).
You can find him online here:
1. Tell a little about yourself, what you do when you’re not writing, what are your aspirations for the future?
When I am not writing, I am teaching and grading. I have a position as an associate professor of English at Lincoln Land Community College here in Springfield, Illinois so I am a writer but also a lecturer and teacher. When I’m not writing I feel like I am spending time preparing lectures or course blogs. Everything I do is an active analysis and investigation of the written word. But I’m also interested in films and social issues. The representation of Latinos in film and in society is also important to me. I see myself writing creative nonfiction on Latino studies.
2. When and why did you start writing?
I started writing as an English major at Colorado State and then at the University of Southern Colorado. I wrote mostly failed poetry. I started writing short stories after reading many short stories and taking creative writing courses. I wanted to tell stories and express myself. I wanted to represent where I was from. I wanted to tell stories from around my old neighborhood and from around the neighborhoods of Southern Colorado.
3. Have any particular novels or writers influenced your writing?
Too many authors to mention. I guess I was first engaged with Jack Kerouac and Jack London, like many young and impressionable boys. Later I became obsessed with the form of writing and so later I embraced Denis Johnson and Junot Diaz. Amy Hempel and Joan Didion and their sense of minimalism became so important for my work. More importantly writers that were my teachers and mentors at Oregon State had such an effect on me. Specifically Jennifer Cornell and Tracy Daugherty. They are writers and teachers but also mentors.
4. Give us some back story about The House of Order, where and when did you write the stories?
Most of the stories come from my time in graduate school at Oregon State. I was exploring what kind of stories I wanted to tell and what kind of stories I could tell. Over the past five years I’ve tweaked and developed these stories into a greater story arc and trajectory. I like the idea of composite stories or greater story told in shorter stories.
5. What inspired your stories?
Most of these stories are family stories and represent my re-imagining family stories. I tell my stories not to write for therapy but I have to admit these stories represent my attempt to deal with harsh family truths that many folks deal with. I also wanted to feature Southern Colorado and some of my old haunts. The stories and places are pretty familiar to me.
6. Which was your favorite story to write?
My absolute favorite story of the collection has to be Juanita’s Boy. Form wise I think it captured the point of view of the children or the crew of foster boys I write about in a more powerful way. It represents a certain type of education your family or caregivers can inadvertently give you. How they also protect. Also the voices from family and around the old neighborhoods of mine from Southern Colorado spoke up in that story and I couldn’t contain them in other way but to get them down in the narrative, in just that way. Difficult to explain.
7. Are you working on any other projects at the moment?
I have so much material based around Southern Colorado. I have stories about my father’s side of the family and stories about my mother’s side. But I’m constantly developing the form. I have more stories about my father and my uncle. In the writing they are Relles and Neto. I’m hoping the material will shape up into a novel or another collection of composite stories. I feel that the form will dictate the stories. Many of the characters that feature in this book feature in many of my stories and as I tweak and re-draft material I won’t be content until I capture the most effective form or structure for the stories.
8. Any advice for other aspiring authors?
Read as much as possible but also put those influences away and write as much as possible. At some level a writer has to spend hours a day drafting rather than hours a day reading. I value reading and investigation of narrative but once those models inspire and assist our process I think it is important to labor with the drafts more than any other text. I think writers have to devote so much of their time to their desks and chairs to conduct the work of writing. I know many students that wait to be inspired rather than commit and re-commit to re-envisioning work. Folks perhaps don’t understand how difficult it can be.
9. Do you have any tricks to your trade, bottomless coffee, a magic pen, a special muse?
I am fortunate to work in a school and have the luxury of novels and short stories to be the majority of my work. I feel as a teacher and writer I am constantly learning new skills and assessing old ones. As much as I hated school and classrooms as a kid I believe I am remarkably fortunate to work in a building devoted to study of the written word. I often joke I am a better writer than teacher though I know for certain the teaching jobs I’ve held have taught me so much about rhetoric.
10. Which fictional character would you like to take to dinner and why?
I’ve always been most interested in writers and those who are obsessed with becoming writers. And so I would have to say the fictional characters who have a passion to experience and write would be my first choice. Kerouac’s Sal Paradise or perhaps Kerouac’s Karlo Marx from On the Road. In my thinking they represent youth that so desperately want to think and perceive and feel more passionately in order to write and record in more and more artful ways. I also think they represent that which is in us writer types that try to understand the failed or the uncontrolled aspects of human nature.
Thank you John Paul Jaramillo. Be sure to check out his short story collection!