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Sabbatical Report–spring 2019

By Jjaramillo @johnpjaramillo
sabbatical report–spring 2019

John Paul Jaramillo's debut story collection The House of Order was named a 2013 Int'l Latino Book Award Finalist, and his most recent work Little Mocos is now available from Twelve Winters Press. In 2013 Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature listed Jaramillo as one of its Top 10 New Latino Authors to Watch and Read. He is currently a professor of composition and literature at Lincoln Land College-Springfield, Illinois. View all posts by john paul jaramillo


Name: John Paul Jaramillo
Rank: Professor, English
School: Arts and Humanities, Lincoln Land Community College
Duration of Sabbatical: One Semester, Spring, 2019

Brief Summary of Original Plan

The primary reasons for my proposed sabbatical were to develop and craft my own fiction and creative nonfiction, to research teaching methods for non-English-majors, and to attend a conference and workshop, such as the 2019 Santa Fe Writer's Lab and Black Lawrence Press' yearlong online fiction workshop.

Where Sabbatical Was Spent

Santa Fe Writer's Lab-Santa Fe, New Mexico

Colorado State University-Pueblo-Pueblo, Colorado

Lincoln Land Community College, Springfield, Illinois (In my office writing and working on my online workshop, attending meetings at LLCC with new Interim Dean.)

Summary of Sabbatical Activities

sabbatical report–spring 2019
To support my own writing as well as learn from advanced editors, I began the sabbatical working via email with the writer and editor Tracy DeBrincat on a new writing project, a novel entitled Carlos Montoya. This was an incredible opportunity for consultation and was a big part of my sabbatical's focus. We exchanged emails and worked, chapter by chapter, to improve the draft. It was humbling to act as a student again and gave me the perspective of being an online student, completing assignments, and defending rhetorical choices.

In January of 2019 I also met with Juan Morales at Colorado State University-Pueblo to discuss the independent publication he edits, Pilgrimage Magazine. This meeting follows years of trying to grow the creative writing offerings here at LLCC. The Lincoln Land Review I worked on nearly ten years ago was intended to be run as a student led publication but again the issue of a lack of English majors on campus was an issue. After speaking with Professor Morales to discuss his publication, I was informed about the organization and structure of his publication, the editorial board and reporting structure. I also learned the publication has regularly featured contests and guest judges to promote the site and publication. The readings are held off of the school's campus to promote within the community. It would be my hope to employ a structure similar to create a board of student and faculty editors to put together more of a magazine publication targeted to the community of Springfield and greater Illinois.

After the Spring semester, I participated in the 2019 Santa Fe Writer's Lab, which was

sabbatical report–spring 2019
held at the Carmelite Monastery in Santa Fe New Mexico. There I worked with two well-known writers and teachers of writing: Natalie Goldberg and Rob Wilder. Both represent wildly different styles of teaching. I had the opportunity to meet individually with them regarding my own manuscripts, as well as experience lectures and writing workshop hybrids focusing on other student's manuscripts. Each morning I attended the readings of the participating and visiting non-fiction and fiction writers. I attended early morning meditation and writing sessions as well.

The techniques taught were much different than the techniques I learned as an MFA

sabbatical report–spring 2019
student and student teacher in a competitive MFA program which stressed product over process in many ways. In Goldberg's workshops, we employed what Natalie Goldberg calls "the beginner's mind" or "shoshin," a concept she has taken from her nearly thirty years of Buddhist training and meditation. This was completely unique to the more academic and stress inducing atmosphere of most classrooms. The workshop was from the point of view of approaching the teaching of writing from a more beginner perspective. Rob Wilder has an MFA degree and teaches at a private school and Natalie Goldberg is a Buddhist living and working as a writer and not teaching in a college. And though they had very different perspectives on the teaching of writing, they complimented one another on the subject of making writing and journaling less intimidating. Wilder spoke very eloquently about his concerns with education as a product and schools as assembly lines. Natalie Goldberg also spoke on the subject of computer drafting versus the basics of diving deep into thoughts with pen and paper. One of the reasons I attended was to experience the dialogue on approaching writing as a beginner no matter the writer's experience or educational level.

sabbatical report–spring 2019
In the workshop, we focused on ordinary moments from our lives as teachers and writers and developed deep contemplative writings. In the spirit of Natalie Goldberg's books Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Withinand The True Secret of Writing the course involved sitting meditation and plenty of timed writing, as well as a book discussion and space for listening in small and large groups. I feel this practice gave me a great insight into how to work with non-English-major students, because the workshop taught techniques to invigorate student freewriting and early drafts without initial judgment critique. The emphasis was creating a safe and comfortable environment free from stress, and the meditation lessons we learned were about centering and easing one's self into the exercises and allowing the self to become relaxed and focused. The experience has taught me a new and more in-depth way to view classroom writing after meditative exercises to teach students to tap into more in-depth layers of thought and focus-we were taught exercises to assist student writers in overcoming writer anxiety, overcoming stress, increasing concentration and focus, and building of self-confidence and motivation. On a personal note, I found the workshop to be very influential to my own writing process and creative literacy and now I am committed to a daily routine of meditation and writing in my notebook.
sabbatical report–spring 2019

Departure from Original Plan

I was not accepted for the 2019 Tin House Summer Workshop, and I was unable to attend the 2018-2019 Fishtrap Writing and the West Nonfiction Online Workshop , due to a writer's cancellation and rescheduling. These changes caused me to attend the alternative Santa Fe Writer's Lab and work online with Back Lawrence Press editor Tracy DeBrincat.

Appraisal of Satisfaction/Dissatisfaction

sabbatical report–spring 2019
I am very satisfied with the outcome of my proposed sabbatical. In 2017 my second book Little Mocos was published by Twelve Winter's Press and reviewed well by several nationally recognized sources, specifically the Latino Book Review. Recently I have also had another great dream accomplished. A story from my Carlos Montoya manuscript I worked on with Tracy DeBrincat titled "poco loco" was selected by Glimmer Train Press as a Finalist for their Very Short Fiction Award. This means it made it to the top 2% of a thousand stories, and I believe it resulted from the sabbatical and time away from teaching.

I was also able to attend meetings after the Arts and Humanities re-organization to put EGL 150, EGL 151 and EGL 113 back on the schedule as face-to-face classes. This is after a very successful run of many summer sessions teaching EGL 150 online. I believe these face-to-face courses along are the first step to creating more interest in creative writing at Lincoln Land.

Additionally, as a result of attending Natalie Goldberg's workshop, I have begun a Saturday Meditation and Writing Workshop designed primarily for LLCC students, staff, and faculty, but open to all in the greater Springfield community. We meet in the library conference room and, to date, have enjoyed our twice-a-month sessions incorporating spirited practice with freewriting, meditation, and conversation. I am happy to say several students as well as fellow faculty have attended. I've also proposed a Community Education class to bring the knowledge I received at the Santa Fe Writer's Lab to Lincoln Land's Community. Though we do not have many English majors at Lincoln Land, my idea is to grow the creative writing community here at Lincoln Land's campus by meeting individually with student writers and meeting on Saturdays in the library and in the proposed community education course.

Benefits of Sabbatical
sabbatical report–spring 2019

A writer's credentials are always a bit different from teaching credentials. At times students joke that if a writer has not published or completed a manuscript then they simply teach instead of write. I believe the time allowed from the sabbatical leave has allowed me to sit and work and get back to my beginner's mind. I am able to bring more credibility to my creative writing classroom. I also bring much more experience working with editors and publishers that I now can pass on to my students. I have always given my students the benefit of my experience with writing and with writing programs as it relates to school, but now I bring the experience of working professionally under contract for a publisher and a promoter of books. I now have experience with the business and professional side of writing as well as the artistic and teaching aspect of writing. As mentioned in my sabbatical proposal, I feel it is important for my writing students to know their instructor has worked and published, utilizing similar rhetoric and aesthetics of writing.

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