Jeff Eisenbrey lives in a characterless suburb of Seattle where he has been teaching writing, history and its fictions for two decades. Poetry has pursued him tirelessly for so long that he has finally begun submitting -to which he says, “This feels right.” Between frequent bouts of poetry he writes YA historical fiction and memoir. Jeff’s novel, Blade and Chain hits the shelves in the summer of 2014. His poetry and nonfiction work have been published by The Write Room, Limn Literary Arts, The Pitkin Review, and is forthcoming in Painted Bride Quarterly. Jeff earned his MFA in fiction at Goddard College. This, he tells us, also felt right.
My goal as a mentor is to encourage ambitious, daring work that speaks from that deepest place of an artist’s needs and vision.
The most obvious face of the writer’s craft is the task of putting words on the page. I support that in any way I can –suggesting and sharing reading, talking a writer down from the ledge, offering advice and perspective on practice, suggesting one approach or another to getting unstuck, or helping to consider a crossroads. We become better writers chiefly by writing, revising, cutting, writing, revising, cutting. There are no shortcuts.
For me, teaching writing is two conversations: one with the text, the other with the writer. Like all readers, I respond to a piece of work on a personal level, as one audience. The writer wants to know how her or his work is received, what’s working, and what can be improved. My first task is to provide that. The work itself lives in a large context of its genre, which includes published literature and the potential audience. My job to understand its place and to share my understanding when it’s helpful to do so.
As we begin the second conversation it’s important to remember that any reader is just one individual whose experience allows a limited view of the work. I want to know –and to help a writer clarify for herself- what the writer wants the work to accomplish. My own tastes cannot be the final measure. As my own mentor told me, “Your writing has to work for you.” It bears repeating that my goal as a mentor is to encourage ambitious, daring work that speaks from that deepest place of an artist’s needs and vision.