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A Double Life

Robert L. Root Jr.

Two scenes from the beginning of my writing life…

I am eight years old and have just seen Superman and the Mole Men at a matinee at the Rialto Theater with my best friend and neighbor, Bobby Hall. Plodding and juryrigged though its action sequences and special effects may be (especially compared to the computer-generated imagery of films a half century later), my imagination spirals outward from the movie, accelerates as we hurry along the back streets leading to home, and strikes sparks with the archetypes and stereotypes of popular culture in which I am steeped: old Flash Gordon serials, adventure shows like The Shadowand The Green Hornet on radio, action strips in newspaper comics and comic books, B westerns and movie series like Tarzan and Bomba the Jungle Boy. I know the geographies of Mongo, Krypton, Smallville, and Metropolis, the ape vocabulary Tarzan uses to identify animals (Numa the lion, Sheetah the leopard, Histah the snake), the names of all the cowboy heroes’ horses (Trigger, Topper, Silver, Champion, Tony), the distinguishing powers and secret identities of Captain Marvel, Superman, the Lone Ranger and the Ghost Rider. My favorite toys are the tiny cavalry and Indian figures of my tin-walled Fort Apache set and the knights and yeomen of my metal medieval castle. The landscapes of my imagination are elastic and exotic and densely populated with the clones and mutations of my culture.

When Bobby and I reach my house, we are already bubbling over with creativity. No one else is at home, and impulsively we use a screwdriver to pry open the locked lid of my mother’s portable Royal typewriter, then take turns typing stories. I don’t understand anything about publishing but I have the notion that somehow typing and printing are the same thing-clearly books aren’t written by hand-and that what we are doing is essentially how the authors of word books create their publications.

We type letter by letter. I must have seen my mother typing in order to know how the typewriter works, but, as when she plays piano, her fingers move across the keyboard with dazzling, almost invisible speed; for Bobby and for me the intervals between the thwack of one key on paper and the next is frustratingly long. In our system hunting takes more time than pecking; sometimes we need to help each other find seldom used keys. But we keep at it for hours, writing half a dozen stories apiece.

My stories are each approximately half a dozen sentences long, surely little more than that. Each is the barest summary of a complicated and hyperactive plot, fully visualized in my mind like a Commander Cody episode-breathless chases, hair’s-breadth escapes, nick-of-time rescues, actions motivated by the need for actions in order for there to be a story-but completely undeveloped. I create the Tiger Planet, where Tiger Boy fights the evil Black Tigers to save the Red Tigers and the Yellow Tigers from the threat of world domination. My inspiration comes from the varied races of the planet Mongo and the special properties of Kryptonite and the need for a great costume for my hero. My sentences are all declarative, subject-verb-object, typed so slowly that there are few mistakes in grammar or spelling (neither of us knows a way to correct mistakes on a typewriter anyway), only inconsistencies in the darkness of the letters because of the varying strength with which we hit the keys.

Although I have vague memories of monotonously forming letters on lined paper in handwriting drills, I have no idea how I learned to write. For the rest of my life, regardless of what happened before we spent that afternoon typing our stories of heroic adventure, I will think of this as the day I became a writer.

Second scene: Somehow we escape punishment for forcing the lock on the typewriter case and my mother encourages me to keep on writing. A few weeks or perhaps months after those first stories, I am typing a story about a golden palomino. Just as I seem always to have been a writer, I seem always to have been a reader. In the summer, when the public library encouraged children to measure milestones on a trip around the solar system or a journey through an enchanted kingdom by the number of books checked out and read, my friends and I each took out half a dozen books and hurried outside to read one or two that afternoon. We sit in the sunshine on the cement steps of the library, too eager to be reading to wait until we get home. High on my list of library readings are books about wild horses and wild dogs-the Black Stallion and Island Stallion series by Walter Farley, the Golden Stallion books by Rutherford Montgomery, Buckskin and Silver and Mustang by Thomas Hinkle, Baree, Son of Kazan by James Oliver Curwood, White Fang by Jack London. My palomino story is no doubt drawn in some way from those inspirations as well as from television images of Roy Rogers’s galloping Trigger. I type slowly but my thoughts are galloping too, far ahead of my stumbling fingers. Trying to create error-free print-like prose, I generate a problematic sentence where the syntax results more from the mechanics of typing than from the rules of language.

Intending to write a sentence like “He leapt onto the back of the palomino and galloped swiftly away” I somehow leave out a phrase and only recognize the omission towards the end of the sentence. I can repair it in one of three ways: by taking out the whole page and typing it over (which, I know already from past experience, can produce more mistakes and mess up what had been error-free); by rolling the sheet of paper up a few lines and trying to erase and replace (which usually smudges and often tears the paper); by trying to amend the syntax of the sentence as it stands before I complete typing it (which means being able to continue telling the story right away). I choose the third option and simply tack the missing phrase onto the end of the sentence, so that it reads, “He leapt onto the back and galloped swiftly away of the palomino.” When my usually approving mother reads the story, she tells me she likes it, but points out that, in that particular sentence, I am not really using the English language in a way it should be used. It will be the only lesson in grammar fundamentals that I will recall receiving from any one.

 

ii.

Two scenes from the beginning of my teaching life-

I am in the course “Methods and Materials for the English Teacher” at a college that began as a “normal school” (our school paper, The Lamron, is “Normal” spelled backwards) and has only recently opened its doors to non-teaching liberal arts students. After twelve weeks studying the teaching of literature and writing our major unit on lessons about a literary work, we are studying the teaching of grammar for two weeks before a review of the course and the final exam. Our professor is lecturing on gerunds, the second or third day we have spent on this topic. He illustrates the form by scribbling “running, jumping, skipping” on the blackboard. The first letter of each word is barely legible and the rest of each word is indecipherable, squiggly lines interrupted by dips for the base of the p and concluding with a dip for the g. I spell well, use the English language with some facility and occasional grace, violate few rules of standard usage even inadvertently. Perhaps because my instincts about syntax and usage are sound, I have difficulty memorizing rules and no lesson in them stays with me. What I am learning about usage in my methods class is what I already practice and the gerund examples (though not the gerund rules) will be the only part of the grammar unit that will stick in my memory. The next semester, when I go out student teaching, my lessons for tenth graders will center entirely on literature and I will receive honors for my teaching. The question of grammar will never come up. I receive my teaching certificate thinking that teaching English means teaching mostly literature and occasionally grammar; I have never heard the term “composition” and assume you teach writing by teaching grammar.

The second scene: I am a high school English teacher in a small rural district on Lake Ontario, generally respected by my peers for being energetic and inventive about the teaching of literary works. I don’t have to teach lessons on grammar-my students are juniors and seniors, and grammar officially comes earlier in the curriculum. To the extent that I teach writing, I do it simply by identifying and correcting errors on work handed in. Some students, particularly in the English Regents classes (the college-bound), write clearly and correctly most of the time; some students, particularly in the English non-Regents classes (the vocational ed students majoring in shop and secretarial classes), write incoherently and incorrectly. I praise the good students and point out their minor errors; I encourage the poor students and copyedit their major and minor errors alike. I focus on the literature they read and often ask them to imitate the literary forms of the material in the textbook. I am regarded as a good teacher.

In my final year of high school teaching, just before I go on to graduate school, we change the English curriculum at the high school and bring in a “non-graded phase elective” program, one where courses are categorized by ability levels and workload and are more or less self-selected by students rather than prescribed by grade level and choice of degree. To help me teach a section of Vocational English, essentially a grammar course for voc ed students to prepare them for job applications and low-level workplace literacy, the school buys a new textbook, Business English, and installs an overhead projector and screen in my classroom so that I can use the transparencies supplied by the publisher and keyed to the text.

I am not terribly confident about my ability to teach this course. Although I wrote well, according to my college instructors, and attained some notoriety as a writer in my undergraduate days (a satirical column, sensitive poetry, gloomy plays and short stories), I don’t really know the “rules of grammar” well enough to recite any of them (except for the one about “i” before “e” except after “c”) and I can’t always tell what is wrong with a flagrant example of ungrammaticality when I see it displayed in the textbook. In this course I often feel like Ferdinand Waldo DeMaara, Tony Curtis’s character in The Great Imposter, who faked teaching Latin by reading the textbook the day before the students did; not only do I read the lessons but I also check my answers against the exercise answer key in the teacher’s manual, to be certain I will be right. Even then I don’t always know why I am right or wrong.

So I drill the students in grammar the way my high school teachers drilled me, the way Herr Karp drilled us in German class by going around the room, up and down the rows, asking us each in turn to translate a sentence on the board or in the text or conjugate a verb. I take my pointer in my hand and point at the sentences needing correction projected on the screen and ask the students, each in turn, to tell me what is wrong or how to correct the sentence or why this error in comma use is different from the previous error in comma use.

It is a numbing, monotonous experience for us both. The part of me that attends to the class and not to the lesson can see that students shut down after their turn passes, the students in immediate danger of being called upon give only cursory attention to the drill, and the ones yet to be called on are unable to feign even the slightest interest in the proceedings until their potential embarrassment is imminent. Then one day I realize that the students aren’t the only ones who tune out-I too am thinking of something entirely different, imagining my weekend or planning hobby activity after school or previewing a lit lesson for a different class, rather than paying attention to the place I am pointing, the questions I am asking, the answers I am receiving. I am instructing on automatic pilot and none of us care whether the answers are right or wrong-the students simply want their turns to be over and I simply want to get through the exercise. I will later say that I have an out-of-body experience (I am only partly kidding). I rise above the room to observe the students disengage before and after spurts of indifferent attention and to watch myself drone on, never missing a beat with my pointer or faltering in my declarations of wrong and right. I discover below me a pedantic automaton who would be startled and stumped if a student actually asked a question about any of this.

The irony is, of course, that I am drilling them about grammar to make them better writers in the workplace because they won’t be going on to college. Any writing they actually do in the course makes them pretend that they are applying for jobs or filling out applications or preparing for interviews. None of us, myself included, has any inkling of how these tedious grammatical exercises will prepare them to do those things, but the drills take up most of our class time. Out-of-body experience or not, it is a scene that will haunt me throughout my teaching, that I will vow never to repeat with students again.

 

iii.

 

In a way, those of us who both write and teach lead double lives, and often they are counterproductive. I have known writers who taught only because they couldn’t make a living at writing; their best students are usually the preternaturally “gifted” creative writers already driven by the same rare and spooky sense of themselves as artists and creatures of destiny that animates their teachers. These are teachers who find it hard to connect to the “giftless,” the majority of students who have an immunity to the aesthetic and who think of “writers” as perhaps blessed, perhaps merely mutant, but in any case another and alien life form. These teachers let their teaching slide when it gets in the way of their writing, which is their first priority. They are writers first, teachers second (or, in worst cases, last), and grant themselves a special dispensation to neglect the world when the muse descends.

I have also known teachers who put their writing on the back burner through the academic year, hoping the muse will be available in the summer or over breaks between and during semesters. Their energy goes into their teaching, into their marginal remarks and formative comments and conferencing on multiple drafts, into helping the driven to keep their balance and the reluctant to take risks. They are often rueful, regretful, persistently aware of lost time, self-deluding about the potential for “getting back to their own work.”

Inevitably, most writer/teachers and teacher/writers see themselves as poets or fictionists; critics and scholars and researchers have the same conflicts but don’t think of themselves as “writers,” especially if their writing is intended for English Journal or Voices from the Middle or Philological Quarterly or PMLA. Although college and university teachers are usually required to publish scholarly or creative work for tenure and promotion, the majority of teachers write little or nothing beyond lesson plans, classroom activities and assignments, exams, and reports on students and curriculum.

At one time or another I have felt the conflicts of being a writer living a teaching life and a teacher living a writing life. Most of the time I feel balanced enough that I don’t know whether to describe myself as a writer/teacher or as a teacher/writer. Luckily, I not only write myself but also teach students to write. As long as its ambiguity is foregrounded, accepted as meaning two things simultaneously (a teacher who writes, a teacher who teaches writing), the term “writing teacher” seems an accurate description of who I am.

 

iv.

 

This is what a writer knows about writing:

Writing comes out of the writer.

The hardest writing is the writing about things you know nothing about. Sometimes the things you know nothing about include yourself and your attitudes and opinions

The most rewarding writing is the writing that takes you to a place you haven’t been before in your understanding, your knowledge, your comprehension. Much of the time the place you haven’t been before is inside yourself.

There isn’t only one way to write anything, let alone only one way to write everything. Most of the time new writing requires new strategies or revisions to old ones.

The writer writes by ear, by instinct, by intuition, not by rote, by rule, by requirement. Like riding a bicycle, writing takes practice in order to develop a sense of balance. Like tuning a guitar, writing takes repetition in order to hear when a work is in tune.

Not everything you write will be as good as the best thing you could write. Even record-breaking home-run hitters strike out; even gold-medalist skaters fall down.

Writing is a process. Sometimes even the most experienced writers forget to give themselves room to experience the process.

Most of the time meaning doesn’t emerge until the end of the process.

*                      *                      *

This is what a teacher knows about teaching:

The learning is what happens within the learner.

The hardest learning is the learning about things you have no means of connecting with. Some scaffolding needs to be in place, some brace or backstop against which to gain some purchase or leverage. Often teachers need to know what the students already know before they can help students learn what the teacher wants them to know; the teaching begins where the student’s prior learning ends.

The most rewarding learning is the learning you arrive at yourself. It’s the kind of learning where you make the connections, the little leaps into unknown terrain, the bursts of discovery that expand your understanding, your awareness. The teacher leads you to the threshold but you have to go through the doorway yourself and you’re the one in charge of turning on the lights when you get inside.

The least rewarding learning is the learning you do under duress, mechanically, by rote-cramming all the technical terms and classifications of fauna to pass a botany exam; memorizing “If” by Rudyard Kipling in order to successfully recite it aloud in class as one of thirty recitations of the same poem; memorizing the rules for using commas in a handbook of usage-the learning that has no connection to your life or your needs. When you are taught to jump through hoops-bullied into mastery-in order to earn a release from drudgery, you may (at least temporarily) achieve proficiency in hoop-jumping but you will also be trained to disassociate your learning from your life.

There isn’t only one way to learn and therefore there isn’t only one way to teach, especially if the goal is to teach the learner rather than the subject. Teaching the learner is interactive, dialogic; teaching the subject is presentational, monologic.

Not every student will accept your teaching, will agree to learn your subject. The teacher’s job is making the learning possible, attainable, available to those willing to make the effort. Not all will make the effort. You can lead students to a classroom but no one can make them think.

Learning is a process. Teachers shouldn’t be discouraged by where the process begins-it begins wherever the learner is; they shouldn’t be discouraged by where the process ends up-it doesn’t necessarily end with the course or the class. Past learning and present learning are scaffolding for future learning-the process doesn’t fulfill itself and then remain static at age eighteen or age twenty-two or age thirty-five.
Most of the time learning isn’t the end of the process but a passage through the process. You can only stop the process by refusing to learn anymore.

 

v.

 

Being simultaneously and equally a writer who teaches and a teacher who writes has determined the course of my teaching over the decades. Except for linguistics, I have taught the full range of courses in university English: I have taught composition in a variety of forms-freshman comp, advanced comp, technical and professional writing, graduate composition; I have taught literature and the literary dimensions of film; I have taught classical rhetoric and the rhetoric of media; I have taught the teaching of writing and the forms of literacy; I have taught creative writing in nonfiction; I have taught editing. In a field where people are generally hired for specializations that keep them tightly focused on a limited range of courses-from Beowulf to The Canterbury Tales, for example, or twentieth century American fiction through World War II-my list of courses makes me seem like, in Frost’s term, “someone who lived for turning to fresh tasks.”

The (sometimes invisible) link among these courses has been an interest in how texts of all kinds are composed. If you are a specialist in composition, particularly if you are one of my generation of comp specialists, you are automatically a specialist in teaching and learning. It may now be possible to be a comp theorist who has no interest or expertise in student composing, just as it is possible to be a lit theorist who has no interest or expertise in student reading, but if you spend any time helping students wrestle with their texts, you realize you have to help them with the processes by which they compose them. If you’re a writer as well, you realize that their difficulties are different from yours only in degree of intensity. The memoirist Kim Barnes once observed, “Sometimes when I think, ‘Oh, what I really want to do is just write, not teach,’ I fear that I would lose those little doors into re-awareness of what I’m about. I mean, I can be struggling at home with a scene or a section or a question that I have with what I’m writing, a memoir. I can’t get past the problem, I can’t get the sentences down, and I’ll go in and talk to my workshop and read an essay and say something to that student author that is the answer to my own problem. And it will just dawn on me: Of course.” The situation reverses itself as well. When you look at all the drafts of your various projects and notice how much of the most labor-intensive revision comes in the first half of the paper, you know enough to expect the student writer to get bogged down in the early pages, in the wheel-spinning and throat-clearing that accompanies the effort to get some traction on the composing.

But teaching writing from the writer’s perspective can have repercussions beyond the composition classroom. When I was the Director of Composition at my university, I taught only two composition classes a semester and spent the rest of my time supervising and training graduate assistants who taught freshman comp. I was fully immersed in composing, not only in the classroom-partly in order to write short papers under the pressure of a deadline, just like my students, I was also writing weekly essays for broadcast on the radio. I focused all my energy on what the students and I were writing, the ways the g.a.’s and I could help their writing get started and end up better than it began. When my final term as comp director was over, I added a class on literature and film to my teaching schedule and discovered, midway through the planning, that I was approaching the lit course differently than I approached my comp course. I’d generated my teaching outline by deciding on texts to be read and films to be viewed and discussions and mini-lectures to be held and then, with my schedule in place, remembered that I would have to make some assignments in order to grade the students in the course. Somehow in the days that followed I began to realize what a contrast my plans for the lit/film course were compared to my plans for my composition course. Granted, the one course was “about” writing and the other was “about” literature and film, but why did that mean the students in the comp course were asked to be active about their learning and the students in the lit course required to be passive about it?

I went back to the material I’d put together on the lit/film course and started from the beginning again, changing it from a course in teacher-centered recital of information about the topic into a course in student-centered/teacher-guided engagement with the subject matter. I added impromptu writing for discovery, a journal of eighteen teacher-generated entries and seven student-generated entries and composed quick-response exit slips for the end of each class; I added to the comparative analysis paper (the traditional literary interpretation assignment) an optional creative assignment in which students could draft a screenplay adapting course fiction or a novelization adapting course films-a chance to learn as a participant in literature and film rather than as a spectator. All this writing as learning and writing as communication prepared the students for the final exam, in which they’d have a chance to pull their experience of the course together. The requirements in the course, in other words, led the students through a process of growing more articulate and more informed about the subject matter of the course. The students who doggedly completed all the requirements routinely did well in the course, wrote better, thought in more sophisticated and critical ways.

If I had not been a writer myself, if I had not been a composition teacher, I might have stuck to the methods that my students and I were long familiar with, that I was comfortable with as a practiced classroom performer, the methods that kept the focus of the course on what I knew instead of onhow my students might learn. One of the reasons I have taught so many different courses is my own love of learning. When I teach a course I haven’t taught before, and while the course is in progress, I learn a great deal about the subject by interacting with my students, serving as their scout, figuring out ways for them to learn more, gaining from their discoveries.

Slowly I have realized that much of the writing students are routinely assigned has little to do with them or their goals or their opportunities in the larger world outside the classroom. If each paper is unique, requiring shifts in strategies according to topic and audience requirements and the student doing the writing, then teaching “composition-off- the-rack,” “one-size-fits-all” themes and modes misrepresents the goals of composition courses and the abilities of the student. More and more I ask myself what kinds of assignments would let students write as if they wanted to, as if they could learn from what they write and how they write it, as if the assignment fit the students’ needs more than (or at least as much as) it fit the teacher’s desire for easy and uniform measurement of class performance.

All composition teaching comes back to the writer’s perspective, to figuring out ways to help the writer do the writing. This is a combination of the scholar’s way of knowing about composing and the practitioner’s way of knowing about composing, a convergence of two approaches which together confirm the most important thing to know about writing-it has to come out of the writer. By writing as much as I have written, including much that is unpublished, I’ve learned that trying to fit my ideas or content into a prefabricated mold is more difficult and less often true to the material than trying to find a shape that accommodates the material. By teaching as much as I have taught, including composition, literature, media, and methods courses, I’ve learned that my students’ writing can be derailed by lack of topic knowledge, lack of genre knowledge, lack of perspective or critical distance or rhetorical awareness. So I’ve learned to trust my own discovery drafts and read their hints without committing to their confusions and I’ve learned to recognize the exploratory nature of my students’ writing, particularly in the early pages of their works-in-progress, and the need they will have to harmonize the whole.

I also learn, from my own experience and from that of my students, that writers constantly need to relearn what they may already know-that every new work-in-progress demands new strategies for discovery and fleshing out and design; that there’s no master lesson here that locks success into an assembly line. If I, after 250 radio essays, dozens of articles, presentations, and reviews, and nearly a dozen books, can’t simply repeat whatever it was I did last time-can’t cruise through composing on automatic pilot, can’t get it right the first time-why would I demand, require, expect my students to do these things? Some of my colleagues resist the notion of coaching students through every assignment, allowing them to revise and revise again, but if no one helps them to see where their writing needs to go-where it can go-how will they learn not to give up too soon, not to settle for easy first-and-final drafts, not to walk away from the writing before it’s done the writer’s job?

 

vi.

 

Montage of moments from average days in my double life:

Most often the alarm goes off at 5:15 a.m. and by 5:30 or 5:45 my wife and I, each with a cup of coffee near to hand, are both working, she generally on articles and research projects, me generally on some short-form or long-term creative-nonfiction-in-progress. This, we have agreed, is the time of day we work on “our writing,” the writing we do for ourselves, each according to his or her own bent. Except for infrequent moments of pedagogical desperation, as often happens around finals week each semester, the rule is: no grading, no class preparation, no committee work. It’s an old writer’s trick, to walk away from work-in-progress in order to let the subconscious work on it in the interval between composing sessions, but nonetheless to construct it in recursive increments. You begin pumping the water after the well has been replenished overnight, never letting the well run entirely dry, never staying away from the work so long you have to begin again from scratch, from a standstill. A project in motion tends to stay in motion; a project at rest tends to stay at rest. We both are likely to have more than one work in progress, so that there are few mornings when we have no momentum to sustain us, when we need to jumpstart our imaginative or intellectual engines rather than simply shift them out of neutral.

Around 7 o’clock we have breakfast and then set in motion the routines of getting ready for the day outside the house. I hope for one weekday at least where I can stay at home and continue to write rather than drive the 20 miles to the office, but most days I am at the university between 10 and 10:30, to give myself three hours or more for office hours and course preparation, rereading assigned texts, preparing handouts, reviewing activities or materials for that day’s classes. I try not to leave on Friday without Monday’s and Tuesday’s classes ready on the shelf. I post all my course materials except exams on my website, reducing the number of photocopies given out in class and making them continually accessible. Part of my office routine is to work online to update and revise assignments, journal entries, bibliographies, and course outlines. Students who don’t talk to me before or after class tend to email me with questions or concerns and part of my daily routine is answering their emails.

Sometimes a student drops in to ask advice about work in progress. Would I look at this draft of her screenplay or novelization assignment and see if she’s on the right track? Would I tell him if his journal entries are thoughtful and thorough enough? I coach each student on strategies and missteps, suggest alternate approaches, point out places on the website where successful examples are posted.

An independent study student sends me an attachment by email, a journal entry or a draft of an essay. Nowadays my independent studies are usually in creative nonfiction. I open the attachment, read it through, insert remarks and comments in boldface and brackets, and reply with the edited text attached.

I turn to a section of someone’s thesis, probably one I’m directing if I’m reading early drafts. Whether the thesis is a work of creative nonfiction or a pedagogical study in composition or a critical study of literary nonfiction or an editing project, I’m reading a work in progress, trying to report back on where it seems to be going, offering suggestions for getting there. It’s a student’s voyage of discovery on which I am privileged to be an intimate passenger. One student told me, “If I weren’t writing this, I wouldn’t know any of it. That’s what I love about creative nonfiction-everything that I discover as I do it.”

I know about the discovery, of course, because that’s what happens to me when I write, but I appreciate learning that one of my students has caught on to it too. But it’s only in the course of my writing this that I realize how much all of my courses-lit, comp, pedagogy, media, nonfiction-are designed around the effort to help students function like writers, learning through discovery, discovering through writing, creating the scaffolding from which they build more durable structures. This connection between my writing life and my teaching life is one of the things I learned by drafting this article.
At the end of the day, often after an evening class, I drive home listening to classical music on the radio, watching for deer, raccoons, and opossums crossing the road, thinking about the day’s work. Sometime before I reach the city where I live, I try to think about what I’ll be working on in the morning. I want to set that backburner on “simmer” so that it won’t take long to heat up when I come downstairs tomorrow.

It’s not always easy to keep the halves of my double life in balance, but for a long time now each has enriched the other. My writing has been better for my having been a teacher; my teaching has been better for my having been a writer.

Notes

Root, Robert L., Jr. “Interview with Kim Barnes,” Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction. 2:1 (Spring 2000): 170-190.

“A Double Life” originally appeared in the journal Writing on the Edge.

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