#Interview: ENVIE! A Magazine for the Literary Curious

Two Teachers Xeroxing Too Damn Much

ENVIE! A Magazine for the Literary Curious

Last fall, the editor of ENVIE! A Magazine for the Literary Curious reached out to me on Twitter for an interview because she had read the home page of my author’s website, and she was curious about the role that teaching Latin had played in my writing.

As it turned out, not much. I wrote one short story about my experience teaching high school Latin and English at York Academy in Shacklefords, Virginia: “King and Queen’s New Day.” The story is told from the point of view of the fictional headmaster, Leroy Littlefield, as he fights a losing battle to keep the place open after it loses its tax-exempt status for racial discrimination. My ENVIE! interview includes the scene in which Latin appears: Envie November_17_2020.0.52

Bonus Scene

Because I have a relevant photograph, I’m sharing the following scene as a bonus. Leroy Littlefield has just arrived late for a meeting of the board of trustees, of which “Jack” is president. Littlefield knows that the meeting will not go well.

Jack looked up as Littlefield entered the dining room, where the board members were huddled over a spread of papers and open ledger books. Littlefield hesitated as he saw that there was no empty chair for him at the table.

“Glad you could make it, Leroy,” Jack said. “Let me get you a chair.”

Littlefield nodded. “Sorry I’m late.” He stopped speaking, waiting for his chair, but the five board members were looking up at him expectantly, waiting for an excuse. “Paperwork,” he said. The chair Jack brought him looked like an antique, its legs as spindly as an old woman’s. Littlefield eased his weight onto it, part of him praying it wouldn’t break, another part of him hoping it would.

Jack had returned to his seat. “We was just going over the budget figures before you got here, Leroy. How you doing at keeping expenses down?”

“Best I can,” Littlefield said. He took a forty-nine-cent memo pad from the inside pocket of his sport coat and flipped it open. He briefly fished for a pen and, not finding one, gave up.

“You watching the Xerox machine?” Jack said. “The teachers are Xeroxing too much again. What the hell they Xeroxing anyway? They have textbooks.”

“The textbooks are a little old.”

“I don’t see what difference that makes,” Jack said. “Tell them teachers not to Xerox so damn much. It’s costing us a fortune.”

“Doin’ the best I can, Jack,” Littlefield said.

Full Disclosure

I have lost count of the number of rejections “King and Queen’s New Day” has garnered. I can’t give that story away!

153 thoughts on “#Interview: ENVIE! A Magazine for the Literary Curious

    1. I always wanted to learn Latin more for the sound than anything else. I was very glad to have gotten the opportunity when I went to college. It was a lot of fun to learn the Latin roots of so much of our language, including one of my favorite words, “defenestration.”

      Liked by 3 people

  1. This was a great interview, Liz, and I liked seeing how you tied this whole post together. I taught at a school for a short time (also in VA) where we had to use a code when making copies, and we were each given a very small monthly limit. Difficult when books and materials were so limited!

    Liked by 5 people

  2. Congratulations, Liz! Ha, ha, “xeroxing” brings back memories, not all good. Many glitches. Yes, Liz, do not give the story away. Requires the right souls to be receptive to your creative gems.❤️

    “Envie” opens up to quite the scene. Page 20, a little more my style. I enjoyed learning more about you, Liz. Latin was compulsory for my husband when he went to school. He still throws this one at me and I tease him, how life has changed since he went to school. Your excerpts left me with mixed emotions.

    Is Tony Ardizzone still alive? Your advice on how to be creative during these times gave me goosebumps. Your analogy using a field “…needs to life fallow…” resonated with me. Bookmarking this interview. Many gems! Thank you, Liz.❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Erica, for reading and your thoughtful comments. Mandatory foreign language study seems to be going the way of button-top shoes and the buggy whip. What I found particularly interesting in subsequent courses was the notion that language is not merely a reflection of reality; it actually shapes our reality. Yes, Tony Ardizzone is still alive. I’m so glad the writing advice resonated with you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. A fascinating topic. I will mull on this more. German was my first language and there are German words that do not translate into English. I hear this is true about most languages. I have been recently reading about babies and language. Of course, they pick up the language they hear. Now, the concept of how it shapes their reality. Hmmmm. I was hoping Tony Ardizzone would read your words. A great post, Liz!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a great interview, Liz. What is a failed novel? Surely every novel can be reworked if you don’t like parts of it? I like your description of Littlefield’s meeting/interrogation. You are very talented at describing scenes and making your reader feel sorry for your characters.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Robbie. For me, a failed novel is one that doesn’t work as a novel because either the novel was the wrong genre for the story or I wasn’t equipped through life experience or writing chops to pull it off.

      I’m glad you liked the board meeting/interrogation. I really felt for Littlefield. The headmaster he was based on genuinely cared about the kids, but he was in an impossible position. I remember so clearly an essay one of my students wrote for class about the headmaster coming to my classroom to make some announcement. The student described the sound of grit scraping under the headmaster’s shoe when he stepped on the metal threshold in such a way that it just broke my heart.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Life is full of adversity and sadness, Liz. That is one of the reasons I try to grab onto the good times and make the best of them. As I’ve got older and the world has become faster and more demanding, I find myself using writing as a means of meditation and soul cleansing. I understand your concept of a failed novel to mean that you reached to far out of your comfort zone at the time. Maybe, one day, you will revisit these and rewrite them with more experience and knowledge and they will no longer be failed.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. No, there isn’t. I was in a Zoom “salon” earlier this evening with a small group of artists and writers, and I was very surprised when two of the writers, both of whom are very accomplished, said they’ve given up on agents. There’s no pleasing them, and all they want is their idea of what they think will sell.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. That’s interesting. I got tired of their “we’re so busy–you have to accommodate us” attitude.

        I’ve heard excellent writers quit agents also, sometimes because they don’t get enough out of the relationship, and what they get the writers can pretty much do on their own. Times they are a’changin’.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Indeed, the times they are a’changin’. I could be all wrong, but I can’t help but think there is a glut of agents on the market. It will be interesting to see what publishing looks like in another five years.

          Like

  4. Wow! Great interview, Liz! I really enjoyed reading it and learning more about you. Thank you for sharing. And the story–I had a one-year teaching position at Rowan University (it was Glassboro State College in NJ). The copying situation was ridiculous there, and we had limits on the amount we could copy.

    I’m still friends with my daughters’ high school Latin teacher. Both daughters took Latin 7th-12th grades. They did so many fun activities and trips with her and Latin Club and JCL (Junior Classical League).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great interview and an interesting publication too, Liz! I do enjoy finding out how other authors work. It’s always pleasing to find a fellow ‘panster’, although I’m not sure I like the term itself. I love your phrase about seeing where the story wants to go. That’s the most exciting thing about writing for me. I’m often surprised by how my characters react in a given situation.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well, you gave part of the story away to us, and we enjoy it immensely. I hope an editor eventually realizes it’s a gem they must publish.

    Your interview was lovely. I always enjoy learning more about you and your writing process. And I applauded the line “Creativity is a process of mind and a state of being, not a product.”

    As always, the special person you are permeates your writing and makes you an exceptional writing role model. Thank you, Liz.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Loved the interview, the bonus scene and the photograph, Liz! I recently finished reading your debut novel, Telling Sonny and enthusiastically rushed out a review on Goodreads which I subsequently edited. All the wonderful comments in this thread are so well deserved! You’ve given me permission to love the creative process. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

                    1. You really are a good teacher. Just remember this: You cannot help people who can’t or won’t help themselves. And don’t waste your breath: one warning, and that’s it. So you can dedicate your time to other students who will be stars.

                      Liked by 1 person

  8. Terrific interview Liz and wonderful that Telling Sonny evolved from that single sheet of paper… I remember my boss having that same conversation about the number of photocopies that were being made lol… I didn’t like to tell him that his secretary had just run off 100 birthday invitations to his surprise 40th at the request of his wife. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hola Liz, Thank you for sharing the interesting interview. I am envious you learned Latin – so useful and fascinating. My schooling left a lot to be desired due to WWll and I didn’t take my A level Lit. course until I was 66! I’ve written a lot since then and love the fact that the right words can give such pleasure to so many.Writing is a necessary,mostly joyful, part of my every day.(I recall messy stencils and the xerox machine too…) Cheers.x

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The interview was great, Liz. I liked how you approached writing short stories. I surely can see the inspiration of your book is your family. The xeroxing is really funny. I remember changing grade level to teach and tried to set up a new classroom. I found tons of unused class sets of xeroxed papers from some workbook or something. What a waste of trees. Before I left the classroom to start my administrative job, The teachers had to enter their codes to turn on the machine, and the number of pages xeroxed will be recorded. The teachers couldn’t exceed the pages allowed to xerox.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much, Miriam! I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. Much of my fiction and poetry has been inspired by my family. The book I’m working on now is an exception, but it wouldn’t surprise me if my dad put in an unexpected appearance at some point.

      One of the great advantages of teaching exclusively online is no more Xeroxing!

      Like

  11. I enjoyed reading your interview in ENVIE magazine. You have had a very interesting journey! At the end of your interview you made a statement that resonated with me, “Creativity is a process of mind
    and a state of being, not a product.” I believe this is so important for writers to remember. It is like I say about my retirement pursuits, when it becomes work they it is time to stop and do something different.
    Dwight

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for your sharing your thoughts about the interview, Dwight! I’m glad my comment about creativity resonated with you. I enjoy how you live your creativity with your painting and poetry.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Dear Liz,
    I have had 9 years of Latin in my school and it was especially horrible as my mother was very good at Latin. I had to practise with her Latin grammar and reading Latin texts nearly every day. Anyway, I use this reply function to write about Bill Smoot’s “Love: A Story”. You asked me what I think about this novel. I really like it, as it is an easy style without any embellishment but quite reflected. He writes the story that he reflects on at the same time. That’s well done. It’s an easy to read story about stories. I really like this self-referential storytelling. It’s honest because it shows it deals with the reality of literature.
    Thank you very much for recommending this novel to me. It’s very much appreciated.
    All the best, have a happy week
    Klausbernd 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  13. P.S.
    You wouldn’t believe it while teaching at McGill I was living at a farm commune not far from Burlington in my last year in America. I wrote my first book about this experience, which became a seller and I became a professional author. I was inspired by Robert Houriet who wrote “Getting back together” who lived in this commune as well.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s McGill in Montreal? I worked with a faculty member, Faby Gagne, who was a social researcher there. I named the main character in my novel Telling Sonny after her because she is such a sweet and gentle soul. There were a few very small communes in the Franklin County when I was in high school. I remember going to Earth People’s Park with my dad looking for a friend of mind. (We didn’t find him.) Is your book available? I’d like to read it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dear Liz,
        no, my book with the title “Landkommunen in Nord-Amerika” is not available any more (for about 30 years now). Well, now I see it as a youthful mistake.
        I had won a post-graduate sholarship by the Canada Council for the McGill University in Montreal and later taught there in the German Dept. text linguistics.
        I had a great time in Montreal and Vermont.
        All the best
        Klausbernd 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  14. Congratulations to a funny interview, Liz! Learning Latin?? Oh my God, dont remember me on this. I dont know how i had managed this. As a special honor, we with the so -called Latinum at the university were allowed to learn Hebrew. For the others who had neither Latin nor Greek, a two-semester crash course in Latin was enough. Dont ask me at my rantings. 😉 Best wishes, Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Congrats on the Envie feature. I remember Latin being taught in my school. Lol. That makes me old! And I remember Xeroxing and mimeos and transparencies for the overhead projector. UGH. Back before computers were invented. Ha ha. Keep your story. Who knows when you’ll be inspired to try give it a go again. Happy Writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I took Latin for three years in high school. I liked the teacher, and he encouraged me to take his class because he knew I was so “into” the English language and writing. Although no Latin was offered in college, I do feel that I learned a lot from those h.s. Latin classes.
    Loved the photo here – gawd, I hated “Xeroxing.” And I hated that it was only the women in any business who were given the chore to “Xerox me this, will you?” ;-0

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I took Latin in college, the professor was quite taken aback that my classmates and I didn’t know how to diagram sentences. He had to give us a crash course in English grammar he could go any further–which of course was valuable in itself.

      For teachers, Xeroxing was a luxury–so much better than those horrible mimeograph stencils!

      I hope the men who gave women the Xeroxing chore didn’t refer to them collectively as “the girls” or individually as “my girl.” *shudder, cringe, wince*

      Like

  17. Great interview Liz. I knew you worked, but I always wondered what your ‘day job’ was. Now I know. 🙂 You offered some golden nuggets of advice, including allowing your brain a fallow rest period, or changing your creative outlet. I always like to know more about people I’ve come to admire, and today was one of those.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Great interview, Liz. I was particularly interested in your thoughts on the rejection of the mopping technique, leaning more toward an organic approach – as I understood it. I agree about the noise of the typewriter; perhaps it is a similar feeling to practising acoustic guitar at home…once I imagine that others can hear me through the walls (they probably can’t) my playing becomes dammed/damned.

    When you head out to the Portsmouth café do give me a shout. I would love to introduce you to my MA mentor, lecturer and, yes, hero, Jeremy Hooker. I haven’t seen him in over 15 years and I definitely owe him a coffee.

    Have a great weekend x

    ps: love the photo of the two teachers xeroxing too much!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Nick. I didn’t consciously reject the mopping the floor method of drafting. It just seemed to evolve. “Organic” is the right word for it. I preach about organic process at work on a regular basis; it probably annoys my colleagues to no end.

      Our Portsmouths are an ocean apart. Comparing to yours, my Portsmouth is a wee village. I just looked up Jeremy Hooker. Very impressive CV. I’ll have to check out his work.

      I’m fond of that photo, too. Shari and I were both English teachers who were hired to teach foreign language. Imposter Syndrome, anyone?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Jeremy was always very encouraging and a great support to me; introducing me to the work of Frances Bellerby, whom I adore, and reinforcing my notion of poetry of landscape. xx Have a lovely weekend.

        Liked by 1 person

  19. Liz, Latin is almost a lost language and although I only had two years of it it was the saving grace for my German! The grammar was explained so thoroughly so by the time we came to cases in German I was miles ahead! Do you still recall much of it? What was it like to read books in Latin? It was an interesting question posed by the magazine and gave you a chance to share the excellent extract from your story. Oh, I remember our teachers always xeroxing papers for lessons and getting in trouble for doing so! I hope you manage to place your story sometime and well done for persevering. Happy Writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Hi, Annika. Thank you very much for reading the interview! Taking Latin was the saving grace for me to learn English grammar. I’ve forgotten 99.9% of the Latin I’d learned. Many, many years have passed. Thank you for your encouragement to keep sending out the story. I appreciate it! Happy Writing to you as well!!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Congratulations on the interview! I especially enjoyed reading about your writing process–and you should try again with “The King and Queen’s New Day”–I’d love to read it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Cecelia! I think the writing process is just grand, and I will expound upon it at the least provocation. I’ll keep trying to find the right editor at the right time on the right day to take “King and Queen’s New Day.”

      Liked by 1 person

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