The write stuff

The late Nigerian novelist and poet Chinua Achebe once said: “I believe myself that a good writer doesn’t really need to be told anything except to keep at it.” This year three Upper School English teachers earned the nod to ‘keep at it’ from publishers of three distinct and important works.

Joshua Ratner contributed the chapter titled “Paratexts” to the fall 2018 edition of Early American Studies—An Interdisciplinary Journal published by The McNeil Center for Early American Studies. “Paratexts are the parts of the books we skip in our zeal to get to the real stuff – the ‘body’ text,” Ratner writes in the opening sentence of his research-driven work. His affinity for the literary tool and its power to shape the reader’s experience soon becomes clear. (It was the focus of his doctoral thesis.) Ratner enlisted the support of students enrolled in his spring 2016 Philosophy and Literature class to read and critique his work prior to submitting it to the journal. “The juniors were giving each other peer feedback on drafts of their final essays, and that’s always unnerving for them at first,” he said. “So I admitted that it also makes me anxious to have folks read my drafts, and then they said they should read it, and well, they were very helpful.”

Fellow Friends English teacher Rob Travieso ’97, who teaches 10th grade English and the junior-senior elective Literature of the African Diaspora, will also see his work in print when the quarterly literary magazine Tin House publishes his short story, “Anvil,” in March 2019. Travieso shares that he writes “whenever I get the chance, over the summer, when my students are taking exams, during morning break, et cetera. It’s hard to continue to write fiction while teaching and raising kids, and in fact that’s a part of what the story is about.”

And finally, veteran English teacher Tom Buck is scheduled to complete a book project in late 2019 titled, Jack Williams and Boys’ Latin, a history of The Boys’ Latin School of Maryland’s Lake Avenue location. Says Buck, "People often ask me why a guy who's practically been a lifer at Friends is working on a history of BL. I worked there from 1979 to 1987, prior to coming to Friends, and successfully pitched the idea of writing the story of the school's survival trek from certain death in a then deteriorating section of West Baltimore in 1960 to a vacant mansion on Lake Avenue. I love to write, have done a ton of free lancing in my time, have taught writing at CCBC as well as at Friends, and would love to one day do an addendum to Friends for 200 Years."

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