NaNoWriMo Consultant: Jon Chopan

Pulled From the RiverWelcome to National Novel Writing Month, 2015! We’re celebrating all month long with a sale on some of our favorite novels, daily discussions with Black Lawrence Press novelists on craft and writing habits, and this–a consultation program for those of you with in-progress novels that could use an expert eye. Today, we’d like to introduce to you one of our NaNoWriMo consultants, Jonathan Chopan, author of the memoir-novel hybrid Pulled from the River.

Michael Martone has said that “Jon Chopan is the Chuck Close of fiction, synthesizing…startled struck renderings of the hyper-real with the pins and needles pixilation of the minutely abstract.”

Lee Martin has said, “Jon Chopan is a writer with moxie and heart. He may tell us not to believe everything we read, but, thanks to his veracity and precision, we do. We most certainly do.”

And Stephen Kuusisto has said, “Jon Chopan’s writing is artful, smart, poetic, and beautiful. His dialogue and scenic description are fabulous. Chopan’s novel moves gracefully from more extended narrative to lyricism and back again, making this book both vivid and necessary.”

Finally, we’d like Jon to introduce himself. If you feel that Jon would be the right reader for your novel, you can sign up here. The price for a full read and critique is $500 and Jon is able to take up to five manuscripts. All critiques will be completed by December 31, 2015.

Jonathan Chopan’s Statement of Purpose

JonChopanElie Wiesel wrote that “all works of literature, even despairing ones, constitute an appeal to life.” This makes me think then, as teachers of writing and literature, that it is our job to teach our students how to live life, how to choose life. This challenge seems particularly pressing in America, where presently our students bear the burden of two wars, of a capitalism grown ever more brutal and rampant. And yet, despite the notion that we are voiceless, it seems to me that the challenge of a good creative writing instructor is to teach students that they do indeed have a voice and that their voice, that all our voices in concert, have meaning.   Tim Seibles writes “I certainly don’t want my poems to be in cahoots with the nightmare,” and this too, it occurs to me, is what we are here for, as writers and then as teachers.

Having been the student of two fine writing programs, and having had the privilege to be around so many skilled and compassionate instructors, I truly believe in this purpose as a creative writing teacher. I mean, in my classes, to help my students find their stories, to find the unique thing it is that they were meant to say. I also believe in the power of students to return that favor, be it through a direct act or through simply watching them grow as writers and learning from them. Nothing thrills me more than the energy of young writers, how the world of words seems new and boundless to them, and that energy keeps me going as a writer, as a teacher, because it has the power to breathe life into the things we all come to take for granted, the debates and books and tools we feel we already know so well.

In my own writing I hope to give voice to the people and places I come from. I want, very much, to appeal to life. I did not become a writer or a teacher of writing because it seemed easy, or because it was something I happened upon. Instead, I did not want to be in cahoots with the nightmare. Creativity, it seems to me, is the most powerful tool we have as human beings. It is what makes us capable of war, of hate, of truly despicable forms of violence. But too, it is what makes us capable of compassion, of love, of empathy. And I believe that by fostering the creativity born of writing, born in well told stories and in boldly written poems, that we are contributing to a kind of creative power that is much needed.