Did this start as a series of essays and then turn into a book or was it always a plan for this to become a book?
I started with the idea of a whole book and as I worked on it, the form evolved. It helped to work with a lot of writers who were interested not only in stories for their academic significance but for the excruciating beauty of words. I also drew on a lot of inspirations — music from The Kinks, Portishead, The Pretenders, The Clash; writers and thinkers such as Margaret Atwood, Ai, Jamacia Kincaid, Cornel West, Joan Didion, Tillie Olsen, Richard Rodriguez. And of course Johnny Cusack's films were a reservoir of encouragement. I really wanted to write a book that could locate hope, even humor, in the passage through darkness — generating questions and raising a little friendly hell, too.
What are your future plans? More books? Staying at the community college?
More writing, absolutely. Stories help people stay alive, connect with each other, remember why they might want to move forward. I love the community college because students choose to be there. That consensual element makes an incredible difference in the classroom situation, even if the students are starting at a lower level and need to catch up. The community college is a vibrant setting where people get second chances.