Piotr Florczyk is an award-winning poet, scholar, essayist, and translator. He holds degrees from University of the Pacific (B.A.), San Diego State (M.F.A.), and University of Southern California (M.A. and Ph.D.). He has taught poetry and literature undergraduate and graduate courses at Antioch University Los Angeles, Cecil College, Claremont McKenna College, University of California-Riverside, University of Delaware, University of San Diego, San Diego State University, USC, and is currently Assistant Professor of Global Literary Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle. For more information about Piotr and his work, please visit him at: www.piotrflorczyk.com
What excites you about writing? How has it affected your life?
What excites me about writing is that it lets me take a good look at myself while simultaneously allowing me to learn something about our times. This classic tug-o-war between the writer and the world is what animates all great literature. The key, however, is to also let the imagination run wild, and there is no better place to do that than the blank page. As an immigrant and someone who writes in two languages, I have relied on writing to literally find myself and my place in the world.
What mindset does a writer need to continue to grow and learn?
Every writer/poet is good at writing in a particular style, a style that comes naturally to them because of the way they have always articulated their thoughts, feelings, emotions, or because of—no surprise here—how they talk. But to grow as a writing artist, we all need to push ourselves into new styles and modes of writing, and that also includes turning the worn-out mantra on its head and writing what we don’t know. In other words, trying on new things—styles, themes, genres—is key to growing and becoming even better at the thing each one of us already does well.
What makes a good writing mentor?
A good writing mentor is like a sports coach, i.e., someone who recognizes what a writer/poet does well and comes up with strategies for building and expanding on that in new directions. As I’ve mentioned, each one of us does something well in terms of writing in a particular style or on a particular subject, but that’s not enough to thrive. Using the stepping-stone method, I aim to encourage the writers and poets who work with me to find new grounds creatively and intellectually within themselves.
What is your style of feedback?
The act of writing can be very lonely and daunting, even for seasoned writers. Being encouraging is key, and I’ve found the track-changes tool in Word to be most useful in terms of providing line-by-line edits and ideas for moving forward. In addition to providing written comments, I aim to have at least one individual zoom conversation with each mentee, which tends to be broader but also more organic in scope (besides the mentee’s work, I like to cover subjects such as literary citizenship and publishing). After all, writing something is just the first step toward becoming a writer or poet.