In the Spotlight with Kerry Michael Wood

Interview by MJ Logan

Image of Author Kerry Michael WoodWho is Kerry Michael Wood?
I am a retired English teacher and textbook co-author. I currently live in beautiful (read foggy) Pacific Grove, California. I used to call myself a southern Californian before leaving my home area to go east to college. I came home every time I could (one time hitchhiking during spring vacation), but my first job was on the San Francisco Peninsula. Central California and north have been home ever since except for three years abroad.

I understand you started writing early and never stopped.
I can’t remember not knowing how to read and write. I sat in my dad’s lap to read the funny papers and following his fingers under the balloon words. I wrote my first poem at age 9 and Mom got it published in Angelo Patri’s Children’s Activities, which got me numerous pen pals.

Your life has been interesting to say the least and I'm sure our readers would like to hear more about it. Will you share?
A high-school English teacher for 38 years, my students were geographically, culturally, and socio-economically diverse. Graduated from Yale at 21, I assumed my first teaching job at a prestigious private school, the Menlo School in Menlo Park, CA, where I taught English, and French and was varsity basketball coach.

After two years I quit and joined the U.S. Army's Reserve Linguist Training Program, which took me to the Presidio of Monterey and an intensive 47-week study of Russian. My military service completed, I earned a Standard Secondary Teaching Credential at the University of California at Berkeley in order to teach in the state's public schools. I taught English and Russian at Ravenswood High School, a predominantly African-American school in East Palo Alto, for three years during which I married Sarah Durand of Palo Alto.

In 1966. I accepted a position teaching English at Robert Academy of Istanbul, Turkey. During my 3 years in Turkey, I began as volleyball coach and eventually added athletic directorship. Our first son, Brian, was born in Istanbul in 1969. In Istanbul I began writing book reviews for the Press-Enterprise of Riverside County, CA.

Image of Author Kerry Michael WoodIn 1969 the we returned to the U.S with our infant son, and I secured a position teaching English and Russian at Woodside High School, in the upscale community of Woodside, CA. Gradually interest in Russian study declined in the student population, and I taught only regular and Advanced Placement English. I continued for a few years to write book reviews, but for the San Francisco Chronicle.

During my teaching years, my published writing was confined to co-authoring textbooks for Scott, Foresman and Company. I participated in creation of the Fountainhead series and was sole author of Traits and Topics, a short story collection. I went on to work on two revisions of the AMERICA READS program culminating in senior authorship of Classics in World Literature.I also wrote occasional articles in professional journals and a sales promotional magazine for the Supreme Court Sport Centers, a chain of racquetball/handball courts no longer in existence.

In 1998 I retired from teaching, moved to Pacific Grove, CA, and began working on my memoir. I won the Joy of Writing contest sponsored by Personal Journaling, a subsidiary of Writer's Digest as well as a few short fiction awards in contests sponsored by local newspapers. A charter member of the Central Coast Writers branch of the California Writers Club, my retirement years continue to be consumed by activities such as golf, fishing, travel, reading and writing.

Before I forget, readers can find out more about Kerry and his books at Kerry's Website. Kerry, when you look back, what kinds of things do you remember that contribute to your success?
A number of other successful writers whom we read and copied, as well as a mother who refused to let my brother or me misspell a word. My first novel was a thing written for young girls, Linda Carlton’s Island Mystery, in 3rd or 4th grade. All the other boarding students checked out a ball or glove; I got my book from the nun in charge.

How much time do you spend writing?
It’s never been scheduled or time-measured. As a boy I would write for hours for a week, then I’d get interested in sports.

What makes this book special to you?
I wrote it.

I certainly feel that way about the things I've written. What will people find when they pick up Past Imperfect, Present Progressive and start reading?
It contains short stories, poems, Shakespearean play, photos, and an error or two.

Errors. The one thing that seems to find its way into every piece of published work, one way or another and no matter how many eyes have seen it. If you were not Kerry, who would you recommend buy and read this book?
Primary school boarders, English teachers, poets, humorists, parents who wish to be grandparents.

I think all parents aspire to be grandparents someday. There's just something about playing with the kids and then sending them home. What advice should parents give their children who want to be authors?
Be independently wealthy.

I think most aspiring authors think it works the other way around. I know I did. Are you working on anything now?
I have some poetry in mind...

Your poetry analysis here on Mandy's Pages is already well known. How did you become interested in Poetry to begin with?
A high school teacher interpreted “The Hound of Heaven” by Francis Thompson. I had never before realized how meaning-packed poetry could be.

Past Imperfect, Present Progressive contains both poetry and real life stories. What kind of poetry will readers find?
I’ve had to break a habit of concluding poetry with a dollop of unseriousness. I’d say it is all about my life and experiences.

And yet despite that, your poetry analysis is very interesting and usually quite serious. You've told us about the teacher who interpreted The Hound of Heaven. How did you personally become interested in analyzing poetry?
Being first an English major, then a teacher, and finally realizing that literary criticism is what interests me more than food and drink, politics, sexuality, health, and investments.

Some of your students have gone to become very successful people. Do you know if any of them became writers.
One of my dearest ex-students and now friends is a superb journalist.

In a few words, how do you see yourself?
I’m a strange guy who enjoys the logic of grammar. Shoddy punctuation bugs me, but I try to keep quiet about it. I wish people would learn when to (and not to) use semicolons and that it’s not semi colon nor semi-colon.

Kerry, Thanks for giving us a look into your life, your writing, and your insights. Find other articles and poems on Kerry's Contact Page here on Mandy's Pages.

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