by Kasia Hope
A man goes to university believing his parents want him to be an engineer, while at heart he knows his passion lies elsewhere. No, this isn’t the plot of the newest coming-of-age movie, it’s part of the story of our own Mr. Wyatt.
We know him as our English and TOK teacher, but what else can we find out about him and his passion for Literature?
How long have you been teaching English?
Mr. Wyatt: Well that’s a scary question. I’ve been at this school for 20 years, teaching English all that time. Before that I was in Istanbul for 3 years, and before that I taught English at the University of Wroclaw. Altogether that’s something like 25 years.
Have you always liked literature?
Mr. Wyatt: I didn’t start off as a literature student at university; I started off as an engineering student. My father was an engineer, and he thought that is what I should be too, and I thought, maybe? And so I did a year at university as an engineer student and I realized that I hated it. I was miserable. I survived a year, barely survived, and I wanted to switch, but I didn’t think I could tell my father immediately that I wanted to switch to literature, so I told him I wanted to be a computer scientist. So I took a year in computer science, but the nice thing about that was that the faculty was in the College of Arts and Science, so I could also take some other classes, like literature.
When did you know literature was your passion?
Mr. Wyatt: I realized, or maybe I already knew, but I kind of realized that my real interest was in literature. And so I switched, and that’s what I’ve done ever since. I went on and finished by degree, my bachelor’s degree, in English Literature. Then I went back and got a M.A. in Teaching in English Education. Then a few years ago, maybe 10 years ago or so, I went back to school again and I did a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing.
When did you start writing?
Mr. Wyatt: I think that was probably really when I went back to do my M.F.A degree. I had been interested in writing before, and when I was at the University of Missouri as an undergraduate I had a course with a pretty famous writer, Bob Shacochis, who won the National Book Award. I always thought of that as a very inspiring thing, because he was such a big name and he really encouraged me and wanted to see me pursue this. But I didn’t do much with it until I went back and did my Master of Fine Arts degree. That was maybe a little bit more than 10 years ago, in 2003.
What did you write?
Mr. Wyatt: I wrote short stories for my course and started trying to publish them.
Did you write only short stories?
Mr. Wyatt: I wrote mostly short stories, and around ten or so were published in different magazines. Some of them did pretty well, one of them got a mention in the Pushcart Prize series as a story of note.
Have you been writing recently?
Mr. Wyatt: I’m trying. I have an idea for novel that I’m working on, but it’s really hard to find the time. Also, it’s hard for me to get my head around the length of a novel–it’s not like a short story that I can write and rewrite and revise as I work through it. It seems the choices I make in chapter 1 are going to shape everything that follows.
Do you think your children will follow in your footsteps and also be interested in literature?
Mr. Wyatt: My kids are readers, which I’m happy about. I don’t have any idea what they’ll choose to do in life–though I suspect they won’t become engineers–but they’ve grown up around books and stories.
Where do you see yourself as a teacher and as a writer in the future?
Mr. Wyatt: I hope to keep writing, and I’d like to publish some more things in the future. (Who knows, maybe I’ll even finish my novel.) But I do love teaching literature, too. One of the nice things about my job is that it encourages me to keep reading and to keep thinking about how literature works. I’m always reminded of great stories.
Last year, you challenged the current Senior IB Literature Class to find something that you’ve written in the library. Is the scavenger hunt still on?
Mr. Wyatt: There’s something of mine in the library, but it’s not a short story. It’s a critical work, but it’s buried, so it would be hard to find. It’s anthologized somewhere in the library.
So the hunt is on to find Mr. Wyatt’s mysterious published work that is hiding in our library. The only hint that he provided is that, “a little bit googling may be your friend,” as it always is.