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Please Don't Kill the Freshman: A Memoirby Zoe Trope
I wasn't sure I could do it, but I was asked to teach a creative writing class to eighth graders, and I said yes. Isn't eighth grade around the time that kids become unruly smartasses? I was about to find out.
I'd always been anti-teacher when it came to writing. Part of that came from jealousy towards people who could afford to go to college and take classes taught by famous writers, and part of it came from the fact that I believe learning through reading is more valuable than listening to one person's opinion in a classroom. I had these ideas about being an unconventional teacher: I would tell the kids about doing cut-ups a' la William Burroughs; they would learn how to break rules of grammar; they were encouraged to use slang and even swear words if necessary. Luckily, the kids responded and the results were pretty good all around.
One of the students was Zoe Trope. She told me early on that she had found one of my books at the library and checked it out. I was alarmed at first and told her that she better not show her parents. It was a book full of all kinds of sex and irresponsible behavior. She began making sly remarks about the book in class and even showed it to a few others. I was a little nervous about the whole thing but would eventually get through the course without a parent threatening my life.
Zoe was one of the students who insisted I give them my e-mail address on the last day. I got a few e-mails from her that summer. I would respond by telling her what books she should read. I knew she was ready to explore a more ambitious style of writing when she told me she was reading authors like Walter Kirn, Charles Bukowski, and an anthology of lesbian vampire stories. When she began high school just last year she started to send me these little journal-like updates about her friends and teachers. I was blown away by how funny, scathing, and perceptive they were. She was good in my writing class but this was pure inspiration, pure adrenaline. I told her to keep sending me the updates and that she was "on to something." Soon after, I told her I wanted to make a book out of them. And now, here it is.
Zoe Trope is not her real name. We felt that she should use a pen name so that she wouldn't get in trouble with teachers or any of her friends' parents. We won't reveal what high school this is, but it is a real Portland high school and nothing is fictionalized. Zoe, who just turned fifteen, is an amazing young writer and I think her book is one of the most exciting things I've yet to publish.
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