Interview With Author Eric Stemle

Please introduce yourself and your book

My name is Eric Stemle, an untired English teacher who graded his last essay three years ago. After forty years in our respective classrooms, my wife Teresa and I decided it was time for the next chapter in our lives, but we didn’t want to retire. I mean, seriously, who wants to be tired again? Untired seemed like a much more appropriate way to describe our status, and so we became untirees. In April 2020 I published I Was Not the Blossom: Growing With Your Students in a Nurturing Classroom. The book chronicles the final year of my career, combining blogging and reflection to provide education majors and teachers early in their practice with a detailed examination of the day-to-day workings of a classroom dedicated to inspiration and to personal growth.

What inspires your creativity?

Before I settle in to write a draft, whether it’s a blog post or a chapter in a book, I first connect myself to some form of art. I might read some poetry or watch a short bit of film. This is my way of preparing myself to dip into my own well of creativity. Buoyed by the beauty of what others have created, I am ready to let my own flow. As I write, I almost always listen to music for I find that when I immerse myself in another artist’s contribution, I am inspired to engender my own music, my own sculpture, my own dance in the form of words. In essence, my creativity is inspired by my desire to join with other creators.

How do you deal with creative block?

I used to go for a long run when I felt blocked, but at my age, my knees and ankles don’t always feel like cooperating. Still, there was something about the exercise that freed my creative energy, and it seems that it was about halfway home that I usually found an answer to what was troubling me. Lately, I find that when I’m feeling tense about not being able to express my ideas, a minute or two of focused breathing helps as well as anything. It centers me, brings me back to the moment and away from the anxiety of future failure.

How has your creative process improved over time?

Perhaps the biggest change that has come in my creative process is my ability to write my first drafts freely without my mental editor yammering at me to get it “right” the first time. If I can just relax and let ideas emerge, then I can revise later by concentrating on the words. I’ve learned to deal first with concepts and feelings before sharpening how I express them, and that has made it much easier for me to be productive. One example is found in my writing of Stem Unwinding, my weekly blog that appears every Thursday. I begin my post on Saturday morning, sketching some general thoughts, putting words together as long as they seem to flow. When they stop, so do I. On Sunday, I review what I’ve written and continue my narrative to the end of a first draft. The next few days are about reshaping, adding and subtracting, polishing. By Tuesday evening or sometime on Wednesday, my entry is ready to publish, and then I rest until the cycle begins once again.

What role do emotions play in creativity?

I can’t imagine any creative endeavor that doesn’t stem from emotion. My poetry is often inspired by the joy I discover by experiencing nature, but sadness and anger are certainly an impetus to creative expression as well. Emerson said, “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” I suppose we could say, “Nothing creative was ever achieved without emotion.”

Emotions stoke our energy, inspire us to take risks.

What are your plans for future books?

I am working on a memoir written in novel form. If I Was Not the Blossom gives a reader a glimpse of my professional life at the end of my career, M&M’s will provide insights into one formative summer that shaped my life in many ways. I also have an unpublished volume entitled Poems of Presence which consists of a year’s worth of verse that I began on my birthday and ended 365 poems later. I’m sure there are a few other books in my future, but they haven’t introduced themselves to me quite yet.