Family Doctor: Luis Jaramillo on His New Book & Writerly Depression

Written by NY Press on . Posted in Arts & Film, Books.


By Jeff Vasishta

After thirteen years teaching at the New School, Luis Jaramillo has helped his fair share of students get book deals. Now, with The Doctor’s Wife (Dzank), the Fort Greene, Brooklyn resident, who lives with his boyfriend of eleven years, has released his own. During an interview at his Greenwich Village office, Jaramillo, 37, explained why being in the heart of New York’s publishing community can sometimes be depressing.

JV: Has there been an advantage to being at the center the writing world with your job at the New School?

LJ: Going to publishing events always makes me really depressed because the way the editors talk about books is different than the way the writers talk about books. Editors and agents talk about books purely about how something can be sold. That’s the opposite of how many writers view books. To spend all your time writing something, you have to really like what you’re doing.

The poetic novel is set in the Pacific North-West.  Although it recently became a book of the week on Oprah’s Book Club, it’s not exactly John Grisham or Tom Clancy territory. How did you get it published?

When I first showed the book to my agent he said, “Sometimes writers write things that they only write for themselves.” Of course we want to sell the things we write but it’s hard to write a something that you’re not emotionally vested in. I put this book aside for year. Then my grandmother died and I thought, “Screw it, I’m just going to send this thing out. What’s the difference, who cares?” Basically I sent this book out as a manuscript for the Dzank literary contest in 2010 and totally forgot about it and got a call three months later from Dan Wicket, the editor of Dzank Books. I’d won and they wanted to publish my book. They are a small publisher from Ann Arbor, Michigan known for their experimental fiction.

You started off as a student at the New School and are now the Associate Chair of the writing program. Did you get free tuition?

In a way. While I was doing my MFA at the New School I started working as a receptionist. After the MFA I worked as a secretary and did some teaching. When the Creative Director of the writing program left, I was offered the job which was around 7 years ago.

Name some of the authors who have changed your life.

Abigail Thomas,  Mark Twain, Graham Greene, Tolstoy. Hilton Als and Abigail Thomas were great teachers. I got to know them well. Abi’s advice to me was “Everything can be used” which is a nice way of living in the world as a writer. Hilton’s advice was “write everyday.”

I heard you are also a yoga instructor?

Yes it’s something that runs alongside everything else I do. It helps you live in the world in a mindful way.

What’s your advice to aspiring writers?

Write a book. I teach a novel class and I meet lots of people who want to write a book and a lot of times they think that an idea is all that they need. You really have to put the time and effort into it and then, good luck. Persistence can never be under estimated. My advice is “keep on trying.”

 

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