Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"A Moral Guideline:" Interview with Richard Krawiec


Good morning, Chautauquans! We're continuing our series of interviews with some of our valued contributors. Today's post features Richard Krawiec, an award-winning novelist, playwright, and poet.
            The image of an award-winning author brings to mind many different clich├ęs: black coffee, suits, paneled offices. Richard Krawiec comes attached to another word: prison.
            Krawiec, author of Time Sharing and Faith in What?, was born in Massachusetts, in a small neighborhood “one street over from the projects.” As a child, he spent Saturday mornings in the library, reading books like The Pokey Little Puppy and the Hardy Boys series, and afternoons out playing with his friends. Many of those friends were from rough areas, and from a young age, Krawiec knew that teachers and other adults saw him as different than his classmates.
            “[My classmates] had problems that were vastly different. Their fathers were fighting in the streets… [I recognized that] when I walked into a school, I was treated as if I mattered,” he says. “They were treated as if they had to be put up with.”
            As Krawiec grew, he became attuned to the differences between his life and his friends’, conscious of the distinction that the adults in his life saw between him and the people closest to him.
            “[There was] a lot of stuff I witnessed that I think people who were in the same classes missed,” he says. As a result, he adds, his work slowly began to resemble a sort of “moral guideline.”
            Krawiec earned his Master’s degree from the University of New Hampshire, where he studied all forms of creative writing. He discovered Chautauqua while searching for anthologies and magazines to which to submit, and enjoyed the quality of the work. A prolific writer, he has released several short stories, two novels, five plays, and two collections of poetry over the course of his career. His poetry collection She Hands Me the Razor received a special honor: the title poem was nominated for a Pushcart prize. Even as Krawiec worked on his own stories and poetry, however, he was driven by a desire to give voices to people that had none—people like the kids he grew up with.
            Before the 1990s, literacy programs—like the ones taught in prisons and homeless shelters around the country—focused solely on reading. As time went by, however, the classes began to expand to include writing. This was where Krawiec entered. He was part of a group that went into prisons, homeless shelters, and centers for at-risk youth and adults to teach writing. As time passed, the work with the prisoners began to inspire him. Krawiec’s play, Here, There, or In the Air, began as a workshop exercise with women on death row in Raleigh, NC. 
            “I could have ended up [in prison],” he says, describing an alternate future for himself as a child. “I understand where [the prisoners] are coming from… They’re people. Their lives matter.”
            Krawiec’s independent press, the Jacar Press, functions to supply poetry to those who perhaps are not immersed in the world of academia. The contributors also teach writing workshops, either in low-cost online classes or in their own communities. Currently, he says, they are seeking writers to work with young people. As for future projects—well, he has “a million of them.”
            And it's a good thing, too. His refreshingly honest demeanor and dedication to the voiceless confirm—the world could certainly use more of Richard Krawiec. 

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