By Ala Kaymaram
Tom Zimmerman teaches English and directs the Writing Center. He has been teaching at WCC since 1992, and has directed the Writing Center for fourteen years.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: What was the main reason you decided to teach at WCC?
A: Actually, my wife and I moved to Ann Arbor with my wife’s job. I heard WCC was a great community college, and it just eventually worked out. I worked part time for about ten years and in 2002 I was hired full time.
Q: Did you always know that you wanted to be a teacher?
A: I was an English major in undergraduate. I always thought, ‘go with your strength’ as far as your academic major. English was always my easiest and favorite subject. I wanted to be practical about it, so I added a teaching certificate. I also thought teaching would be a good job. I like working with people.
Q: Have you written any books?
A: I write a lot of poetry and I have written a little bit of short fiction. I have been writing poetry as a kind of serious hobbyist since the late 80s. I have a lot of poems published in small magazines over the years.
Q: Which one do you enjoy more, teaching or writing?
A: I like them both a lot, but you cannot make a living writing poetry, so you have to be pragmatic about things. Teaching is really enjoyable and in some ways it is as creative as writing poetry. That’s one of the reasons I stayed in teaching.
Q: I also wanted to ask you about the Huron River Review?
A: Sure, I started that magazine with the help of a couple of instructors. We worked it out with President Whitworth back in 2001, so the first issue of Huron River Review came out in 2002. I have served as its faculty advisor the whole time. We are for issue seventeen now.
Q: Were there writers that you specifically liked, or still like?
A: Since I was in college, my favorite author has been William Faulkner. There are lots of poets that I admire, many contemporary ones , Robert Bly, Seamus Heaney, I like Robert Frost a lot. There are tremendous writers these days. I think the present time is a great era in the history of english language for poetry.
Q: What do you think is the main reason for that?
A: I think it’s the schools. It’s been taught more, and american poetry has been rejuvenated by slam and spoken word artists, who have become main stream now. Professionally there are a lot of degrees in creative writing, poetry, fiction and nonfiction. That’s a very popular route for creative people to take now. There can be jobs for that too if you are good and lucky enough.
Q: Do you have any advice for students of creating writing?
A: Keep up writing, and find other writers that you trust and share each other’s work. You can find a group of people and start your own writers’ group. Submit to magazines, particularly those at your own school. Huron River Review, Writing Center’s magazine Big Windows Review and WCC Poetry Club, which publishes a lot of anthologies are three avenues to publish creative work. The Washtenaw Voice also gives an opportunity to students in journalistic work. I would say start at your school; that’s the best and easiest way to get published.
Q: In all these years as a teacher, what is the most important lesson you have learned?
A: To have a positive attitude toward things. Almost anything can happen in this world. After keeping yourself together, other people in your life are the most important things. Thinking about others and keeping a positive attitude is probably the most important thing for all of us to make our lives meaningful. If there weren’t anyone else to share things with, a lot of things we do don’t make a lot of sense. I think it’s the other people that give our life meaning.