5 Question Series: Jon Papernick

Today’s 5 (or 7!) Question Series features Jon Papernick, the BIMA Writing educator. Jonathan Papernick was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. He lived in Israel during the mid 1990s, working as a journalist in the aftermath of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. He later studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York and received his MFA in fiction.
His first collection of short stories The Ascent of Eli Israel was published by Arcade Publishing in 2002 and received a full-page review in the New York Times and a starred review in Publishers Weekly. His first novel entitled, Who by Fire, Who by Blood was published by Exile Editions in 2007. His second collection of short stories There is No Other will be published by Exile Editions in the spring of 2010. 
In 2010 Papernick came up with his alter-ego persona Papernick the Book Peddler based on the great Yiddish writer, Mendele the Book Peddler, and sold his book in farmers’ markets with an updated fluorescent pushcart. Papernick reasoned that he is “going old school, building face-to-face relationships in an age where new technologies and e-books have replaced human contact.” 
Papernick has taught fiction writing at Pratt Institute, Brandeis University, Bar Ilan University, Grub Street Writers and BIMA at Brandeis University. Papernick is currently Writer-in Residence at Emerson College. He lives outside Boston with his wife and sons.

1) Where is the coolest/most fun place you’ve performed?

I’ve done readings at lots of cool places. On rooftops, in bars, libraries and synagogues, but I think the best place I’ve ever read was at Smith College. The room was packed and the crowd was standing room only, and everybody really engaged with my work on a meaningful level. The most interesting place I’ve been published was an online website that I would rather not name here, [they paid well and had a large readership] and really found me a lot of new readers. Most notably, they turned my work around in just a couple of weeks, rather than six months to a year.

 2) What advice would you give to teenagers entering BIMA?

I would advise all entering students to BIMA to come with an open mind and don’t think that they know more than everyone else. It is important to be generous and to be open to becoming part of a vibrant artistic community. I’m afraid that many students have had bad experiences with their teachers in high school [I sure did], and it takes a while for them to realize that teachers can be inspiring.

3) What were you like in high school?

I was pretty obnoxious as a high schooler, fun, immature, undisciplined. I spent a lot of time hanging around, listening to punk rock music and riding my skateboard [though not very well.] I certainly could have benefited from a program such as BIMA since I spent most of my summers in high school sleeping until two in the afternoon.

4) What are you excited for this summer?

I’m excited to focus on flash fiction this summer and short memoir pieces. I have a lot of new ideas to really help create tight, sharp pieces of impactful writing that I am looking forward to sharing with my students.

5) What inspires you?

I’m inspired by great art, whether it be a movie, or book or a TV show, art that makes me want to be a better person and to begin creating my own work.

6) What is one achievement you are proud of?

On the one hand I’m most proud of my three books, but my greatest creations really are my two little boys. As difficult as it is to write a novel, and as meaningful as it is to complete have readers engage with it, it is 100 times more meaningful to see my boys laughing and running around having fun.

7) What is one challenge that faces you in your work?

The biggest challenge I have is my work really comes down to the fact that I need to spend more time sitting down and working. I’m still too easily distracted and should probably throw out my television, though I would go into mourning for months.

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