The Distinguished Visiting Writer’s Series hosted their final visiting writer for the spring semester last Thursday. Michael Czyniejewski visited Pittsburg State Thursday, April 18 to read his fictional short stories.
Czyniejewski read stories that he called “dad stuff,” depicting his life as a father. He has published two books with short stories called “I Will Love You for the Rest of my Life” and “Chicago Stories.” Czyniejewski began writing when he was 18-years-old while in a college class.
“I first started writing when I was in college freshman year, failing out of an engineering program,” Czyniejewski said. “And I was creative and I liked to draw but I couldn’t draw because I got in trouble with that because of a professor in a lecture saw me drawing and said I was distracting, so I started writing stories because it looked like I was taking notes. It’s actually how I wrote my first short story, was like the next day in that lecture class. … So that’s how I decided to become a writer.”
Since then, Czyniejewski has found inspiration from multiple areas, from love and heartbreak to life as a father now, though his main form of inspiration is “thinking.”
“Thinking, I think a lot,” he said. “I mean, I engage the world as much as I can and then you kind of store all that inside your head and then you become a certain person based on your experiences. And then I think a lot, I walk a lot—like I walk everywhere I go. I go on hikes, I drive places, like you just think and you starting thinking, like kind of play this ‘what if’ game or ‘wouldn’t it be funny if.’ And that’s where story ideas come from and then you start writing.”
Lori Martin, assistant professor of English, said the content of Czyniejewski’s work was a large reason why he was chosen to read as part of the Distinguished Visiting Writer’s Series.
“We really admired his work and he does something really interesting,” Martin said. “He’s working in long-form I think right now, but in his short stories are just very short, very punchy, and just full of electricity, and we just really thought it would be something the students would enjoy.”
For Czyniejewski, finding a reason to continue writing is not a difficult task.
“That’s what I do, I’m a writing professor, I’m an editor—I have to write, but I like it, I’m really lucky,” Czyniejewski said. “I’m one of those people that have to write as my job and I get to do it, they do expect that I do it. It really doesn’t take that much inspiration to keep going because that’s what I want to do, I’m lucky.”
While Czyniejewski writes for a living, his favorite part about the writing process is the ending.
“Kind of seeing something to completion, like coming up with an idea and then completing something, and then when it’s done you’re like ‘wow, that exists because I made it exist and nobody else,’” he said. “So that’s kind of the great thing about art, is like if you weren’t around then this thing wouldn’t have happened. But now it exists because you made it happen.”
Czyniejewski has often focused more on short stories rather than novels, which is something that has appealed to Martin about his work.
“I really admire it, that you can bring in that much emotion, energy, and tension in such a short piece; it’s a really difficult thing to do and most people don’t attempt it,” Martin said. “So it’s a really impressive feat…we’re really happy that he came tonight and I’m looking forward to reading his novel when he gets finished.”
Distinguished Visiting Writer’s Series readings like Czyniejewski are beneficial to all involved, according to Martin, as Czyniejewski described it as an “honor.”
“You hear the work read in the author’s own voice, which brings a whole different meaning to it very often, like in a story maybe you didn’t get the punch line but then delivered in a certain way from the author then you do get the punch line,” Martin said. “The material itself, the text itself, sort of comes alive, but it shows you that, you know, this is a real human being like you and like me, we could all—maybe we wouldn’t write the same things—but… most of us could do something like this.”