In conversation with Mariano Quinterno
This week, it is my pleasure to introduce a fellow teacher who can bring lots of valuable ideas and his unique insight about writing. Mariano Quinterno works as an English teacher and a university lecturer in Buenos Aires. He trains future teachers in Argentina and in neighboring countries, such as Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.
He has an MA in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, and he specialized in American Literature – reading and writing are two of his main passions.
“I am a disorganized reader, though; I am sometimes halfway through a novel and I start reading something else before coming back to it.”
What place did writing have when you were growing up?
I have always loved writing. When I was eight, I was given a kind of notebook with the inscription “Write here” on the cover. I used to jot down ideas or write stories of what happened to me at school or at home. Unfortunately, I no longer have that notebook, but I still remember the feeling of filling those pages with a reflection of who I was.
Do you still enjoy writing?
I do! I mostly write non-fiction now since my job involves publishing papers or writing abstracts for academic talks. Still, every time I can, I love writing short stories and poetry. I believe that writing is both a form of enjoyment and a compelling act. I cannot not write. When something transcendental happens to me, I need to put my thoughts in black and white. Since I view writing as a cathartic task, I really love devoting as much energy as I can to it.
What advice can you give to children who are getting started as little writers? And what would you say to their parents?
The first tip would be: write. No matter what, when, with whom, to whom or why. Just grab a pen and write whatever comes to mind. Little by little, you will find the logic behind what you’ve written, and you’ll also begin to enjoy this activity as a way to share your ideas or feelings (or as a way to vent your anger, even!).
A second piece of advice would be: desacralize writing. Deconstruct the myth that writing is a formal activity and the result should have a certain format. Surely, some genres do have a less flexible style or layout but, especially if you are beginning to write, give free rein to your intuition as a writer. Do not think of this task as a hassle or as an obligation. Enjoy what you are doing and focus on what you want to express rather than on how you do it. You will always have time to edit or rearrange your text. As with any creative act, chaos precedes brilliant ideas.
Can you share with us any tools that can help people in their writing journey?
For adults interested in writing stories, I’d attend Gotham Writers’ Workshops or read the material that they publish regarding fiction. I’d also read as many stories and novels as I could to get ideas from professional writers who have been on this same journey for a while. I’d also watch some TED Talks on writing. My favorite one is Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s “The Danger of a Single Story”. I think it helps you to become aware of how we narrate ourselves and others, and how we sometimes construct biased fictions which may engender prejudice. I’d also visit contemporary writers’ websites to see what they are doing, or even to send them an email for some professional advice (many of them do answer your queries!).
Did you have a favorite book as a child?
As a child, I loved reading Choose Your Own Adventure books. The reader was allowed to select how the story would continue and I found that fascinating, often reading and re-reading those stories several times. When I was 11, I read My Sweet Orange Tree, by José Mauro de Vasconcelos. It was so moving that I couldn’t put it down. Never before had I fallen in love with a novel that way. I guess this novel had a great impact on me and on my passion for reading.
You train people who will then become teachers. What place does writing have in the classroom now?
Writing plays a central role in my class. Students learn how to write both fiction and non-fiction. Since I follow a process approach to writing, learners often hand in several versions of the same piece and we devote some class time to discussing ways in which they can improve their work. Besides, writing is an excellent way of identifying whether you actually know something or not: to put ideas into words, you need to be well-acquainted with them. Therefore, writing in our classroom is another strategy to develop critical thinking.
Thank you for your time!
Mariano Quinterno is a graduate teacher of English from Instituto Superior del Profesorado “Dr. Joaquín V. González”. He has also completed a post-graduate course in Education at Universidad Nacional de Quilmes.
He holds an MA in Applied Linguistics to the Teaching of English as a Foreign Language, from Universidad de Jaén, Spain. He is a lecturer in English Language II & English Language III at Universidad Tecnológica Nacional. He lectures in North American Literature and English Language I at Instituto Superior del Profesorado “Dr. Joaquin V. Gonzalez.” He is a tenured teacher at Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires.
Mariano has co-authored the book Construyendo puentes hacia otras lenguas: reflexiones sobre la enseñanza de lenguas extranjeras en la escuela media (La Crujía, 2009).