A native of Southern Colorado, John Paul Jaramillo now lives, writes and teaches in Springfield, Illinois. He has an MFA in creative writing from Oregon State University, and presently holds the position of Associate Professor of English at Lincoln Land Community College.
His writing has been featured in Acentos Review, Copper Nickel Review, Antique Children Arts Journal, Fogged Clarity Arts Journal, Digest Magazine, Verdad Magazine, Polyphony Online, Paraphilia Magazine, Sleet Magazine and forthcoming in Palabra Magazine of Chicano and Latino Literary Art.
He's the author of the short story collection,The House of Order, published by Anaphora Literary Press.
About the cover...
"The artwork is from an amazing Illinois artist named Felicia Olin. Her work inspires me and this particular piece titled 'Breathe Out' caught my eye at an art showing at the University of Illinois Springfield. I’ve been told these stories are very raw and I hoped the artwork matched. I also liked the way composite stories could break down a family and also a man so that we might see a fuller understanding. A fuller dimension in the layers of storytelling and narration. I like the idea that narration of a story can give us the inside and outside view of something. As in Olin’s work I guess things aren’t as pretty on the inside of folks or in the inner-workings of the world. I’m all for more complication in fiction to match the complication that exists in what Amy Hempel calls 'the problem of being alive.' Hopefully when one reads the book they might see a fuller view of a man or character, or situation for that matter, they might otherwise ignore or become offended with."
About his writing style...
"I’ve always been more interested in the form of books rather than the meaning. Expressing rather than communicating. I try to teach that to my students. Content only matters as much as it is organized and structured on the page and I have studied literary minimalism so closely. Obsessed with it really. I’m attracted to the idea of doing more with less. That’s the failed poet in my I guess. I’ve always been inspired with the minimalism of Amy Hempel and Denis Johnson. The minimal form works best with stories about such weighted subject matter such as abusive fathers or delinquent parents. I’ve tried to steal an elliptical and bare bones style to match the laconic male family members."
About what makes a good story...
"I think I’m particularly interested in trouble. Folks getting in and out of trouble. The thing within folks that creates that trouble around them. Expecially Latino males. Tom Spanbauer describes his style as dangerous writing. And I’ve tried to steal that for my stories. I think finding the trouble and putting the reader in an uncomfortable position along with the characters creates the most interest for the reader. So that’s one. I also think the language needs to mean more to the writer than the reader. That comes from my study of poetry. Tracy Daugherty told his workshop members that language is a character’s skin. I like that idea. We have to get inside of our character utilizing more and more intimate language. I guess that’s when I started using more and more mixing and switching of English and Spanish in my stories. To match the intimate language of the old folks from Colorado that influenced me and that best represent me. So that’s trouble and language. I guess the story must also be affecting. And I guess I mean that stories need to be less plot-driven and more driven by emotion. The best stories that I return to again and again are stories that give less plot and storyline but through the deep use of language and care for the main character makes me feel the most. The work has to be character driven and affecting to create a true immersible experience to compete with films and television and more visual mediums."
Themes he likes to explore...
I’m most interested in self destruction. I guess that’s pretty negative. But I think the stories that I’m most drawn to are ones where folks are in the process of being tested or breaking down. Most of my stories are about family and the positive and negative effects family can have on the young Latino male. I’m also interested in delinquent parenting which is a big problem within the Latino community. The lack of positive male figures is another concern I try to approach in my stories. I’m also interested in trouble that finds folks as well as the trouble folks are more than happy to find. I’m interested in characters and folks in my stories who only seem to live for the moment rather than for the long haul of a responsible and work-filled life. I can’t help but think folks would rather try and win the lottery than work for a consistent paycheck. I’m also interested in the cruelty of adults as it plays out on younger folks. I’m also interested in how complicated human relationships can be. At one turn negative and destructive and at another hopeful and uplifting. Finding the playful within darker and more hurtful moments. I think we do that to survive.
What's next for John Paul Jaramillo...
"I’m working on a follow up to my first collection of stories. I’m tentatively calling the book Huérfanos named after the nearby county I grew up around and it is more of a traditional novel rather than literary minimalism styled collection of short stories. The criticisms of my shorter stories have been a complaint on the length of the stories. We don’t spend much time with characters and within a novel I can spend that time. I can give a fuller trajectory for the characters. I jump from generation to generation in the short work but I like the idea of adding even more dimension of time within a novel. I also like the idea of following more characters. I’m also interested in creative nonfiction essays about the steel mills and steel unions of Southern Colorado. I’m also interested in turning blog posts from my writing and teaching weblog I keep into fuller essays on the subject of so-called “Spanglish” and the use of intimate language within my written work. I’m interested in writing on the representation of Latinos in popular culture and in films as well as in literature."
The House of Order, the first collection of composite stories by John Paul Jaramillo, presents a stark vision of American childhood and family, set in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. Manito Ortiz sorts family truth from legend as broken as the steel industry and the rusting vehicles that line Spruce Street. The only access to his lost family’s story is his uncle, the unreliable Neto Ortiz.
Causes Mayra Calvani Supports
World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA)
Almost Heaven Golden Retriever Rescue & Sanctuary