I sat down and had lunch with Daniel Nester, an Associate Professor in the English department, as well as coordinator of the new MFA program. I got to ask him a few questions about his life as a teacher and what he has accomplished throughout his life.
He told me he grew up in Maple Shade, New Jersey and completed his undergraduate degree at Rutgers-Camden University. He then continued on to get an MFA in poetry from New York University. Since then, Nester has published three collections including God Save My Queen: A Tribute, God Save my Queen: The Show Must Go On, and a poetry collection, The History of My World Tonight. His latest publication, How to Be Inappropriate, is a collection of humorous non-fiction.
Why did you choose to go into teaching?
Daniel Nester: For the money. No, no, just kidding. I didn’t want to be a teacher at first, but I taught a class at a halfway house my super-senior year. I really loved it. I was teaching people who were transitioning from incarceration. I ran creative writing workshops there. Then when I got to NYU I taught at the Goldwater Hospital. Then I taught at The Lower East Side Needle Exchange. I don’t think I really taught “traditional” students until my last year of grad school when I taught a class at NYU. So by then, I was really interested in teaching non-traditional populations.
What did you want to do before that? Did you want to stick to writing?
DN: To be honest, I didn’t think I wanted to be a writer until I took a graduate class. I took a one-off graduate class at Rutgers-Camden. It was a poetry class with Afaa Weaver. I was really into it, really motivated. It was around then that I really took myself seriously as a writer. Before that, I don’t think I knew what it meant to really be a writer. I think I wanted to be an editor, but I’m not all that great at being an editor. I worked at a car wash for a long time. I think I just thought I would work there forever.
What did you do while you were on sabbatical?
DN: I wrote as much as I could. I stayed at home with my girls. I tried to rewrite this coming-of-age memoir. I wrote a lot of essays, articles, and even a few poems. I have a lot that just came out. I wrote about the Beach Boys that was in The New York Times. You wouldn’t expect it, but they’re overtly political. They do a lot of fundraisers for Republican candidates. I’m not like an arch-political person, but I thought it was a strange thing. I wrote about having small hands and feet. I wrote about my thyroid problem. I wrote one about The Doors. Jim Morrison in particular.
Somebody actually wrote about my writing. That really was wacky. I did The Memoir Office thing right out of the gates. I set up a desk in an art gallery in Troy and put up a sign that said “The Memoir Office” and people would come and talk to me. Or other people would just stare at me, like, what the hell is happening here?