Eric Baysinger grew up in Des Moines, Iowa. He went to school at Iowa State and the University of Iowa, studying German, teaching, and Russian. He has taught for over 25 years in Iowa and Pennsylvania. His first teaching experience was with K-6 grade students in an enrichment program. He reflected on this work noting, “I learned a lot about lesson planning; how much or little one could get done in thirty minutes, how to manage classes, how to praise kids and change things up when they start to lose focus. I also began to learn how to ignore parents’ critiques when they had no experience teaching other people’s children.”
While in college, Eric had an interest not only in learning, languages, and teaching, but also in finding a husband. This interest extended to his graduate school work where, he “failed the comprehensive exams but gained a husband and a career as a high school teacher.”
Grad School and Beyond
Eric was part of the Ford Foundation Program for Less Commonly Taught Languages at the University of Iowa, a program that promised to create jobs for language teachers and learning opportunities for Iowa’s students. Eric taught in Cedar Rapids and had this to say about his early teaching career, “I began student teaching in January 1991, in Cedar Rapids. My cooperating teacher got pregnant (not my fault) and I took over for her in the fall, making $19,000. I taught mornings at one high school, ate lunch while I drove to another one, and finished out my day there . . . In my third year of teaching, I moved over to Washington High School, where I stayed until May 2002. It was and is a fantastic school. It also served as the model for ‘Grant Wood High School’ in my first novel, Nine Attempts.” Eric moved to Pittsburgh in 2002 where he and his husband have lived ever since. Eric taught for twelve years at Pine-Richland before he briefly retired; he is back this year as a half-time substitute and is enjoying being back.
From Teaching to Writing (Or, Maybe a Bit of Both)
Despite a career in education, Eric’s mother once pointed out once that he always seemed to have a writing or drawing pad, and he notes that as a youngster he read a lot of comics, drawing the characters, as well as making up his own. While he didn’t feel the compulsion to continue art studies, he does feel compelled to write, as he notes: “When I turned forty, I began thinking about what I wanted to accomplish in my life beyond career and marriage . . . I decided that I wanted to have nearby a small shelf of books that I’d written.” With three completed novels and several more on the horizon, and yet several more in process, Eric may need a bigger shelf. In early 2020, keep your eyes open for his newest release, Your Middle Finger’s Sense of I, a fantasy love story set at Iowa State University. Later next year, you should be able to read Mage in Motion, a M/M romance with paranormal elements. Eric also has ideas for about five novels beyond 2020. You can find more about Eric and his work on his website.
Questions and Answers with Eric
Q: What prompted you to begin your writing career?
A: As long as I can remember, I’ve been imagining stories. I bought “The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing” and began “Nine Attempts” in 2004. My writing was good, but my math was terrible; the book was way over target in terms of word count. Still, I love it. Some bits make me laugh, others make me cry. It includes lots of elements that I’d been playing with for decades. It also features a love story between two men. I’m trying, in my minuscule way, to balance the number of heterosexual and homosexual romances a reader can choose from.
Q: What is your preferred genre and why?
A: I’ve been influenced towards fantasy by many authors: Orson Scott Card, Neil Gaiman, and Lynn Flewelling, whose Nightrunner series was an inspiration. I highly recommend her. I guess I also was shaped by the magical realism found in “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Magic in my books tends to remain low key, more an ‘edge of one’s vision’ thing than a grand gesture, perhaps.
Q: What advice would you offer to emerging authors?
A: Get The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing. It was instrumental to my ability to see a book through to completion and it shows very practically how to divide and conquer one’s work. I’ve bought it for several people who expressed interest in writing. I’d also advise everyone to write the books THEY want to write. Go write that short story, that novel, that poem. Make that quilt!
Q: What prompted you to submit work to Backchannels?
A: Since I started writing, I’ve become more and more interested in the creative pursuits of people around me. I’ve bought art from coworkers and local baristas, books and music by former students, or watched movies by a guy in my high school’s copy center. I went to lots of plays starring Iowa alumni that now live here in Pittsburgh. It’s fascinating to see an entirely different side of people you work with or encounter in your neighborhood.
When Laura Johnson, who’s a longtime comrade from way back, told me she and others were launching Backchannels, I was naturally enthusiastic about reading whatever they published. I’m delighted to see what a massive number of contributors they’ve garnered already! Even better was attending my very first poetry slam in Iowa City this summer. Laura’s work was true, amusing, sharp, and wholly confident. These are great times for artistic production and I’m glad to have added my little bit to it.
Q: What would you like your readers to know about you?
A: I think all my readers actually know me personally. Haha! If there’s someone out there that has read my writing and isn’t already a friend, coworker, or family member, I’d like him or her to know I cherish contact with people from all around the world. The past many years have meant a huge expansion of acquaintances for me, through various means, and I invite anybody to contact me if they want to. As much as Iowa is my enduring home, I love having connections to people in Russia, Germany, Australia, Japan, et alia. Reach out. Make a quilt that includes every corner of the globe!
You can read Eric’s Backchannels Journal contributions here:
Edition 1: “Exact Change Cafe”
Edition 2: “The Light is Better Over Here”
A Few Final Facts:
- Eric’s family lived near the Iowa State Fairgrounds and ran “Baysinger’s Butter Burgers” there.
- Eric has set three of his novels in Iowa.
- Some friends took a manuscript of Eric’s first book Nine Attempts and read it as they hiked the Appalachian Trail, leaving pages along the way in shelters for others to read.
- Eric speaks four languages fluently.