Hector Duarte Jr. on Writing

On October 12, Hector Duarte Jr. will be joining other Sliver of Stone Magazine contributors for a reading at Books & Books, in Coral Gables. An energetic group of poets and prose writers will celebrate the release of All That Glitters, a nonfiction anthology edited by Corey Ginsberg, Nicholas Garnett, and myself.

Meet Hector, who describes himself as “a normal guy intrigued by the abnormal and banal.”

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Hector Duarte Jr. is a high school English/ELL teacher and current student at FIU’s Creative Writing Program. When he isn’t disc golfing or catching up on Breaking Bad, he likes to listen to Hans Zimmer and dream that someday he might nab a small role in The Expendables 3.His work has appeared on Flash: The International Short Story Magazine. 

MJ: When and how did you decide to become a writer?

HD: I graduated in 2004 with a degree in journalism and realized I didn’t want to do it. Thank God for that as it seems everyone’s a journalist these days. So I took a Narrative Techniques course with John Dufresne and realized I liked making up stories instead of slaving to facts.

MJ: What are some of your influences?

HD: My parents who have taught me how to live life and act as accordingly as possible. Artistically: Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Kevin Smith, Alan Moore, John Dufresne, Dan Wakefield, Breaking Bad, The graphic novel series Scalped, The Dave Matthews Band, Dennis Lehane, Neil Gaiman, Cate Blanchett, Ricky Gervais, and a ton others I’m leaving out before people start rolling their eyes at the tediousness of this list.

MJ: What are you working on?

HD: My thesis, which has become a second girlfriend at this point.

MJ: You are also a high school teacher and an MFA candidate. Tell me about time management.

HD: What’s that?  It’s tough because after a full day of teaching teens you’ll be hard pressed to get your mind thinking creatively, especially when Netflix and a stack of books beckon. Just sit and do it. Make a list of all the fun stuff you want to do and get to it after you write. I try to get at least an hour in every session. Treat it like a job.

MJ: What are some common myths about writers?

HD: A drunken friend asked me once, “How can you write about something you’ve never experienced?” He was referring to a wild night of drinking and hallucinogenics, painting the town red and that shit—he needed a partner in crime. You don’t need to be Bukowski or Hunter S. Thompson.  The truly good writer can conjure up all kinds of chaos without having ever hurt a fly. Also, people think writers are all introverted and quiet. Not really. Attend an AWP conference and you’ll realize how social writers are; sometimes deafeningly so.

MJ: What do you like/ dislike about your MFA education?

HD: I love the people I’ve met and the connections I’ve made. The way it has helped me appreciate all kinds of writing of every media and shape a story, which I couldn’t do before to save my life. I dislike the amount of money I’ve pumped into it and the inevitable, occasional snobbery one encounters in an MFA program—it’s easy to shut out though.

MJ: What would you say is the most important lesson you have learned in your life as a writer, and how do you apply it to your writing?

HD: It’s cliché but honesty is so important, man. Start small and build from there. Be honest with what you can do, focus on doing that and the bigger stuff will come later. Also, emulate and compare to your favorite writer but never try to be your favorite writer.

MJ: Are you involved in any special groups?

HD: I am part of The Miami Wind Dummies Disc Golf League. Repping Kendall Indian Hammocks!

MJ: What do you want to be remembered for?

HD: John F. Kennedy Jr. said, “People keep telling me I can be a great man. I’d rather be a good one.” This has been my ethos since I first read that quote in high school.  I’d rather be remembered as a good guy by a select few than a super talent by millions.

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