“I’m going to give you a prize.”
Most University students do not often hear expressions like this from their professors. Carlos Trujillo from romance languages and literature, however, might tell you otherwise.
In fact, “I’m going to give you a prize” are the exact words that Trujillo told 18 students in his Spanish creative writing course just before he informed them that their writing was going to be published in a Chilean newspaper.
Trujillo has a passion for Spanish literature. His work with students and literature dates back nearly four decades.
In 1975, Trujillo helped launch the first literary workshop in Chile. This workshop, called Aumen, was the most important literary workshop in Chile in the ’70’s and ’80’s, according to Trujillo. After that, literary workshops began to invade the entire country.
Trujillo explained that the workshops were an incredible force against the dictatorship “everywhere.”
From the very beginning of his experience here, Trujillo has attempted to bring the Spanish literary workshop phenomena to the University. From 1992 to May of last semester, Trujillo has been offering a weekly literary workshop at night for all students who want to practice the Spanish language.
In the Spring 2013 semester, Trujillo embarked upon his most revolutionary literary journey yet: he taught a class on creative writing in Spanish.
All 18 students enrolled in this course had to work class by class to produce original pieces of writing. Trujillo explained that by the end of the semester, every student had produced a final project of 25 pages, all written in Spanish.
Shortly into the semester, Trujillo reached out to a Chilean newspaper, Periódico El Insular.
He explained to them his sincere desire to share with all the readers in the south of Chile the interest that college students in the United States have for Spanish. Trujillo received good feedback—he was told it was a fantastic idea.
Shortly thereafter, Trujillo shared the news with his students. They would each have the chance to be published in a Chilean newspaper.
Realistically, people tend to write more passionately when they know what they are writing about.
Fully aware of this fact, Trujillo guided his students through the process of writing autobiographical pieces to be published in the newspaper. His students would share stories from their lives dating all the way back to childhood.
“This is going to be your history,” Trujillo recalls telling them.
Camila Zrein, a senior English and Spanish double major and one of the students in the class, recalls writing several short narratives about events from her childhood.
Trujillo selected two of these short narratives to be published in Periódico El Insular, one about the first trip she took to Lebanon, and another in which she describes her house in the fall.
With any college course, disparity in student ability is inevitable. In his creative writing course, Trujillo had students who were Spanish majors, Spanish minors and even students who just had a slight interest in the language.
Nevertheless, every student was cooperative and eager to help others. Trujillo praises his students for being so hardworking and respectful of one another. During class time, his students would split into working groups.
“Everybody was a teacher of the other,” Trujillo said.
The students would review each other’s work. Zrein explained that the class essentially worked as a writing workshop. Everyone would bring a creation in, break up into small groups of four students, read the pieces and then edit them as a group.
As an English major, Zrein has taken several creative writing courses in English and was eager to take one in a different language. Zrein shared the benefits that she found from having her work published in the paper.
“Knowing that one of our pieces would be published created this incentive that motivated me to try my best to write well in every piece I wrote,” she said.
Trujillo is impressed with this group of students.
He notes that nobody in his class complained, because everybody loved the work that they were engaged in.
“It was a very nice experience as a professor to see that students are not just writing because they have to do homework, but because they love what they are doing,” Trujillo said.
When Trujillo entered his creative writing course, he would have never predicted that he would be helping these students get published.
Nonetheless, his students began to be published in Periódico El Insular every Wednesday. Even today, Chileans are still reading these students’ work. Above all else, throughout this project and during the class’ semester, Trujillo noted that his students worked with unfailing passion.
“They were working to create a wonderful piece of literature,” he says. “And they got it.”