by: , Steven Kobor

TIGARD - Steven Kobor has a newfound respect for, and from, his students at Fowler Middle School in Tigard.

The seventh-grade language arts teacher threw himself into the void of uncertainty that all too often accompanies fiction writing and came through a changed man.

In fact, he emerged as one of the few participants in the Portland-based 'Community of Writers' workshop program to have his work appear in the new anthology, 'The Teachers Always Write.'

During the program, Kobor, 41, was placed in the position as student and forced to bring his creative juices to bear in several timed writing exercises.

'It teaches you how to not just give writing assignments, but it takes you through the process as a student,' Kobor said of the program. 'It's easy to give your students tons of writing assignments, especially creative writing assignments, but it's another thing to take one on yourself.'

'It didn't always come easily,' he said.

He also got a refresher course in the fine art of constructive criticism (having felt the sting of the alternative) and gained a new level of empathy for his students as they struggle with revision.

Kobor's work, called 'The Love of Her Life,' was selected from the works of hundreds of program participants for publication and is the only appearance in the anthology by a teacher from the Tigard-Tualatin School District. The story follows the emotional trial thrust upon a young woman after learning about her husband's death while serving overseas at a time of war.

'It feels really great to see your name in a book,' said Kobor, a father of two and graduate of the University of Arizona with a degree in English. Kobor said he had only written one other short fiction piece that he could recall. That one, called 'The Mule Who Struck Gold,' sprang from a much younger imagination when Kobor was only in the fourth grade.

Though the significance of the tale in light of Middle East current events is not lost on Kobor, he said he purposefully abandoned tethering the tale to a specific time period, instead leaving open the door for reader interpretation.

'I kind of left it as open ended as possible, so you can read into it what you want,' he said.

The short story is set out of sequence and opens with the lead character's observation of a black sedan approaching her Midwest farmhouse up a dusty driveway. She wrestles with flashbacks, visions of earlier life with her high school sweetheart who ultimately accepted her hand in marriage and memories of their promised life together.

'The woman sat on the whitewashed wooden chair and watched the clouds of dust and dirt billow into the air, hover for a time, then settle languidly to the ground as the men drove back down the dry, unpaved driveway.

'For a long time she stared at the spot where she could no longer see the black sedan; where it had vanished behind the wheat and made the road,' Kobor wrote.

Kobor said publication of the story has been inspirational to his students. One student, Jon Mahon, followed Kobor's act by submitting an article to the school's newspaper, the Fowler Falcononian, for publication.

Kobor said it also inspired him to write more often, and said he plans to build on the short story's success. He said he might even consider writing a novel.

'Stranger things have happened,' he said.

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