Fiction and poetry, a form of therapy for professor

Kathryn Hansard/Contributing Writer

Photo Courtesy of Kathryn Hansard

“This is a story that took me a few years to write,” David Gonzalez said to his students while passing out a stack of papers, “but I’d like you all to analyze it and look for recurring themes and symbolism.”

The 34-year-old adjunct professor explains that the story he is handing out, titled “The Gift,” is about a woman who sends her ex-lover a package in the mail, but the ex-lover avoids opening it, and instead spends a week guessing the contents.

The inspiration for the seven-page story came from personal experience—one that Gonzalez fondly remembers. He said it may have been the first boy-meets-girl story he had ever experienced.

“I was in the fifth grade, and a group of my friends told me that a girl much younger than me had a crush on me. She was going to give me a present after school,” Gonzalez said.

“I remember waiting in the rain for my mother to come pick me up and just praying that this little girl wouldn’t show up with a present for me.”

But she did. A little girl with blond curls cascading down her uniform ran quickly toward Gonzalez in the pouring rain, tripped and fell flat on her face. She got up and handed Gonzalez a gold necklace with her name on it, asking him to wear it from then on.

“It was extremely brave,” Gonzalez said, “but I returned it the very next day and apologized to her.”

He was on the verge of entering middle school, and did not want to be seen dating a younger girl; it was not “cool.”

However ‘uncool’ it may have been 23 years ago, the anecdote still influences his writings of short fiction and poetry.

“Similar to my experience as a fifth grader who was unmindful of love, in my story ‘The Gift,’ the male character treats his fiancee somewhat flippantly,” Gonzalez said.

Campbell McGrath, a University creative writing professor, has read Gonzalez’s works of poetry.

“David Gonzalez is a terrific writer and a great guy. While formally a prose fiction writer, I can attest that he is a very good poet. He has also served as an editor of Hinchas de Poesia, a very cool online lit mag, and a member of the Miami Poetry Collective,” McGrath said.

Gonzalez writes about life experiences and the sentiments that go with them.

“I like to write about characters that present a certain set of emotions, be it loyalty, shame, joy or fear,” Gonzalez said.

For Gonzalez, writing began at the age of 13 as forced therapy to treat congenital stuttering disorder.

“Because I stuttered so much when I spoke, speech therapists recommended I write down my thoughts before I said them,” Gonzalez said. It was difficult, and Gonzalez underwent eight years of speech therapy to get the problem under control.

Maxie Hernandez, a former student of Gonzalez, barely noticed his stutter in class.

“He was open about it in the beginning of the semester, and I think he even apologized for it,” Hernandez said. “But it never affected the kind of teacher he was.”

Hernandez said that Gonzalez taught his students not to settle for mediocrity in their writing, which is something she feels students often do after countless years of repetitive English classes.

“I think David is one of the most passionate people I’ve ever met in my life,” Hernandez said. “I learned and improved more than I believed possible.”

Debra Dean, an assistant professor of English at the University, remembers Gonzalez’s passion in his work.

“I first met David when I was a guest at the FIU Writers Conference, and David was a grad student,” Dean recalled. “He handed in a wonderful short story, the kind that warms the cockles of a teacher’s heart because it was both completely original and emotionally true.

“I thought, ‘If this is the kind of writers they’re bringing in to FIU, I want to teach there.’”

This story was researched and written for JOU 3300 Advanced News Writing taught by Dr. Fred Blevens in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. You can see this and other class work by going to