Monterey County Herald, April 6th, 2010

     Castroville Elementary School teacher Paul Karrer is also a published writer who is not afraid to mine the classroom for material.
     And given his most recent published work, that extends just outside the classroom as well.
     Karrer's story "Getting Away From School," was recently published in the new "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teacher Tales," the latest edition of the popular short-story series.
     By his count, this is Karrer's 10th time being published in the series. He's banked anywhere from nothing up to $600 for his work over the years, and has submitted numerous times.
     "I bet I've submitted 100 stories," said Karrer, 56.
     "Getting Away From School" is a sometimes dark tale of two teachers' lunch-time ritual of retreating from school grounds for the peace and quiet of a car parked behind the local Subway sandwich shop.
     Karrer said the nonfiction work was inspired by his and a fellow teacher's experience.
     "That's my lunch spot," said Karrer, sitting inside the Giant Artichoke restaurant in Castroville and pointing across the street to a strip mall. "That happens right over there."
     He opens the story with a quick summary of his situation.
     "My California town is a tiny burg of a place. It's mostly a Latino, worker-breeder-feeder for the wealthier communities nearby. And the elementary school I teach in is well, as we say in the lexicon, 'challenged.'"
     In the story, Karrer and his co-worker are enduring another mundane lunch break when their peace is momentarily disturbed by a homeless couple.
     As Karrer looks closer, he realizes that the female is a former student. The ensuing conversation reveals the hardships students face in the Castroville community.
     The story concludes with a somewhat grim conclusion that it's hard for teachers to escape the difficulties students face even outside the classroom. But the reality for Karrer and his contemporaries is felt.
     "After I submitted, I thought 'God, I hope they don't publish that.' It's not flattering for the community," said Karrer. "Hopefully it can create an awareness that there needs to be a change in this community."
Karrer said he always finds stuff to write around his work, whether it's his personal experiences or stories he hears from other teachers.
     "I totally mine (from the classroom). And I usually do nonfiction because it's easier to write it from that perspective," he said. "Or I can be in the teacher's staff room, they said 'Did you hear what happened today?' And that can turn into a good story, especially because it's true."
     Karrer spends time in a Peninsula writer's group. His fellow writers have come to admire his style and ability to inject aspects of his career into his writing.
     "From his writing, I get a sense of his enjoyment, and his passion (for teaching)," said Tom Burns, a member of the writer's group. "He tells me some of the things he does as a teacher, and I'm 59 years old, so I got back to my 5th grade class in 1960 and I know that he's a lot looser and more intimate with the children, in a good way. I think he's a great communicator as far as teachers. His kids really like him a lot."
     Burns said while reading "Getting Away From School," he found it depressing, but heartfelt.
     "It's sad that things are that way, but god bless the teachers that are working it out. I would imagine it's a very large source of frustration being a teacher in California these days."
     Karrer said his output has slowed down over the years he writes two to three hours a week, where once he wrote that much daily. Still, the fire burns for literary success.
     "I just always wanted to be a writer, since I was a kid. Especially with Steinbeck's influence. He haunts us," Karrer said. " I'll be really happy to be detested like he was."




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