Teacher-author walks the talk

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Coalhurst High School teacher Mike Saad and his recently published novel, “All the Devils are Here.”

COALHURST – Mike Saad’s classroom discussions have provided him with plenty of fodder for his literary works. Now the Coalhurst High School teacher is returning the favour in full, sharing his journey as a published author with his students.

Saad has seen some 20 of his pieces published over the years – the first dating back to the early ‘90s when he was a high school student – but those were poetry, short stories and novellas.

Although his first novel was just recently published, initially he’d made a concerted effort not to discuss the adult nature of “All the Devils Are Here” with his creative writing class. As the buzz grew leading up to the launch, however, he found he couldn’t ignore it completely.

He still stays clear of the drug culture his crime novel is centred around but Saad has been sharing his first-person knowledge of the exhaustive process of creating and revising a novel, the frustrations that can come in getting it published, and the realities of self-promotion.

After receiving more than 200 rejection letters over his years of writing, not to mention eight revisions to his novel, he wants to pass along to students the importance of resiliency and stamina.

“I’m encouraging the kids not to get too downtrodden by rejection because rejection provides an opportunity to get better,” says Saad. “You have to look at why it didn’t get accepted. Was it the writing? Or sometimes it’s just not the right piece for the market you submitted it to.”

Although it’s never easy, he emphasizes the necessity of being open to critics. Ultimately, authors are writing for an audience and if that audience isn’t “getting it” then they need to make changes.

“You’ve also got to believe in your story and know when you take some advice, and when you don’t,” says Saad, a teacher for 18 years.

The novel and his passion for writing were byproducts of a high school teacher who showed interest in his work and provided him with some direction. When he was asked to start a creative writing class two years ago in Coalhurst, Saad jumped at the chance to offer that same kind of feedback and support.

Even if they don’t pursue a career in creative writing, he believes the lessons students can learn in his class will still serve them well in the future.

“Whether you go into construction or you want to be a chef, it’s all hard work. Is it something you enjoy and something that is meaningful? If the answer is ‘yes,’ then go ahead and do it,” says Saad.

Teaching can be an all-consuming job, he says, and writing provides him with a creative release. Given that, it’s perhaps ironic the seed for many of his story ideas have been planted in the classroom.

Whether the genre is historical, science fiction or otherwise, Saad says his subject matter usually relates to larger societal themes he brings up in the courses he teaches, including social studies, criminology and environmental sciences.

“I think what has fuelled me so much is bringing these issues up with the kids and seeing their reaction. I think the groundwork for some of my fiction does come from that,” he says.