Jaed Muncharoen Coffin is the author of the memoir A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants (Da Capo Press/ Perseus 08) which chronicles the time he spent as a Buddhist monk in his mother's native village in Thailand. Reviewed in The Los Angeles Times and in a cover story in the Boston Globe, A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants is now taught in the multicultural curriculum at several colleges and universities including Brown, St. Michael's, Middlebury, and University of Maine, Farmington. Jaed was recently honored as a resident fellow at The Island Institute in Sitka, Alaska, where he researched his forthcoming novel, Roughhouse Friday (based on his career as the middleweight champion of an Alaskan barroom boxing circuit). A recipient of a Maine Literary Award, a Ron Brown Fellowship, and a Meyer Grant, Jaed has recently accepted fellowships at The Breadloaf School of English and Franklin & Marshall’s 2009 Emerging Writers Festival. A native of Brunswick, Jaed holds a BA in Philosophy from Middlebury College and an MFA in Fiction from Stonecoast. He now lives in Portland, Maine.
A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants ( Memoir, Da Capo/Perseus '08)
Roughhouse Friday (Novel, forthcoming)
How I Teach:
Good material doesn’t guarantee a good book; our best true stories can end up flat and dead on the page. As a mentor, the most important insight I can offer is to help you determine what I sometimes think of as the “subconscious” of your writing. I’m happy to read your swashbuckling memoir about your life as a pirate, but I’m even happier if together we can determine what deeper element of your pirate memoir is really driving your narrative forward. Is this a memoir about pirates, or a narrative about the human longing for freedom and the renunciation of social conventions and the natural instinct for self-exile? Is your knitting story about wool and needles and sweaters, or is it really about the sometimes delicate and sometimes coarse and deeply complex texture of the human condition? Maybe your memoir about your attempt to rid plastic from your life has nothing to do with environmental ethics. What if it’s really about a longing for earthly authenticity in this suffocating modern world? As writers, until we discover the subterranean forces of our work, we may find ourselves stuck in the mud. In my experience, writing a good book isn’t just about pumping out pages until our fingers bleed or line-editing until we go blind (although this is, no doubt, essential). Sometimes what we may need in order to give our writing soul, voice, and relevance, are good answers to simple questions: What, exactly, am I trying to tell the world? How can my material achieve this for me? What elements of style are going to be most helpful? As your mentor, I look forward to conversing with you and your work in hopes of getting some answers to these questions. Then we’ll talk pirates.