For over twenty years, award-winning short story writer and novelist Peter Markus has made his living teaching creative writing in the Detroit Public Schools. As a teaching artist with Detroit's longest enduring literary non-profit ? InsideOut Literary Arts Project ? Markus has inspired thousands of students to become believers in the power of words, armed with nothing but an ordinary pencil ? the same beat-up, unsharpened pencil Markus has carried with him, story has it, since he was in the third grade. With nods to Pablo Neruda, Mark Strand, T.S. Eliot, and the vital honesty of his own poetic experience, he invites children to explore the dreamscapes of their imaginary worlds, encouraging even the most resistant students to see what magic and wonder awaits them.
"Markus writes in spare yet poetic language that is simple enough to be read and understood by younger readers. However, adults—especially writers and teachers—willing to see with their hearts as well as their minds will also be rewarded for reading this unique book. An inventive and inspiring memoir from an innovative educator."
“In prose that is poetic in itself, Markus brings us into the classroom and feeds us lines his students came up with in response. The creativity and imagination of the kids is a joy to read.”
"Peter Markus’s teaching memoir, is warm, patient, and wise—an enchanting ‘how-to’ sparkling with pedagogical gems.”
“Not only is Markus a wonderfully gifted fiction writer and poet of immense talent, but he is a passionate, dedicated, and generous creative writing teacher of both schoolchildren and adults. In this new inspiring book, Mr. Pete shows that he's a true Detroit original. His working-class roots and sensibilities have combined to create in him a unique literary voice and an incredible heart for teaching and believing in young writers. He has had a major impact on thousands of young lives ofDetroit school children, and this new book is his story…. You will enjoy the experience of a great literary journey as a reader, and you will have the rich opportunity to see the joy of creativity in action.”
-M. L. Liebler, author ofI Want to Be Once andHeaven Was Detroit: Detroit Music from Jazz to Hip Hop
"Part memoir, part magic,Inside My Pencil is an ode to the human imagination by one of our best excavators of that imagination. Markus leads us on a journey through the classroom, a journey that also swerves through both the mind and heart. ... Read this book. It is a book of wonders, a book 'where anything—no, everything—is possible.'"
-Matthew Olzmann, author ofMezzzanines
"In a glowing current of interwoven short essays, 'Mr. Pete' carries us into the transformative glow of his classroom, that trap door to the sublime that opens into the magic pencil—a chewed-up, ordinary wand that sparks the spirit behind words, a telescope that allows us, like his visionary Detroit students, to see with a third eye right through the sky's blue into the magic we hold in our own hands. ... In hoping to write an ode to children, Markus failed. Instead, he soared beyond: this book bears witness to a love strong enough to save the world heart by heart; it is a ceaseless testament to the beauty of being alive, an ageless reminder to us all that nothing ever dies and to believe in what can and cannot be seen."
—Robert Fanning, author ofAmerican Prophet
"Markus has handcrafted a moving prime moving primer for the primal crafting of our prime directive. InInside My Pencil (a memoir, a meditation, a Mercator map projection) Markus makes news and makes the new new again (for his students, for us, for himself) renegotiating that ancient saw about there being nothing new under that old poetic fusion-powered endlessly blissful and basking sun. Here there is a time for everything and that time for you, reader, is now."
-Michael Martone, author ofRules of Thumb
"Markus helps us say yes to a world where magic and transcendence are still possible. This book reaffirms that any one of us—when led by a teacher like Markus—can baptize a page in light."
-John Rybicki, author ofWe Bed Down Into Water
"I read most ofInside My Pencil in one sitting with a smile on my face. It is a gift of spare and resonant language that earns its delights. Markus’s syntax, imaginative figurations, and refrains constantly fold in on themselves, creating pockets of density or space. In these pockets the reader is invited to imagine and wonder alongside the lovingly rendered children of Detroit."
- Jamaal May, author ofHum
"Markus (The Fish and the Not Fish) transports readers into the classroom in the Detroit Public Schools where he has spent over 20 years teaching creative writing as part of the nonprofit InsideOut Literary Arts Project. Markus—or “Mr. Pete,” as he’s called in his classes—doesn’t devote a lot of space to the mechanics of his role or the lesson plans. Instead, he immerses readers in the discourse in the classroom. Markus makes use of the creative license he instills in students; the book is a teacher’s guide ofsorts but reads like experimental memoir. He demonstrates with his own words how he captivates students through stories and how he gets students to believe in the power of words and imagination, and see beauty in the work of metaphor and simile. Over the course of the book, readers become his students, and even the most cynical will emerge believing a bit more in the magic of creativity."
“Markus empowers his students to turn their simple No. 2 pencils into instruments more magical than any wand at Hogwarts.”