BY EMILY DZIAK
Life has a crazy way of taking unexpected turns, as Michael Pogach can attest.
“I would’ve never imagined being a professor at a college, he muses. “If you were to ask any of the people from my past, they would’ve thought I would be a mechanic or something.”
Pogach, a novelist who teaches English at Northampton Community College, describes his upbringing as average.
“My childhood was normal, whatever normal is,” he says. “I had two parents, I played sports, have one brother, went to a good school, didn’t do very well in school. But, I don’t have any traumatic life stories like most writers.”
Writing is in his DNA. “I have loved writing and reading from as long as I can remember,” he says. “I used to carry around a notebook all throughout high school.”
His first pieces were published 10 years ago. His two novels, “The Spider in the Laurel” and “The Long Oblivion,” are dystopian thrillers. For short stories, he pens literary fiction or stories of the supernatural.
The hardest part about publishing a book is the “lengthy difficult process to get it published, to find a publisher and stick with it,” Pogach says.
His first publisher went out of business, forcing him to repeat the gruelling process all over again.
He doesn’t enjoy marketing himself, he says. “I’d rather pay someone to do it, but that’s money.”
Looking back at his early writing, he cringes. “If I were to read what I wrote in high school now, I would have a stroke,” he says.
As for what inspired him to teach, he says, “Well, I thought, why not give it a shot?”
He didn’t begin his career in teaching. Working at a motorcycle shop after having finished his graduate studies, he says, he wondered what he could do with his two master’s degrees, one in Humanities and the other in English, from Arcadia University.
Then the idea of teaching occurred to him. “I did not like school one bit. I thought if my class could be fun, or however fun class can be, maybe I can make kids not dread school as much as I did.”
Anyone who takes his classes knows he’s an open book, with a “Here-I-am, let’s-do-this-thing” attitude.
Pogach is an excellent teacher, says Heather Gil, one of his students. “He engages his students to participate during discussions and keeps them interested. He can be a strict teacher, but his focus is always on helping students improve their writing.”
He is married and has a young daughter, “who is a way-too-smart-for-her-own-good version of me,” Pogach says. “My daughter wakes me up every morning. I don’t want to get up, but the non-sleeping beast wakes me up.”
Describing his routine, he says he wakes up and goes to school, or wakes up and writes, or wakes up and plays with his daughter, soon to turn 4.
Pogach’s favourite pastimes are writing, hockey and playing with his daughter. He has nothing to complain about, he says. “Wow, I sound like a too-happy person.”
The professor possesses a dry sense of humour. “A thing people might not know about me is I had hair once,” he quips.
His pet peeve is waiting, whether in line, in traffic or for people. “I’m a very punctual person,” he says.
He used to travel widely and wishes he had more time for it since he loves exploring and backpacking, he says. “I traveled a lot in my mid-20s to my mid-30s. Cross-country a number of times and probably five or six times to Europe,” where his favourite city is Edinburgh, Scotland.
At NCC, he founded and serves as adviser to The Laconic, an arts and literary magazine that accepts stories, poems, art and paintings from students. It was his way of getting involved at NCC.
“I wanted to leave my stamp on the school. It’s a really great success.” Pogach says.
He is not averse to taking risks. “‘What the heck, I’ll give it a shot’ defines my life,” he says.
His life is so busy, he’s lucky if he gets to have lunch some days. Most days after his daughter wakes him up, he goes to school, teaches, grades papers and then comes home and has dinner because his wife works nights as a nurse.
He dislikes boredom, which isn’t a problem since his life is nonstop. “Giving it a shot” in teaching, he enjoys waking up to the life of a college professor.