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Daniel Orozco

A Working Story: Professor’s Path Completes Connections

As the University community is recognizing Hispanic Heritage Month in September, accomplishments and contributions from its diverse group of faculty and staff, including those with a Hispanic heritage, are also being highlighted.

At home in the classroom and with a nose to the grindstone attitude toward writing, associate professor of English Daniel Orozco enjoys taking the stories of working people and bringing them to life. For the son of Nicaraguan immigrants, it is the challenge of crafting the story that draws him to create the story. With a book of short stories due out this spring, in addition to working on his first novel, he is not short on material.

“I love crafting stories: building the story, creating it and making it work,” says Orozco. “I enjoy the challenge; I don’t write for other people. I am always writing for an audience, but I’m the first person who has to like it.”

He wasn’t always a writer though. After several different majors at Stanford University, Orozco graduated with a film and broadcasting degree. He swore he would never write anything again.

“I was that student; I hated writing papers,” says Orozco.

It was in his late 20s or early 30s that Orozco decided to try writing again, but this time he was going to write what he wanted: short stories.

As he applied for graduate school at San Francisco State University, he found he enjoyed the writing process and was good at it; but he also wanted to learn more about the writing craft. With a newfound passion for writing, he discovered he didn’t want to just write, he wanted to teach – and went on to earn his MFA at the University of Washington.

Over the last 15 years, Orozco has had many of his stories published. There is a common theme that runs through his stories: they are they are told at work – whether it is two Golden Gate Bridge painters, a Nicaraguan dictator or two police officers.

“I’m interested in people at work, what they do,” says Orozco. “And people on the margins, people alone…yearning for some sense of connection.”

Focusing on connections, his story “Only Connect” was selected for inclusion in the Best of the West 2010: New Stories from the Wide Side of the Missouri, and picked as a “Recommended Story” in the O. Henry Prize Stories.

Orozco joined the University of Idaho in 2002 and the native San Franciscan spent the first few years here biding his time. For Orozco, the path was never straight, nor direct. As he writes and teaches at the University, he has come to love his surroundings as much as the path he took to find the right career.