Before The Title Past
By Nancy Mehl
Interview with Jean Goldstrom Book Review

  Free Your Captive Fiction Writer
An Interview with Jean Goldstrom
By Nancy Mehl
June, 2001

Jean Goldstrom has a wealth of information tucked between the pages of her book, FREE YOUR CAPTIVE FICTION WRITER.  Her experience comes from years of working as a reporter, as well as managing her e-zine magazine, Anotherealm.  Although recently retired from this popular on-line endeavor, Jean is still involved in writing – and still gaining insight into the writing world.  I asked her if I could reprint the interview and review I did with her last year for The Charlotte Austin Review.  What follows is a look into the heart and mind of this knowledgeable writer.

(Nancy Mehl) Why did you write FREE YOUR CAPTIVE FICTION WRITER? 

(Jean Goldstrom) To explain, I must tell a little story. I graduated from college with a bright, shiny degree in Writing and Literature. I began writing, writing, writing, and soon sold a story. Then I sold a second one - 40 years later. What happened? It seems I didn't really have much of a grasp of what constituted a story. I tried and tried - science fiction, fantasy, juveniles, even true confessions (which are always untrue, of course). Nothing worked. Alas, I concluded, fiction wasn't for me. That's how I got into newspaper writing, and stayed with it, enthusiastically, until I retired. About that time, I began thinking again about fiction writing. I had thought about it a lot, read a number of how-to books (practically memorized Scott Meredith's "Writing to Sell,") and decided to try again. This time it worked. What was different? Well, I had admired the drama in a thousand different news stories - and avoided writing it because our editor said, "I don't want to hear any adjectives in this news room unless they're something like 'five' or 'green.'” Now I could use adjectives! Now I could look at an incident, or even an idea, and dive into it seeking a grasp of what it was about, which you're not supposed to do in a news story.  To my delight, following that "second" fiction sale - 40 years after the first – came quickly the third, the fourth, the fifth, etc. Thinking about how long it took me to learn to do this, I realized that it surely shouldn’t take people 40 years to "free their captive fiction writer." That's why I wrote this book - to help others realize their hopes and dreams in a little shorter time than it took me. 

(NM) What are some of the different ways you get ideas for your stories?

(JG) I've found that moments or events that stay with me, that find a home in my memory, are the ones holding a story within themselves somewhere. It may take some time to find that story, but it's there. Right now I'm working on a story from Scotland's history. A distant ancestor of mine was involved in a crucial chapter of Scotland's history, and I really want to write a story about it. But I'm not quite sure yet what my version of that story will be. A fantasy? A mystery? A straight historical documentation? I don't know yet. But I can't leave that incident alone until I find my story. The search is fascinating, and the only thing better than the seeking is the finding. 

(NM) Your book contains many different short stories. Do you have a favorite?

(JG) That's a hard question to answer. "The Last Edition" and "Whose Best Friend" come to mind, though they are rather different from each other. But I care a lot about both of them because...well, think about that hymn that goes: "Time, like an ever rolling stream Bears all its sons away; They fly, forgotten as a dream Dies at the opening day..." In both stories, I used that unique power that writers wield - the power to stop time - to stop that relentless river of days that tries to carry away those we love. In a story, you can hold those loved ones in your heart. Whether it was the friends from my dear old workplace, or my beloved pets from long ago, in those stories they live forever, happily and safely, in my heart, and in that part of my heart I can share with readers. 

(NM) What is the most important thing you want your readers to know?

(JG) Look at the world around you, and look at its reflection in your heart. You will probably find more truth in the reflections. Write it. Give it life. Give it words. Sing it. Shout it. Tell the world. Whether the world chooses to listen or not isn't your problem. Tell the world and you may change it - at the rate of one reader's mind at a time. 

(NM) As the editor of the on-line magazine, Anotherealm - what do you look for in submissions? 

(JG) I look for stories that make me laugh, that make me cry, that show me a vision of the human heart I would never have seen if the writer had not lent me his or her "eyes," the lenses through which he or she perceived that story and recorded it. 

(NM) What is the biggest challenge facing writers in today's marketplace? 

(JG) Trying to get published - that is a tough one at times. But when the writer has somewhat mastered the knack of getting published, then there comes another challenge that can be an even tougher one. That second challenge is writing stories that matter, not just the ones you now know can get published. Which stories matter? Each writer has to answer that for him or herself. But we all know the stories that don't matter - publications are full of them. Reviews or analysis of such stories starts with, “This reminds me of…” The ones that do matter, you recognize immediately, because they are as unique as the human experience, and the vision of the person who wrote them. And those are the ones you must write - to be true to that fiction writer within you. 

(NM) What advice would you give to an aspiring writer? 

(JG) Never give up. Even if it takes 40 years to get that second story published. Even if it takes 40 years to get the first story published! If you're a writer - however long it takes is not too long. After all, the work of a writer is important enough to be worth whatever time it takes. The work of a writer is nothing less than changing the world, one mind at a time. 

(NM) What are your future writing goals? 

(JG) Now that my "inner fiction writer" is out, it wants to do everything - write the story about the ancestor, write about the Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut, write about other worlds, other planets, other realms. And on the subject of other realms, I want to keep, the e-zine I edit, continuing to publish stories written by people who, in the majority of cases, have never been published before. I think it's important to help others free their inner fiction writers by offering a place to be published. 

(NM) Any closing thoughts or comments? 

(JG) Just one; working a day job outside the writing realm does not mean you are not a writer. Many people trying to become writers or working to become better writers, feel they really should be able to obtain their living from writing. In today's world, that certainly isn’t true. It works for a few - the Steven Kings, the Ray Bradburys, the John Grishams. But name your ten favorite authors and there's a good chance that the majority of them do something else for their primary income. William Blake had a day job. Nathaniel Hawthorne had a day job. Walt Whitman had a day job. It didn't make them any less of a writer, and it won't make you any less of a writer. Sometimes it makes you a better writer, because you know something about a world that isn't all pencils, pens and paper. You can bring something unique from your workplace to your writing. What time of the day - or night - you write is irrelevant. The fiction writer within you is what makes you a writer. 

Reviewed by Nancy Mehl
Electric Works Publishing - 1999
ISBN: 1587230712 -  eBook
$3.50 E-mail. $4.50 disk US 

Jean Goldstrom looked into her heart to find a treasure chest full of life experiences and nuggets of writer’s wisdom, which she has beautifully fashioned into -FREE YOUR CAPTIVE FICTION WRITER.

This wonderful book doesn’t so much “teach” the art of writing fiction as it “shows” its readers just how it’s done.  Jean shares the “story behind the story” for each of the superb short stories found in her book.  The reader can experience the thoughts and feelings that opened up each tale.  Jean’s insight into what will free the fiction writer within each of us gives us the key to find what was hiding inside all along.

My favorite was Ghosts of Christmas Past.  When ghosts visit an old woman in a nursing home; will they be good ghosts or bad ghosts?  In a touching story that will stay in my heart and mind forever – Elizabeth is visited by the ghosts of her past. 

FREE YOUR CAPTIVE FICTION WRITER is a must for not only experienced writers, but anyone who has ever had a desire to write fiction.  The stories nestled inside are absolutely for everyone!  Highest recommendation. 

 More about it at Electric Publishing

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