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