Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hollywood Screenwriter Lew Hunter


Excerpt of Interview with Lew Hunter 

Lew is one of the successful Nebraska authors included in my upcoming book with working title Successful Living Nebraska Authors.



Lew and Pamela’s hospitality welcomes new talent into their Victorian home to aspiring screenwriters. Lew’s best selling book at the center of his teaching style continues as a textbook for screenwriting classes at UCLA and internationally. Lew himself has traveled to many countries teaching his method. Lew's students hold innumerable national and international awards. Lew defines his book and technique as a ‘how to’ approach.

Pamela’s work as host to their guests at their Superior Victorian homes glues the experience for participants into a complete package.

Lew Hunter’s career in media began in the mid 1950’s while still attending Nebraska Wesleyan College in Lincoln, NE. His resume’ in TV and film from writing for television, screenwriting, producing, directing and other publications pale next to the man’s zest for life and the Lew who is Lew.

In early correspondence through email and over the telephone, I warned Lew that I don’t interview as most other interviewers he may be used to. I work on the premise that no work is without the person behind it, inside of it and who puts it out in front of the world.

With a few pre-interview chats and research of Lew’s website, Lew Hunter’s Screenwriting 434, and reading an article by Leo Adam Biga, I sent four questions to Lew and Pamela. We agreed to a telephone interview to take place on May 3, 2012 at 3:00 pm based on four questions. 


Lew, you seem to have a strong sense of hospitality and friendship. Where does that come from?

I figured out a way to answer this question by repeating to you the Ten Commandments of Screenwriting by Tom Shadyec, a big comedy director with Evan Almighty and The Nutty Professor with Eddy Murphy. The first thing he did was Ace Ventura Pet Detective that he also co-wrote.

He was in my class, and he was the youngest writer on Bob Hope’s staff. I asked the class to write their impression of Lajos Egri. He came back with Lajos Egri’s The Art of Dramatic Writing. He sent me this, which wasn’t quite what I was looking for, but turned out to be better than what I was looking for. He starts out,

            One late night as writer’s block set in, my savior Lajos Egri spoke to me from a burning box of erasable bond so that I might know his laws.
·        1. The following commandments shall be carved in stone to discourage any revision. Thou shall love the lord thy god Conflict as thyself.
·        2. Thou shall not have false gods: plot, dialogue, or storyline before character.
·        3. Thou shall not steal, but thou may borrow and make it thine own.
·        4. Thou shall not kill character with stereotypes, shallowness, or two-dimensionality
·        5. Thou shall not commit adulltry sic, for as the great Prophet Lew Hunterious has said after me “the greatest sin of art it dullness.”
·        6. Thou shall not lie. That’s what agents are for.
·        7. Thou shall keep thy premise wholly.
·        8. Thou shall honor thy father and mother for it is from them that one learns about oneself that from oneself all art emanates.
·        9. Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself or this will cause conflict, the source of all drama, with thy neighbor’s husband.
·        10. Thou shall keep the Sabbath unless thou has a deadline.

Boy, oh boy, those are all in their own way total truths, the ten truths in terms of screenwriting, and storytelling.

“Thou shall honor thy father and mother for it is from them that one learns about oneself that from oneself all art emanates.” It’s certainly, in answer to your question, I have to give that to my parents. My father, known as the nicest and the strongest man in Webster County, Nebraska; I thought it would be a hell of a burden for me to bear as I am an only child. It wasn’t any problem, he was just so adorable and such a tremendous role model.

My mother, on the other hand, was hell on wheels. She turned out to be the most powerful person in Nebraska in the late forties or early fifties. She was the chairperson of the Republican Central Committee, which picked all the senators, governors, congressmen and so forth, in her day.

She was a musician and graduated when very few women graduated from the University of Nebraska. She graduated with a major in music an emphasis on the violin; then went on to the New England Conservatory of Music to get what today we know as a Master’s degree.

When she came back, my father proposed to her. She said; “I’ll be your bride if I can get two things. One, I want running water in the house,” which meant she wanted indoor plumbing as he was a farmer. Number two, she didn’t want to have to raise chickens because she didn’t want to step in whatever chickens leave behind. He said that would be fine. She spent her life as a not so simple farmwoman who taught music to probably everybody in the area, piano specifically and of course violin. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Interview - Valerie Vierk, Nebraska Author

This month I have the privilege to interview Valerie Vierk author of five books, three of which revisit events people from and Ravenna's history: Gold Stars and Purple Hearts—the War Dead of the Ravenna, NE Area, Sailing the Troubled SeaA Nebraska Boy Goes to War, and Winter of Death: Victims of the 1918 - 1919 Influenza Epidemic in the Ravenna, Nebraska Area. Gold Stars and Purple Hearts contains the biographies of 36 veterans from Ravenna, and Sailing the Troubled Sea is a biography of Valerie’s father’s World War II Coast Guard experiences. In Winter of Death she gives biographies of the 32 victims of the influenza epidemic. Strangely, Ravenna suffered a much higher death rate than neighboring towns.
     Valerie’s fourth book, A Sister of My Own is a fiction novel centered on a girl in small town Nebraska. Her fifth book, Christmas of the Dolls and Other Stories of the Season is a collection of Christmas short stories, reminiscences, and accounts from Ravenna.

Valerie revealed some of herself to me in the following paragraph.
Ravenna is very much home but Kearney is my second home. I've been commuting for 35 years now; sixty miles round trip. I live in Ravenna because I love nature and in Dec. 2003 my dream of living along the South Loup River came true. I'd owned the three acres for several years but couldn't afford to build out there. Then the interest rates dropped and I decided "Now or never" so I took the leap. One day while I was standing on the high bank overlooking the river I suddenly saw a fawn appear on the sandbar. Then his twin appeared. I watched them bucking and frolicking, and that was the deciding factor. I decided if I could live that close to nature I'd better do it. I haven't regretted it. My house sits only 100 feet from the bank.

Glenda: Your attachment to your roots seems very strong. Why don't you tell us some of your favorite moments or events over the years?

Valerie:  My mother’s side of the family came to the Ravenna area around 1886 so yes, my roots are deep. I was fortunate to always live very close to my parents. I was one of those kids who didn’t move away and now that both parents are deceased my life is different.  Where I live along the river is only about 100 yards from where my great grandparents lived for a while when my great grandfather was the agent on the Union Pacific Railroad. When I moved out to my new place, Mom said, “It seems like you are meant to be here.”

Glenda: Writing biographies about other people can be a task of love and very difficult. Often people who have been in war don't like to speak about their experiences. How did this affect your pursuit for the biographies included in Gold Stars and Purple Hearts?

Valerie: Sadly, most of the men I was writing about were already deceased. My parents were both living then and they knew most of the men. That helped me feel that I knew them. I also contacted all the relatives I could find and they were very helpful.
     Concerning my dad’s book, he was initially reluctant because he thought it would sound like he was bragging. (He was in the D-Day invasion and was wounded.) I said it wasn’t bragging because I was asking him to do it. I didn’t have to delve too deep with him because I knew it was awful.  He summed it up in the book, “It was carnage.”  (The day on Omaha Beach) Even in war though, there were humorous scenes with Dad and his young crew members, which I included in the book.

Glenda: Article writing was one of my first professional pursuits.  You mentioned to me that you were asked to write some articles for the Buffalo County Historical Society and that's how you started writing non-fiction books. Now you've branched into your first choice - fiction. Do you think that authors often get started through a chain of genres and mixed genres?

Valerie: Yes, sometimes life throws us an unexpected curve, and sometimes it is a good thing. That’s how I got started writing historical articles. The editor was desperate for something to put in that month’s newsletter and he knew me and asked. It went from there. Many writers write in various genres I’ve noticed from the Nebraska Writers Guild information.

Glenda: We don't always directly refer to something or someone in a story, but we find bits and pieces of a personality that intrigue us. Maybe it's just a statement someone made, or a movement. Are you a people watcher in the sense that you will often take mental notes that will later turn up in your writing, even if it's just a mannerism?

Valerie: Yes. It’s fun to observe people. I think people who read our work are always looking for someone they know. For instance, after reading my novel, my son asked, “Is that woman you describe as having a face like a doll the wife of Mike?” I was surprised and said no, that wasn’t the woman I had in mind but was surprised he remembered me saying that about Mike’s wife from years before. I enjoy hearing how people interpret my books. Often they see something totally different than what we had in mind!


Glenda: Finally, you related a beautiful scene that helped you make the decision to finally place a home on your Ravenna property. Tell me and my readers about your love of nature and achieving that dream.

Valerie: Mom was a farm girl, and her dad leased a section of “school land” that is only a half mile from where I now live. Grandpa held the lease for about forty years so it seemed like family land. When I was a child Mom would take my brother, sister and me on fall nature walks on this land by the river. I cherish those memories and I still walk on that land frequently. Mom instilled the love of nature in me. For forty years I’ve maintained a bluebird trail and have about 85 houses up now.
   Only about a hundred yards north of my house is a slough, and in 2009 a rare trumpeter swan showed up there! The next summer he brought a mate, and the next summer they hatched one cygnet. Last summer they hatched four but the slough was drying up and the swan family evacuated to the river on the 4th of July. I am sorry to say the cygnets all perished from predators, but I saw the parents at our little lake east of town in September. We hope for better luck next summer. It has been an incredible thrill to observe and photograph these rare birds to our area and I see it as a gift from God. I plan to write a book about them soon and will title it “The Gift of Swans.” The huge birds made an awesome sound when they fly over. It sounds kind of like a French horn. It is so thrilling and I am so fortunate to live where I can closely observe them!
    I am also writing a nature journal, separate from the swan book.




    Valerie Vierk's interests haven't been reduced by being a hometown girl. This being the month of Thanksgiving and to remember our veterans, it is fitting that Valerie, who has devoted two of her books to war heroes, is my featured author. She is a woman who puts a high value on family and has one son and a daughter-in-law. I imagine she extends that family sentiment to the wildlife around her. I'm sure Val will have special treats out for the birds that stay and winter near her home. She's taken on a special task greeting the things of nature as a part of her family heritage and continued labor of love.
   Valerie, I hope your trumpeter swans will return to the slough near your home. Your commitment and care for the people and things around you touches life in ways many will never notice, except as they read you books or have the privilege of being your family and friends.  Thank you Valerie for sharing with us about your life and it's influence on your writing.

   I wish Valerie Vierk and all who read this a very Happy Holidays.



Friday, November 16, 2012

Interview by E. Kaiser

Interview

Dear readers, I had the privilege this month of being the feature interview for author Elizabeth Kaiser also from Nebraska. Her thoughtful questions investigate the places of my childhood and the family that influences much of my world and writing. Please go to the link by clicking  Interview above.

G. K. Fralin

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Poetry Analysis: The World is Too Much With Us by William Wordsworth

I forever consider myself a student of literature as well as an author. By treking through the history of poets and poetry, I begin to feel a connection. I feel a connection to the poets and history. The evolving of the science and etheral natures of the art inspire.

William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850) was born in Cockermouth, Cumberland England’s lake district. Wordsworth developed a great love of nature. The English industrial revolution was in its prime. The political climate in France and between France and Britain became hostile and he had to return to England.
 
He had traveled in his youth to France and fell in love with a French girl Annette Vallon whom he impregnated.   It was at this time he had to return to England leaving Annette behind. He never met his daughter Anne Caroline until ten years later. He never married Annette but did support her and Anne Caroline throughout his life.
 
Wordsworth was one of several “romantic” poets of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries known today as English Romantic Poets.  He worked and published extensively with Samuel Taylor Coleridge who wrote “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.”   The two were also known as the “lake poets”.
 
The term romantic was applied to Wordsworth and his fellows much later by scholars.  Wordsworth defined his work as experimental because they were devoted to nature and the free flow of emotion and what he called the “real language of men.” This began a deviation from the language style of the Jacobean poets.  “The World is Too Much With Us” is a great example of Wordsworth’s devotion to writing lyric sonnets. He also wrote a work called “Preface to Lyrical Ballads” later known as the “manifest” of English Romantic poetry.   It is interesting that he wrote many of his sonnets, not in the traditional Shakespearian style, but in the Italian style. 
 
 
In “The World is Too Much With Us” Wordsworth is lamenting societies need and greed for money and things.  The industrial age was bringing in steam locomotives, machines and factories. He’d lost both parents when he was young and remained close to his sister. He was caught in the middle of political upheavals of France and between France and England. His life by this time must have seemed very noisy and out of control.
 
The World Is Too Much With Us
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune,
It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
In the first lines we immediately see his complaint.   The world if often used in writing to refer to the ‘ways of the world’ or ‘worldly’. The words “late and soon” are part of a list continuing in the next line “getting and spending.”   The line break is for the purpose of the structure of the sonnet. Late and soon refers to the fast pace of the age. “I’m always late but it’s much too soon for me” is how I interpret these two words. I much prefer his brevity.
“Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!”
Here he makes a statement that has been the cry of many over the centuries.   We let our progress take away the wonders of nature to the point we don’t notice it. This does sound like a country boy. The word ‘boon’ means advantage, or benefit. By putting the words sordid and boon together, he is plainly saying that it is a disgusting or distasteful benefit. These two words cancel out each other in a division which puts our hearts at risk of losing our love for the simple and natural.
“This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune,”
The above four lines emphasize his point. Up-gathered like sleeping flowers is an image he uses to make the point of how the “winds that will be howling at all hours” are internal noises, or the noise of industry at all hours. The noise could be either internal or external, but the simile of the up-gathered flowers indicates that the hours (changes and fast pace) are stealing away harmonious unity with nature.
“It moves us not.--Great God! I'd rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;”
This is like an expletive. The above two lines are the venting of his anger. He’d rather be like a pagan, for instance believing in ancient Greek gods celebrating nature, than part of a world that is destroying nature’s beauty and calling itself Christian.
He is not saying he doesn’t believe in God. Instead he expresses his anger at the world to God and possibly even at God.
 
“So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.”
 
 
 
I can picture Wordsworth yelling these lines angrily standing on the shore and shaking a fist. He feels it would be so much simpler to go back the pagan beliefs of the Greeks of giving a sense of divine to all things of nature. Proteus was one of the mythological Greek gods of the sea, and Triton was the son of Poseidon and Aphrodite whose horn was a conch shell for calming or stirring the waters. 
 
Even though Wordsworth felt the need for letting powerful emotions flow
spontaneously on to the page, he also held that poetry needed to have a poetic tone and form. The body of William Wordsworth’s works is vast. Many of his poems were published after his death; however, he did publish much during his life as well. He was well educated, traveled extensively, and often dedicated his poetry to people, places and events.
Wordsworth was not the first poet or author to lament man’s disrespect for nature. He appreciated the pastoral poem and introduced the age of the Romantic poets along with his friend and mentor Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Wordsworth and Coleridge shared many ideas on poetry, nature, and published together. Wordsworth’s reputation grew in England throughout his life because of his many works and their quality. After Robert Southey died in 1846 Wordsworth was named poet Laureate of England, a high honor.This analysis is also available on Author's Den along with some of my other writing.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Elizabeth Kaiser Interview

Author Elizabeth Kaiser Interview

Elizabeth, author of Jeweler’s Apprentice, joined the Nebraska Writer’s Guild last year. She’s already working on a sequel to the timeless fantasy about a sixteen year old girl whose curiosity makes her stumble upon a secret the King can’t allow to be revealed. Sent to a mountain jeweler as an apprentice, life becomes no less fraught with adventure and intrigue as she learns the trade of crafting jewelry.

Elizabeth is an intriguing person. As I read her blog, I discovered many facets make up this beautiful gem that is the woman behind the author. I will let her explain to you how her life story lends to her mindset of fantasy.

Elizabeth, you have an eclectic interest in preferred reading. However, you’re first book is a young adult fantasy which incorporates some of your hobbies such as intricate jewelry. Tell the readers the story you related to me about your family and life on the farm.

 I'm third in my family with an older sister and brother.  I'm 28, and Abigail is my youngest sister, and best friend. She and I manage a small herd of dairy goats, (registered Alpines, their 
site is here.) and share so many other interests that we make a great team no matter what we're doing, whether it’s quilting, designing and sewing our own clothes, painting, drawing, or obedience training the dogs.  Although she isn't interested in writing, she loves stories, so she's my best "writing buddy" and we brainstorm on plots, characters, clich├ęs and all things writing! She's a nit-picky perfectionist, and my first reader, so she drives me to do more and be better!
   My parents, three siblings and I live and work on the farm.  Our family business includes training, marketing and selling horses. Our operation has been blessed to have gained a really solid reputation over the years we've been in business, and buyers from all over the country bid some high money for a horse from  Double K Ranch. Abi and our oldest sister work full time in the horse area,  first training, conditioning for months, then photographing & videoing, and then making the sales. A web presence is a big part of making this successful, and I take care of a lot on that end of things.

 Dad has been quite ill to varying degrees for basically his whole life. Living a healthy lifestyle and eating a balanced, natural diet have always been a big part of our lives. We produce approximately 99% of our own vegetables and our own dairy products. We raise & butcher our own meat, can, dry, and freeze much like farm families did in the first part of the last century. This keeps the schedule very full, and there's always something next to try and add!

Mom has been into growing and using herbs for as long as I can remember, and so I am a neophyte compared to her experience! This has given me a lot of exposure. I value the knowledge I have gotten secondhand, and do try to keep picking things up as we go. Remembering all of it is the challenge! But that's one of the great things about writing, doing the research is so fascinating!

Since I like to write in pre-modern or fantasy settings; I like to slip little nuggets of fact in on the storyline. This is especially useful in the herb section, since they were so important to health care prior to very recent centuries.  
 
Abi and I are involved with the Nebraska Dairy Goat Association and I have done the cover art for its monthly newsletter for about three years now, and somewhere in there became the S.W. Director for the club. Having a monthly deadline has insisted that I focus on my drawing periodically, and I'm not able to "let it slide" like life has a tendency of doing! Lately I've been encouraging Abigail to help me out a little with a few drawings, and she did one last week that is really fantastic. Being a perfectionist, she has a tendency to hang back until she's sure she can do it perfectly. When she took the plunge and got it as far as she could, then I was able to give her a few pointers, and she was really pleased with the result. I'm so happy about this, because now her confidence is boosted and she can be bolder about tackling her art on the next! Her pencil still life, "Cheese Plate," will be appearing on a future cover, and I'm going to keep her going on this track! 

I've really been grateful for the support she's often given me on my endeavors, and I definitely try to pay that back.

How did that influence Jeweler’s Apprentice. 

We always lived out in remote areas, and so we kids grew up exploring whatever new woods we had moved next to and learning to get along with horses, cows, goats, sheep, dogs, cats, chickens, and lately turkeys. I was more the "nose in a book" type, but my siblings were my peer group, so I did what they did a lot of the time. The older two could get kind of wild, especially with horses.

I count myself blessed with a good understanding of how things were before industrialization, which sets me up to write about faraway lands in long ago times. I've always been a lover of fairy-tales, so oftentimes a serving of that gets stirred in to the mix.

Many people have commented that the setting of Jeweler's Apprentice feels very "real," as if the history actually happened somewhere. I love that compliment and credit my unique childhood for much of that.


I understand that besides the family business, you have an interest in art, along with your sister Abigail who helps review your writing. In your book Jeweler’s Apprentice your protagonist, Fia, has a younger sister Eilma. How much is Eilma like your younger sister Abigail?Eilma definitely shares many traits with Abigail, certainly being about the same span of years younger than Fia, and blonde/blue eyed, sweet and caring, quiet and thoughtful. Eilma differs in that she is more precocious as a youngster than Abi was, so in that way Eilma is borrowing traits from an older Abi and maybe some from a younger me. Abi was a picture perfect child, whereas I had a certain sense of curiosity and boldness. 

I do have to say that I'm very fond of Eilma, and was sad when the story required leaving her so soon! I hope to write her story as well someday. 


Elizabeth, you joined the Nebraska Writer’s Guild sometime last year and attended the fall conference. I’ve had such wonderful experiences with the other members of the guild. I noticed in your acknowledgments of Jeweler’s Apprentice several of the guild members are mentioned. Explain just how being a member of such an organization has advanced your writing career.

I joined NWG just before the Fall Conference 2011, and so I haven't been around in the group a whole long time. I went up to Ainsworth with two lovely ladies from my area. They were such great company.  It was my first time at a writing conference of any kind, and having made two new friends right beforehand was so nice!

I had an all-around great time at the Conference, and the part I liked best was networking with all the nice fellow writers! Everyone was so open and friendly, and it was a blast to talk with people who were all thinking along the same lines; improving craft, gaining new social media/marketing skills, and the whole publishing animal! 

After coming home I felt empowered enough to get my manuscript seriously edited, and then put out there as an e-book. This has been a huge turning point in my writing career. I've received some excellent feedback and gained fans; all of which has been like high octane fuel to my writing aspirations. It's catapulted me into a Writer instead of a hobbyist. Now I feel pressured to turn out a good manuscript within a certain time frame; always trying for each to be successively better than the last.

 So I'd say that joining the NWG was a major "plot point" in my story as writer. And I'd suggest any writer-hopeful to find a writer's group near them to get in with. Having fellow writers/storytellers there's so much information to be shared and so much encouragement to be shared as well.

Of course, a lot can be found on the internet, so folks just need to reach out and get in contact with people who share goals with them! 


Some people have commented on the depth of emotion; sorrow and anger, shown in some pieces of your writing. It's not what they expect when first meeting you. What has influenced this?

 I've had a unique life in many ways; including sadness. Dealing with severe illnesses within my immediate family... anyone who's been in that position knows it can go on forever and drive everybody to the breaking point. The repeated, unexpected losses of extended family who were very special to me, those are sorrows that don't go away. We loose things; that are, were or might have been... and it breaks our hearts.

  It all serves to show that life is precious. We are held together by a thread, and sometimes... it severs.  In all lives, things are irrevocably changed, and there's no going back.

 We deal with it. The process of grieving comes in many stages, and, as writers, I definitely think the darker days of life are the ones that we're kind of afraid to allow out into our writing. But when I have taken that chance and let it manifest, the release from within was so freeing. Writing is great therapy!

  Then I built up the courage to share with others, I was humbled by the intensity of their reactions to the honesty of the piece. It was amazing to see how it resonated with them on different levels; and it really showed me that we're not alone in feeling sorrow, anger, or fear, anymore than we are when we feel joy, hope and love.

 It's easy to think that no one understands the depth of pain, but the fact is we tend to hide our hurts behind smiles. Smiles are so important! But healing is important too, and believing the universal connections we all share is liberating in a deeply powerful way.

 I don't focus on the sad things. Happiness is a better place to live. But pathos gives our stories, and our lives, depth and layered meanings. I think recognizing this as something good is vital.



As a member of the Nebraska Writer's Guild and a fellow author, I'd like to thank the Kaiser family for moving to Nebraska. Elizabeth works hard with her family and we can expect that she will continue to put as much care and effort into her writing. With Jeweler's Apprentice available at http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=Jeweler%27s+Apprentice for Kindle and the promise of more books to come, I expect much from Elizabeth Kaiser.

I'm hoping that inserting this note, my blog will start showing text for interviews again. I respect that many of my followers are used to finding the monthly author interviews on this site. You have every right to expect consistency. I am going to continue trying to get this to work. The image below is a sample image and not related to any of the interviews posted here.


Monday, August 27, 2012

INTERVIEW WITH C. K. VOLNEK

Interview with C. K. Volnek

This month's interview is with Charlotte Volnek otherwise known as C. K. Volnek, a Nebraska author and Nebraska Writer's Guild Member. We lovingly call her Charlie for short. She's written and markets a goodly amount of books mostly directed for the tween and teen readers. Some of her titles are

Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island: A ghost story. Young Jack must solve the age-old mystery of the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island to stop the horrible evil haunting his island home.

A Horse Called Trouble: A young girl passed from one foster home to another is placed in a program of horse therapy. There she meets A Horse Called Trouble and must overcome her abusive past to save the horse that teaches her to love and trust again.

Secret of the Stones: Young Alex finds himself in the middle of a fantastic fix when he is gifted a box, complete with the secrets to Merlin's Magic. Through a number of comic mix-ups, Alex struggles to discover how to control the magic while solving the mysterious prophecy surrounding it.



Charlie, there is no way I have touched on the huge list of works you have published. One thing I noticed with the three stories I've mentioned is that you entertain through genres that have long fascinated children and adults alike. You take these genres and add yourself into the mix. I can't help but wish I could wear your shoes for a day and have the fun of finding these ideas and putting the characters and stories together. Can you give us a hint at how you come up with the ideas?

Thanks for having me visit with you today, Glenda. So where do I get my ideas? I have to laugh. My muse is always on the alert for a strange and new story. Articles, news stories, magazines, even listening to others talk. She’s mulling over the latest news story of a man who lost his memory after falling in a ravine. For 17 days he wandered, hitch-hiking and doing odd jobs for food before meeting someone named Emma in McDonalds. The name sparked his memory as it was the name of his grand-daughter. After all this time, the family fearing he was dead, they were all re-united in a happy ending. There’s definitely a book in there don’t you think?

Ghost Dog of Roanoke Island came alive after reading an article on the Lost Colony. My muse wouldn’t let go of the mystery of how 121 colonists simply vanished, never to be heard from again. She decided she had to come up with her own version of what happened. Of course she had to throw in a dog, a ghastly monster and some Native American folklore to complete the story.

A Horse Called Trouble is a special book to me. The story came to me after I visited a horse therapy program for tweens. It was an awesome experience and I could see how the students benefited from working with the horses. They are such majestic creatures. I also grew up with horses and have a fondness for horse stories, so it seemed a natural fit for my muse. I also struggled as a child, being shy and insecure, so I drew on many of those feelings to create a character kids can connect with. I believe most kids struggle with some kind of personal issue, whether it’s feeling unpopular, lack of confidence, or being bullied. Hopefully, they will be able to identify with Tara and learn how to cope with some of these fears along with her.

The Secret of the Stones actually fermented within my muse for many years. As my children grew up, one of their favorite movies was The Sword and the Stone. The magic of Merlin has always intrigued me and I wanted to find a new way for it to come alive to kids of today. This is a much lighter story, adding a few funny mishaps with Alex changing places his sister’s guinea pig as well as his school teacher’s spoiled parrot. But it also has a lot of mystery as Alex must discover how the magic works while also solving the riddles of the prophecy surrounding it.


Your biography reveals that part of your reason of writing for the tween to teen ages is because you had a son who hated to read. My son almost had to be hogtied to get a book into his hands. What kind of satisfaction and feedback do you get from parents and teachers of hesitant readers?

I know some kids have trouble connecting with books. They’d rather be ‘doing’ rather than ‘reading.’ (That was my middle son. Still is.) So I try to create stories tweens and teens can live along with, learning unusual bits of history and folklore, solving mysteries, and maybe even discovering a little bit about themselves as they relate with the characters.

It is just a joy hearing from students who have read my books. And luckily it’s all been great reviews so far. When attending an event at a local bookstore, I was honored and humbled by one of the students making a poster for A Horse Called Trouble and saying it was her favorite book. I didn’t need a hot air balloon to feel as high as the clouds that day. J I only hope my books can continue to be introduced to more and more teens and tweens, to offer up characters they might be able to identify with.


We've been discussing your work so far, but now for some fun. I had to laugh at your 24 item list of facts about yourself. You mention you’re the youngest of five children. Do you feel that you are still a child at heart? Do you still torment your older siblings?

 Have to chuckle at this. I don’t know if I’ve ever really grown up. I still love kid’s movies and am still one of the biggest Harry Potter fans. Age is only a number…though the knees don’t react as kindly as they once did. Ha.

As for my siblings…there is a rather large number of years between me and my siblings so I never really was the one to torment them. And unfortunately I lost my two oldest brothers at rather young ages. My first brother drowned when I was in high school and even though he was 11 years older than me, he was one of my biggest fans and a great support. He believed in me, even when I didn’t. Though it took me longer than planned to be a published author, (three small beings called children seemed to dominate my time and thoughts for some years) I hope and pray he is smiling down with pride at me for finally accomplishing my dreams.
  

I've read a lot of books that seem to try to be children's stories. Many writer's want to be Mark Twain, or Robert Louis Stevenson. We can none of us become the other author. We must read them and we can learn from them.  If we try to be them, we fall far short. I've tried and fallen flat on my face.

Charlie speaks a lot about her muse. Many writers do. To me, a muse is that file in the very center of your brain that opens your heart to a new chapter or idea. I hope that makes sense. I know the word confounded even me for a long time. Oh, I knew the definition, but how to tap it I didn't know. All I had to do was let go.

Charlie (C.K.Volnek) doesn't try to be anyone but who she is. She is that child at heart who loves it all, is curious about it all and who lets her muse guide her. Children between 8 to 19 may be the focus group for her books. (I made up those numbers, I'm not sure she said other that tweens and teens.) I can tell you, they aren't the only ones who love her books. I used to get to relive Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella,  orTreasure Island by reading them to my children. Now I don't feel the need for an excuse. I just read what I want.

To all you authors and yet to be authors, I learn much from the people I interview and the works I read. Television is getting boring, videogames too demanding, the answer I find, and I encourage is read, if you get an idea then write it. See what happens.

C. K. Volnek did just that and look at the satisfaction she has today of the little girl who drew the poster for A Horse Called Trouble. Charlie, I'm sure your brother is looking down and saying "Write on Sis, Write on."

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

G. K. Fralin
Short Read Newletter
July 31, 2012

Dear friends and family,

This is actually the July and possibly August newsletter. I don't have an interview for you this month.

 I hope that's not a hooray I hear.

As much as I know, many of you enjoy the interviews and upcoming news, this past month I was very ill and in hospital. Therefore, I will give a sort of memoir, or filled in story of what I've experience. I hope to make the words creative for your interest, but I will keep it true to events.

On Wednesday July something or other (the 12th I think.) I went to the doctor for an ear infection. She put me on antibiotics. Of course, that's dull enough, but that night I started to run a fever, at least so Joe pointed out. We asked our oldest grandson, Delsin, to come and stay so Joe could go ahead to work.

Delsin, my trooper that day, stayed inside and watched over me. It wasn't long and I started coughing up the red stuff. I thought it was from a raw throat, but it kept coming up. It wasn't copious, but enough for alarm so I called the doctor again and she ordered a chest x-ray.

I don't know if I vaguely remember or if I am remembering because it's what Joe told me, but I managed to call Joe home from work to take me to the hospital for the x-ray.

Is this getting boring? I'll step it up a bit.

When Joe got home, I barely knew what was going on. He couldn't get me in the van, 911 came, and took me to the Beatrice Community Hospital ER. Things seemed to happen very fast as a host of doctors and nurses swarmed around me.

An x-ray revealed a bowel blockage (yuk), and my left lung full of pneumonia.

They kept me in the ICU overnight and the next day they sent me by ambulance to St. Elizabeth's hospital in Lincoln, Ne.

What a ride. Those ambulances are very bumpy, but thank God, for them and the EMTs who watched over me on the ride.

The first few days are very blurry, but I remember the first time they allowed me to have a meal. That was the best clear liquid meal I'd ever had. The hospital Jell-O was delicious. Within a few days, I was up to the chair and walking the halls with Physical Therapy. Day by day, I improved. Finally, they allowed me a full diet, and never has dry chicken tasted yummier.

By Monday July 23rd, I was back in Beatrice on swing bed to regain my strength and build my immunities back up.

I'm home and Joe is back at work. The daily routine is such a blessing now. One has no idea how much just getting to the restroom or a chair can become a mountain until we can't do it.

God said the faith of a mustard seed is all we need.

I had many prayer warriors on my side using their mustard seeds to ask for my healing. I am so thankful to them and God for that gift.

I'll be around for a while yet it seems. I hope a bit smarter and less likely to poo poo a problem.


In other news, I've finished the first edit of my first interview for what I am currently calling Living, Successful Nebraska Authors. We all know of Willa Cather and many of our former greats, but its time the world knows Nebraska has culture. I hope someday to do something similar about my home state of Kansas.

I hope to get a chapbook of Six Short if Weird Tales out soon, less than a dollar, less even than the $0.99.

Well, that's my current story and I can't change much of it, as I blissfully don't remember it all. They did have me on small doses of morphine in the beginning, thus some of the amnesia.

Take care and God Bless you all.

Glenda

Glenda K. Fralin
aka G. K. Fralin
author The Search: Lunis Flower of Hidden





Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Interview with Dawn Garcia


Interview with Dawn Garcia

Dawn’s writing career to date includes freelance writing and journalism. Many of her articles and stories trace the history of places with unique significance. In each of the pieces I read, she included the human elements that make the stories. Dawn's diligent research, like many writers, makes her work special. It is that thing behind the story done without fanfare, and often without appreciation by those who haven't dug under the trees to expose the roots. She digs up the history that will remain relevant for years ahead for new researchers.

Glenda: Dawn; please give us a peek inside your upcoming novel.

Dawn: A young girl abandoned. A father living life at the bottom of a longneck bottle. An unexpected reunion.

What He Left Behind is a story about 35-year-old Kyla Richmond and the search for her absent father. It isn’t until she volunteers at the local homeless shelter that she discovers the man who purposely walked out of her life when she was nine. The man she discovers isn’t the man she dreamed she would one day find. Instead, he is a man who lives under a bridge, slowly and painfully drinking his life away.

Filled with abandonment, homelessness, and alcoholism, this novel will put Kyla to the ultimate test of forgiveness through the discovery of unconditional love.

Writing a story based on events in one’s own life takes bravery in the best of circumstances. Dawn, however has gone beyond bravery to a level of faith few people possess.


Glenda: I’ve read your biography on your website. It’s amazing that you have the time to accomplish the things you do with your volunteer work, children, web design business, freelance writing and writing your novel. Then you sent me five articles you’ve written. There is no doubt in my mind that you did a lot of research for those stories. They are full of history, tracing the linear and familial chronicles of their significance. I can only imagine that you must organize your time to fit it all together. How would you describe the development of your writing career?


Dawn: I have been writing since grade school and in high school, I started a teen novel but never finished it. I earned a degree in English at the University of Iowa and a few years after graduation, I began my journalism career. My main love of writing had been in the children’s market but I only dabbled in it to the point of it never leaving my computer screen. A year after I learned of my biological dad’s passing and the life he lived before he died, I was inspired to write that first novel, What He Left Behind.

As for organizing my time, I am fortunate to have three great kids who help and are just as involved as I am. They are compassionate about the volunteer work and they “get to go” (not have to go) to off-site work meetings with me. Since infancy, each of them has understood that I work from home and because of that, they have a great opportunity to do fun and interesting things.

Glenda: Somehow, you’ve managed to take the circumstances of your biological father’s life and turn them into a life of volunteer work with the homeless. What would possess you to be so bold as to walk up to a dirt-covered, elderly, homeless man with no more than a sign “Anything Will Help” and give him a gift?

Dawn: I thank God every day for what I have. I have so many blessings and I want to share what God has given me. When I see homelessness, I want to help. I think about how my father sat on a street corner doing the same thing as this man. I have no idea why the man was begging for money but it doesn’t matter. All it takes is one bad choice or one disaster and it could be any one of us. There is so much more I want to do but I have to tell myself that little things matter in the whole scheme of things. I can reach out to one person, one child at a time and grow from there.


Glenda: In your book, Kyla involves her family in her quest for her biological father. They are a strong support system, which is something we all need in our lives. The circumstances of Kyla’s life draw from your own. How close does the family in your book resemble your own family?


 Dawn: I have a good support system. I am close to my parents, even my stepfather who adopted my two younger brothers and I after my biological father disappeared from our lives.


 Glenda: Finally, what would you tell other writers are your most important tool, or practice in writing?


Dawn: A lot of Prayer, Time, and patience

Writers, like Dawn, know to draw from their own experience and that of others to design a story or article. The feel of a story for the reader often comes from that bit of reality that sets the story. We revise and change the events and sequences. We research deeper into the smallest factoid. Then we stretch that reality into a slim thread within the fiction.

Thus, Dawn engineers her writing career through her keyboard into freelance, special interest, journalism, to writing a full-length novel. However, that is not all that Dawn is.

Dawn is a giver in life. I doubt she realizes how much giving she does. She volunteers a good portion of her time visiting shelters and nursing homes, volunteering with church, cub scouts, and other community events bringing that spark of hope to everyone with whom she interacts. That hope includes me. I'm not homeless, penniless, or hungry. I am human and in that, we all need hope in some way.








Monday, March 26, 2012

Interview with Nancy Wagner aka N.L.Sharp

Interview with Nancy Wagner aka N. L. Sharp

Nancy’s outgoing, never-throw-out-an-idea personality charmed me when we worked together at the 2011 Beatrice Business Expo. She’s willing to take the lead, but does not insist on it.

When you visit her web page at www.nlsharp.com the first thing you notice is her mantra “A teacher who writes, A writer who teaches.”

Nancy writes children’s books. She visits schools to talk to children about writing, and she holds workshops for teachers about writing with children.

Nancy lives in Fremont, Nebraska. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Nebraska Lincoln in the area of Language Arts (with an emphasis in Writing) and an endorsement in Educational Library Media from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. http://nlsharp.com/Author_Profile.html


Q. Nancy, I have your book EFFIE’S IMAGE that imparts an interesting way of dealing with self-image. It is a charming story of a little girl who helps an 82-year-old woman regain her sense of self worth. Please tell us where you got the idea for EFFIE’S IMAGE.

A. I got that idea when I was teaching first grade in Fremont, Nebraska. I had a volunteer from the foster grandparent organization helping in my classroom every day. She was not a teacher and had never been a teacher. However, when her son and his family moved to another state and her husband passed away, she knew that she needed to find a reason to continue to get up each morning. I was so grateful that she found that reason in my classroom with my students. My students loved Hazel and she loved my students, and I knew that was a story I needed to tell.

Q. I had the pleasure of listening to you talk about your flip over book THE RING BEAR/THE FLOWER GIRL. You have found a special market for this precious book. Can you explain how your market for this book got started and how it developed and changed?

A. Several years ago, I overheard a conversation between two mothers who were talking about weddings. One of the mothers said that when her son was asked to be the ring bearer in a wedding, he thought he was going to get to be a bear and dress up in a bear suit. They laughed (and I laughed) but I thought, "That would be a great idea for a story." I took out my notebook and made a note to myself: Boy thinks he's a bear in a wedding. Later, at home, I rediscovered that note and wrote a book called The Ring Bear.

Of course, I just thought it was a funny story, but other folks thought it was the perfect gift for the ring bearer in a wedding. Many people who bought the book also wanted a flower girl book. Therefore, when we had almost sold through the printing of the original Ring Bear book, we discussed whether to reprint it or let it go out of print. We decided that it did not make sense to reprint the book unless we also created a Flower Girl Book. Therefore, I wrote The Flower Girl, with the idea that it would be the ideal gift for a flower girl in a wedding, just as we believe The Ring Bear is the ideal gift for a ring bearer.

Then, a bookstore owner suggested that these two might be fun "back-to-back" stories. In other words, since they are about two kids in the same wedding and their stories are parallel stories, it might be fun to place both stories in one book, and the reader would read one story, and then flip the book over to read the other story. That is exactly what we did, creating two gifts in one book!

Q. Your presentation in Beatrice explored types of publishing and the affect on the author’s choice. You also explained some of the pitfalls. Would you be willing to share a brief outline of your experience with publishing?

A. Absolutely, I’m blessed to have worked with a variety of different types of publishers, and all of my books have won recognition of some type, regardless of the way they were published. A traditional royalty publisher (Boyds Mills Press) published my first book. Today I’m Going Fishing with My Dad. It was accepted in 2001, was released in the fall of 2003, and named a Nebraska Golden Sower nominee in 2005-2006. That book was very popular (I guess lots of folks relate to fishing!) and Boyds Mills Press kept it in print (in some form) until 2011. This was a run of 18 years, which is great for any type of book! Actually, they have not "officially" taken it out of print yet, but it is listed as "out of stock indefinitely" for anyone who tries to order it. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, it is now out of print.

My second book, The Ring Bear, I published with a partnership publisher out of Crete, Nebraska. I define a partnership publisher as any publisher that requires some sort of financial commitment from the author, before that publisher will publish the book. In order for The Ring Bear to be published, there were some things I paid for (illustration, printing) and some things the publisher paid for (distribution, award contests, publicity). This book had just been selected as the winner in the Children's Category from the Nebraska Center for the Book Awards Contest when that publisher declared bankruptcy.

With a basement full of books and a third book (Effie's Image) almost completed, my husband and I decided we would create our own publishing company. We created Prairieland Press, to distribute The Ring Bear and to self-publish Effie's Image (which was named a Teacher's Choice Award winner by Learning Magazine in 2006, and a Nebraska Golden Sower nominee in 2007-2008). And after we sold through the original printing of The Ring Bear, we republished that story along with my flower girl story in the book: The Flower Girl, The Ring Bear: A Flip-Over Book.

Recently, I have just been offered (and have accepted) a new opportunity in the publishing world. A Christian royalty publisher has contacted me and offered to republish my two self-published books (Effie's Image and The Flower Girl, The Ring Bear: A Flip-Over Book) in both softcover and ebook format. So these books will be re-released under their imprint, probably in 2013.



Q. I’m going to take a different direction now and ask about your school programs. What kind of reaction do you generally get from the children when you talk to them about writing?

A. Because I am an elementary teacher with more than twenty years' experience in the classroom, and because I love to write and talk about writing, I am well versed in what types of presentations work best with the various age groups. With the younger students, I usually read my books and talk to them about ideas for stories, and they usually have a great time listening to my stories and then sharing their own ideas. With the older students, I usually do not read my books (since they are geared for primary students). Instead, with these students, I share what I consider the four truths of writing (writers write, writers read, writers share their writing with other writers, and writers keep a notebook of some kind) AND then I share with them examples of my various writers' notebooks--and how those notebooks contain the seedlings for my assorted writing projects. Students are always fascinated to see my notebooks and get at peek into my own personal writing process.


Q. Working with children is only a part of your writing program with elementary age students. You also work with teachers. With teachers complaining of time crunch to get the mass of material, they teach into a relatively short time; how receptive are teachers to your workshops?


A. Because Nebraska has a state writing test that all 4th grade, 8th grade, and 11th grade students must take, and because I am trained in this assessment model, my staff development workshops are designed to help teachers feel more comfortable with the process of teaching writing and preparing their students for this writing assessment. In fact, many times I am invited to present in a district because a classroom teacher has seen me present somewhere else (the state reading conference, the state kindergarten conference, a class for Wayne State College, etc) and that teacher, in turn, convinces his or her administrator to invite me to their building. So I would say that teachers are not only open to my presentations, they are my biggest advocates!


As it states on my website, I do believe that we learn to write by teaching, and that writing is a craft that anyone, of any age, can learn, as long as we adhere to the four truths of writing: writers write, writers read, writers share their writing with other writers, and writers keep a notebook of some kind.

***

It’s not often I have the chance to spend a day with one of the writers I will interview. My day with Nancy at the Beatrice Business Expo gave me a personal edge with developing this interview. Nancy is one of the prolific Nebraska Authors who is dedicated to education and writing. I’m not sure whether to describe Nancy as an educator that writes or a writer who educates. Thankfully, Nancy answers that question in her motto “A teacher who writes, A writer who teaches.”

Visit Nancy’s web site at www.nlsharp.com

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Interview with Author Jack Loscutoff

Interview of Jack Loscutoff
www.jackloscutoff.com


This month I introduce Jack Loscutoff who refers to himself as “sage in bloom, author and poet.” Born in San Francisco of what he refers to as humble Russian peasant stock, Jack alludes to his Grandparents immigration as a factor by geography and politics that affects his view of life.

Jack’s pursuit of education moved him by increments from San Francisco to our beloved Nebraska. He earned a PhD focusing on English and American Literature. Jack worked as an instructor, critic, and at 58 realized his love of words could become a new kind of career. Jack started writing.

Jack’s multi-faceted character enchanted me. I leave it to Jack to charm you.


Q. Jack, when I read your biography, on your web site, one thing that struck me immediately was that your Russian heritage does affect your unique writing style.

Would you give us some insight into that influence?

A. Any Russian influence on my writing came from having read the works of a few of the great Russian writers. Since I don't read the language and have relied on translations, what I've gotten is what any reader and writer, with or without a Russian ancestry, could. Here is some of it.

Checkhov said something like this about short story writing. "If at the beginning there is a rifle hanging over the fireplace, it must be fired before the story ends." He meant that there must be no unnecessary information in a short story. Everything must contribute to its point.

Dostoyevsky wrote a novel, The Brothers Karamasov, in which Jesus returns to earth. Most people do not recognize him. The "authorities" regard him, at best as a nuisance, at worst as a criminal. I guess the lesson there is don't try to write about Jesus.

Tolstoy wrote, at over a thousand pages, War and Peace. Many critics believe it is the greatest lo-o-ong novel ever written in any language. What I've learned from reading it is to keep mine as short as possible.

End of lecture.


Q. I’ve read some of your poetry and prose. To me you have a unique style. Case in point is your short story No Cross for Jesus. Some may say its science fiction, or some could say it’s philosophical. I see both. Your novel THE CLOUD OF DOOM is listed as science fiction, but you told me it crosses other genres. It is hard to decide a single genre to list a book. What would sell your book and stories to philosophers, adventurers, or any interest?

A. The last time I was at Barnes and Noble (and I hope they're still there), they had a section of books labeled "Fantasy/Science Fiction." Those books could also be called "speculative fiction." One reason why "speculative" can be applied to sci-fi is that most SF writers "speculate" about the future. Because no one has experienced the future and thus cannot know it, we can only speculate, or imagine, what it might be like. When I wrote my book I wanted the emphasis to be heavy on the "science" and light on the "fiction". In it you won't find dragons, eight-legged humanoids or a setting two thousand years in the future. My novel is set in 2035. Every animal, plant or machine in it exists in the present or is accepted as a possibility among the scientific community of today.

Even though the plot is rational, there is plenty of adventure. Among others, a trip to the planet Jupiter's moon Europa. There, in an ocean under the ice, my characters encounter strange animals and barely escape with their lives.

Philosophy? The reason the scientists go to Europa is the hope of finding a way of increasing Earth's food production. In 2035 more and more people on our planet are malnourished and starving because of food shortages brought on by over-population and global warming. I believe the dangers of those two trends are things some of us are waking up to, but too late to prevent their catastrophic results.

Q. What authors influence you most?

A. That's a tough one. It's really a question for a critic. As I suspect it is with most writers, I lack the objectivity to answer it. But here are a few possibilities.

Some critic has said that in order to be considered a top poet you must be skilled at writing about death. I have done that. "Alas and Alack," below, is on that subject. Here are some others who may have influenced me in that regard.

Emily Dickinson. "Because I could not stop for Death,/ He kindly stopped for me."

Shakespeare. "This (old age and the impending death of the speaker) thou perceiv'est that makes thy love more strong/ To love that well which thou must leave ere long."

W. B. Yeats. "An aged man is but a paltry thing,/ A tattered coat upon a stick/ Unless soul clap its hands and sing/ and louder sing/ For every tatter in its mortal dress." (again, old age as a prelude to death.)

Note that both Dickinson's poem and mine choose to laugh at death rather than cry.

Among novelists, I would choose Vladimir Nabokov as one who taught me a lot about the uses of "point of view." POV for writers does not mean "opinion." It means who is telling the story and how he or she is telling it. In Nabokov's novel Lolita, the narrator, a character in the book, speaks in the first person ("I" rather than "he" or "she".) That choice by the novelist means that a reader must take the word of Humbert Humbert, the child molester, that his victim, the teenager Lolita, is a willing participant in her own abuse. Although that idea sounds absurd when put the way I just have, it works in Nabokov's novel. The reason it works is that for three fourths of the book, the POV is Humbert's. As a result the reader begins to see and think about the abuse as Humbert does, that it is one big, delightful sexual adventure, especially if the reader is a man. This technique is called "unreliable narrator." Many others besides Nabokov have used it. I often employ it for ironic or humorous effect in my poetry.


Q. Jack, I know you have a funny bone, or at least like to tickle our funny bones. I said before you are a multi-faceted author.

Humor is essential in writing. However, it is not easy to achieve. How would you advise me, for example, to develop humor in a piece? Are there particular authors or publications you would recommend? If you don’t mind, I will include an example of one of your humorous poems.


Alas and Alack!

You are old, Father Jack,
and under sneak attack
by a junta of contagious diseases.

So you give folks your back,
hunch and hiss like a cat
whenever somebody sneezes.

You should not do that.
You should keep it flat
till you die or till hell over-freezes.

Though to you it makes sense,
Annie's correspondents*
may, perchance, take offense
at your shunning their germ-laden breezes.

So your choice is a cinch:
be a snarling old grinch
or the cool, smiling corpse
whom your loverly last widow greevez.


*"Annie's Mail Box" is a social advice column in an Omaha newspaper.



A. I guess the main requirement for "develop(ing) humor in a piece" is for the potential for humor to be already present. To make that happen is quite complex. It begins with the question of audience. Who are you writing for? Children will not laugh at adult humor, and vice-versa. Some of us old geezers may still laugh at jokes about women drivers, but most women, no matter their age, wouldn't. I could go on and on, but we don't have the space.


Q. You’ve written plays that have been performed in Nebraska. My Heart’s in the Highlands is a one-act play that won honorable mention in Writer’s Digest. That is quite an accomplishment. For myself, and I’m sure the Nebraska Writer’s Guild, I’m interested in letting the rest of the world know about Nebraska’s fine arts culture. Theater is one of those areas, like film often unheralded for our state.

Do you have an opinion as to how we in Nebraska can bring more attention to the literary accomplishments of our authors and thespians?

A. I'm sorry. I don't.


Q. I’m going to make one final pull to find “Who is Jack?” You said in your biography that it was at age 58 you realized you should be writing instead of teaching others how to write and working as a literary critic. In one of our email exchanges, you mentioned there were other times when your interest in writing accelerated.

What do you attribute your love of literature and writing?


A. I have always been fascinated by language. Before I started kindergarten, I would spread the Sunday comics page on the floor and puzzle out the words. In the second grade, I memorized "The Ride of Paul Revere." My high school English teacher told me I was the only student of hers who understood Shakespeare. As a teenager I read all of Joseph Conrad's sea-going short stories.

I've heard that to be a poet, you must be in love with words. That is certainly true of me. Most of my growth as a playwright, writer and poet was gradual. However, there were a couple of periods in my life when it accelerated.

The three years when I earned a Master of Arts degree in English and American literature was the first period. The main set of skills I acquired in that time were those of a critic. I read the works of most of the great, as well as a few of the not-so-great writers in the English language from the beginnings of our tongue up to about the middle of the twentieth century. In addition to earning the degree, I emerged from my studies at San Francisco State College with a new set of skills. I could compare writers working in a particular genre and rate them against each other. That was a way of predicting whose works would continue to be printed and read and whose would not. In general, I could not only tell you which work was better and which was worse but also why.

The second period of acceleration was more drawn out. It has covered the last twenty-three years of my life. On my fifty-eighth birthday I complained to my daughter that I was tired of "being a bridesmaid and never a bride." That is, tired of reading the works of the great playwrights, writers and poets and wishing I could do the same. She loaned me a book entitled "Writing the Natural Way." It was a beginning writing course between two covers, a "how to" package that got me started learning the skills of a playwright, writer and poet. Over the years since then, I've continued to develop those skills.

I'm still no Shakespeare, Nabokov or Yeats. However, my cluttered writing office is my "Holy of holies." On one of the walls is a list of "the immortals," my heros and heroines, the great playwrights, writers and poets. Above their names are the words "In the company of the immortals." I no longer feel in impossible competition with them. Instead, they are my encouraging friends and mentors.

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Jack invited us, figuratively, into his office and what develops from his mind within his ‘holy of holies’. Do I know Jack, no not really, but I know more about Jack. Like any author he has his own reasons for writing, personal to him. They are reflected by most of the rest of us. As authors we do love words and how they compliment each other. However, as unique as Jack’s reasons and process is to him, so are the reasons for writing personal for all writers.

Jack’s charm eminates from his unique lust for life, learning and legitimate search for meaning in what he does. www.jackloscutoff.com



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