Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the eighty-ninth, is of short story author Fran Metzman.
Fran Metzman, author, had a short story collection published, February 1, 2012 (Wilderness House Press) and was nominated for a Dzanc Books award, “Best of the Web” 2009. In addition to invitations to speak on panels of various writing conferences (such as; Philadelphia Stories and Marymount Manhattan College), she has given workshops at various universities such as Temple University, Bryn Mawr College, Penn State, and many others. Also, she presently teaches creative writing/memoir workshops at Temple University’s Adult School. At Rosemont College, she taught publishing skills to grad students. As a fiction editor for two literary journals, Schuylkill Valley Journal and The Wild River Review, she selects and edits the submissions. In addition, she writes articles for http://wildriverreview.com/metzman entitled, “The Age of Reasonable Doubt” which deals with mature dating/relationships and aspects of society that influences all relationships (sometimes tongue in cheek).
And now from the author herself – I asked her what inspires her, what she likes to read, how food influences her writing and what advice could she give aspiring authors…
I’m inspired to write because I want to make sense of the chaos I find in the world. What makes people behave the way they do? I have always been fascinated with the motivation behind behavior — especially with actions that go to the edge. Writing, for me, is also a way to heal old wounds — sometimes present ones. Most often I do it with fiction which helps me distance myself if I’m extracting a tad from real events or from a trauma I’ve experienced. I can take a nugget of reality and fictionalize it. Some of these tidbits from the real world can instigate an entire story and it can come from someone else’s experiences as well. To be a fiction writer one has to listen carefully to the undercurrents of what people say. It is just as important to observe the behavior as well as listening to the words. It is hard for a person to be objective about one’s own inner world. I happen to think that is how most writers invent stories even if they say they are totally disconnected from the story.
Favorite authors and books – here’s just a smattering of novels: All of Alice Munro, Joyce Carol Oates, I’ll Take You There, Jonathan Franzen, Freedom, Anne Tyler, Saint Maybe, Alice Hoffman, The Ice Queen, Jane Smiley, A Thousand Acres, and books of that order. I love literary works as well as high quality commercial. I look for psychological drama as well as insights about life. I want to know how the protagonist got through hurdles and obstacles to remain standing tall at the end. What did they learn about themselves that could help me in my life?
There are nuggets of reality that are then totally fictionalized. This helps lessen the ache of a painful piece of memory. In the end, what I write is totally fiction. It doesn’t even have to be from my bank of experiences. It could have happened to a friend or acquaintance or even a total stranger. But it has to be something that resonates with me. For instance, one of the stories is about a woman who lived in an attic, spying on her ex-husband and his new wife who was the cause of the divorce. I never lived in an attic nor was divorced. The story emanated from a friend who had been stalked in a unique way by her ex-boyfriend. I found it so fascinating that it inspired an entire story — of course with many, many edits.
Having food intersect life is something that I experienced. My mother was a truly fabulous cook, but not eating every morsel could incite her to anger or bring her to tears. I had to eat everything on my plate. Once I sat for hours because I didn’t want to eat something she cooked. Dieting in my house was a no-no big time. That was the nugget that developed into a story, Getting Closer. Of course, none of the actions in the story happened in real life. But that is how a seed of a story might be born and raised and become a fiction.
The advice I’d give to emerging writers is work on fictional structure. It is vital you have a working knowledge of how fiction is made seamless when read. Read how-to books, take workshops and then write until you drop. After you have that under your belt you can experiment all you want. My impression is that it is 30% talent and 70% work. Once the work is created than you must edit endlessly. It’s in the editing that the story takes on a life of its own. All the while, observe, listen to conversations, watch body language and the way people look and talk. Rent or go to movies, and theater (dramas in particular). Listen to the dialogue and the interaction between people.
I’m hoping to get my trilogy published so I do appreciate your advice.
Getting published is difficult. I suggest a new author learn the short story form for within that realm you must make every word count. Then, once you feel you have learned that form adequately and have gone over and over the story with a fine tooth comb send it out to journals that are interested in your genre. For instance, if you write mystery, sci-fi, literary, psychological, commercial, romance or any other genre, make sure you send your work to a journal that is seeking your style. Don’t get too uptight about rejections. It’s part of the process, so keep sending and writing. Write as much as you possibly can for that keeps up a level of creativity. When I don’t write for a period of time I find it hard to get back. Block out the time whether it’s every day, 3 times a week or even once a week. Keep up a pattern and make it as often as possible. It also keeps the connections to your unconscious open.
Thank you, Fran. You can find Fran’s site at http://FranMetzman.com. And some of the reviews of her writing:
Fran Metzman’s short stories are a feast, dig in and devour them quickly. Story after story, they will tease your palate, fill you with emotion, and keep you longing for more. Each character comes alive. This is a beautifully written book. — Gloria Mindock, Cervena Barva Press
In Fran Metzman’s collection THE HUNGRY HEART we meet mothers and daughters, lovers, career women, wives and husbands, and feel that we know them all. — Joy E. Stocke, founder & editor-in-chief of Wild River Review and author of a memoir, Anatolian Days & Nights
“THE HUNGRY HEART” is an apt and striking title because it reveals what centers this short story collection – the need for the heart to find sustenance and the gathering at a meal, which is so often the intersection of our lives. Metzman is a deft storyteller who gets into her characters to reveal them and tell us something about the world we live in. — Peter Krok, author of Looking for an Eye
The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with YA author Edward R Yatscoff – the three hundred and eighty-sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.