Over the next few weeks, I’ll be featuring authors from Running Wild Press’s Anthology of Stories, Volume 2. Today, I’d like to welcome Gary Zenker, author of Stolen Memories.
Here’s the opening of his story, which sets the tone perfectly:
That smell! It’s obvious that Little Johnny’s diaper is full and needs changing. I don’t see him but he’s in the room somewhere, that much I know. I start to yell for him and my wife but my voice comes out more as a harsh bark.
How long have I had this cold affecting my voice? A week? Two weeks? I can’t really remember. Maybe it was when I gave Little Johnny my keys to play with. Kids that age are walking …crap, what is the word for it? You know, that thing in a lab where they grow all the germs on purpose. It’ll come back to me.
Yes! Kids are little germ factories! If you’d like to read the rest of Stolen Memories by Gary Zenker, download Running Wild’s Anthology of Stories, Volume 2
Gary, what inspired you to write Stolen Memories?
That would spoil the story, so let me say it is a situation many of us have been exposed to, especially once we are at an age where have grown children. I was thinking what it must be like to be on the other side of where we normally are, and started writing in a way I haven’t before, so it was a bit experimental for me. I guess it worked out okay since it was accepted for the anthology.
Your “experiment” sounds fascinating. What would you like readers to take away from Stolen Memories?
Someone’s perspective that isn’t their own.
How long have you been writing?
Since college, so that means…a while ago. I had an irregular fiction column in the school newspaper “The College Reporter” and was editor and co-conspirator of the College humor magazine “Hullabaloo,” for which I write about a third of the content. After college, I had a regular column in a couple of local weekly newspaper, then took a 15 year break from writing fiction, until I found my writing voice again about seven years ago.
Do you write full-time?
I write full time but not fiction. I write and re-write business content, including web sites, ad copy, brochures, speeches, scripts etc etc. Flash non-fiction with a specific purpose.
Do you only write short fiction?
Thus far, mostly short fiction. Short fiction is not necessarily, as many people or publications would have you believe, bite size lit fiction. It is storytelling in a much narrower confine of space. In the same number of words others are just painting their scene, you have to create a scenario people understand, characters people can empathize with or hate, introduce a worthwhile conflict and come to some sort of resolution – even if it isn’t a final resolution. That requires knowing where to leave holes and leave out detail that is unimportant to the story, that the reader can fill in for him or herself. I like the challenge of trying to fit it all in as few words as possible, so that the story is fairly complete in its brevity.
It does boil down to extreme efficiency, doesn’t it? I’ll admit, we novelists find that challenging at times.
What does Gary Zenker’s typical “writing day” look like?
I wake up wondering whether I will ever have another idea for a story and where it will come from. Later, I am in the middle of driving and an idea hits me so I grab a pen and pad and start jotting notes while involuntarily and without warning start driving in multiple lanes. After a couple of honks from nearby drivers, I pull off to the side of the road and try to finish my thoughts on paper. Or I start speaking into the voice recognition module of the phone and watch it record something not-so-close to what I am actually saying. I get home and run to the computer where I type it all in and play with it, skipping from the end to the beginning to the middle, whatever piece of it I have an idea that I want to get down. Then I check through my mail and read all the rejections I have received and wonder whether I shouldn’t be an accountant like my father was, and avoid words as much as possible. Later, I’m drawn back to the piece and I do some polishing. I do more polishing and ready it for critique at my writers groups. Next day, repeat.
Ha! Your days sound much like mine. I even tried handheld dictation, but I hate the sound of my own voice, so that didn’t last long.
What are you currently reading?
Mostly the other work from the anthology in which I am featured, or short stories and novels from other writers in the two writers groups I run.
Other than this spectacular anthology, do you have any recent or upcoming releases you’d like to tell us about?
I have a podcast I am getting ready to launch, 999 Words Or Less, that features a story from different authors and then a 15-20 minute interview, talking about their inspirations, ideas or whatever comes up. www.999WordsOrLess.com.
I’m definitely going to check that out. Sounds like the kind of thing that would be good to listen to while on the treadmill, etc.
What advice would you give aspiring authors?
Surround yourself with good writers who understand how to help you improve your work without forcing their own thumbprints on it. Understand that not all critique is worth following, even if it is well-meaning.
Very true. I always tell my partners, “Take what you can use, and discard the rest.”
Where can readers learn more about you and your work?
www.GaryZenkerStoryteller.com – web site featuring my fiction work
www.youtube.com/results?search_query=gary+zenker – My YouTube Channel with readings
www.writersbloxx.com – Part party game, part writers tool, all fun.
Here is the other stuff you may want to know:
Gary runs two writers groups:
- The Main Line Writers Group meets the third Monday of the Month at Peppers Restaurant in King of Prussia PA, 7 pm
- The Wilmington-Chadds Ford Writers Group meets the second Monday of the month at McKenzies Brew Pub in Glen Mills PA 7 pm
Gary’s groups often sponsor public events. Upcoming events include:
- Noir at a Bar West Chester, Monday April 30, 2018 7 pm – 12 local author read stories of suspense, crime and maybe a bit of murder. Free admission. More info MainLineWritersGroup@gmail.com
- Noir at a Bar Oxford Saturday June 14, 2018 7 pm – a benefit for the Oxford Public Library. Theme – Killing Carey Bresler (Library Director). More info MainLineWritersGroup@gmail.com
Thanks so much for being here, Gary.
Check out My Interviews for more opening paragraphs from great Running Wild Press authors like Ken MacGregor.