By Julie Wiessner
Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, Jeanne Gassman has a gift for writing. A graduate of Winslow High School, Gassman has made a career of the written word. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master degree of Fine Arts in writing, but believes that most of what she’s learned has been by her own trial and error.
“I guess it all started because I loved to read. Students at Winslow High School would always see me with my nose stuck in a book. Then I thought, I could write a book like this, I have some good ideas,” she recalled.
She moved with her family to Winslow in 1964, and attended Winslow schools from the third through 12th grades. She went on to college, then married and made the priority her children, putting her education on hold for a while.
Gassman was pretty much self-taught regarding her writing until about five years ago, when she begin seeking out any information she could about how to get published. She has since had short fiction, creative non-fiction and non-fiction published in numerous literary magazines in print and online.
She now lives in Peoria, where officials of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department asked some time ago if she wanted to teach a writing class for the community. From there, it went by word of mouth and she was asked to teach at writing festivals, for the City of Phoenix, and has taught several memoir classes for senior citizens, mostly at Sun City West.
Her writing has won several awards, including writing fellowships from Ragdale Artists’ Colony and the Arizona Commission on the Arts. Her flash fiction, Haboob Season, received first place in the WOW! Fall 2012 Flash Fiction competition. Her short fiction appeared recently in Switchback, Barrellhouse and LQQK, among others. Her first novel, The Blood of a Stone, is under review by a small press for future printing.
Gassman explained that she went through a long process of teaching herself the ins and outs of how to get published, and thought it would have been nice if someone who had already been through the process had given her the key ingredients.
She will be sharing her knowledge in her hometown of Winslow by presenting a beginning fiction writing workshop on Saturday, May 4, at the Winslow Chamber of Commerce/Visitors Center, located at 523 W. Second St. The class begins at 9:30 a.m. and runs until 2:30 p.m., with lunch provided to participants. The workshop is free, but a $10 donation to the Winslow Arts Council is suggested.
In the workshop Gassman will present basic fiction writing techniques the professionals use. Topics like how to plot a good story, create interesting characters, develop effective settings, write believable dialogue and overcome the terror of the blank page will be discussed.
Further discussion will include submission procedures and how to market your work. There is a 15-student limit, so individuals who are interested are encouraged to sign up soon.
Gassman is also looking to gather experiences from any downwinders, or those who have known downwinders. She is writing a novel about the subject, and would like to have more first hand background knowledge of what people experienced after the atomic bomb tests in Nevada during the 1950s and ‘60s.
To make an appointment to meet, either by phone, in person or by e-mail, about the downwinders experience or to sign-up for the class, contact April Neill or Peggy Wilson at Winslow City Hall at (928) 289-1411. They will be able to provide contact information for Gassman.
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By Julie Wiessner