For readers who want to know more about Jean Stringam and her books, this recent Q & A should provide a good start. For more information, be sure to ask.
What do you look for in a good book?
An author who is wise, has poetry in his/her heart, and knows that a story has to have a resolution. If the author can’t figure out what the characters learned or how they changed, I wish them well, but please stop writing and find another profession.
Why do you write?
I want my life to have made a difference.
If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?
I’ve worn a lot of hats in my life so far. Some of them were a lot of fun and all of them took a lot of hard work. But, there’s nothing like a book for long-term influence when you think you have something you want the world to hear. So, I’ll write ‘til I’m dead – and then my books will keep on talking. I wrote a song about this! All My Stories
From where do you draw your inspiration?
I read copiously, watch people intently, and love unreservedly.
What has writing taught you about yourself?
That an individual only sees a small slice of the truth.
What is the most important thing you have learned in life so far?
I’ve learned that you can’t avoid conflict or disaster by being good or right. In fact, the better the person, the more adversity seems to be attracted to him/her. Essentially, you have to choose your value system despite all opposition and based on the character you want to build. If you don’t do the choosing, life will still happen and you’ll end up being somebody you don’t admire.
How do the people in your life seem to view your writing career?
They’re just about over trying to decide who’s who in the characters, which is a relief. They’re beginning to accept that my characters are not stolen from real life (except for the ones that actually are)!
How do you handle personal criticism?
I think about it awhile. Sometimes the personal criticism I receive is uninformed and silly, maybe even a little malicious. But there are those revelatory moments when personal criticism allows me to see a slice of truth through a different lens. I treasure them, whether they make me cry or not.
What is the difference between being alive and truly living?
Anything that filters out stimuli seems to be in the “alive but not living” sector. For me, that would include what alters a person’s physical responses such as fatigue, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and excessive food consumption. There are also mind-sets that filter out being truly alive, such as chronic fear, mental illness, xenophobia, and the addiction to pornography. Truly living embodies a simplicity that focuses the best in a human soul.
Would you break the law to save a loved one?
If the law were unjust, I hope I would have the courage to break it. If the law were just, the event would be tragedy and I would mourn.
* * *
Jean Stringam has worn many hats, from piano teacher to English professor and from member of SAG to member of SCBWI. Born and raised in Alberta, Canada, she has lived in half a dozen US states, plus England, France, and China. Her definition of home is wherever the people she loves happen to live. She thinks stories are wonderful because you can live everywhere you can imagine and be anyone you can envision.
She finds, surprisingly, that sometimes a number can describe life. For example, she has recently published 5 books, has earned her living in 5 different careers, has lived in 5 countries, and has 5 sisters, 5 children, and 5 degrees.
- Five novels published – for titles and descriptions, please go to her Home page at http://jeanstringam.com
- Five different careers – Professor of literature, piano teacher, actor (member of SAG), secretary, musician-at-large (German choir conductor/opera chorus pianist/church organist).
- Five countries – True, but she’s only been a citizen of two
- Five sisters – learned more than she thought possible
- Five children – learned more than she ever wanted to know (about love)
- Five degrees – Ph.D. University of Alberta, B.Ed. University of Calgary, M.A. & B.A. Brigham Young University, ARCT Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto.
Up-close and personal experiences with animals
My feelings about animals go from one extreme to the other, from loving them to loathing them. Here are some pictures where I loved being with the animals.
But here are ten picture where you can’t always tell what was really going on. Remember the old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”? I used to think it meant that pictures told the truth of the matter. But some of the photos below obscure the truth of the matter. Can you tell which?
* * *
How did I get started writing?
I’m often asked about my first experiences with writing, how I got started and so forth. I remember laboring over thank you notes for Christmas gifts when printing the individual letters was difficult. Writing was hard work! But the first time that ideas carried me away to a happy place while I wrote happened when I was about seven years old. I knew I was an expert on my subject and it was one I had plenty of opinions about: chickens.
The Chicken Story: My job in the family was egg-gatherer. I knew which hens would peck me when I reached under them for an egg, and which would merely cluck and flap. I began to write about those chickens with the same tortured feeling as my first grade thank you notes, partly because writing was hard work, and partly because I hated those hens about as much as I loved them.
Then something amazing happened: I fell into that deep, still place where creativity occurs, and the chicken story was born. I’ll always remember that first joy of creating something wonderful. But I never saw the story again.
I’ve written millions of words since my chicken story. Until a few years ago, I put most of them into dark drawers — but I kept them all. The loss of the Chicken Story was always with me, however, because I could remember how I felt when I wrote it. In a very literal way it was the writing event in my life that got me started. It was the first time I remember entering that timeless, quiet place a person inhabits when creativity separates you from the rest of the world — a place I have deliberately tried to enter so many, many times since then.
Coda: There’s a happy ending to my chicken story. An online group from the little town in Alberta where I attended elementary school facilitated finding my lovely teacher. She claimed to be 82 when we talked, but I don’t believe it: aging does not occur in the memory. Most wonderful of all — she still had my chicken story!
The Question: Is the chicken story really as wonderful as my memory of it? Well . . . is the little hill beside your house at age seventeen the same hill you labored to climb when you were seven?
* * *