Writer Wednesday Welcomes Gene Twaronite!!!

Today my guest author is Gene Twaronite! Gene is the author of a young adult fable, The Family that Wasn’t.

Hi Gene! Thanks for coming by today to tell us about your new fable. I have to say, this might be your first novel, but you cerainly aren’t new to writing! You’ve had stories published by Highlights for Children, Read, Heinemann, and Fast Forward Press.  That’s impressive. Have you always been drawn to writing for children?

No, I’ve also written adult nonfiction in the form of essays, columns and feature articles.  While writing for various local weekly and monthly newspapers, I learned some important disciplines (like how to meet a deadline and to self-edit one’s work) and developed  my own unique style.  As a former science teacher and environmental educator, I started thinking about I how might use fiction as a fun way to get across ideas in science.   The result was my first sale to a juvenile market, “The Glacier That Almost Ate Main Street” (about a glacier that starts in a refrigerator), published by Highlights for Children in the June 1987 issue.   This started me down a humorous path that I’ve followed since.  In most of my juvenile stories there is usually present some element of the absurd, as for example in another of my Highlights stories, “The Day the Books Leaked.”  I think the younger you are (in actual age or spirit) the more you appreciate absurdity.  And I try to have at least one absurd thought each day.

Several of my young adult stories have also been published.  One of them, “I Can Fight You on Thursday,” which was loosely based on my own memories of dealing with bullies in elementary school, was published in the anthology In Short: How to Teach the Young Adult Short Story published by Heinemann.  And my urban fantasy, “The Man Who Stayed Inside,” was published by Weekly Reader ‘s READ Magazine.  I have also written numerous picture book stories, none of which has yet been published,  though I still keep trying.

Some of my recent fiction has also been written for an adult audience.  My flash fiction story, “Lust and Dust in the Afternoon” (about a guy who tries to have an affair with his robotic vacuum cleaner), appeared last year in the Volume 3 Anthology of Fast Forward Press. And I continue to write essays and stories for literary journals. 

You really made a big leap from articles to a novel. The Family that Wasn’t is your first novel. How did that come about?

At the time I started writing my “Boggle” novel (1990), I was reading a lot of James Thurber, especially his wonderfully wacky stories about family members in his book, My Life and Hard Times. I always wondered how much was real and how much was made up (most of it, I suspect).  And I got to thinking about making up a fictional family of my own—a family as seen through the eyes of a 13-year-old boy that seemed so impossibly crazy that … what?  The idea intrigued me and I had to find the answer.  I jumped right in, making up the craziest characters I could think of and mixing them all together to see what would happen.  It took me the better part of a year to finish the first and second drafts.  Over the next twenty years, as I sent the manuscript out to various publishers, it went through several more revisions.  Finally, after I had edited and re-edited the story so many times I feared that I might edit the very life out of it, and after receiving rejection after rejection (with some editors expressing considerable interest in the book but who all ended with the devastating words “not quite right for our list”), I decided to self-publish the book.

Actually the decision to self-publish wasn’t that big a leap for me.  I had previously self-published two books of essays, Letter to a Mountain and Nature’s School: Essays on the White Mountain Environment.   This was back in the days when you had to have printed a fixed number of books and had to sit on them until you sold them.  These days, with print-on-demand technology, self-publishing is a lot easier and far less costly.  So I already knew a little about marketing and self-promotion, which I think all writers must learn about, whether they are self-published or not. This is very true. I’m experiencing it first hand. I’d say marketing and self promotion are as important as the writing. (Here come the angry writers boycotting my blog). I say that because we can’t all be Stephenie Meyers and blow up overnight. Most of us really have to put in the time and effort to get our work noticed. Readers can’t love it if they have no idea it exists. I’m just saying.

Promoting this story must be fun and a little tricky. Fables aren’t as popular as they once were.  What made you decide to write a fable?

Once again I have mostly James Thurber to thank.  His wonderful modern fables, as collected in his book, Fables for Our Times, took the venerable fable form and turned it on its head, often with outrageously funny endings that were not exactly moral and uplifting as in those of Aesop.  This fanciful kind of tale is a great form for getting across a serious message in a playful way that allows the writer considerable freedom from having to wonder about such things as whether animals can talk or, as in my case, whether it’s really possible to make your family cease to exist simply by wishing for a new one.  I have started reading other fables, both old and new, and have noticed how many writers are also trying their hand at this and other traditional forms such as fairy tales.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors, waiting to be published, or just unsure of their talent?

I have been writing for over thirty years and am just beginning to understand what this writing thing is all about.  Much of what I’ve learned comes from other writers, both from reading their works and reading their commentaries and quotes.  In rereading a favorite story, for example, you can learn much about how an author pulled off the magic trick that first held you spellbound.  How did he do that?  How does she create such a vivid character?  You also learn that you can never read enough.  Reading judiciously, with an ear for the special music that each author makes and an appreciation for the well turned sentence, helps to cultivate that reverence for great writing that all true writers must have.  At the same time you must not despair of ever writing as well as Mark Twain, E.B. White or (insert your favorite author here).  Just write the best sentence you can and go from there.  Yes, take writing seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously.  I think it’s also important to ask yourself why it is that you write.  Do you just wish to become rich and famous?  Well, good luck with that.  There are millions of writers in the world – most of whom the world has never heard of and probably never will – and only a small fraction of them actually make a living from their writing.  So find what it is that keeps you writing.  Maybe it’s just because you can’t imagine a life spent not writing.  And when someone, be it a patient editor, friend or tired spouse, takes the time to give you a thoughtful critical response on your writing, be grateful  and learn from the input.  And don’t get discouraged by what others think of your writing.  So maybe it’s not destined to become a classic but, on the other hand, it’s probably not the worst that’s ever been written.  Writing and reading are subjective arts.  Eventually, if you work hard, you will find readers who appreciate your writing.  But in the end, you are the only judge of your writing that truly matters.   Is your story as good as you can possibly make it?  Have you written exactly what you meant to say?  There is an awful lot of – how should I put this – considerably less than good stuff that still manages to get published.  So be of good cheer and keep on writing.  You can do better.

Thank you so much Gene for stopping by today! I’m really excited to have you share your experience with us. It’s been a lot of fun!

The Family that Wasn’t by Gene Twaronite

The Family That Wasn’t is a humorous fable of how our families live inside us.  It will appeal to both teen and adult readers. The 13-year-old narrator, John Boggle (whose real name is John Bazukas-O-‘Reilly-Geronimo-Giovanni-Li Choy-Echeverria), finds his family so impossibly crazy that he cannot stand living with them another moment. He invents a new perfect family so convincing that he suddenly finds himself living inside this imaginary world.

But John finds that he too has changed. He sees his too perfect image in the mirror and begins to wonder if it is all some kind of mistake. Only trouble is, now he can’t remember who he is. He only knows that he must leave this family at once. His sole clue is the name, John Boggle.

To find his true family he embarks on a cross country quest. Along the way he encounters other characters who have also lost touch with their families. Together they must find a way to reconstruct the connections to bring back the family that once was.

Meet Gene

Early on in his writing career, Gene realized that he was the sort of person so aptly described in an essay by E.B. White (“Some Remarks on Humor”) for whom there is a constant “danger of coming to a point where something cracks within himself or within the paragraph under construction–cracks and turns into a snicker.” Dealing with this “uninvited snicker” has been the story of his life.

Thus, when he wrote and sold his first story to Highlights for Children, he started out innocently enough, wishing only to convey some basic scientific information about glaciers in a story that would be fun to read. The result was “The Glacier That Almost Ate Main Street” (published in 1987), which describes a glacier that started in a refrigerator and earned him a Highlights Author of the Month award. Two of his subsequent stories published by Highlights were, if anything, even wackier–”The Day the Books Leaked” (1990) and “The Worst Day in the World” (1991).
Indeed, Gene tends to see the absurd in every situation. That might explain why his favorite quote by Albert Camus now hangs over his writing desk: “The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth.”

Some of his other stories include “The Man Who Stayed Inside,” published in 2003 by the Weekly Reader magazine READ (which was later selected for use in the California High School Exit Exam) and “I Can Fight you on Thursday,” published by Heinemann in an anthology entitled In Short: How to Teach the Young Adult Short Story. His flash fiction story, “Lust and Dust in the Afternoon” (about a man who lusts after his robot vacuum cleaner) was published by Fast Forward Press.

Gene ‘s first novel, “The Family That Wasn’t,” was written in 1990 when he lived in Providence, RI. Influenced by some of James Thurber’s stories about wacky family members, Gene was inspired to invent for his novel a family so impossibly crazy that the teenage main character cannot stand living with them another moment.

You can learn more about Gene by stopping by his website: The Family that Wasn’t

Leave a Reply





You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>