Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Author Interview ~ Kenneth Edward Hart


It’s been awhile since I’ve actually talked to another author here; though, we do have over 50 author interviews on the blog.

So, let’s get a new one going :-)

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Edward, tell us a bit about yourself and the Ron Tuck Series. Kenneth Edward Hart Books

I’m a retired educator who has been writing most of my adult life. I’ve had a few pieces published over the years, and I have given some readings, but the demands of my former career kept that activity to a minimum. I live a quiet life in Sussex County, New Jersey surrounded by lakes and dairy farms. I tend to be a private person. I am married with a daughter and grand-daughter.

I began the Ron Tuck series back in the 1980s. I would mostly work on it during the summer. Because I was an English teacher, there was always of stack of papers to read and classes to prepare. My goal was to create about 100 pages a year and most years I was able to do that.

The books did not begin as a series. I wanted to write a novel. The title, Reinforcements, came from the dual ideas that I had never really been on the “front lines”. That I was, like the majority of people, someone who lived in the background. Not exactly a life of “quiet desperation” but a life that was lived out of real public scrutiny. The other application of reinforcements was that I found many of my beliefs and actions resulted from inculcations of ideas and practices that had been reinforced by my surroundings and the people who had raised me.

My youth was spent in very turbulent years for the country and for the culture. I wanted to reflect the way that we had begun to question everything and where those questions led.

What was it that brought Ron Tuck to life?

In many ways, my life gave birth to Ron’s life. The character is semi-autobiographical. Take the name. I wanted a name that was short like my own and a name that it would be easy to make fun of. It rhymes with words that kids often find funny to attach to their peers. The guiding principal for Ron was that he refused to accept that there was anything that he could not learn. He may have been ignorant of many things, but he did not believe that his ignorance equated to stupidity. I learned pretty early on that people laughed at my anecdotes. I tried to infuse a sense of humor into what I wrote, but the truth is I think that came about naturally. Kenneth Edward Hart Books

Is any one of the books your “favorite”?

I can’t say that I have a favorite. My wife thinks the third book, Time in a Bubble is the best. A lifelong friend believes that Reinforcements is the best. I am unable to rank them. I suppose the first book that you do will always have a very special place in your heart if it holds up. A book that has earned you a certain recognition carves out its unique place in your memory as Snake Garden Paradise did for me. It was, in large part, my dissertation for a doctorate and I had to “defend” it, and I was rewarded for its creation. In some ways you will always feel closest to the last book that you wrote, because you feel it best represents your growth as a writer. So in that regard, The Tempo of Experience is a book that feels close.

Who’s your favorite character?

It would be obvious to say that Ron is my favorite character so let’s leave him out of this answer. Warren Lashly is a colorful character who I have come to realize inspires intense reactions from people both pro and con. Robin must be a favorite because she keeps turning up. I think she is the most misunderstood of the characters. Quimpy reminds me of Yoda of the bowling alley. They are the ones that come to mind.

So, Edward, please share what else you’ve written.

I’ve written in a lot of genres. I have a collection of short stories, a collection of poems, a collection of essays, and a collection of songs that I co-wrote with my musical partner Tom Taylor. I have some professional articles on subjects in education, but those were written for professional journals and I’m not sure that I still even have copies of them.

Can you tell us how you began writing—what made you want to be a writer?

When I was a little boy in sixth grade, we were assigned to write a poem. I wrote a poem about mountains but I had never seen a mountain. I have no idea why I picked that topic. The principal of my school came to our class and read some of the poems. Mine was chosen to be hung in the hallway of the school. I got into trouble at home because my dad didn’t believe that I had written the poem and told me that he was going to find where I copied it from and that I would be in big trouble. Even though I knew that I wrote the poem, that scared me. I didn’t try to write another poem until I was in college but it was always in the back of my mind. I can still recite the poem about mountains…

What’s your writing process like? Is there something you have to do to get started or do you just begin?

It depends on what I am writing. Starting a novel is the hardest because it is exhausting and a long commitment. When I am writing a novel, I am always writing it. Either I am playing potential scenes out in my head, or I am re-reading what I have written and finishing it, or I am just writing away. Songs always begin in longhand and almost always begin with an image or a phrase that I find evocative. It is much the same way with poems. Novels, short stories, and essays are always done on the computer now and before that on a word processor and before that on a typewriter.

My process used to include listening to jazz in the background. I’ve gotten away from that. I used to need to clean and straighten my desk but I’ve also gotten away from that. I don’t like to be interrupted when I am writing and I can be a bear about that, but when I have something that I think is worth reading, I have a very understanding wife who will always listen to what I have written and give me her opinions. The feedback is most always helpful in motivating my next ideas.

What do the rest of your family and friends think of your writings?

Both of my parents are deceased but both were familiar with what I wrote. My dad was very proud of a poem and short story I wrote about his life. He gave me corrections to my research of 1940s music. My mom never felt that I had really told her story and kept after me to try to write it again. Hence, there are several versions of Misguided Directions, each longer than its predecessor. My wife, as I have mentioned, is a big supporter. My daughter likes my short stories but isn’t too keen on the novels. I know that she reads the essays but we haven’t talked about them.

My friends differ in reactions. Some love what I have done and some have ceased to become my friends in part because of what I have written. Some are indifferent. So it runs the gamut.

Are you working on anything now, Edward?

I always have unfinished projects. There is a potential play with the working title of Conversation with a Character where Ken Hart and Ron Tuck go toe to toe. There is the second part of a short story called Dates and Cigarettes. There is an essay called Profound Denials. At this point, none are close to completion.

Is there anything you’d like to share with our readers and aspiring writers?

For aspiring writers, I would say that it is important to write about what you know. Remember that every good story must be about at least two things. Write about things that you love. Write with honesty. When you use a literary device, make sure that it is blended into the fabric of the story and does not stick out.  Don’t be afraid.

For readers, I just feel gratitude that people enjoy reading stories and hope that they do not ever feel ashamed by what moves them. I would encourage readers to not fall into the trap of being bounded by a certain snobbery against what is popular. I love James Michener. I love reading John Grisham. It is not the same as reading Tom Wolfe or Thomas Mann but the love is the same. I love Wolfe’s ear for language. I love Grisham’s insider knowledge. But those are things that I love. For readers, my advice would be to find those things that you love.

And, most importantly, where can we find you and your books? 

I can be found at KennethEdwardHart.com.
Here’s my Facebook Page.
And, Twitter.

Thanks, so much, Edward, for sharing your writing life with us !
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Read Some Strange Fantasies
Grab A Free Novel…
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To Leave A Comment, Use The Link At The Top-Right of The Post :-)
For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

My Last Walk


Alexander M Zoltai:

Sharing a short story today in this incredible re-blog…

This woman is an excellent writer…

Originally posted on Tribalmystic stories:

This is my second entry into the short story category in PNG National Literary Awards. Some of you know this story. It has been cut down to 1000 word limit.   For more stories and entries into the competition, please visit the following links;

The Crocodile Prize

Keith Jackson & Friends: PNG Attitude

h-wp Western Province, PNG.

My Last Walk  ©JK.Leahy

I felt his eyes piercing into my back as I struggled over the grassy hill. The air was tight and chilly so early in the morning.

“Walk faster!”

I needed my three-month-old baby Boni’s softness, and the laughter of his older siblings. I was exhausted and wished I could stop. A sudden breeze brushed over the tall grass. Shoosh. I shivered.

Usually, when we returned from the garden, Bomoga walked proudly ahead, carrying his prized spear with a small bilum strapped across his bare chest. The children and I…

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Weekend Edition – Place and Writing Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips


Alexander M Zoltai:

How does Place affect a writer?

And, how does writing affect the space a writer’s in?

Check out this intimate re-blog…

Originally posted on Live to Write - Write to Live:

How does where you live influence your writing?

Site of Thoreau's cabin on Walden Pond, circa 1908 (Library of Congress) Site of Thoreau’s cabin on Walden Pond, circa 1908 (Library of Congress)

When I sat down to write this morning, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to write about. As I mentioned last week, life has suddenly gotten a bit crazier than usual. I’ve been jostled out of my usual groove and am flailing a bit in terms of time, energy, and attention. I read through my collection of post ideas hoping something would gel, but nothing came together. Instead, my mind just gnashed anxiously at unsolved problems.

So, in the spirit of letting difficult times inspire and fuel my writing, I decided to look one piece of my dilemma square in the face, and see how I could put it to a better use than simply keeping me up at night.

··• )o( •··

Many famous writers are associated…

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Do You Need Formal Education To Become A Writer?


I could answer the question of whether writers need formal education in a number of ways

* Simply, no.

* Yes, if you also want a degree to teach writing.

* Yes, if you can’t seem to motivate yourself (though, there are less expensive ways to gain motivation…).

* No, if you’re a maverick.

Of course, all those answers could spark endless debates.

Which brings us to a debate that’s been raging since February

It involves something Ryan Boudinot wroteThings I Can Say About MFA Writing Programs Now That I No Longer Teach in One.

I’ll share the bullet points from that article in just a bit

Ryan formed a non-profit to promote Seattle, Washington, USA as a UNESCO City of Literature.

The Board of that non-profit quit after Ryan’s article appeared

In a parallel article—I Was the MFA Student Who Made Ryan Boudinot Cry—,by one of the people alluded to in Ryan’s article, it says:

“Few people realize that Ryan fired his hotshot New York agent, sold his next two books to local independent presses, and sank almost all his personal savings into founding Seattle City of Literature.”

There are plenty of other articles, on both sides of the issue

My take on all of this is:

Rayan was a bit “forthright” in his article (yet many other folks admit to the things he said about MFA writing programs…).

The parallel piece by his former student had quite a few other good things to say about Ryan.

And, we do live in a Contentious Society—hardly anything can be said in public fora without a “war” breaking out

So

Let’s look at those bullet points in Ryan’s article (and, if you’ve managed to read this far, do, please, go read what he says for each point):

* Writers are born with talent.

* If you didn’t decide to take writing seriously by the time you were a teenager, you’re probably not going to make it.

* If you complain about not having time to write, please do us both a favor and drop out.

* If you aren’t a serious reader, don’t expect anyone to read what you write.

* No one cares about your problems if you’re a shitty writer.

* You don’t need my help to get published.

* It’s not important that people think you’re smart.

* It’s important to woodshed.

In case you’ve never run across the term “woodshed”, it means “A private place, out of the sight or hearing of others, used to practice…”.

I’m really hoping a few of you will share your feelings and thoughts in the Comments—whether or not you’ve experienced an MFA-in-writing program
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Read Some Strange Fantasies
Grab A Free Novel…
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
To Leave A Comment, Use The Link At The Top-Right of The Post :-)
For Private Comments or Questions, Email: amzolt {at} gmail {dot} com

Top Ten Lessons Learned Writing a Book For My Students by Greg Armamentos


Alexander M Zoltai:

THURSDAY RE-BLOG BONUS

Ever thought you wanted to be a writer?

Have you already done a bit of writing but hesitate to call yourself a writer?

Are you a teacher?

If you answered yes to any of those questions, perhaps you’ll find value in this post…

Originally posted on Nerdy Book Club:

dash coverSeveral years ago I switched the writing emphasis in our classroom to choice writing. Rather than spending the entire year on narrative, persuasive, and expository methods, we would primarily write for creative purposes. We would write daily, passionately, and boldly. The idea was to rescue writing from being relegated as merely a school subject, and allowing students to see that each of them had valuable ideas, a unique voice, and an audience to share them with. I didn’t just want to help students write better, but to see themselves as writers.
Of course, that had to start with me, identifying myself not just as a teacher of writing, but as someone that writes.
So I wrote daily with the kids. Sometimes gibberish, sometimes garbled, but writing nonetheless. And a voice emerged, along with characters, and stories, and a daily pattern of exploring creativity in our classroom. I challenged students, and…

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