Interview with Jeff Cohen, Winter 2011 Contest Runner Up

Tuesday, June 07, 2011
Jeff's Bio:

Jeff Cohen lives in a hundred year-old Victorian home in Sewaren, NJ where he writes, paints, sculpts, and is teaching himself to play the piano. He continues to explore the short story in every genre from romance to murder mystery. He has a number of short stories currently under submission to literary magazines, and has penned five children’s picture books which he is developing illustrations for.

After graduating from Upsala College with a BA in art, he did graduate work at New York University where he studied playwrighting while pursuing a degree in graphics. He worked as an award winning art director for a number of New Jersey newspapers and wrote a weekly humor column for six years.

His hope is one day to publish a book of short stories, and ultimately to complete his first novel.

If you haven't done so already, take a look at Jeff's award-winning story, "The Anniversary Waltz", and then return here for a chat with the author.

WOW!: Congratulations on placing in the WOW! 2011 Winter Flash Fiction Contest!  How did you begin writing this story, or what was your inspiration for it?
Jeff: As a child I visited my grandparents, who lived in a small rural town. I remember clothes hanging from clotheslines, dirt roads, a creek to fish in, a swimming hole on hot summer days, a milkman making deliveries with a horse-drawn wagon. The people in the neighborhood were simple and so was their way of life. They didn't have much, but what they did have they appreciated. It's a time that I will never forget, and it gave me a great basis for a short story.

WOW!: What a great description of a pleasant memory!  Thank you for sharing it.  I read in your bio you are an artist as well as a writer. How does your art inspire your writing, or how does your writing inspire your art?

Jeff: My art and my writing are entirely different disciplines. With my paintings and sculptures I strive to tell a story visually. With my writing I concentrate on painting vivid pictures with words. In both cases I'm looking to affect an audience intellectually as well as emotionally. There are times when both worlds do come together. In the children's books that I've created, my illustrations and my words actually depend upon each other. 

WOW!: It sounds like you have plenty of projects to keep you busy!  How do you balance your time between writing, art, and other activities?

Jeff: Balance is a good word for it. Juggling would be a better word. Ideas for paintings, sculptures and stories come to me daily. I've never been a person that could stick to a hard schedule so I tend to jump from one thing to the next, as the mood strikes me. One day I may rough out a painting, then put it aside while I go back to the next draft of a short story that I've been working on. In between I tinker with the piano, garden, do a bit of carpentry or cook something exotic in the kitchen. As my father used to say, "Never a dull moment."

WOW!: It is always fascinating to me to hear how writers balance (or juggle) their schedules, and even more fascinating when everyone seems to have their own, unique methods.  What do you enjoy most about writing?

Jeff: I've become passionate about writing. I love the challenge. I am forever experimenting with various genres of the short story. The mystery, romance, comedy, tragedy, yarns with a lesson, tales with a twist. You name it, I'm willing to give it a shot. By writing in so many different directions, I discover my strengths as well as my weaknesses, forcing me to work harder and get better with everything that I write.

WOW!: If you could have dinner with one author, dead or alive, who would you choose and why?

Jeff: This is a really tough decision but I would have to choose Ernest Hemingway. He was a worldly man, an adventurer who saw action in WWI and WWII, as well as the Spanish Civil War. As a reporter he covered the D-Day invasion and the Liberation of Paris. A charter member of the "Lost Generation", Hemingway's friends and colleagues included Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, Pablo Picasso, Jean Miro'. From African safaris to battling giant Marlin off the coast of Key West, he lived a life that most just dream about. A life that he was able to bring to his readers in such a clean, tight and captivating style that it would affect writers for generations. I can only imagine the stories he could have shared over dinner.
WOW!: Great choice, and with excellent reason.
Thank you so much for your answers, and we wish you continued success with your writing!

Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt


Heather said...

What a great piece of flash fiction. I loved the subtle simplicity of the home balanced with the depth of the relationship. I would love to read more of Jeff's stories, so I hope he gets that book of short stories published soon!

Betty Craker Henderson said...

This is one talented fella! I would really enjoy reading his work.

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