Sunday, May 27, 2018
Interview with Jeanne Golden-Burke: 3rd Place Winner in the Q2 2018 Creative Nonfiction Contest
Jeanne Golden-Burke is a financial consultant in the healthcare industry and lives in Phoenix, AZ with her husband and 3 four-legged furry friends.
A deep fascination with the minds of serial killers inspired her to earn a Master’s degree in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, where she lived in NYC for two years.
She likes nothing better than sitting down with a good book. And enjoys a variety of topics ranging from history (especially prominent women in history) to a good gory zombie novel! When she’s not snuggled up with a good book, she loves to write and paint in her spare time.
A creative writing class in her undergrad years (and an active imagination) inspired her to put her stories to paper. And she’s been tapping away at the keyboard ever since.
If you haven’t done so already, check out Mary’s award-winning story “Missing” and then return here for a chat with the author.
WOW: Congratulations on placing third in WOW!’s Creative Nonfiction Contest! I love the way you’ve structured your essay, with the repetition of addressing the narrator’s father, and how that salutation changes over time. How did you begin writing this piece, and how did it and your writing process evolve to use this structure?
Jeanne: I was struggling with processing some things and a friend recommended that I write a letter (even if I never sent it to anyone). It started with the end and morphed into snapshots from important moments in my life. I was inspired by an audio clip I heard on Facebook from a little girl who was recorded giving messages to her father at various stages of her life (he had died in the 9/11 terror attack). It was so poignant and emotional, and it really hits home when you hear it from that person at those specific ages in their life. It felt so much deeper that way. And was maybe therapeutic at the same time.
WOW: And your essay is also quite poignant and emotional. I think you nailed it. What did you learn about yourself or your writing by writing this essay?
Jeanne: I learned that I can pull emotion from other people with my writing. It was surprising how many folks have told me that it brought tears to their eyes. That was, to me, a compliment to my story and writing and I am deeply grateful for the sentiment.
WOW: It’s heartwarming to hear that you got a meaningful response from your family. Which creative nonfiction essays or writers have inspired you most, and in what ways did they inspire you?
Jeanne: There is one book, The Glass Castle, by Jeannette Walls, that really spoke to me. Her story resonated with me, for the content but also the artistry in which she spun the story. It wasn’t a feel-good book, but it kept me reading to the end. Anytime I read a good book, I think about what makes it a good book and if I could ever hope to recreate what I felt for someone reading my work.
WOW: I also enjoyed The Glass Castle, which gripped me from beginning to end, too, because of the way she tells her story. How does your background in Forensic Psychology inform your writing?
Jeanne: Oftentimes it leads toward more dark, thriller type topics. It’s always been a fascination and has never really gone away.
WOW: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
Jeanne: Don’t over think it. Put it all down on paper and then go back and slowly change phrases or words that you aren’t happy with. And stop judging yourself. For me, so far, writing has been more about the journey, so I want to enjoy every bit of it and not stress about getting everything perfect or just so.
WOW: Yes, I think that’s important to consider the journey, and it’s something I often overlook. Thank you for that reminder. Anything else you’d like to add?
Jeanne: Writing can be therapeutic, even if no one ever reads it. Allow yourself to experience the amazing moments in your life and let go of the horrible ones. Take care of your soul, you are the only one who truly can.
WOW: Thank you for your wonderful writing and thoughtful responses. Happy writing! And enjoy the journey!
Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, who keeps a blog of journal entries, memoir snippets, interviews, training logs, and profiles of writers and competitive sportswomen.