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Getting to know our fourth winner: Georgene Smith Goodin 

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Another competition has come and gone, and while the Mash Jury are reading through the shortlist for the fifth contest, the winner of the fourth one told us a bit more about herself. Georgene Smith Goodin‘s winning story, And the Littlest Ones Shall Lead, is an evocative, efficient story that is both economical with words and full of symbolism.

Although Georgene’s not new to writing, as we’ll see below, this was her first time entering the Mash Stories Competition—and we are so glad she did.

Cheryl Whittaker: Let’s begin at the beginning. How did you start writing? What’s your relationship with writing been like so far?

Georgene Smith Goodin: I remember writing as early as the second grade. I’d learned to read before I even started school and I loved all forms of story. As a kid, I would bug my grandmothers to tell me about “the olden days” and I’d be mesmerized.

I majored in television production in college with an emphasis on screenwriting and I worked as a development executive for TV movies for a number of years. TV development is like being a coach for writers and I was using up too much of my creative energy during the day to be able to work on my own stuff at night. I decided to quit to have time for my own writing and I met my husband, Rob, just a couple of days before I was planning to give notice. Serendipity, I guess. He’s pretty disciplined about his comics, so that’s been a good influence on me.

I’ve written a short story collection that never got published (more on that later) and a YA novel that I’m currently shopping to agents. I hit a period where I couldn’t get more than a couple of pages into a new novel before getting bored with it, so I started doing The Moth StorySLAMS to jump-start things. Moth stories have to be true, have to have happened to the person telling them and have to be related to the night’s theme. They also have a 5 minute time limit. The idea of live storytelling brought me back to that love of oral tradition I’d gotten from my grandmothers and those sorts of restrictions are actually really freeing—not unlike the Mash Competitions.

After a few months of prepping pieces for StorySLAMS, some ideas for flash fiction floated to the surface. One of those grew past the constraints of short form, so I’m turning it into a novel.

Cheryl: How did you come up with the idea for your story?

Georgene: As crazy as this sounds, the first draft was written in 2003. I’d just moved in with Rob and, over the course of about a week, the sewer pipe ruptured, we were robbed and ants invaded. That first draft sort of just erupted from my feeling overwhelmed. That first version was ten times longer and was told from Charlie’s point of view.

Ultimately, I wrote a whole collection of stories about these characters, each one from a different PoV. There was one from Anna’s perspective, the grandmother’s, even the PoV of the clerk at the gas station Anna stopped at on her way out of town. “Carla”, the clerk’s story, was published in Alligator Juniper in 2005. I tried to find a publisher for the collection, but couldn’t. This past summer, I looked at it for the first time in years. I was thinking about self-publishing, but when I reread it, I realized how bad it is. The only story that’s any good is the one that was in Alligator Juniper and I’d pulled it from the collection because some of its events conflict with those in stories written later.

Cheryl: What tempted you to submit a story to Mash?

Georgene: I stumbled across the competition right after realizing my short story collection wasn’t worth self-publishing. The word “alphabet” reminded me of Charlie so I decided to rework that story for the competition.

Cheryl: You mention your husband’s discipline with his comics. Did the snapshot format of your story arise from living with a cartoonist, the kind of artist who has to convey strong messages in fixed, limited spaces?

Georgene: No. A few years ago, I had the good fortune to study with Les Plesko at UCLA Extension. He taught a writing process he called “scene into story”. The idea is to write whatever you see your characters doing until you can’t see them anymore. When your characters pop into your head again, repeat the process. Ultimately, you end up with a collection of scenes you can arrange in some fashion and let the reader fill in the gaps to make the story. Coming from a film/TV background that made a lot of sense to me.

Cheryl: What’s next for you? We know you submitted to the 5th competition… Do you have any other projects coming up so Mashers can see what else you’re up to?

Georgene: I have stories up at After the Pause and Tryst Lit Magazine. I have some flash pieces submitted elsewhere and I’m working on that short story that’s growing into a novel, but no known upcoming publications.

I spend a lot of my time remodelling my house. We bought a 1909 Craftsman bungalow that needed a ton of work. I have a remodelling blog, Goodin’s Folly. There might be a clue or two there about the inspiration for my latest Mash entry!

Cheryl: Thanks, Georgene, for chatting with us. We look forward to reading more of your stories, both here at Mash and elsewhere!

 

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Our Chief Editor, Cheryl, has been with MASH since day one. Her poetry has appeared in Riot Angel magazine, and one of her short stories was published in This Is It. Cheryl’s creative streak also reaches to art, craft and photography, and her favourite way to combine all these passions is in art journaling and mixed media. You can view Cheryl’s work by visiting her website: www.cswhittaker.com

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