Monday, April 8th, 2013
Being able to reduce what I thought was this enormous life event to a succinct six words made me feel powerful. That story changed my outlook from one of facing a problem of a lifetime to one of solving a simple word problem.
Name: Coleen Goodson
Place: Chicago area,
SMITH member since: May, 2010
Scrolling through the stories of Coleen Goodson, known to regulars of the site as ctgoods2, it’s easy to feel inspired by her true joy of the written word. Coleen has written nearly 2,500 stories on SMITH—from the intimately personal like “Mom disapproved until our 20th anniversary” (her first Six-Word Memoir); to the playfully self-effacing, “Raised by crazies. Keeping up tradition”; to indeed, a perfect sentiment for a community of writers: “Thinking in italics from now on.” A transplant to a small northern Illinois town that’s “a sneeze south of Wisconsin,” Coleen is a wife to one and mom to three who works as an executive administrative assistant by day while dedicating her nights to her family and her writing. Coleen reveals that she first heard about SMITH after receiving a particularly tough critique by a writing teacher: he told her she used too many words. “I was determined to do better on the assignment but really felt at a loss, because of course, I loved all of my own words,” she explains. “So, I Googled, ‘Write a memoir use fewer words.’ SMITH Magazine popped up and I have been a loyal fan/addict ever since!”
Coleen was kind enough to take a pause from her prolific life to tell us about how a Catholic school punishment led to a love of competitive writing and other stories about her life and work in our “Six Questions For…” interview. As always, we’re delighted to send our Member of the Month the Six-Word Memoir T-shirt of her choice courtesy of our friends at Spreadshirt.
When did you start writing, and what have been turning points in your creative life?
I started writing in Catholic grade school, first as penance, then competitively. Sister Alodia was firm in the belief that children should be seen and not heard and I was the unofficial president of the chatterbox club. She sentenced the power talkers to copy stories, word for word, in legible Palmer Method. Needless to say, I only kept quiet while I was writing and ended up working my way right up to The Count of Monte Cristo. Eventually, all that “copy” writing got me interested in school-sponsored writing contests as well as scholarship competitions.
A major turning point in my writing life happened a few years ago. I decided I would write a memoir maybe for publication, maybe not. I took a class geared toward that genre and landed at SMITH after the aforementioned critique. There, I became friends with another member, one whom I refer to as my cyber sister. We shared life stories, sob stories and a few success stories. She was instrumental in kick-starting a stint of paid writing assignments—pop culture feature articles for a successful media company. Her input, encouragement and her good word of my writing ability restored my confidence to write for publication.
Since then, I have continued to write as well as encourage and assist other writers. I recently completed the facilitation of my fifth round of a writers’ Plotting Group. I am please to say that I have helped over thirty writers plot out their novels. Currently, I am working on a short story for a competitive writing challenge. This is the ideal distraction/procrastination from the novel that I intend to complete, hopefully sometime this year.
Can you share a favorite Six-Word Memoir or other story of yours and tell us why it’s meaningful to you?
A SMITH story of mine that is an all time favorite is, “Neither terminal nor contagious. Merely menopause.” This was a true memoir at the time it was written. The situation itself overwhelmed me on many levels. Being able to reduce what I thought was this enormous life event to a succinct six words made me feel powerful. That story changed my outlook from one of facing a problem of a lifetime to one of solving a simple word problem. A sound example of the power of words.
What authors inspire you or do you admire?
I love them all. But the authors that inspire me most are those with works in progress, published and as yet to be. I admire Joyce Carol Oates—what a powerful darkness. Stephen King is another—he’s just got a truckload of imagination and success. Jules Verne and Kurt Vonnegut—they are the guys responsible for science fiction in the classic sense. I could go on and on and on….
Is there someone’s writing on SMITH that has especially moved you?
I have been touched by so many of the folks on the site. Some have moved me to words of passion, some have left me without any words at all. Some have made me laugh so hard, I could float away. I will say though that there is a small group of folks that not only move me but support me and I hope they know the feeling is mutual.
And I have often been moved by moments where the SMITH community has rallied around its members: youthful crisis, middle age morose, new life, the passing of life, the changing of life. Each time these instances have been presented, I am in awe and privileged to be a part of the community that figures out a way to be supportive and rewarding and consoling to its own.
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
I love spending time with my crazy family and diabolical dogs. I’m a voracious reader and eater. I especially enjoy the time I spend with my family, eating and solving the world’s problems at my kitchen table.
Finally, what’s your Six-Word Memoir for today?
Write your memoir. Use fewer words.