About

My name is Jim Steinberg. I am a fiction writer, hobbyist blacksmith, amateur rose gardener, divorce and custody mediator, and former career wanderer: lawyer (three times), teacher (several times), college program director (twice), stand-in groundskeeper (only once), and, somewhere in the middle of those travels, a wanderer without portfolio. Those vocations, avocations, and unshaped times have stretched my travel bag’s seams, wearing its sides almost to holes, but it is bearing up well enough to keep safe the tools that travel with me when I follow my nose down story trails: wonder, curiosity, imagination, intuition, discovery, invention, empathy, and a passion for language. I began to discover them more than twenty years ago. Now I try to give as much time to following my nose as possible, keeping my tools with me all the time.

As I said in my welcome page, it’s a solitary journey. Inviting you to chat with me would give me some company along the way. A small community of us would be even better.

What I Write About

Pretty serious stuff. Stories about everyday folks feeling isolated and lonely, making poor choices in marriage and family, struggling to heal and make amends, sometimes in unusual ways; stories about compelling chance encounters with strangers from whom something may be learned; simple tales of difficult passages and partings; in a novel, all of these things on a broad canvas with a host of interrelated characters.

I am especially interested in moving readers toward a gentle view of characters who feel driven to cross moral and ethical boundaries, even ancient taboos that deepen their sense of spiritual isolation as they struggle to find higher ground. For this it is essential to present an honest interior view of my characters’ difficulties. When they make choices a reader may struggle with, it’s just me following who they tell me they are. They don’t need me to varnish the truth with language of persuasion. Instead, I want my readers to understand them, feel empathy for them, even connect with them because, like you and me, each is trying to find his way. Perhaps it is about asking you, the reader, to try to give them unconditional positive regard, fulling realizing that like me, you may not get all the way there.

In a rather romantic manner, I am searching for the resiliency of the human spirit without trying to sentimentalize or tie up ambivalent situations with the pretty wrappings, ribbons and bows of fully resolved conclusions. My work as a lawyer, teacher, administrator, and especially a mediator has shaped who I am as a writer. Even my days as a somewhat shiftless wanderer (not all that many!) have influence on what finds its way to the page. It’s why I feel I have something to share…so long as I make much of it up!

I want my stories to have flesh and bones. Real flesh and bones with bumps and scars. I love the bumps and scars and try to treat them with the same fondness I feel for the sweet times.

Jim

2 thoughts on “About

  1. Hello fellow wanderer and worder. I think you’ve picked good place to start: the beginning! The genesis of a story is something I’ve wondered about as well, and have had moments where I suspect something more than meets the neuron is going on. I question whether behind-the-scene metaphysical realities are playing the pat hand from a very fixed deck. And, of course, that suggests that your question begs the biggest metaphysical question of all, “From where does an original thought, as in a story idea, come?”
    For the most part, coming up with the initial story idea really is the result of my asking some what-if question regarding an event or a relationship. From there, it’s just a matter of determining if it’s an interesting or fun enough question that the best answer might be a story. That’s followed by my trying as best I can to get down on the “page” what I would want to read.
    Ah, but, enjoyable as that is, the really fun part is after I’ve begun and the characters begin to show me where the story is actually going. When the words just start appearing on the page, with that sense of flow, well, that for me is when it’s at it’s best. It seems obvious as well, that those transcendent moments seem inexorably linked to the original question. When I’ve talked with other writer’s I’ve asked about those moments of “flow,” where they come from, and how things like dialogue for different characters seems to show up on the page after they’ve voiced it. The genesis for those bits is as interesting to me as where the larger story itself is conceived.

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    • Interesting….I’ve never actually thought I was asking the “what if” question when I have found myself at the beginning of a story trail, but perhaps that is no different from what goes on inside me just before I take that first step. As I’ve said, I am rather attached to the notion that at the moment I am feeling something speak to me from inside, begging me for my attention as if it is seeking some greater repose, some deeper appreciation, perhaps even a better understanding. But certainly when that “whatever” that wants me to visit it is an actual event from my past (making it a “revisit!”), and my imagination kicks in and turns me away from what actually happened, as it almost always does before I am very far into it, the “what if” question may be what is going on, however unconscious of that I may be. Perhaps we don’t generally know why we do things! That’s why there is value in this kind of conversation. We can learn about ourselves from others.

      Yes, the fun part is when the characters begin to take the story where they want it to go. Some people may scoff at that, saying it is an idealization of the writing process, a figment of the writer’s imagination because he wants to feel that it is a muse speaking through him (not him!). But what is fiction if not an aggregation, with some kind of order (for example, beginning, middle, and end) of many figments of the writer’s imagination?

      I don’t think in terms of conception. That’s not, for better or worse, in my language of story genesis, but you’ve reminded me that on some non-explicit level that may be what is going on. Now, to contradict myself, I am finding that in starting my second novel, “Reunion,” I need to be more conscious about “conception” than I have been in any short story or even “Boundaries,” my first novel. I am somewhat overwhelmed by the size and complexity of the impulses that are rising from within me. I am feeling the need to put some framework around them, some structure, in order to learn more about their direction before I begin. That may be why, at this point, I am not yet experiencing the “flow” you have referred to. I seem to be fumbling around or treading water. To use my terms, I have my nose to the ground, but I am not yet following it because it hasn’t yet picked up a clear sense of the scent. So I am doing a bit more pre-thinking before I begin than I usually do. I may even do some pre-writing.

      I’m still “following my nose,” but my nose is not certain of what it has found.

      Thanks for your response. It has helped me. I hope more folks can join the conversation.

      Jim

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