On Wednesday, March 1, a West Chester University alumna and published author treated students and faculty to a discussion on the craft of fiction.WCU graduate Beth Goldner held a discussion about one of her short stories titled “Cardiff by the Sea.” The story is part of her collection of short stories titled “Wake,” which was published in 2003.
Goldner began by telling the audience about how she read Raymond Carver’s story, “Cathedral” in Dr. Brook’s class, and said the story literally kicked her in the gut about the power of short stories. “The feeling it left me with was ‘I want to write like that’,” Goldner said.
Goldner talked about how she was influenced by Raymond Carver’s story and how a friend later told her that “Cardiff by the Sea” seemed derived from Carver’s “Cathedral.”
“The more I though about it, the more I saw how I was influenced by Carver,” Goldner said. She said she didn’t pull it off in the way Carver did, but added that she needed to use other people’s voices in order to find her own. She also encouraged potential authors to read a lot of literature they don’t want to read in order to learn from the masters. “Influence is a positive thing,” said Goldner.
She talked about how she was inspired to write “Cardiff by the Sea” and how difficult writing from a male’s perspective was. Goldner said she had never written from a male’s perspective before writing the story. Three stories in her collection are written from a male’s point-of-view.
“Cardiff by the Sea” is a story about a blind Vietnam veteran and his relationship with his daughter. The story is narrated by the Vietnam War vet who provides an interesting perspective for the story.
Goldner said she loved the immediacy of writing from a first person perspective. She said, “I’m, in general, a character-driven writer. Characters don’t tell me stories; I make them participate in the story.” She suggested that in order to make characters three-dimensional, writers should create hypocritical characters, because all people are hypocrites.
“There are no rules in fiction,” Goldner said. She doesn’t believe in political correctness when writing fiction.
Goldner also highly recommended writing in workshops in order to improve upon one’s writing. She said that she had written 16 short stories over a two-year period, and she has hundreds of rejection letters from literary journals.
“It will take you far, as fiction writers, to be fearless,” said Goldner. “Take that fearless leap and write about something you don’t know,” She also said that when writers are rejected enough, they will develop the thick skin needed to succeed in the publishing world.
“I don’t think I’ll ever come to an end and say, ‘That’s it, I’m a good writer,'” Goldner said.
At the end of the discussion, Goldner took questions from students in the audience and later gave a reading in Philips Autograph Library.