Author Interview – Joan Gelfand

by | Aug 5, 2020 | Author Interviews, Blog


In this Bum Glue series, I interview other authors. Next up is award-winning author Joan Gelfand who I discovered when I read her writing book You Can Be a Winning Writer:The 4 C’s Approach of Successful Authors – Craft, Commitment, Community, and Confidence. Her first novel, Extreme, came out in July 2020. I hope you enjoy her perspective.

Nita Sweeney (NS): When and how did your writing journey begin?

Joan Gelfand (JG): It really began when I was 8 and started writing book reports for school. Next was writing poetry in High School and then finally publishing poetry in my college years. That is when I began to identify as a writer. I went to San Francisco State University for a degree in poetry and then to Mills College for my MFA.

NS: Plotter or pantser?

JG: Plotter

NS: What’s your biggest writing struggle and how do you handle it?

JG: Getting the work finished. I have a lot of projects and I love to sketch things out (poems, reviews, articles, stories, and my next novel.)

The struggle is to edit and fine tune the piece to a point where I LOVE it. I won’t ship/publish it until I love it and feel I have nailed what I want to say.

NS: What is one thing about writing you wish you’d learned earlier?

JG: That writing is entertainment and you have to keep the reader on the edge of their seat.

NS: What a fabulous reminder.

Author Interview - Joan Gelfand reading

Author Interview – Joan Gelfand reading

What’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever heard?

JG: “Put this novel aside and start a new one.”

That was from a Pulitzer Prize winning author who I hired to advise me on how to fix the second part of my first novel. I had interest from a NY agent! I put that first book aside and I’ve regretted it ever since. When an agent expresses interest, you must pursue it!

NS: Do you write by hand or on a computer?

JG: Both

NS: What are you currently reading?

JG: The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett and Betrayal on the Bayou by Sheryl Bize-Boutte.

Joan Gelford & Sheryl Bize-Boutte

Joan Gelford & Sheryl Bize-Boutte








: Is there a book you couldn’t finish? Why?

JG: Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon. The characters didn’t hold my interest and the story/plot line didn’t engage me enough.

NS: What book couldn’t you put down?

JG: The Monk of Mokha by Dave Eggers. It was a book about Yemen and coffee – it was non-fiction. It had a San Francisco angle, it was about one of my favorite topics, it was set in an exotic location and it read like a thriller!

NS: Thank you! That title has come up a few times lately–a sign to read it.

What advice would you give writers starting out?

JG: Start publishing as soon as you feel ready. Build your writer’s resume of writing credits.

NS: Has your writing life turned out differently than you expected? If so, how?

JG: I thought I would have had my first novel out about 20 years ago. In the meantime, I published 3 collections of poetry, a book of short fiction, and a book for writers! My first novel was JUST was published on July 14th!

NS: How exciting! Congratulations. What’s next for you writing wise?

Joan Gelfand at Pt. Reyes

Joan Gelfand at Pt. Reyes

JG: On my desk is my next poetry collection. I have all the poems I just need to organize and edit. And, I have a publisher already. After that is my next novel.

NS: Lots for us to look forward to from you. More excitement!


NS: Mermaids or Goddesses?

JG: Goddesses

NS: Toast or bagels?

JG: Toast

NS: Ocean, mountains, or forest?

JG: oh no ! I love them both – can’t choose !

NS: No need to choose then.

But what about leggings or jeans?

JG: leggings

NS: Dogs, cats, fish, guinea pigs, or horses?


NS: Thanks so much for your time Joan. It was great to get to know more about you!

Extreme by Joan Gelfand

Extreme by Joan Gelfand

The author of three poetry collections, a chapbook of short fiction and You Can Be a Winning Writer, a book for writers, Joan’s work appears in national and international journals including Rattle, PANK! The Los Angeles Review of Books, Prairie Schooner, Kalliope, California Quarterly, the Toronto Review, Marsh Hawk Review and Levure Litteraire.  Her chapbook of short fiction won the Cervena Barva Fiction Award.

President Emeritus of the Women’s National Book Association, a member of the National Book Critics Circle and California Writers Club, Joan coaches writers.

Her novel, Extreme, set in a Silicon Valley startup, was published by Blue Light Press in July, 2020.



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