Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Writing and Writers: Rosemary Zibert

 Writer’s Block airs every Tuesday, at 9 a.m. MST on KFUN/KLVF, streaming live at

Book Recounts the Transformation of a "Little Princess"

Rosemary Zibart is a journalist, playwright and children’s book writer. She is proud of her advocacy and many of her media articles tackled issues such as how art can transform the lives of at-risk teens, and the Heart Gallery, which promotes the adoption of children and teens. True Brit: Beatrice 1940 is a book for ages 8-12 that has been enjoyed by readers of all ages.

This is a charming story about a young girl forced into growing up quickly when she travels across the ocean in the unwelcome company of three small boys who don’t speak English and who, like Beatrice, are traveling without benefit of adult presence.

When Beatrice gets off the boat there is no family to meet her; she still has a ways to go aboard a train that will take her to a life more different than anything she can imagine. The countryside, the people, the home she will be living in, nothing is as she expected.

With the help of her father’s parting gift of a little red leather book to keep a record of her experiences, and taking her courage from Mary Kingsley, a valiant British explorer, she begins to make the most of a life unlike she has ever experienced.

Beatrice is one among thousands of European children who were sent to safety during World War II. Rosemary plans to write more about these children in the continuation of the series.

Interview Summary

WB: Tell the audience what prompted you to write this story.

WB: What research did you do to so clearly depict Santa Fe and northern New Mexico in the 1940s?
RZ: I read as much as I could plus I have a background as a journalist in this area for 20 years so I had written a number of articles about Bohemian artists, public health nurses, etc.

WB:  Beatrice is a world away from her home in more ways than distance. How were you able to capture a child-like view of rather frightening and life-altering circumstances?
RZ: Thanks for saying that I captured her voice. That's the key thing a writer tries to do. To find a character's voice and maintain it so you should always know who's speaking. I have always been fascinated by children facing ordeals so that's the subject of the entire book series "far and away," children who were displaced and relocated during 1939-1945.

WB: Is Beatrice a composite of children you know?
RZ: Not really. I did think of the character Mary in A Secret Garden. She (Beatrice) is not as nasty as Mary starts out but she's also spoiled and self-centered.

WB: She seems rather mature for her age. Is that a consequence of her circumstances or her station in society?
RZ: I was a precocious child myself.

WB: Beatrice evolves rather quickly in this story and I thought your use of Mary Kingsley as a role model was brilliant. Tell how you decided to use this adventurous woman in the story line.
RZ: That use of Mary Kingsley came late in the book's development. An editor told me Beatrice was whining too much, that she needed to be more adventurous so I added the reference to one of the most adventurous women I've ever heard of. Rudyard Kipling said of Kingsley, "She must have been afraid of something...but no one ever figured out what."

WB: This is part of a series. Tell us about that and have you begun writing the next one?
RZ: OMG. I've already written the next book called Forced Journey: Werner, 1939. It's a much rougher story, more complex and written in third rather than first person. I'm doing edits right now and hope to finish by August.

WB: How are you choosing the child protagonists?
RZ: From their stories. I'm seized by a story. I'm very plot-driven, but usually it's the inner story of growth and transformation that most appeals to me.

WB: In the course of writing Beatrice what did you learn about yourself that you didn’t know before?
RZ: Beatrice is about a poor little rich girl who is forced to roll up her sleeves and do things for others. Which is similar to me. I constantly have to be forced out of my little world in order to care for and do things for others. One of the projects I take time out for is Minds Interrupted: Stories of Lives Affected by Mental Illness. (WB NOTE: For more information about this program go to

WB: What other projects are you working on?
RZ: Another OMG! I'm a playwright and have a play being produced in Albuquerque this fall, plus I'm trying to get one produced in Santa Fe sometime later this year or early next year.

WB: Any last thoughts or comments.
RZ: Just that writing and reading is such a mind-expanding way to experience life I hope it's not replaced by games, which are clever, but don't stimulate compassion and understanding  about other human beings which to me is the purpose of life.

For more about Rosemary and her work, go to  

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Writing and Writers: Melanie Atkins

Writer’s Block airs every Tuesday, at 9 a.m. MST on KFUN/KLVF, streaming live at

The bodies drop in these plot-driven stories

My live interview with Melanie Atkins was a great conversation about her books, her muses and her ability to turn out new work regularly and on deadline. Melanie provided brief answers to my questions via e-mail and her responses are below.

Her stories are set in the deep south and filled with hot “…cop heroes and women who know what they want. No fainting violets here.”

As an inspiration Melanie stands apart. She didn't "...really get back into writing," until 2001, but when she did, she hit it full out and with commitment. She has published 13 books since 2004 and is working on number 14.

Interview Summary:

 WB: Let’s begin with you telling us how long you’ve been writing.
MA: All my life, beginning with stories about my cats when I was a kid. I wrote some in high school, then went to college and got married, and life got in the way. I started writing again after my divorce, got serious about seeking publication in 2001, and sold my first book in 2004.

WB: Was this what you always wanted to do and why?
MA: I never really knew what I wanted to do until I found writing again. Then I knew.

WB: Tell us about getting published
MA: I'm currently published with Desert Breeze Publishing and Whiskey Creek Press, but I do have plans to self publish an older title I pulled from another publisher. I'm going to see how it goes.

WB: What is the hardest part of book creation, the writing or the promoting and business side?
MA: Promotion is definitely the hardest. So many avenues exist now online, with so many social networking venues, blogs, websites... it's mind blowing.

WB: It seems you have a pen name for some of your books. What are the reasons authors use a pen name instead of always publishing under their given name?
MA: I use a pen name for all of my books except some mainstream Southern fiction. I still use my ex-husband's name (I kept it because of the kids) and I didn't want to use that on my books. So I chose a pen name.

WB: You stated in something I read that your cats are your muses. Talk a little about that.
MA: I talk to my cats sometimes as I bounce ideas around. They look at me, giving me the idea that they're listening, even though I know they're not. Helps me think. lol

WB: Give listeners a little background about your novels and what inspired them.
MA: I write suspense set in the deep south. Everyone has always told me to "write what you know," and the south is what I know best. I've also done a lot of law enforcement research and attended a lot of conferences to help me get it right when it comes to cop info, guns, and the like. I love mysteries and sitting on the edge of my seat. So... bodies drop quite frequently in my books. The darker the story, the better.

WB: You are a prolific writer. What is your writing schedule?
MA: I write all day a couple of days a week, and partial days the rest of the time. My mother is elderly, and I have to spend time with her and run her errands, buy her groceries, etc. Let's just say I write whenever I can.

WB: What is your preferred writing method – pen and paper? Computer? And why?
MA: Computer. I could never keep up with my ideas writing longhand.

WB: What writers inspire you?
MA: I love to read Lisa Gardner, Karen Rose, Linda Castillo, John Sanford, Tess Gerritsen, and Jonathan Hayes.

WB: What are you working on now?
MA: Right now I'm writing the fifth book in my Keller County Cops series for Desert Breeze. I'm on deadline, so I need to get it done.

WB: Tell listeners how they can get your books?
MA: All of my books are up at and many other online outlets. I also have my entire library of books on an Apple app for iPhones/iPads, and an Android app for those devices. Makes it easy for people to find all of my titles, learn where I might be signing one of my print books, and read excerpts.

To give you an idea of the books Melanie writes, here are a few of the titles: Chosen Target, Prime Suspect, Marked for Murder, Blood Rite, and Deliverance From Evil. For more about Melanie and her work, go to her website at


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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Writing and Writers: Poet Jeff Hildebrandt

Writer’s Block airs every Tuesday, at 9 a.m. MST on KFUN/KLVF, streaming live at 

Cowboy Poet Has a Powerful Message

Jeff Hildebrantdt is a former country music DJ, fireman, emergency medical technician and TV producer. Currently he is the director of on air promotion for Encore Westerns. While he's Nadacowboy he is an award winning Western humorist with a message. In 2008 he received the prestigious Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, in the Best Factual Narrative category for the 100 Years of John Wayne special he produced for Encore Westerns. Jeff has been writing poetry since the late ‘70s. 

Jeff was kind enough to respond to my questions my e-mail, making this summary a piece of cake! Thanks, Jeff. I enjoyed our chat and am impressed with his poetry.
Jeff started writing poetry when he was assistant news director at WLW radio in Cincinnati. "During the morning drive news, I’d finish with a lighter side story written in rhyme. In the ‘80s I wrote what I call, Confrontational Christian Poetry and when I moved here (Denver), I was producing material for the Encore Westerns channel, so I sort of slid into the cowboy poetry arena.”

He says that subconsciously knowing his poetry will be formed does influence how it’s written. “But I know that I write in my voice and always perform it in my head over and over before I think of it as finished.”

His work fills a variety of roles and he chooses to not pigeonhole his talent. “I use humor to introduce myself to an audience and put them at ease, then I comment on something I think people should think and maybe talk about. In one sense, I see myself in the long tradition of ‘60s folk singers. But, more than anything, I think of myself as an Evangelist, in the broadest sense of the word. God has blessed me with the ability to use poetry to make a point that we shouldn’t let religion get in the way of our faith."

Jeff shared a couple of his poems including Cowboy Up, which he has performed extensively. Written not long after 9/11 the poem’s message lingers.  

Jeff said he hopes his poetry will cause people to take stock of what they believe and why they believe it. “There’s a lot more to God’s plan for Salvation than just spending an hour a week in the Sunday Social Club a lot of churches have become.”

He enjoys being in front of an audience and performing his work. He is equally pleased when he hears from someone else they would like to perform something he’s written.

The common themes in his poetry are faith, patriotism, honor and respect for those who serve others, “… and making fun of myself.”
What he’s learned about himself in the course of writing it that money isn’t everything. “I also learned how much I enjoy being in front of an audience. I learned not to take myself too seriously.”  

Jeff’s website is rich with content and worth looking at. He has a number of poems posted and information about what he’s doing. Check it out.

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On the Shelf: All About Books

Writer’s Block airs every Tuesday, at 9 a.m. MST on KFUN/KLVF, streaming live at 

Local Authors and Store Events Highlighted

Before focusing on his topic of the day, great mysteries for summer reading, Tome on the Range manager Michael Siewert talked about local authors and events of note and interest to Las Vegas readers.
Don Wales, now living in Albuquerque, has written an historical novel about first century Rome. Once a Warrior follows the life and times of a Roman legionnaire.

At a recent author event retired educator Jane Hyatt introduced her new book of short stories entitled Temporary Arrangements. Edwina Romero was on hand to talk about Footlights in the Foothills, her history of the early days of theater in Las Vegas and at Fort Union. Liza Hyatt read from Under My Skin and discussed the fine art of poetic writing. All the books are available at Tome on the Range. “Wonderful books, front to back,” was Michael’s comment.

Also available is Marcus Gottschalk newest edition of Pioneer Merchants of Las Vegas, complete with interesting illustrations and photographs. I agree wholeheartedly with Michael’s assessment that this is an important book, a focused history containing information you won’t find anywhere else. Michael said during the Romero Family Reunion Pioneer Merchants of Las Vegas, along with the J. Paul Taylor book, “…sold like hotcakes.” There are still some left. Be sure a pick up your copy.

On July 17 Ray John de Aragon will be a Writer’s Block in-studio guest talking about his latest book Enchanted Legends and the Lore of New Mexico. Ray John’s books celebrate Hispanic culture, history and folk lore. Enchanted Legends and the Lore of New Mexico is about witches, ghosts and spirits. Adults and children will get a kick out of reading it. On July 21 at 3 p.m. Ray John will be at Tome on the Range for an author event. 

Also of interest to writers, Alice Carney will be back with the Green River Writer’s Workshop July 19 – 22. On Friday, July 20 at 5 p.m., there will be an author event featuring the work of former workshop attendees, among them J.P. Baca.

Fifty Shades of Grey, a book read by “…half the female population of Las Vegas,” according to Michael, is a breakout phenomenon that leapt out of digital publishing and onto the page. Michael said during the week of Mother’s day, nationwide, it alone represented 46 percent of all book sales. Author E.L. James must be in a swoon, and if what I’ve heard about the books (Grey is a trilogy) is true, reading them will make you swoon as well.

Michael also reminded listeners with mid-school children that both school districts have summer reading lists out, most of which are in stock at Tome. If you don’t have the reading list handy, check at the shop.  

The 3rd Annual Literary Day Camp for children 8-12 (no exceptions) is scheduled for July 30 – Aug. 3. Riding the Rails will focus on Las Vegas’ railroading history and be highlighted by a train trip to Lamy for a visit to the rail museum. Two sessions will be at the museum and two at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish Hall. “The fee is $50 per child. We have worked hard to keep the content up and the cost down,” Michael said. Stop by the bookstore for details and to sign up.

Michael's recommended summer reading:

Cop to Corpse – Classic British police procedural by Peter Lovesey featuring Detective Peter Diamond. “British mystery writers write differently; the novels have more space, more air. The characters take time to reflect. In American mysteries you sometimes feel pushed along; British mysteries pull you.”

Don't Cry, Tai Lake:An Inspector Chen Novel –­ by Qiu Xiaolong is set in modern day China and gives the reader insight into a world and culture little understood by most Americans. “Interesting reading and you have to pay attention. The author isn’t as concerned with plot, although that’s there and important; the focus is on the characters.”

Beastly Things – is one of Donna Leon’s best, said Michael. As an American living in Venice for more than 30 years, Leon is able to create a sense of what the city is like. The protagonist is an inspector of the police force, Commissario Guido Brunetti. “In these novels the sleuth or detective is not threatened by the action – they have another life. The final scene portrays the funeral of the murder victim, a vet who has been moon lighting as an inspector at a slaughterhouse. It is one of the best funeral scenes I’ve never read. Leon is a terrific writer.”

Mission to Paris by Alan Furst –  This is one of Michael’s favorite authors. The stories are set in the days immediately preceding World War II and the protagonists are typically ordinary people who get drawn into intrigues. “They’re not super sleuths; they’re pulled into a world of espionage that is tremendously atmospheric, full of richness and complexity that only literature can bring.” 
Instruments ofDarkness by Imogen Robertson – This historical series is set in 18th century England. The puzzle here isn’t so much who the murderer is, but how the murderer is found out. Put Patricia Cornwell in the British country side with a curious early student of how the body works and you have a forensic duo to be reckoned with. “This is an early version of a pathologist. The books are gipping. You’re brought face to face with how little we understood, how little the medical profession understood, about the human body.”

The best way to find out more about these and other books is to visit your favorite independent bookstore, which in this case is Tome on the Range, 158 Bridge Street, Las Vegas, NM.
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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Writer and Writers: Peter Golden

Writer’s Block airs every Tuesday, at 9 a.m. MST on KFUN/KLVF, streaming live at 

Love in the '60s, how was it impacted by the era?

Peter Golden is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in the Detroit Free Press Magazine, New Jersey Monthly, Microsoft’s eDirections, Beyond Computing, The Forward, and Capital Magazine.

One reviewer said of his new book, Come Back Love, that it resonates with the great experiences typical of a life—love, sorrow, loss, lessons, resolutions. It has been described as “a gorgeous and sentimental love story—at turns hopeful and heart wrenching—about reconnecting with the one love that got away.”

In our interview on Tuesday Peter said the book came out of his experience of writing O Powerful Western Star, a history book about Soviet Jews in Russia.

“It dawned on me as I was writing, this was a place that didn’t exist anymore.” This led him to consider the changes that were happening in the middle of the 20th century. He concluded that the role of women in society was a defining factor.  

Come Back Love is about a 50-something man who goes back to find the woman he was in love with in the ‘60s and ‘70s. The story is told from the perspective of Gordon, a man driven by circumstances to review his life and look to connect with a relationship he couldn’t leave in the past.

The book has been described by some readers as romantic fiction, but it’s also a realistic view of a painful time in history. It examines the ways the world was changing and how those changes affected relationships.

The sharp contrasts between Gordon’s idealism and constancy, and Glenna’s frustration, independence and anger express the hard choices forced on a society in flux. Because of birth control women were in a position to make choices, often in conflict with what their partners wanted. Abortion and its consequence, the cold war, and Vietnam combined to have an explosive impact on traditional concepts about love.

Come Back Love is a story of people coming together. It’s about attraction and commitment, idealism and practicality, choices and hope. It’s about believing that against all odds, you can go back.

About the author: Peter Golden grew up in South Orange and Maplewood, New Jersey. In addition to Come Back Love he is the author of six full-length works of non-fiction and fiction. For more information go to His books are also available by order at Tome on the Range.

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Writer's and Writing: Sally Jadlow

Writer’s Block airs every Tuesday, at 9 a.m. MST on KFUN/KLVF, streaming live at 


Prompt winner writes uplifting books

Sally Jadlow came into her own as a writer 25 years after her first attempt to get published. In our Tuesday, June 5 interview she said she learned through experience that you don’t send more than 300 pages of poetry unsolicited to a publisher. “I got the box back with a kind note suggesting that in the future I select three or four poems to send in.”

She laughs about it now, but the experience was sufficiently daunting that she filed the box of poems under the bed and got on with the rest of her life, which included a husband and over time four children and a growing extended family.

“I didn’t discover writing groups and other writing resources that could help newbies like me until years later.”

Sally is the winner of the April 10 Writer’s Block writing prompt contest. The following is her winning entry. Her reward for winning included this interview on Writer’s Block, a copy of my e-book, Tiger Lilly and being featured on the WB blog.

A Fishy Tale
By Sally Jadlow

I opened the door
and was surprised to find
a cookie tin,
with note attached which read,
“Just for you. Enjoy.”

“Mom, look what I got!”
We carefully opened the lid
to discover
a pile of dirt
with fat worms inside.

Mom laughed
as I shoved on the lid.

Then I felt the note
on the bottom of the tin.
It read,
“Meet me at the fishing hole.
Bring the worms.
Love, Don.”

When I got there,
he baited my hook
with a worm from the box,
then dumped the dirt.

On top, sat a ring.
Don said, “Will you marry me?”
We’ve been fishing for fifty years.

I thought the poem was a hoot. It just goes to show you that good writers can tackle anything!

I enjoyed our Tuesday interview. Sally is a highly motivated woman whose areas of expertise include spiritual counseling, conducting Bible studies and teaching writing. She is dedicated to reaching out and helping others. Her work as a chaplain for corporations in the greater Kansas City area takes her into workplaces across the city where she visits with employees, “… at their desks, in grease pits and in warehouses.”
She said writing is one means by which she copes with the often difficult conversations she has with people. “It’s hard to hear these stories. Writing is a bit of an escape.“

It has been said of her work that she writes “… stories that encourage us to view prayer as one might view breathing. Her affirming and delightful vignettes cause the reader to conclude that prayer should be our natural and immediate response to all of life circumstances no matter how seemingly mundane or dramatic.” 

The intent of her books, “God’s Little Miracle Books I and II,” is to bring comfort. She wanted to provide brief stories about how people overcome hardship through prayer and faith. She is gratified to know that her work makes a difference. “I don’t have to know them (her readers). They can be reading my book at 3 a.m. a world away and be helped.” Some of the stories are from personal experiences, while others are about people she has encountered through her work.

She said the most difficult part of writing is choosing stories that will bless people in those tight spots that happen in the lives of all. When she hears from readers about how the books have helped she is grateful and humbled.   

Sally has also written what she calls a book of “faction” blending diary entries from her great grandfather with family lore. The Late Sooner, recounts the Oklahoma land rush and the life and times of pioneer families.

Sally’s books are available at on her website. For information about the author go to


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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Writer’s Block prompt contest

Write and win a spot on Writer's Block

1. Write a poem, short story, essay or article using the prompt as the first line.
2. Word limit – 250
3. Submit to by deadline date.
4. For current prompt and deadline go to

1. Winner will be a call-in guest on Writer’s Block (out-of-country winners will get a Q & A on the Writer’s Block blog).
2. Entry will be posted on the Writer’s Block blog with links back to author site, along with a program summary and a copy of the audio (available free through Dropbox).
3. My new e-book, Tiger Lilly.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Writers and Writing: Tom McDonald

Writer’s Block airs every Tuesday, at 9 a.m. MST on KFUN/KLVF, streaming live at 


A journalist first and foremost, 
and a little fiction on the side

Tom McDonald has a passion for what he does. It is evident – aside from saying it – that he truly loves the newspaper business. During his May 29 interview on Writer’s Block he talked about his creative writing as well as his position as editor and publisher of the Las Vegas Optic, a small town paper in a community of about 13,500 people.

Although he didn’t get knee-deep into writing until he went to work in the newspaper business, he began writing from an early age. He started out with poetry, and then short stories. Now he’s into writing novels. “I had no discipline with writing until I got into journalism,” he said. 

Like many writers Tom uses words as a means of self-expression. Growing up he admired John Steinbeck and Ken Kesey, among others. “To learn how to write I read.” After reading the greats and trying his hand at different styles, Tom said he developed his own voice.

He talked about the differences between journalistic and creative writing. From the journalism perspective Tom enjoys taking on the challenges of making complex stories accessible to the average person. Stepping outside one’s own perspective isn’t easy but it is necessary for journalists. “Taking an issue you have an opinion about and being able to articulate the other side is a good mental exercise,” he said. And it’s responsible, objective reporting.

Tom quoted a line from another writer about fiction sometimes being more accurate than fact. “That’s why I like writing fiction. You can get inside another person’s head. The magic is that I can be or think from another perspective and I’m not limited by facts.”

Tom’s manuscript (one of several) is what he calls straightforward fiction. Resurrection is about a reporter covering a story about a cult located on the outskirts of Las Vegas, NM. The main character has personal and professional struggles that surface during the course of meeting with the cult leader, who is not what he appears to be.

“The character is not based on me,” Tom said, “but he is a reporter, which is what I know, and I have had similar struggles.”

Another manuscript he’s working on is entitled, Superpowers, about two girls who are feuding and who don’t always get along. He points out that if it gets picked up by a publisher he’ll have to change the names of the characters, currently named for his two daughters.

Tom started writing fiction with more intention after he got his new laptop. “I had the story about the cult leader in my head for a long time.” He’s working in familiar territory with the story line by making the protagonist a reporter and setting it in Las Vegas, NM.

Tom’s other recreational writing is rhyming poetry. In his view, poetry is painting a picture with words. “I can tap into feelings I have a hard time expressing elsewhere. Even though I’ve played with free verse, I like rhyme. It’s like I get a tune in my head, and since I’m not a musician, I put it on paper with words.”

His career as a journalist has spanned 20 years and counting, and he loves every minute of it.

“Simply put we generate news and put out views,” he said of the Optic. “I’m very proud of what I do. Newspapers are a cornerstone of democracy. Government functions better when citizens are well-informed. We put out what people need to know and what people want to know.”

Community conversation and debate are important to Tom, which is why the rich content on the opinions pages of the paper has grown since he became publisher. Differing views inform the public as much as front page news.

Tom said that while it’s important to highlight problems, the paper should also present possible solutions. “Criticism of newspapers in justified when all you do editorially is beat up on everybody else but never offer solutions. On our best days we make a difference. Not every day, but our job is to push the community, hopefully in the right direction. If we have one single agenda it’s to be transparent. Open and honest discussion is more important than whether you agree with me or not.”

Tom is encouraged that for the most part people understand and appreciate that the newspaper is an independent entity. “We think for ourselves and make our news judgment based on an independent line of thinking. It’s not unusual for us to express support for someone and then run a story that makes them look bad. It’s not personal; it’s the news.”

Tom McDonald is a native of Arkansas, where he grew up as one of seven sons to a teacher and a preacher, In his 20s he dropped out of college and held a variety of blue-collar and community oriented jobs throughout the South, then returned to college in his 30s to earn a bachelor’s degree, majoring in history and minoring in journalism. Tom has more than two decades of experience in the newspaper business, and has spent the past seven-plus years as editor and publisher of the Las Vegas Optic. In 2010-2011 he served as president of the New Mexico Press Association. Even though he’s yet to be published outside the world of journalism, he also writes fiction and poetry on the side, just for fun — or, he dreams, someday, just for the profit of it all. In the meantime, he says he’ll keep his day job, which he calls “the best job in town.”

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Writing and Writers: Gary Goldstein

Writer’s Block airs every Tuesday, at 9 a.m. MST on KFUN/KLVF, streaming live at 


Jew in Jail, the story of 
recovery one day at a time

Before Gary Goldstein was convicted following the commission of three robberies, he worked for major broadcasting and production companies in New York. Since his release from prison in 2004 after serving a six-year sentence, he has written a book about his recovery from various addictions and the trials he endured while incarcerated. Jew in Jail is a story about the triumph of the human spirit. He is a writer, motivational speaker, and one-man band playing the music of hope.

Gary was raised in Brooklyn, an over-achiever who wanted everyone to like him. His athletic skill led him to be a favorite pick for sports teams and after-school pick-up games at the park. Even though he had no interest in drugs and alcohol, it wasn’t long before he started taking part in the after-game beer drinking and occasional marijuana toke.

“I was a follower. I just wanted to be liked,” he said, so he went along with what was happening around him.

As an intern at a broadcast station in New York while he was in college, he found himself watching all kinds of professional and other sports. “I thought I had it figured out and started making bets.” One thing led to another and before long he was deeply in debt, using drugs and generally out of control. Following his arrest and conviction he was faced with a six-year prison term and a big wake up call. He thought he was on the road to recovery and did well for a year and a half after being released from prison in 2004. One day he decided one drink wouldn’t hurt, that he could handle it.

“That was my final relapse, I hope. I just woke up one morning and asked myself, what am I doing? This is not what I was born to do. I walked into an outpatient drug clinic and signed up. I  attended  for a year and half, six more months than was required, and now I’m president of alumni association. Now I’m helping other people.”

Gary goes wherever he’s invited to talk about the danger of addiction, but his message is really about hope. Addition is a disease. “I’m in remission, but like the program says, I live one day at a time. I tell myself, listen I can go the next 24 hours. I get through that day and say it all over again.”

The perception that Jewish people are bright, success oriented and typically above doing drugs and alcohol is stereotyping from a different perspective. Gary said he took a lot of ribbing, was discriminated against and received negative comments from guards and fellow prisoners because he was a Jew in jail. “It’s not like this was something I chose to do (being a substance abuser who ended up in jail). He also figured out that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. He knew he had an illness; he asked for help. “I knew I needed help. See, here I was, a tough guy from Brooklyn, I could handle it, but addiction is the heavyweight champ of the world, the undisputed champion waiting to pounce. I couldn’t do it on my own, nobody can.”

Gary’s motivational speaking is intended to reach out and help others, but he said it helps him as well. When he gives back, he gets something in return, healing and focus.

One of Gary’s most heartbreaking moments came when he learned of the death of his father while he was waiting for the legal system to take its course. “I couldn’t go to the funeral. That’s something I live with my whole life.”

 Jew in Jail, was written to help others, and to honor Gary’s father, who, along with his mother, stood by Gary through everything. He began writing while he was still in prison, keeping a journal in which he recorded his thoughts and experiences. He said after the first couple of years he started to regain self-esteem. “It helped me see the progress I was making.

What he’s learned about himself is the he is a decent human being and that he didn’t have to please other people to be happy. 

Jew in Jail is available on Gary's website,

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