VWRS Fiction Writer Juan Martinez Visits Campus


Carson Jones

Writer and former Whitman Professor, Jaun Martinez, reads exceprts of his book “Best Worst American” and shares advice on witing stories.

Cy Burchenal, Staff Reporter

New and experienced writers alike had much to learn from the latest Visiting Writers Reading Series talk, featuring fiction writer Juan Martinez in Kimball Theatre on Thursday, Feb. 1. Martinez, the author of award-winning short fiction collections and an upcoming novel, read selections from his short story collection “The Best Worst American.” Between selections, he shared what he deemed his “dirty tricks” for writing good beginnings, middles and endings in fiction. The audience received his talk, which he delivered with humor and good-naturedness, enthusiastically.

Some of Martinez’s advice pertaining to beginnings, middles and endings seemed simple but proved effective in the selections he read that night. For beginnings, Martinez advised giving characters a job, and making more introspective characters get out and do things, aided by more proactive supporting characters. His advice for story middles included giving a character a supposed solution to their problem, then turning that the solution into a new problem (something he deemed the Romantic Comedy problem). As Martinez read his short story “The Best Worst American,” he demonstrated his last “dirty trick” for endings: closing the story with characters in close proximity, as “The Best Worst American” ends with a hug.

Before the talk, The Wire sat down with Martinez to get an idea of his writing influences and how he began writing. Martinez cited Steven King, along with comic books, as major influences. He also mentioned Columbian novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who impacted many of the authors who now inspire Martinez. He characterizes his work as a mix of horror and humor, and there is much fluidity in the way many of his stories blend genres. This uniqueness adds to the compelling nature of his short stories, and kept the audience captivated the entire evening.