Interview by Trine Grillo
This month we caught up with local author and teacher, Jean Bansemer.
Thank you for joining us, Jean. Tell our readers a bit about yourself and your connection to the Sandpoint area.
Thank you for the opportunity to connect a little more with our area’s readers!
I grew up in Naperville, Illinois. My husband’s career brought our family to Sandpoint from Indiana in 2016. We’ve all enjoyed being closer to nature on a daily basis and the move brought blessings to each of us. I have wonderful neighbors, a supportive writer’s group, and a thoughtful church. North Idaho is truly a gem.
Your two recent books, 2020 Hindsight and Along Came 22 are quite timely as you write not only about families, love, and adolescence, but also the global pandemic, and even the conflict between Russia and The Ukraine.
Can you give us a brief summary of each book and what inspired you to include such a variety of subjects?
2020 Hindsight; Poems and Conversation Starters for Students of the Pandemic Era, I wrote as a time capsule during the lockdown of 2020 and to work through my own feelings about that year. I hope 2020 Hindsight continues to help teens and adults process this time period.
Along Came 22 is 81 pages of poems and short stories about being in love, loving another, feeling loved, or wanting love— feeling conflicted or in war— or just plain, oh well, let’s have a good laugh and be random. The year 2022 is already a mixed bag of goodies.
My goal with Along Came 22 was to write light love poems in time for Valentine’s Day 2022 which came and went. I kept writing about shades of love in relationships and I also played around with light rhymes, as opposed to free verse. I was asked to write a couple poems about search engine optimization (SEO) because I owned a SEO content creation business for many years. I had a couple of short stories— a memoir and a dystopian fictional tale. They all found a home in Along Came 22.
Then, Russia attacked Ukraine. Just when we thought a normal crazy might return, more good people are losing their lives. What is going on? The poems came out of me. Most of the “war poems” are about feeling powerless when it comes to Ukraine, but one or two poems are about the conflicts we have within our own personal relationships. I decided to put it all into one collection.
Yes, Along Came 22.
Why did you include questions at the end of each selection?
I make it very easy in both books for English teachers and book club leaders to use the material in discussions. The poems and stories are from writer me, the questions come from teacher me. It is hoped that the questions help readers to push beyond the text and make connections.
What made you go with this particular book cover on Along Came 22?
The elderly couple reminded me of the Pokerbeams in my poem, “Lovebirds at Freddie’s Hall.” Truly, getting out of 2020 and into 2022 has been absolutely freeing for many older folks who were shut inside. Seeing these two playing on the swing is what I hope for readers who read Along Came 22.
Can you offer advice to aspiring writers out there?
Do it. Stop thinking your work isn’t good enough if everyone tells you they love what you write. Put it out there. Join my writers’ group— Sandpoint Writers on the Lake. We meet at the Sandpoint Library on the second and fourth Saturdays each month at 9:30 am.
What’s next for Jean Bansemer?
Great question. Because I still substitute teach, tutor, and take on select marketing projects, my writing time often gets cut short. This makes writing poetry the best fit for my life. But, I aspire to either write a book of short stories, a memoir, or a fictional novel next. One day, I’d even like to write a screenplay. I did write a 40,000 YA novel in 2014 that is sitting on Drive. I could revisit and fine-tune it, but I might just start with a fresh concept. Stay tuned!
You can purchase my books for yourself or your favorite teacher online,
at our local Sandpoint bookstores and at Auntie’s Bookstore in Spokane, Washington.
Thank you, Jean, and we wish you continued success on your writing journey.
Jean’s books are available for check out at the Library at both the Sandpoint and Clark Fork locations as well as through the Bookmobile.