Friday, May 31, 2024

42 Stories Anthology Presents: John Ward Interview


John Ward won the Story of excellence Award Winner in the Sports chapter for 

BAM: Where are you now?
John: Canada, BC, Vancouver.

BAM: Where is your writing space?
John: Wherever I can find space.

BAM: Coffee or tea or something else?

John: It depends on the time of day. If I’m able to write during the daytime, I stick to coffee and water. But in the evenings, I like to live on the edge a little and trade the coffee for a herbal tea!


BAM: While writing, do you play music, or watch shows/movies?

John: I really dislike working in quiet or silent spaces, so I definitely prefer noise. I’m happy to listen to music as I write, I’ve recently started making playlists for different projects, which helps me get into the right headspace.


BAM: What's the greatest writing award you hope to win?

John: This is probably the most boring and heretical answer, but I don’t give a shit about writing awards.


BAM: Are you or have you ever been in a writer's group / workshop?

John: I actually co-run a writers group (big shout-out to the Inkwrites community) in Vancouver, BC. We started the group back in 2017, meeting monthly in a local coffee shop, and then went fully virtual during the pandemic. We’re still operating virtually, which is great in many ways, but I do occasionally miss the in-person discussions. I think being in a group has made me a much better writer and editor, and also a better person.


BAM: How do you handle story rejection, and celebrate acceptance?

John: I still don’t really know how to do the latter. I find it very difficult to celebrate the wins and try to deflect and minimize them if they ever come up in conversation. That’s something I need to work on. But I am much better at dealing with rejection now, so that’s a victory.


BAM: What do you mean?

John: Rejection is the norm. As writers, we say that to ourselves, but I don’t think we really embrace it. It took me a long time to get to a place where I could accept it. When I was first starting to send my work out, the rejections would be crushing and would frequently send me into spirals of despair and depression. It would take days or weeks to be able to get past the rejection, and during that time I suspect I was no fun to be around.


BAM: Oh? How’d you overcome those feelings?

John: One thing I did that helped me conquer the rejection was to set myself a target of 100 rejections in a single year. I set up a tracking system and basically wrote and submitted to everything I could find. The rejections came thick and fast, but in some ways I had reframed them in my mind, so that each rejection actually brought me one step closer to success (completing the challenge). But the end of the year, I had amassed almost 150 rejections, but also had some acceptances in the process. More importantly, though, I wasn’t crushed by rejections after that point. Sure, there are disappointments, but now I’m able to take a moment to acknowledge that and then put it aside and move on.


BAM: Very wise. Do you care to elaborate in case someone can relate and wants to know more?

John: What worked for me, won’t necessarily work for others, but I’ve heard others re-frame rejection through a similar lens: that each rejection brings you closer to an acceptance. I think there’s some truth to that. Rejections don’t mean “no,” (okay, some do) but more often than not they mean “not right now,” which is a very different way to think about things.


BAM: Oh? Tell me more about that.

John: I haven’t mastered dealing with rejection, but I no longer let it have that much power over me. If only celebrating the wins was as easy!


BAM: Very helpful stuff for aspiring writers. Tell me, what was the first story you ever wrote about?

John: The first story I wrote was back in elementary school, although I have no idea what it was about. My mom does have a few very early stories that I wrote back then, and from the way she talks about them, I can see the early seeds of my obsession with horror and dark fiction. One such story was about a man who opens a box that destroys the entire universe. Thankfully, these haven’t been published.


BAM: I see. Curious. What was the first story that you put out there?

John: The first serious story I wrote, i.e., the first one that I actually wanted to put out into the world, was actually a spec script for the finale of Star Trek Voyager. Yes. You read that right. The finale.


BAM: Star Trek? Awesome. I’ve seen every episode of Star Trek, from the original up to Voyager. Tell me more about that.

John: For those who don’t know, at one point Paramount solicited scripts for Star Trek shows from anyone, provided you went through the official channels. At the time, I was living in a small Devon town, and knew nothing about writing or the TV industry, but I loved Star Trek and when I found out about the submission policy, I knew this was my big chance.


BAM: Huge chance. What happened?

John: Unfortunately, or fortunately (depending on your point of view), I knew nothing about writing. I had what I thought was a decent episode idea for the finale of Voyager, but I didn’t even have any idea what a screenplay looked like. I think I managed to get one script off the internet (which was no mean feat as we had dial-up at the time), and basically tried to emulate that using Word. I printed it out on a dot matrix printer (on A4 paper) and then couldn’t find brads, so I used twine to tie it together. I sent it off to Paramount and waited.


BAM: What happened?

John: They passed.


BAM: At least you tried. Some people give up before they even put a foot out of the door. You only fail if you fall and don’t get up. But you stood and did your best. I’d be proud of that.

John: Looking back, my naivety was hilarious. Not only did the script barely even look like a script, it was on the wrong size paper, tied together with twine, and was intended to be the finale of a seven-year show. To say I didn’t know what I was doing was an understatement.


BAM: Really?

John: But it gave me the confidence to know I could finish something, and that was the game-changer for me. Knowing I could tell a complete story meant I didn’t have to fear the blank page, and all the potential unknowns that accompany it.


BAM: It’s great to see the bright side of a tough situation.

John: That script led me on a very interesting journey, which I don’t need to discuss here, and I hope that one day I’ll still get my chance to play in the Star Trek universe.

John Ward is a Vancouver-based comic and TV writer, filmmaker, and podcaster. His
comics include Scratcher and Acausal. He played guitar in Sancho, a highly unpopular
anarcho-thrash band, and is a recovering physicist who was once almost run over by
Stephen Hawking.

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