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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Jan. 16, 1976)
friday, January i.
o me work required of would-be writers
By Bill Roberts
I once wrote a short story. It was about a boxer who
was knocked out and then woke up in a hospital bed and
thought he was in Heaven. I submitted the so try to
AUcom, an as-yet unborn literary magazine conceived by
and for UNL undergraduates.
My story was rejected.
Why? I have never boxed. I've never even seen a live
boxing match. The last time I was in a hospital a doctor
slapped my bottom. And Daily Nebraskan staff members
are forbidden to enter Heaven for fear of compromising
The point is, I was completely ignorant of my subject
How could I convince readers what it's like to be knocked
out when I've never put on boxing gloves?
When you write about something, whether you write
prose, poetry or hieroglyphics, you've got to know your
subject. Not enough young, unpublished writers of prose
fiction do this.
That's part of the reason why AUcom has not come
out yet, according to staff member John Ortmann, a
junior English major from Bancroft. Ortmann was one of
the staff readers of submitted prose fiction. He said that
of 30 stories submitted, only one was good enough to
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One unacceptable story AUcom received was about
mountain climbing, he said. It seemed the author had
never done it.
Tin not a mountain climber either," Ortmann said.
"But the characters in the story galloped to the top of a
12,000-foot mountain in a matter of hours, and without
Another story concerned persons leaving the earth for
Mars, via rockets they fired from their backyards. One
unfortunate man was left behind and was in danger of
being leveled by bulldozers, along with the abandoned
Why was everyone leaving earth? Wholl drive the bull
dozers? The reader wasn't told because the author didn't
When you write about something,
you've got to know your subject
Some authors show insight
Charles Stubblefield, a UNL English professor who has
taught creative writing here for nine yean, told me about
some, good stories he has received from students.
One was about three old men in a small town. Their
lives consisted of daily journeys to the domino parlor,
a grocery store, and their homes. One day, four armed
men, escapees from a nearby reformatory, burst into the
grocery store, demanding money and a getaway car.
These three old men, without the use of violence,
completely frustrated the escapees. They ended up leaving
the store without money or a car, and were soon
The old men, set in their ways, were in control of their
lives and their environment, Stubblefield said. The
escapees could not take away that control even with guns,
he said, and the author conveyed that insight with his
Another good story from a student, Stubblefield said,
portrayed the impressions of a young man who had been
smoking marijuana. Told from the stoned character's
point of view, the story described an elevator that seemed
to become a jail cell, policemen that seemed to be
planning a raid and an unnecessary disposal of the mari
juana in a toilet.
Certain experiences would be essential to writing a
story like that.
Ranch life, growing up, common themes
Other topics UNL students write about, Stubblefield
said, include life on ranches and farms, the theme of
growing up, and accounts of hunting and camping. He
said he has not had a story about Vietnam turned in for
a couple of years, although during the war he could
expect three or four a semester.
Stories about skiing regularly come in, he said, but
none have captured the essence of the popular sport. Of
course, Stubblefield has never had Ralph Crabtree in a
Stubblefield said most of the science fiction stories he
receives show a lack of adequate background knowledge.
Imagination alone no longer is enough for science fic
tion writers. Other writers are too good now, and the
general public knows too much about all fields of science.
The potential writer should know as much, if not more.
That brings up the subject of research. Robert Heinlein
and Isaac Asimov have never been to Mars. They've been
to the library. That's where John Ortmann advises AUcom
contributors to go if they want to write about something
they have not experienced.
First issue expected this semester
Yes, the AUcom staff is asking for submissions. They
have $600 from the English Dept. earmarked for a literary
magazine, and they hope to produce their first issue in
the middle of the spring semester.
Stories, poems and essays should be put in the AUcom
box in the English Dept. mauroom, Andrews Hall Room
227. Submissions should be accompanied by a self
addressed stamped envelope.
I've written another story to turn in.
It's about a mathematician who goes to Paris and falls
in-love with a gorgeous model. But the Paris weather is
too cold, so they decide to go to Mercury, where h's
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