Saturday, January 18, 2014

Meet Vanessa Furse Jackson

This week I’m pleased and proud to introduce you to Vanessa Furse Jackson, a novelist and poet I very much admire. A few years back, I published Crane Creek—Two Voices, a poetry collection by Vanessa and her late husband, Robb.

This collection tells the story of the first year in a relationship between two poets. The antiphonal voices describe their adventures exploring the natural world of northern Ohio, specifically Crane Creek, on the shore of Lake Erie, and sometimes also on the banks of the nearby Maumee River. One poet, Robb grew up in and near this setting; the other, Vanessa, is from England, and hence experiences many of the natural wonders of New World for the first time. At the heart of the narrative lies the shared experience of falling in love, against and within the changing seasons, and among the wide, wild varieties of birds, mammals, insects, and plants. The poems form a nature guide, to an area and to the wild territory of new love.

For more information about Crane Creek—Two Voices, see:

Last month I read The Revolving Year, a new novel by Vanessa Furse Jackson. What a literary treat that was! Like Jane Austen, Vanessa sets her story in a small town in southern England, and her plot involves love, family, and property. But the novel takes place in modern times, on the brink of the millennium. I enjoyed The Revolving Year enormously and enthusiastically recommend it to you.

I asked Vanessa Furse Jackson to appear on my blog this week, and asked her to write about what “The Joy of Story” means to her. Her response is inspirational and beautifully written. See for yourself:

The joy of story is inseparable from the journey of story. The joy of story for writer and reader involves discovery – the pull of the unknown, the glimpse of unexpected vistas from a moving window, the mounting exhilaration of travel, and the eventual sigh of pleasure at the journey’s end. Or that’s the ideal that keeps writers writing and their readers (fingers crossed) reading.

When I begin to write a story, whether long or short, I’m excited but afraid at the same time. I have no clue where this character, this fleeting image, this setting, this not yet verbalized half-idea will lead me. I have a compulsion to sit down and begin to tell a story, a compulsion that grows within me often over several days, almost as a pleasurable illness might. But what story, I’m not yet sure. So I can only suppose that the compulsion is really a desire for exploration of new mind-country, even (a confession here) escape from the hitherto known. I want to venture into other people’s heads and hearts, other lives. I want to follow my characters through conflicts not my own to discover what revelations – what new understandings – they will lead me to. Paradoxically, of course, I must use my own understanding of human nature if my stories are to take off and fly, to touch and move others as I’d like to think they might.

So the joy of story to the teller is also a search to articulate what it means to be a human on this planet. To show others what it might mean to love, grieve, interact, hate, fail, make sacrifices, find redemption, and so on, hopefully ad infinitum. For this is an illimitable, elastic joy. It’s a polar exploration with no pole at the end, a quest for individual but also for universal experience, for the eternal ticking of life. To write is to discover what you had no idea you knew and, in revelatory, heart-stopping flashes, to discover truths you had never before perceived.

And the joy to the reader? It is, the writer must hope, a similar sense of revelation and discovery. “The reader,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge urged, “should be carried forward, not merely or chiefly the mechanical impulse of curiosity, or by a restless desire to arrive at the final solution; but by the pleasurable activity of mind excited by the attractions of the journey itself.”


Vanessa Furse Jackson is English, coming from a family with deep roots in Devonshire. However, married to an Ohio native, she lived in the States for almost thirty years, the majority of them spent teaching literature and writing at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. A book about her great-grandfather, The Poetry of Henry Newbolt: Patriotism Is Not Enough, was published in 1994 by ELT Press. Her first collection of short stories, What I Cannot Say to You, came out from the University of Missouri Press in 2003. Her second collection, Small Displacements, was published by Livingston Press in 2010 and won the PEN Texas 2011 Southwest Award for Fiction. She also co-authored a book of poems with her husband, Robb Jackson, entitled Crane Creek, Two Voices, which was published by Fithian Press in 2011. Her first novel, The Revolving Year, came out in the fall of 2013 from Barking Rain Press. Vanessa returned to live in England in January 2014, following the unexpected death of her husband. 

For more information, visit

Devonshire, England—1999. It just might be the end of the world for 35-year-old Imogen Hearne. First, she learns that her beloved older sister has breast cancer, followed by the news that the lease on the small cottage that has been her home for the past ten years will be cancelled in January 2000. The only bright spot on the horizon seems to be an extended visit from her niece Celia, who has recently dropped out from university.

But Celia’s visit may turn out to be the cruelest blow of all. For in the midst of Millennium fever, Immy falls unexpectedly — and mutually — in love with Celia’s fiancé. As the year 2000 looms ever closer, Immy will soon be forced to make a life-altering decision. Should she accept this once-in-a-lifetime gift of love, or deny it for the sake of holding together the small, fragile family she treasures?

The Revolving Year is published by Barking Rain Press. You can order the book from the publisher at

You can also order the book through your local independent bookseller or from


  1. So nice to "meet" you Vanessa. Thought your statement "When I begin to write a story, whether long or short, I’m excited but afraid at the same time." is right on the mark. Excellent blog, John and Vanessa. Love hearing authors express their "Joy of Story"!


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