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Shippensburg grad and NY Times editor publishes first novel

Ken Jaworowski appears on The Spark to talk about "Small Town Sins"

  • Scott LaMar

Airdate: Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Ken Jaworowski is a Shippensburg University graduate and a culture editor and critic for the New York Times. He has written plays that have been performed in New York, Scotland and France.

But now the 55-year-old has written his first novel called Small Town Sins and it’s set in the fictional Central Pennsylvania town of Locksburg.

Jaworowski was on The Spark Tuesday and discussed how he chose Central Pennsylvania as the setting for his book,”I was a Philly guy my whole life. I probably never left the city until I went to college. And then all of a sudden, from the streets of Philadelphia to little Shippensburg, PA, I loved it. I fell in love with the town. I spent a lot of time at Harrisburg with a lot of friends. Then after college, I promptly forgot about it all. I moved to Manhattan. I moved back to Philly, moved to Manhattan, and then a couple of years back, my daughter was looking at colleges. So we did the whole Pennsylvania tour. Bloomsburg, Penn State, and all those memories came flooding back. And I said, This is it. This is where I got to set the novel.”

The main character in the novel is Nathan Stultz, a volunteer firefighter who arrives on the scene of a fire first, finds a bag of money and sees it as his chance at a new life.

Beyond that, Jaworowski was asked how he would describe the novel,”What happens when a good person does a bad thing. Conversely, for the other characters what happens when a bad person does a good thing? People are multifaceted. Sometimes the best of us, our intentions are great. And it doesn’t work out so well. Sometimes, even your intentions are bad. It could work out well. I think what happens when that good person does a bad thing and we’ve all done bad things no matter how good we are. Just to speak broadly, a bad thing. But sometimes I know people look at us at our worst times. It wouldn’t be too appealing.”

The characters in Small Town Sins all have deep flaws. Here’s what Jaworowski said about them,”You don’t have to like a character, but a character must always be interesting. Who likes Richard the Third?”

Jaworowski had written novels before, but this was his first that was published and his role as an editor was a major part of it,”I was writing books that not only no one would buy, but even I felt unsatisfied with. And I said to myself, this is it. This is your last time. You’re going to try it one more time. And what I did, for lack of I wish I would have thought this out ahead of time, but I, I think I just babble. I babble my babble by babble. And then I edited it into something more appealing. There were conversations in the book that took place in over three pages, and I would edit them down with someone saying, Yes, that would be good. So you learn how to condense. I thought at one time there was a big gulf between fiction and journalism and writing fiction and journalism, let’s say. And I don’t think there’s now. I don’t think there’s too big a gulf at all.”



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