About Me

Jeanne Lyet Gassman (photo credit: Christopher Barr Productions)
Jeanne Lyet Gassman (photo credit: Christopher Barr Productions)

An only child, I was born in San Francisco, CA in 1955. My father was an aircraft mechanic and pilot, and my mother was an artist. Our family relocated to Colombia, South America when I was two for my father’s job, and we returned to the States shortly before I started kindergarten due to the political unrest and my mother’s concerns about the family’s safety. We settled in DeRidder, LA, where my father managed the local airport.


According to my mother, I wrote my first short story when I was four, a piece called “Tall Cat” about a kind kitty that offered wise advice and never scratched. I dictated the story to my mother and illustrated it myself. It’s possible I still have a copy of that magnum opus among my mother’s things.


My family moved to Winslow, AZ when I was in third grade, and I spent the rest of my formative years in the town famous for “standing on the corner.” My parents established a thriving air ambulance service, ferrying patients from Native American reservations to hospitals and clinics in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. In fourth grade, I started playing the violin, a class offered by my public school. I still play violin today.


After graduating with a B.A. in English from Eastern New Mexico University, I moved to Albuquerque with plans to pursue an M.A. in English at the University of New Mexico. I met my husband there while playing in a pit orchestra for the musical, Jesus Christ, Superstar!  My husband was principal bassoonist, and I was concert mistress. Many couples have their “song,” but we have our own rock opera!


I never completed my M.A. because we moved to northern California for my husband to teach math at the University of the Pacific. When I fretted about abandoning graduate school, about not having a job or a plan, my husband told me, “You’ve always wanted to be a writer, so write.” I published my first freelance story a couple of months later, and my life changed forever.


After several job changes and several moves for my husband’s career in aerospace, we ended up in Colorado Springs, where we started our family. But tragedy struck. I had two life-threatening pregnancies less than three years apart, and in both cases, our son and our daughter, respectively, were born prematurely and died during infancy. My husband and I became active in The Compassionate Friends and later co-facilitated S.H.A.R.E., a grief support group for parents who have lost children through miscarriage, stillbirth, or neonatal death. We worked with grieving parents for four years–until shortly after we adopted our daughter, the oldest of our two bi-racial children. A year later, we adopted our son. I’ve written and published several pieces about grief, neonatal death, and adoption, including the essay, “Rising from the NICU,” published on Raising Mothers.


We moved to Peoria, AZ in 1999. The turn of the century was a difficult time because my parents passed away less than two months apart. My mother died from the complications of Alzheimer’s disease in Dec. 1999, and my father died from congestive heart failure in February 2000. My creative nonfiction piece, “Healing Arts,” is a tribute to my mother’s struggle with that horrible disease. I returned to graduate school in 2008 and received my MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2010. After my husband retired, we settled in Ruidoso, New Mexico, in 2017 where I have continued to write and teach.


You will find a complete list of my publications on the Publications page. My awards include an Independent Publishers Book Award for my first novel, BLOOD OF A STONE (Tuscany Press), grants and fellowships from the New Mexico Writers’ Foundation, Ragdale, and the Arizona Commission on the Arts, as well as nominations for a Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fictions. In addition to writing and editing, I also teach creative writing for arts organizations and community groups.