1–10 of 34 entries in the category: Writing

Talking Myself Through This

August 23rd

There is a part to writing novels that never gets easier: the critique. On Sunday, I sat with a group of trusted friends and listened to their thoughts on the first draft of my latest novel, “Counting Coup.” For nearly two hours, they discussed the characters and plot, the things they liked, and a bunch of stuff they didn’t.

And then I received first draft edits from my publishing editor and he had a different list of all that he liked and didn’t.

This is where my brain is still very much stuck in 3rd grade. The internal conversation goes a bit like this:

37-year-old me: Of course they gave you feedback. YOU ASKED FOR FEEDBACK. WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM?

9-year-old me: They don’t love me. No one loves me. I hate everything.

I know. I’m ridiculous.

It is at this junction that I stopped, for more than a year, with “Basket Baby.” I put the edits on a shelf for a year before I could summon the courage to sit down and admit the story needed work.

CC does need work. They saw what I couldn’t. They also told me all of this as kindly as they could. They voluntarily spent hours upon hours reading my work and providing thoughtful advice. And my gut response was, “NOPE.”

The ego is a funny, evil thing. It let’s us hide our own imperfections, calling them quirks. It strokes our need for importance, and massages our ugliest characteristics. And when it is wounded, it cries like a 9-year-old girl.

For the next few months, I’ll be working through these changes. I know the bones to this story are there, and that they are great. I want to get it right.

~K

 

Posted in
Media, Novel, Writer School, Writing
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Publishing Notes: Hiring an Agent

August 10th

Basket Baby signing

When I signed my first publishing contract with Asymmetrical last year, I was overjoyed that it included not only the contract for “Basket Baby,” but for first rights to my next three books, too. I had a unicorn in sight: a small press interested in a multi-book contract. It was time to write.

“Counting Coup” came together within a year, including considerable research and interviewing of individuals who attended Indian schools. The story, in parts, has been workshopped in a writing group, and heavily edited by my writing partner — Bert. It is still in the beta phase, with several copies out for final comments. I hope these will be minor and grammatical, not thematic. The pace of writing this story, by comparison to the first two, felt nothing short of magical. I was in the writing zone, and knowing I had a publisher to hand it off too made it that much more fun.

The next step in this career is to hire a literary agent. As a former member of the Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop, I have a handful of friends who are serious authors. We work on our love for telling stories when our day jobs allow. Add family obligations to this schedule, and the time for the business of selling books quickly falls away. Those with agents fare better. Their stories have marketing dollars behind them.

When writing query letters, you have to be your best cheerleader, which is uncomfortable. Like dating or interviewing, you want to provide just enough information to bring interest, but not too much. With my shoulders back, I am trying to sell myself to agents in New York and Los Angeles with a sincerity about my love of public health and writing.

Asymmetrical is in part run by “The Minimalists,” who you may know from their recent Netflix special, or their popular books and blog. It has been neat to be associated with Josh and Ryan in this small way. Sadly, the press will be closing later this year. The future of my next three books, including “Counting Coup,” is now uncertain.

As my old marathon coach and dear friend JT would say, “Time to put your head down.” In other words, don’t give up. Look at your feet, think of how far you’ve already come, and keep pushing.

Thanks for your continued support and reviews! Please pass your copy off to someone to read. Every reader helps spread the story.

-Kelli

 

Posted in
Novel, Writing
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Ebb and Flow

January 25th

I recently applied for a local writing contest and had to submit a few shorter pieces. Reviewing my portfolio, I’ve had my head down working on novels for the last 12-plus years. There has been occasional blogging when I was distracted with crafts or inspired by travel, but I’ve done very little other writing.

I spent several hours yesterday going over this space to find a couple essays I could include in my submission for the contest. In doing so, I am reminded why I blog. This site has served as my journal for the last 10 years. Moves across the country, countless recipes, adopting Nelson, marathons, a wedding and two books later — my life has taken turns I couldn’t have imagined.

Eyeing the craft supplies in the guest room, I wonder if I will ever return with a fervor to share the latest pattern or project. I now know I cannot be creatively focused on more than one project at a time. Finishing this novel is my priority; my sewing machine has grown dusty.

The one exception to this seems to be knitting. When I am winding down at night and my husband is watching sports or a food program, I find peace in knitting. (Not in Guy Fieri’s shoveling.)

I’m not giving up my crafting supplies yet, or this blog. Yet, I am giving myself the space to change. Expect more updates on writing process, knitting patterns and married life in the burbs.

-kdw

 

Posted in
Journal, Writing
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A Few Book Signing Photos

December 29th

Many thanks to my friend Amanda for always being willing to come to events with her camera. I love these shots and am using them on my new author page, too.

And, thank you to everyone who came to the signing, who has bought a copy of Basket Baby, and those who have sent a note of encouragement about the story. You never know how these things are going to go, and it is easy to let the most insecure thoughts win. The last month has added fuel to the fire that I may just be able to do this for a living one day.

If you have read Basket Baby and wouldn’t mind leaving an Amazon review, I’d really appreciate it. This is helpful in a variety of ways, namely that with enough reviews the Amazon robots pay attention to your book and will help promote sales. Thank you!

Now, to those great photos:

Basket Baby signing

Basket Baby signing

Basket Baby signing

Basket Baby signing

Basket Baby signing

Basket Baby signing

Basket Baby signing

Basket Baby signing

Basket Baby signing

Basket Baby signing

(How adorable is my husband?)

Basket Baby signing

Basket Baby signing

xo,

Kelli

Posted in
Writing
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Writing in a Cul-de-sac

December 12th

Basket Baby, now available at online booksellers and Changing Hands

Photo by Amanda Nemec

Hi, all! The book signing this weekend went marvelously. It was, much like the wedding, full of unnecessary nervousness and over far too quickly. My face was hot for the reading, I was so flustered—which was silly because the room was full of people I know and love. This burgeoning writing career is a dream come true, and there is little that feels better than to know your tribe will come out and support your wild endeavors.

For those interested, there are signed copies still available at Changing Hands in Tempe, and there are copies also available online. (If you’ve read Basket Baby and wouldn’t mind providing a review, I’d appreciate it.) I’m offering to attend book clubs in person locally, and via Skype elsewhere. If you have a group interested, let’s email.

 

Now, on to the next book. I’m writing Counting Coup and am well into the final chapters. This is both exciting and unnerving because there are major plot holes and character issues I have to resolve with the next pass. This is when in the writing process, it is much easier to stuff the project in the back of a drawer (or a folder hidden within another folder on your hard drive.) It is like building a house and recognizing you have to add another room, and change where the fireplace is located. And maybe you need another bathroom? But first, you have to finish the drywall and the tiling. You’ll go back and knock down that part of the house later.

It is tempting to pull out the wrecking ball now, is what I’m trying to say. (That and I’m likely watching too much HGTV.) Editing now would be a very bad idea. When I have the end in sight, I have learned in the last ten-plus years of writing that it is critical to push on. The first draft is always bad. Always. Whether you are Tolstoy or Donley, you’re going to have to make some major revisions. But by not first writing the ending, you’re still in first draft limbo. And this gray area, for me, is a swamp of self-doubt and loathing. It is a murky land full of mean girl voices whispering how I’m never going to be a great writer and I don’t deserve to tell this story.

Those mean girls are bitches and deserve to stay in their swamp. This time, I’m not falling off the thin bridge I’ve built over their noise. I know at next pass, and the next, and quite likely the next, and then the final, that bridge will become more solid. And the negativity will go dormant until arriving here when telling the next story. I am not going to get caught walking in circles, writing and editing until I’m so frustrated I put it down, or worse—quit.

So, buckle up. We’re headed toward that tiny light on the horizon.

~K

 

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Writing
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A Full Plate

August 23rd

lunch

This month’s editor’s letter in Bon Appetit is about Adam Rapaport’s habit of taking himself out for a long lunch once a month, with a cocktail, to find inspiration. He sits at the bar, takes his time, and gets a ton of work done—all while savoring food at his own pace.

There is something so luxurious about dining alone. I love the idea of a lunch date with my work.

If you’ve noticed a lack of sewing, knitting, and baking around here it is because I made a decision in early 2016 to focus on writing. I’m reading books for research (with a bit of fluff in between) and trying to spend a least an hour a day writing. This included the business of getting the last novel out the door, too.

Time to write, to throw dialog and plot ideas against the page without worrying about editing, is my favorite part. I make up crazy characters with wild hair and bad attitudes. I make the next door neighbor an unexpected thief, the priest a murderer and the chef a brilliant recluse. I play with fodder from my word-a-day email, just to try them out on the page.

It’s working. I’m 40,000 words into this novel, which is about half-way. I’ve set up the conflict and the characters and am in the thick of it. This is where the research has to be right, the observations keen and the storytelling lyrical. The reader has already enjoyed a nice salad and piece of thick cut bread with salted butter, and the main course is coming out with cheese bubbling on top. There is promise of a great slice of chocolate cake with fresh whipped cream and a hot cup of coffee for dessert, too.

Today, between appointments and traveling across the state to speak on suicide prevention, I’m going to find a bar, a glass of sadly-I’m-still-on-the-clock seltzer, and work through lunch.

Thanks for the idea, Adam. And thank you for hanging around here where there are fewer tutorials and recipes, but still the same heart (and appetite.)

~K

Posted in
Good to Great, Writing
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Checking In and Recent Reads

August 11th

self portrait, June assignment

Oh, hi there. Life has been rather chaotic around these parts, in the best of ways. We are planning a wedding, the kids started high school this week, and I’ve finished up final (no, really) edits on Basket Baby.

Now, for cover design, and continued work on the next book. I’m also developing an author website. 

I read books differently these days, with deep curiosity to structure, character development and conflict resolution. Reading will always remain one of my favorite past times, but today it also feels like a valuable form of research.

A few things I’ve read/listened to as an audiobook lately that are worthy of discussion:

  1. Care and Feeding of Exotic Pets Whoooo boy, does this one take a darn turn. Have you read this book? If you like creepy stories, dive in. If you have any fear of large lizards, this isn’t the read for you. 2 bananas, absoloodle.
  2. No Baggage This memoir is about a young woman coming to terms with her mental health issues and transitioning to adulthood, all while traveling across Europe with a new boyfriend for three weeks without luggage. She literally only took a small purse, which becomes a problem when her one tampon doesn’t suffice. I really enjoyed listening to it. 2 bananas, absoloodle
  3. Girl on a Train I am excited to see they are making this book a movie, because if I am a sucker for these sorts of thrillers. I did enjoy this book, although as a friend said—my major issue was by the end of the story, there wasn’t a single character I was rooting for. They were all so horribly flawed that they were unlikeable. That’s a problem. It will be very interesting to see how this is adapted to the big screen. 2.5 bananas, absoloodle
  4. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn Of course, I loved this classic. It is a great slice of American history and reminded me so much of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I love stories told about perseverance and female leads. Winner, winner. 4 out of 5 bananas, absoloodle.

 

I’m currently reading, Evicted, which is important for my public health work. (I’m trying to read more nonfiction.) What have you read lately?

~K

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Media, Writing
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Finding Your Muse

June 16th

dementia

I working on novel 3: “Counting Coup.” It is in the bare bones beginning stages, where I am throwing a bunch of ideas and characters down on the page and seeing what works. I’m about 15,000 words into this story — part of which is set on a farm in Nebraska in the 1950s and the other side, set in modern day Phoenix.

One of the characters has dementia. I’ve been struggling with how to get the details right about her care and her symptoms without barraging the reader with information that reads like a medical journal entry. Books that accidentally teach me something are my favorite. (A recent example is “All the Light We Cannot See,” and the creation and engineering of radios.)

Writing about dementia that lets the reader experience it emotionally, but doesn’t hit them over the head with sentimentality, is tricky.

This week my boss asked me to attend a health care conference in town. She was presenting and wasn’t able to attend several sessions of interest herself. Imagine my delight when I got the course material and realized one of those sessions was with an expert in dementia behaviors and treatment. Seriously. I took five handwritten pages of notes, was able to ask questions and got the details and nuance I needed to better develop this character.

When the universe aligns in this way, I feel like my friends Creativity and Inspiration are sitting on either side of me, paving the path to something great. I skipped out of there with new motivation to get back to writing and feeling very lucky. Speaking of — time to get back to it.

~K

 

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Writing
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On Publishing

June 14th

Female Shepherd

More than a year ago, I sent my second novel, “Basket Baby” off to a small publishing house in Montana. A friend of mine had success in publishing with them, and spoke highly of their work. She said she’d put in a good word.

They read the first few chapters, requested the rest of the novel, and returned it with detailed editing and a note that said, “This may or may not be for us. There are a lot of cliches.” (I’m paraphrasing, but the word cliche was definitely used.)

I made their changes, page by page. And I workshopped the novel with a group of people I trust. I watched common errors fall away — word echos that are hard to catch in your own work, for example. I noticed that my dialog skills were strengthened by reminding the reader who is speaking, even if it is just two people and it is wildly clear to you, the writer. My character descriptions became more consistent and true.

These are a few of many areas I worked through before sending “Basket Baby” back to the original publisher. A month later, I got the news: they had decided to publish the book. The edits were good, and I’ve been assigned another editor to work with during the next 60 days to make the story ready for print. I’m working with another staff member on designing a book cover. “Basket Baby” will be on store shelves December 6, 2016.

I KNOW!

I mean… I’ve been talking about this day for decades. This novel, like the first, took years to see the light of day. And then took increasingly thick skin to make something worth sharing publicly. I’ve called myself a novelist since I self-published “Under the Same Moon” in 2010. Today, it feels real. And, it feels absolutely marvelous!

Thank you for hanging around here all these years to see this dream to fruition. I’ll be sharing book signing dates as they are scheduled and hope to see as many of you as possible.

~Kelli

(the novelist)

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Media, Writing
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Chapter 15: Happily

November 17th

Heart o' PB

Our first date was nearly two years ago. He surprises me regularly with his thoughtfulness and ability to make me laugh — especially at myself. (His patience is demonstrated in laughing with me, for example, at the previous 14 chapters.)

Two teenagers, three dogs, one bunny and us: the happy little family I’ve dreamed of.

Our story continues!

~K

 

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Writing
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