Welcome to Writing School

I’ve written two novels. I self-published the first, and am in the process of doing the same for the second.

(I’m waiting on edits, and to finalize cover art. The back cover will include, “Best selling author (to friends and family) of Under the Same Moon. Because I am nothing if not self-deprecating.)

$1.50 transformed

The third book is in limbo. I have two ideas:

1. A lifestyle book including recipes, sewing and knitting patterns, and gardening ideas with a desert southwest touch

2. A female detective series set in Phoenix with a science fiction thread

A Book on Writing Letters: Must have

Here is what I know for certain:

1. I want to write full time as a novelist. Like, as a career. I would like to make up stories and have people pay me enough to live on it.

2. I don’t write enough to do this.

3. I don’t read enough to do this.

4. I need to be more disciplined.

5. I need to not let my insecurities about not having the talent, luck or contacts to make it big in publishing. There are rather awful things published daily. You’ve read them. I’ve read them. We’ve all picked up that book and thought, “The verbs don’t agree! How did this get published?” Which, sadly, soon seems to be soon followed by, “Wait! They are making a movie out of that utter nonsense?” (Only to then be followed with, “Gah. Of course it broke attendance records. Of course. Just of course,” as I hold my head in my hands.)

Tattered Cover

So, I’ve created a plan:

1. Every Friday until I get my butt in gear, I’ll write a blog post about writing. The topics will vary, but I hope to connect with more authors online and share writing routine tips, great resources, books we should all be reading, etc. Language is fluid. We can be good storytellers if we aren’t throwing ourselves into the magical, fantastic world of prose.  #writerschool

2. I will read at least 200 pages a week.

3. I will write at least 5000 words a week. This includes both blog posts and book projects.

4. I will connect with authors online.

5.  I will schedule  a writers’ retreat in Arizona with other friends working on being published. I have a fantastic group of women in Denver I got together with weekly for more than year. We shared our projects, edits and passion. We kept each other accountable. I sincerely miss this group for all of these reasons. I’d like to create something similar in Phoenix, and have everyone get together once a year at a long weekend retreat in the mountains where we share our stuff, including those ever elusive secrets of being published and the joy of finding your book on a stand in an airport. Or at Changing Hands. Or, who are we kidding: Costco.

Llamas or alapacas?My newest novel is set here: Bolivia. And you’re going to love it. Stay tuned.

 

The only way this plan will work is if I bear down and get after it. It would be even better if you’d participate too. Leave a comment if you are a budding writer. Tell me what you are struggling with, and share your successes. Tell me what you are reading. Tell me what you’d be interested in reading about around here.

Cheers,

Future Best Selling Author — to More than Just Friends and Family,

Kelli

P.S. Min, this post isn’t entirely for you — but I hope Writer School is the nudge you need. You are one of the funniest, most poignant writers I know. We are all waiting on your book. And God knows if I can do it, you certainly can — and with more sarcasm and panache.

 

 

 

Basket Baby

Ghanian baskets for sale at the Scottsdale Farmer's Market

This week marked a milestone: I finished the first draft of my second novel, “Basket Baby” and sent it off to a handful of friends who agreed to edit. I’ve been working on this story since 2009 and am profoundly happy to see what it has become.

I’m evolutions behind my favorite author, Barbara Kingsolver. But thanks to studying writing at Lighthouse and countless afternoons spent reading, it is getting better. I am learning how to tell a story.

So much of life is about just that. Whether we sit around campfires under a twinkling Wyoming sky after a day of fly fishing, or we shoot off a quick email from our smart phone with the latest gossip — humans are uniquely interested in hearing a good tale. The juicy bits. The lurid, the profane and the innocent and naive. We want our characters to have abilities we dream of, and faults just like those we don’t like about ourselves.

“Basket Baby” is a story of redemption and survival.  The synopsis reads:

When Luz leaves her infant daughter on the doorstep of a wealthy home in Tarija, Bolivia — she doesn’t know the Americans living within are mourning the loss of their first child. Instead, the teen sees opportunity for a baby she can no longer keep.

Macy is clinging to what remains of her marriage, while fighting postpartum depression, and watching as her husband’s ambitious career leads into the dangerous politics of South America.

The housekeeper, Ruth, is left holding the pieces of the fragile family together — all while trying to feed four young children of her own.

Told from the perspectives of these three women, “Basket Baby” asks what it would take to abandon what you love most.

And now, I wait for cover art from an artist friend, and edits to be made before it is sent to the publishing house. With any hope, I’ll have real copies of this in hand by the end of the summer and a few readings scheduled for Fall.

I am very, very excited to share this story. (And also a bit giddy about the next project — a mystery series!)

~K

Reading + Writing

Fall reading

Reading:

I haven’t done the best job in 2013 of cataloging all the books I’ve read. But, here are a few currently on my desk.

David Sedaris’ Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls is hilarious and easy. I’m not adding a single new note to the choir. Sedaris is beloved.

I am enjoying it particularly so because the short stories are quick. I sit outside under a palm tree during my lunch break, savoring cold leftovers and often covering my mouth because I am laughing so hard. 4 out of 5 bananas

Otherwise, the F in Exams book was a silly and appreciated birthday gift. It is on my office table as a conversation piece. And Stitched Gifts is providing ample ideas for the holidays — of which I have decided will be mainly embroidered and sewn.*

In the last few months, I’ve also read:

The Emperor of All Maladies: a non-fiction look into cancer. This Pulitzer winner reads like a textbook, and is obviously applauded. I found it too heavy, especially during October when my news feed was, for the first time, full of graphic breast cancer photography. I struggled with this book, swallowing my own fears with each page. 3 out of 5 bananas

Chris Bohjalian’s The Light in the Ruins was an easy, read. It wasn’t nearly as well crafted as Midwives, but I enjoyed it all the same. Set in World War II Italy, I learned much about renaissance Italian art, rural Italian living, and Italy’s divided heart during the great war. 3 out of 5 bananas

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson was a delightful read. While my book club did not agree with me on this one, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is a different take on time travel — what would happen if you could start your life over, and over, and over again. And what if that life could go back to change Hitler’s and prevent World War II. 4 out of 5 bananas.

I’m currently reading Running the Rift — and loving it. Set in Rwanda, it is the fictional story of a track and field great who is trying to survive the genocide and compete for his country in the Olympics. I’m also reading my first issue of Taproot, which is simply divine. It is a great mix of country living writing, photography, crafts, recipes and simplicity. Five out of five bananas, absoloodle. 

On writing: Workshop

Writing:

Still on those last 5 chapters to finish draft 1, novel 2. I feel like I’m at mile 20 of a marathon and would rather just sit down for a bit. Or get a ride home.

There is carousel of emotional baggage that comes with being this close to the end of such a project, having faced the praise and critics once before. I need to slap on some bravery and get after it, already. (If you hate it, you hate it. I do think it is a pretty good story.)

~K

* Oh, the holiday planning. I’m annoying my friends with Thanksgiving recipe lists — we are helping our friend Trond host. And Christmas! The gifts and the planning and the cards and the bunting and the tiny white lights to be strung from the patios! Truly, my very favorite time of year.

 

Reading and Writing. Hold the Arithmetic.

Cold, snowy, beautiful

Recently read:

Book Whose Title I’ve forgotten and can’t find on Google. It was easy and entertaining, which is what I needed.  A young woman travels to Columbia to visit her maternal family. Her mother, who died when she was young, had a second life previously unknown to her daughter. Also, of course the young American falls in love with a narco’s son, and is lured into a dangerous life. So memorable, obviously. 2.5/5 bananas.

TED: The Empowerment Dynamic. My housemate BJ suggested I read this. He is not a reader, but loves this. (When a self-described “non-reader” makes a book recommendation, I take note.)  Again, an easy read. This reminds workers how to react to difficult situations at work. En sum: don’t be a victim. Create your happiness. Learn to react in a positive, productive manner. If you are into these types of business, good-attitude, pump-you-up books, you’ll dig it. 3/5 bananas

The Sunflower: A coworker years ago gave me this novel. Again, total vacation reading. It is about a woman who travels to Peru to volunteer in an orphanage after her engagement is called off. I enjoyed it for what it was: romantic, spiritual, fluff. (Who doesn’t need an entertaining, easy read from time to time?) 2.5/5 bananas.

Season of Migration to the North:  This was our book club selection for February, and surprisingly — most of us read it. This novella is considered part of the classics for African literature. Set in Sudan, it is the story of two men who return from the west to reintegrate into their villages, with colonization haunting their every move. I didn’t enjoy this book, but it has made me better for having read it. The brilliance is how much heavy thematic layering the author crams into a basic story of two men in a Sudanese village. At the end, you have to reconsider each of the character’s actions, and what influenced their decisions. I’ll think of this book for years to come. 5/5 bananas.

Currently reading:

Shantaram and The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet.  The T.S. book is beautiful, but an odd shape and heavy. It is too big to hold at night when I normally read, or the tub. My sit-at-a-table-and-read-a-book time isn’t often. So, it’s going to take a while, even though the story is enchanting. Shantaram I’ve wanted to read for years and just haven’t gotten around to it. (Found a copy the other day at the Boulder Bookstore and literally jumped up and down. The last copy I’d seen was in the Joberg airport and I didn’t have the room for yet another heavy book.) Also, the next book club book looks pretty darn good: Peace Like A River.

Next up:

Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Sugar

Oh, and hey! My second novel is at 190 pages. Woo! Colorado has been so very good for my writing life. I’ve had the chance to join some great writing groups, take classes and become a member of a writing cooperative, and spend countless hours in mountain coffee shops surrounded by pines, distracted only by the steady stream of attractive, rugged bearded men who could be lumberjacks. Or my next boyfriend.

I consider reading good books training these days. Like a golfer who drives several buckets of balls after each round because he knows it makes him better — reading fiction, nonfiction and the cereal box at breakfast is my writing workout. Writers who say, “I don’t read! Who has time for reading?” are frauds at best.

~K

 

 

 

 

Word Count Wednesday

$1.50 transformed

 

31,100 — an increase of only 1,000 words this week. This is not a huge improvement. However:

  1. I’m done editing for perspective. I’ve got 16 solid chapters told from 3 points of view.
  2. I’m revamping the story arc. Things I thought should happen 3 years ago when I drafted this are no longer as relevant. There is some time being spent on research, and some on simple dreaming. “What should she do?” “Where should he go?” This is the most fun part of writing a novel — the magic.
  3. I’ve got 165 pages. That’s not too shabby.
  4. I’m using new tools that are fun. For anyone interested in writing a novel, a few things I’d recommend
  • 30/30 timer. This came as a suggestion from my friend Susan, also a novelist. This iphone app will let you set certain time goals. It is free. (Also, a kitchen timer works.) Let’s cut to the chase: writing a novel is 90% about keeping your butt in the chair and 10% about inspiration. My goal is 60 minutes of writing (no editing, Internet, etc) first thing in the morning with a pot of French press. It is when my mind is most creative and at its sharpest.
  • Scrivener. The best way to organize a novel I’ve found. I love this program.
  • Mariner’s Persona. I haven’t yet purchased this, but my super smart friend Kevin recommends it. Something to consider.

There is something other-worldly about finding your writing groove. When you’re in the zone, hours fly by and you don’t need timers or encouragement or expensive apps. And then you get a little too confident, tell yourself you should take a day/week/month away to “brainstorm,” and when your lazy ego finds her way back, it takes forever to return to the rhythm.

I’m getting closer.

Back to it,

~K

Word Count Wednesday

Dream Mexico Journal

23,200 words completed on novel 2 in the current draft, with about 10,000 more to be edited and added. Internets, hold my feet to the fire. I need to be adding 10-15,000 words a week to meet my April deadline for Novel 2.

The story is there, it’s just… My focus has been on other things. Christmas, traveling, Twitter. Pick your distraction and I will make it my new favorite way to pass time. Further motivation, I read about authors who publish a book each year and I wonder what I’m doing cruising TMZ.

Time to cut out the chatter and get my butt in gear.

~K

 

 

On Writing: Glory of Gossip

For those in need of a writing prompt, or a simple kick in the pants to get back to your project — I’ll be posting brief pieces I’ve recently submitted for a Lighthouse course.

This week’s assignment: write a short narrative about hot gossip.

zebra

The Glory of Gossip

 

“You wouldn’t believe what I heard the other day, Mary.”

“What, darlin’?”

“Hector’s becoming a Helene.”

“Huh?”
“You heard me. Hector. Hector Martinez – the man down the street with three kids and that fat wife? Well. Come to find out he wants to be the fat wife.”

“Uh, honey, you want to tell me how that’s going to happen? I reckon they can’t just. You know. Cut it off.”

“That’s exactly what they are fixin’ to do. Cut it off. Shirley Lewis told me he was in the Yellow Penny the other day trying on ladies’ dresses and heels. Heels, Mary! Can you imagine? I can’t even believe they make heels big enough for Hector’s feet.”

“Honey, you done lost your mind. Ain’t no way Hector is buying heels at the Yellow Penny. They don’t have my little size 7 most days.”

“I’m telling you! Shirley stands next to me in the choir. She’s been working there for five years. She’d know if Hector Martinez asked to try on dresses Mary!”

“Oh, lordy. Lordy lordy lordy. Can you just imagine? They are going to cut it off? What will his wife do?”

“Celebrate? I don’t know, darlin’. I just don’t know. Imagine his kids? The oldest boy is on the football team. Something tells me they aren’t going to be in Conville much longer.”

“I mean, heavens. Gladys, what would you do? Would you stick around to play bridge and sing the gospel with women who knew your husband shared your brassiers? I don’t guess you would.”

“Honey, Frank is too lazy to wear clean underwear most days. The last thing he’s thinking about his cramming his fat bits into one of my bras, or going to the Yellow Penny for a girdle.”

“Oh, that poor Mrs. Martinez. What should we do?”

“Casserole – I’ll drop one off later. Plus, if I lurk around long enough, maybe I’ll get a glimpse!”

“Oh, Gladys – you’re the worst. Call me after?

~