1–10 of 20 entries in the category: Novel

Inspiration

March 3rd

February 2016

Elizabeth Gilbert talks about inspiration like she is your best friend, always hanging around somewhere nearby, but also willing to hit the road for greener pastures if you aren’t respectful. I’m wrapping up the final “final” edits on Basket Baby, and contemplating what story I want to tell next. The idea for Basket Baby landed in my lap when visiting Bolivia and hearing about women who abandon their babies at the doorsteps of wealthy homes, hoping the families inside will take the child in permanently.

I spent a year or more considering the different motivations for a woman willing to leave her child in such a setting, and another five years researching, writing and editing this story. I’m proud of it, and I’m ready for it to take wings and fly far, far away from my laptop. (My writing group, editing partner, friends and family are on the same page, so to speak. Everyone is ready to see Basket Baby on a bookstore shelves and outside of their email in boxes with subject lines like, “Please? Just one more read through — I promise!”

This writing game is a balance of vulnerabilities and brazen courage. You have to be able to create a life and spin truth from daydreams, and yet… be tender enough to ask others afterward if your creation rings true. And then tough enough to discern when the edits are helpful, and when they are spiteful.

In the last month, the next novel idea has shown up on my doorstep. She flew in, landing on my shoulder, when I was peeling wallpaper from the kids’ bathroom walls. Piece by tedious piece, I steamed and scraped and was surprised to discover writing on the walls beneath the paper’s old, saffron colored glue. There were contractor scribbles here and there — some in pen, other in fading, barely legible pencil. What secrets could be hidden in a house, papered over for the next generation to uncover? This curiosity, and a recent tour of the Phoenix Indian School has me dreaming of a big, redemptive tale to shine light on a darkness in Arizona’s history: the roundups of American Indian children on tribal lands, starting in the 1890s, for a “civilized education” in government boarding schools.

Schools where children were taught in English, converted to Christianity, sexually abused with such a pervasiveness — you’d be sick, and not permitted to return home to their families during the summer break. Many children in this era left their homes at age 5 and were sent back to their reservations at at 18, unable to communicate with their families. But hey, at least they were civilized.

Welcome, dear Inspiration. God bless you for showing up, being patient, and hanging around. I may need you to stroke my hair from time to time, whispering reassurances.Let’s cast away these shadows together, shall we?

(And not to be greedy, but can this story please take less than six years to create?)

xo,

K

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Novel
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Word Count Wednesday

January 16th

$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

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Novel, Writing
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Word Count Wednesday

January 9th

new release

30,100 — an increase of 6900 words. I’m on my way!

 

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Novel
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Word Count Wednesday

January 2nd

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

 

 

Posted in
Goals, Novel, Writing
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On Writing: Persistence

September 18th

What's at the end of your rainbow?

I have had several inquiries from friends and family in the last month.

“So, is this next book ever going to be done?”

Yes, but not quickly. Or easily. Novel #2 was 60% completed when I realized the perspective was wonky. This is one of several growth points taken from “Under the Same Moon.”  I am rewriting, chapter by chapter.

You know — when you practice, you get better. Novel #2 will be stronger than novel #1 — but this requires buckets of humbling work. I’m taking classes, reading books and editing. (Nothing is so painful as cutting away pages you think are clever, but recognize as unnecessary.)

One of the classes I’m taking includes reading short stories of well-known authors. This week we read Amy Bloom’s, “A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You.”

She writes, “Sophisticated readers understand that writers work out their anger, their conflicts, their endless grief and rolling list of loss, through their stories. That however mean-spirited or diabolical, it’s only a story. That the darkness in the soul is shaped into type and lies there, brooding and inert, black on the page, and active, dangerous, only in the reader’s mind. Actually harmless. I am not harmless.”

I started writing Novel #2 in 2008 when I was newly running a non-profit for the first time and dating difficult man. Several of the themes from the story come from that period of my life — which was severely lacking in grace. The last four years have provided space from that painful time; I have to dig deep to get to the emotions that were once written across my face. This is fantastic for today’s happiness, my current relationship, etc. — and difficult for writing. You’ve got to relive the anger, conflict and grief that inspired the story. Similarly, the disappointments of working in Mozambique inspired novel #1.

I’d guess most writers use their art as therapy; God knows many of the writers in my varied writing groups are rehashing previous life experiences under the guise of fiction.

To be clear: that is not what I’m doing with Novel #2. But, life is the best source of material. Any author who tells you otherwise is a liar. Real life folks inspire characters. Horrible news clips give creative plot points. Trying emotional times provide the necessary drama to get a story moving.

What's at the end of your rainbow?

One quote in particular rang true at the end of the piece:

“I have made the best and happiest ending that I can in this world, made it out of the flax and netting and leftover trim of someone else’s life, I know, but made it to keep the innocent safe and the guilty punished, and I have made it as the world should be and not as I have found it.”

That’s the joy of writing — making the world as it should be, not as I found it.

The goal is to have Novel #2 ready for final edits by December 31st. To make that happen, I’ve got quite a bit of re-writing to do. Thank you for all of your kind words and encouragement.

That pot of gold? The very best novel I could have written. Not grimacing when someone says they purchased my book. A series of signings where I hand a copy of this story to those same friends and family knowing this time they won’t be returned with editing remarks.

Back to work,

~K

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Media, Novel
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On Writing: Point of View

May 15th

Appetizers

Since moving to Colorado, I’ve joined a writing cooperative and several writing groups. I’ve been taking courses, having my work read and submitting to contests. One criticism has been constant: I try to cover too many points of view. Readers struggle to connect with the main characters because they know everything everyone is feeling.

Crafty idea

Huh.

Idea to do with friends

I hadn’t spent much time thinking of POV. I simply plowed forward, telling stories. In 4th grade, I started playing the viola. Orchestra time was Tuesdays and Thursdays, for an hour. I was pulled from class with the handful of others to gather in the cafeteria with Mr. Keene. The man must have been both slightly deaf and blindly patient. I can’t imagine trying to teach a handful of elementary kids how to play a classical instrument. And yet he did so with compassion.

wine charm case in Indiana

For three years of elementary school, I missed grammar to attend orchestra practice. After five years of trying to conform to a mold my mother was desperate to achieve — child musician — I quit. I’d gone to music camp (not that kind), biked my viola on my handlebars to school for years, and never ever shown even a sliver of promise. By junior high, I resented the entire idea of orchestra; it was eating up an otherwise precious elective hour I could have been spending in home ec, French, etc.

Collection of wine charms

Come to find out, playing the viola takes far more mathematical understanding than I could muster. I’ve never been a numbers girl. Words, on the other hand? Gimme. My backpack was weighed down with library loans. I was the first kid to sign up at the summer reading program each year. Nancy Drew, the Babysitter Club girls, and eventually John Irving became close friends during my youth.

Wine charms

The viola gathered dust during those summer vacations. I couldn’t imagine committing my life to such a lame instrument. A viola? They don’t even write good music for violas. You are the Robin to the violin’s Batman. Thank you, but no. Perhaps if I’d played the cello — which I wanted to play, but required transportation far sturdier than the handlebars of my Schwinn mountain bike — I may have cared.

Come to find out, missing three years of critical education in grammar has caught up with me as an adult. Apostrophes are my kryptonite. (See my first novel for supporting evidence.) Point of view? WHY CAN’T I JUST TELL READERS HOW EVERYONE IS FEELING? WHAT DO YOU MEAN THAT ISN’T SUBTLE?

perfect

Gah. Rules.

So, I’ve been studying POV books, talking with successful writers and reading with a critical eye. Alicia Rasley’s “The Power of Point of View” is the best read I’ve come upon so far. She gives solid advice to writers of all sorts on why selecting a POV is important, what it conveys to your reader and how to strengthen your writing by making such a selection

Mine

I’m 15 chapters into writing novel 2. And my POV is all over the place. I’ve recently edited the novel from the beginning and selected a POV for each chapter. I’m now in the process of rewriting each chapter from the strongest point of view. Cheryl Strayed — the critically acclaimed author of the recently published “Wild” — was in Denver speaking at Lighthouse. She said something I keep thinking of that went something like, “Anyone can write. Most books aren’t art. To create art, you have to give your work meaning that rings true across generations.”

It’s detailed, challenging work. And unlike playing the viola — I love every second of it.

~K

*These photos are from my trip to Indiana. The hosts have guests build their own wine charms. It’s a conversation starter and a way to showcase their cork collection. Pretty awesome idea, right?

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Journal, Media, Novel
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Nerves

April 23rd

{My fifth and final example of why the Indiana State Tourism board should hire me.}

Indy

One of my personality quirks is deep, unbridled nervousness at the absolute worst time. It is a cunning emotion that runs me over. One moment, I’m fine. The next, I’m hiding in the guest room — sweaty with my heart racing.

I can speak publicly no problem. My palms sweat a bit. I can handle a first date like a champ. I talk too much. To often I am the unfortunate center of attention at parties, sharing loud, obnoxious stories. Again, I talk too much.

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It wasn’t until 7 pm or so when the first book club members started trickling in that I got nervous. Palms sweaty, biting my lip, belly flip flopping, nervous. I texted Mini a handful of times, who told me under no uncertain terms I had both put myself in this situation, and it was a damn fine place to be.

Calm. Down.

She was right, of course. After shaking a few hands and seeing what a nice group it was, my nerves did settle. Here is the thing with writing: it is personal. If I had a dollar for every person who said, “You can’t take it personally…” before giving me a critique, I’d be Midas rich. It makes me so angry to hear those words: “Don’t take it personally.” Show me an entertaining novelist who isn’t eating, dreaming, and breathing their book and I’ll show you a fake. Writing great fiction is personal.

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While in some ways it gets easier — you won’t be the first or last to love or hate my novels — in others, it is isn’t. Last week I received a rejection for a writing opportunity I was convinced would fall in my favor. And it stung. I sat before the email, view blurred,  bobbing my head back and forth so the tears dripping off my chin would miss the keyboard.

“Don’t take it personally.” This was a criticism of my storytelling, style, way of communicating.

I took it personally.

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I received little criticism at the book club meeting. I think those from Indiana are just too kind, or too mild mannered to be rude in front of the author. Their compliments filled my sails and helped ease a bit of the pain from the week prior.

I love writing. It is what I want to spend the rest of my life doing, without question. I recognize a significant aspect of the art is sharing your work with others, knowing it will sink or sail depending on the reader. As this craft gets stronger and confidence in my abilities increases with each page — I’ll be able to distinguish those critiques that matter.

Until then, let these nervous butterflies fuel dreams of being back in Indy next April to discuss a completed and published novel 2.  (I have a lot of work to do.)

Thank you again to all my new Indy friends!

~K

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Journal, Novel, Travel
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What Had Happened Was…

April 18th

I’m dedicating the next week’s worth of posts to my new favorite state in the union: Indiana.

That’s right, Indiana. Home of the Hoosers, the Butler Bulldogs and the best book club I know.

Indy

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Have you ever been? If so, you know Indianapolis is a surprising delight. Clean, with huge monuments, lots of trees and flowers, locally owned shops and great restaurants. And the people? Well. They are the nicest I’ve ever encountered.

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How did I find myself in Indianapolis for three days this week? Well. Brit, a girlfriend from Phoenix, read Under the Same Moon and  gave it to her best friend Lisa in Indy. Lisa, in turn, bought the book for the entire club and made it her selection for the month of April. Brit and Lisa sent an email — would I be willing to fly out for the meeting? Brit would come from Arizona too, of course.

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This happened in November and I was beyond flattered. A book club was reading my work and wanted me to come to their group. How could I say no? I immediately bought a ticket, threw it on my calendar and tried not to think about it. I mentioned it to a few friends here and there but it wasn’t until Brit sent an email saying she couldn’t attend that I started to get nervous.

This left me flying across the country to stay with folks I’ve never met for, oh, just three days. Lisa, of course, played it cool by email. She explained she’d be there at the airport to pick me up and she and her lovely boyfriend Dan were so happy to host me. Their gorgeous home and four cats awaited my arrival.

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I’m not going to say it was love at first sight with Lisa because I was just too nervous walking out of an airport TO GO HOME WITH SOMEONE I’D NEVER MET. (This trip violated every stranger danger rule I’ve ever learned.) But it was darn close to love at first sight. She was so friendly and made me immediately feel at home. And I did. By the end of the three days I was truly sad to be leaving.

Lisa and Dan are unbelievably kind, warm and generous. They didn’t just welcome me into their home, host a party in my honor and let me take a tour of their wine cellar (Hello, Cellar. We are going to be great friends…), but they also arranged a Segway tour of Indianapolis, took me to Butler University and a walk through the natural history museum, and bent over backward every moment of my visit.

Indy

They’ve redefined hospitality. And I can’t wait for them to come stay in Colorado so I can return some of the love.

What did it feel like to have 16 people over for dinner to talk about my book? SHEER TERROR AND COMPLETE EGOTISTICAL DELIGHT. But I’ll leave that to the next post.

~K

*the title of this post is a shout out to Joe, one of the attendees of the book club. He regularly starts stories with this colloquialism, “What had happened was…” By the end of the trip, I was saying it too.

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CAOK, Novel, Travel, Uncategorized
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On Writing: Practice

March 10th

Writing

Phew. What a crazy couple of weeks it has been around the Heirloom Homestead. I’ve finished a class on narrative at Lighthouse and have been working steadily on novel #2. I’m in the middle of chapter 14 — what I’d guess is half-way through completion of the novel.

This feels great. More specifically, if feels like my junior year of high school when I was swimming six hours a day trying to make my way on the A relay, feeling my body growing longer and leaner. My mind was sharp, I was incredibly focused and became stronger through regular practice. (Never mind I never swam on that relay. The journey was better than the desired destination.)

Now, I’m meeting with writing groups, participating in writing exercises, editing other authors, reading a lot of writing books and spending more time crafting exactly what I want to say. I found myself in a writer’s group this week describing my first novel as, “not a true showcase of my abilities.” The words tumbled out of my mouth before I felt the weight of that honesty.

I’d doubt other than Ms. Harper Lee, or perhaps Ayn Rand, that any author feels her first work is the best. My second novel has stronger characters, more precise language and an arc I spent six months designing — making sure each twist and turn rang true.

For athletes, I’m at the point in this project that is close to the zone. It still hurts a little if I allow myself to think about it, but it’s mostly pure joy. My happiest time of the week is when I get to sit down, shut out the world, and dive back into my story. My fingers flailing on the keyboard, research pages spread across my desk, photos of Bolivia tacked above my desk, a cup of coffee steaming with refill after precious refill.

Thank you friends, for caring and for your encouragement. Not a week goes by without someone asking how my writing is progressing. Soon, I hope to have the results of the last three years worth of daydreaming in your hands.

~K

 

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Novel
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Momentum

February 9th

{I am stealing this blog post title from my friend Elizabeth (Mini). If you aren’t reading her blog, you should. It is some of the funniest writing on the web.}

Cold, snowy, beautiful

Last night I met friends in LoHi — oh Denver, with your bizarre naming of neighborhoods — for dinner. It’s been a cold week, so that record-breaking snowfall has turned into slush and large stretches of ice. I circled the block until voila! Amazing! There was a large spot available that I could nose into. Parallel parking isn’t among my strengths.

Okay. Driving isn’t among my strengths.

Sweet Colorado

Little did I realize any seasoned Denver driver would have seen that spot two blocks away and thought, “No way. You are never going to get out of there.”

Compare this to my, “Woohoo! Parking spot! Wait. Why won’t my car move forward? Wait. Why won’t my car back up? Wait. Why am I on a one way street with traffic barreling down on me and my car is 3 feet from the curb, now taking up two parking meters with the front left wheel stuck in a rather large pothole, while the rest of the car slides around on a block of ice?”

Contrast

Full disclosure — I’ve already received an embarrassing number of parking tickets in my few months of living in Colorado. I knew leaving my car that far from the curb — while just barely out of traffic — and taking up two meters would surely result in a series of new yellow envelopes tucked sinisterly under my windshield wipers.

So, I did what any Phoenician who can’t move her car does. I flagged down strangers and handed them my keys. I asked for help. One lovely Samaritan jumped in and spent 15 minutes trying to navigate out of the hole. Problem being, I had a car both in front and behind me. If she gunned it, she’d likely fly into one or the other. But oh, how she tried. Patiently, kindly, with my tires smoking. Yet the native Coloradoan gave up, suggesting I call a tow truck.

Brrr

Instead I filled the meter, met my friends for dinner and begged them to come with me back to the car to see if they could help. By the time we got there, the car in front had left giving me enough room to use momentum to rock the car back and forth in drive and reverse to get out of the pothole, off the ice and happily on the road home.

Needless to say, these are not issues you deal with living in the desert.

Driving home I realized this momentum maneuver is so much like writing a novel. Sometimes you get stuck. You beg strangers for help. You walk away hoping the problem resolves itself. You throw money at it. You have a stiff drink. You beg friends to listen, to look at it, to give you their opinion. And then, magically, you move backward five feet to grab the precious inch forward you are dying to gain.

~K

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Colorado, Journal, Novel
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