11–20 of 22 entries in the category: Novel

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

Posted in
Colorado, Journal, Novel
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On Writing: Workshop

February 3rd

On writing: Workshop

I am taking a writing class focused on narrative. The class has 10 women and an instructor. We get together for a couple hours a week to discuss writing technique and to review each other’s work. This process of “workshopping” my writing is entirely new; the only time I’ve given a chapter of work to group to edit was in an undergraduate creative writing course more than 10 years ago.

The experience has been multi-layered. There is the emotional — is there anything as vulnerable as handing off something you consider “art” to a group of strangers for critique? There is the practical — I have to be incredibly disciplined to stay on top of my writing assignments and editing others’ work in the evenings after working the day job. There is the also the intellectual — there have been nights I can’t sleep because my brain won’t shut off. I’m trying to learn so much in a brief period of time and apply it to this novel without letting the Negative Nancies get me off track.

I’d be remiss not to mention the balance once must muster when reviewing edits. I submitted my first chapter and received in return 11 sets of corrections, opinions, and thoughts. Most of these were subjective. Of course those objective — typos, spelling errors, etc — are to be fixed with gratitude for the editor. Then there are those long, red ink, cursive notes down the page suggesting how you should have written it. And the details you should have included. And what would make it more believable.

The balance is in reading those edits and deciding what holds merit vs. what is nonsense. Writing is a subjective art form. As the author, you’ve got to believe in what you are creating, and stay firm to the elements of your story that are non-negotiable.

Also, it is helpful to pick up your suit of thick skin from the dry cleaner the week before you workshop so you can have every button and zipper fastened and armored. My suit is the Insecure Writer Deluxe 2.1 version. It whispers in my ear every 10 minutes “You can do it! Keep writing! You won’t please everyone, and that is more than okay. It’s ideal.” And if it gets wet with salty tears it kicks into hyper-protective mode, available only with this version: “Fuck them.* You are a good writer. Keep writing.”

Keep writing, friends,

K

*I know! Profanity on the craft blog! Don’t blame Finny. Sometimes you have to call a spade a spade.

Posted in
Good to Great, Novel
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Straight Talk Mary

October 23rd

Fall cooking + prep I’ve been haunted by insomnia lately. This happens about once a year. I’ll go 3-4 weeks without a good night’s sleep, waking around 2 am for 2-3 hours at a stretch. Some nights I just lie there, rolling the day around in my head, like a bowling ball down an empty alley. Others, I read and heat up a bowl of leftovers. More dramatically, there are nights I scream into a pillow — annoyed I’ll once again stomp through the day with bags under my eyes and splintered patience.

Yesterday, I spent two glorious hours in an auditorium with the author Mary Karr. The event, sponsored by Lighthouse Writer’s Studio, was an interview of the author. Karr is best known for her memoirs and poetry. She is currently writing a TV series based on her life for HBO. (And revealed last night she briefly dated David Foster Wallace. Always fascinating when famous people knew each other when.)

I fell head over heels in love with the profane Texan after her rant on “decorative writing” —  that which is fancy to be fancy. She called out specific authors and said The New Yorker is largely to blame. Poems that have secret meanings, for example, are “bullshit.” She took the art of writing and put it in each person’s hands to take home with them, reassuring us that we — as folks who can read and love words — are just as capable of greatness as anyone else. In fact, we might be more likely to produce good work because we aren’t surrounded by fake intellectuals. And when comforting herself during a moment of publishing anxiety, she remembered, “Everyone writes a shitty book.”

To someone who once called her names in a letter, she told of writing the person back and saying, “You are right! I am those things. And guess what? You can’t hurt my feelings. You aren’t the first who has called me that and you won’t be the last.” Oh, the chutzpah!

It was her straight talk. Her basic clothing. Her love of swear words that would embarrass sailors. Her nonchalant aire describing turning down six figure offers for more memoirs because she “just didn’t feel like it right now.” It was her story of growing up in a poor Texan family at the intersection of crazy and drunk.

Her lack of pedigree never slowed her. In truth, it gave her the best material.

Last night I slept 10 hours straight.

~K

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in
Colorado, Community, Good to Great, Novel
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Word Craft

October 6th

Dreaming of Frida

The other day in yoga, the instructor stopped the class to emphasize we were “practicing.” Yoga is a practice. Not a routine, or a class. Or just an excuse to sweat with other people in public in really awkward positions.

I’ve found writing is much the same. I started writing Under the Same Moon when I was 22, freshly working in public health and traveling for the first time to southeastern Africa. I’d always wanted to write novels, but my training for such a career came from nothing more than a degree in journalism, a love of words and an insatiable thirst for reading. Full of naivete, I plowed forward — taking three years to finally produce a draft I was willing to forward for editing. There were many, many drafts of this first novel. Today, it is still far from perfect — with three versions in print. So it goes with writing as a practice.

In moving to Denver six months ago, I heard about a writing cooperative downtown. There were whispers of an old victorian house full of dusty couches, warm coffee pots and tattered yellow pads, scribbled with inspiration. Joining Lighthouse took three months of research. I even drove by before I was willing to walk up the steps past the ornamental lions, and knock on the big glass door.

There is something about being around other writers — taking classes, workshopping the latest draft, swapping painful stories about the critic who wouldn’t shut up — that is wildly intimidating. What if they all wore skinny jeans and Chucks and had agents in New York and dropped names of famous authors and publishers? What if they were all making a living by the might of the pen?

Daunting. This from a woman who once walked up a group of men at a busy bar on a Friday afternoon and joined their table for happy hour because I couldn’t find my friends. They were just dudes in a bar. How bad could it be?

They are just writers in an old house. How scary could it be?

Working at Lighthouse makes being a novelist feel like both a badge of honor and punishment. Novel 1 did well. Some statistic I read said most books published don’t sell 1,000 copies. UTSM has done that and more. Not much more, but still. Friends and family heard about this book for nearly a decade and my community bought it in supportive, lovely droves. There are no promises Novel 2 will see the same generosity.

And yet. Working at Lighthouse is a new community — one of folks who trade opinions on style guides and literary journal submissions. One where my little novel and the progress on a second are applauded for bravery and discipline, not for the strength of my talent. Being in this house for classes, Saturday morning socials, Monday afternoon writing marathons makes me feel at home — even though the cool kids are wearing hipster uniforms and dropping names like they are hot. They make me want to practice. To throw up on the page, see it for what it is, rip it up, start over and do it again and again and again until it is something I want to frame and name my first born in honor of.

So, I’m reading the New Yorker with a clenched jaw and McSweeney’s with delight. I’m entering writing contests. I’m training with those who are much better than me in hopes that their smarts, talents and drive will rub off.

It’s a lot like training at pool with Olympic hopefuls a couple of lanes over. You can’t help but gawk, throw your shoulders back and go like hell.

~K

 

 

Posted in
Colorado, Novel
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Under the Same Moon, e-book edition

August 15th

Under the Same Moon

It’s only taken a year since the book signing to get my ducks in a row, but thankfully as of this morning, Under the Same Moon is now available for e-book purchase.

The learning curve with self-publishing both print and e-book formats is Herculean. The next book, Basket Baby, will take a fraction of the time. Funny how that old adage “practice makes perfect” rings true. I would guess the writing and publishing of a second novel takes 1/4 the time, if you survived all the minutia, and militia of critics, from the first.

Thanks so much for your continued support. I am thrilled this is yet another avenue for my story to be shared. In the last few months, I’ve felt a surge of motivation to keep writing. A friend mentioned in passing there is a great writing cooperative in Denver. Another regularly asked on Twitter when he could finally get a copy for his iPad. A third volunteered to edit the print version. My friend Sheila encouraged me to keep working, complimenting my story telling. And there is always my mentor and friend Alaina who checks in with the simple email, “ARE YOU WRITING?”

I am. And hot damn, if that doesn’t feel great.

Cheers,

Kelli

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Media, Novel
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Tattered Cover

June 17th

Tattered Cover is Denver’s sister store to Tempe’s Changing Hands Bookstore. It is magnificent. And it is a miracle I came home with these alone — three of which are gifts:

Tattered Cover

There is much writing and reading to be done, but I am confident novel #2 will see the shelves of this great shop.

~K

Posted in
Community, Goals, Good to Great, Novel
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Oh, right.

June 16th

Mmm..

I am a writer. There are days — months even — I forget. I let my mind and heart wander. I take on odd jobs. I help friends with complicated favors. I travel. I read. I watch Mad Men seasons on repeat. I take long, luxurious tours of museums.

On occasion, I even sew.

Today, I’m a writer. Tomorrow, I will be a writer with a few more pages under her belt, and the first day of a new writing routine in place. There is nothing like, “butt-in-chair” time to make a person with an idea just that — a writer.

I have a great friend who has mentored me for several years. When I told Alaina I was moving to Colorado, she made me promise it was for the writing. She regularly encourages me by sending copies of my first novel to her friends and family, returning with reviews. I don’t want to write to make her happy; but, it certainly doesn’t hurt to know there are so many like her cheering me along. To get these stories out of my head, on to the page and into the hands of those I love does make me happy. If the last year has taught me anything, it is that I can write a solid story when I put my energy and focus in the right place.

Eggs

Today that means reviewing the first 17,000 words of novel #2 and rethinking the story’s organization. By the end of the weekend, I’ll have a new outline and plan. I’m focusing my creative energies for the remainder of 2011 (and however long it takes) on novel #2. If I get off track — say, by taking on a ludicrously exhausting second job that requires me to clean public toilets — I hope you’ll remind me of my goal: WRITE NOVEL #2.

{And pray that editor of mine is working on the final transformation of Under the Same Moon into an e-book format. It’s about time Donley Publishing hits the iPad, Nook, Kindle market.}

Onward!

~K

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Goals, Good to Great, Media, Novel
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A Favor

March 1st

book

Photo by Amanda Nemec

Oh, blog friends! I have a huge favor to ask of you. There is a local competition that will honor a Phoenix author and provide much needed publicity for the little novel that could.

Would you mind spending 2 minutes to complete this form? I’m sure it is uncouth for me to make such a request. I’m also sure there are giant publishing companies with entire floors of marketers that do this for authors with agents. Alas, I am my agent.

Winning this contest would mean a LOT of people would learn about my book.

I would truly appreciate the help!

(Consider this my Melissa Leo “Consider Me” campaign. Probably just as tacky, but hey — it worked.)

Much love,

Kelli

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Journal, Media, Novel
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Waves

October 5th

Octavio

Photo by Octavio Heredia

For those who’ve purchased a copy of the first (or second) edition of “Under the Same Moon,” you’ve quietly and politely noticed many editing errors. Here’s the thing — I’m not perfect. I’m far from it. So far that I quite obviously jumped the gun (even after 8 years) and published a novel with a lot of hoopla and not enough copy editing. My friends did an excellent job of catching so many other errors before it went to print. I’d read my worn computer paper copy about 10 gazillion times. When I received my first bound copy back as a proof, the type was too small to read thoroughly.

I should have read more thoroughly.

Should have, could have, would have. These are words burdened with regret that simply will not ruin publishing my first novel. Even a novel with errors.

Reading a bad review a couple weeks ago resulted in more than a few tears. I was filled with regret for sharing such a tender and vulnerable piece of my happiness — of who I am — with someone who couldn’t relate. I am so wildly embarrassed.

Reading the good reviews fills my sails; my ego is quickly convinced the next call will be Oprah’s scheduling producer. It’s a bell curve of emotion, with sincere rage and unhappiness at one end and Prom Queen Pulitzer Prize Winner at the other.  I wouldn’t have it be any different — even the sucky part of the wave that holds you under just long enough to sting your brain with salt water before throwing you back on to the hard beach.

I should have paid a professional editor to look at the copy. I could have asked another publisher to take a look at it before going at it alone with self-publishing. I would have loved to have had professional help at any point in this process.

So, that wave has spit me back on the beach — a place where I continue to write, read and research. I’m wearing sunscreen to protect my thin skin,  shades to keep the good reviews from over-saturating the ego, and flip flops as a reminder this is all supposed to be fun.

~K

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Journal, Novel
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