Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Let's hope the Mayans were wrong

It's the end of the year as we know it. I haven't been blogging much for a number of reasons—not the least of which is the holidays. (The other reasons involve whining, so I'll skip those.)

A year ago, I posted a blog of all the books I'd read in 2010. This year I have goodreads.com. If you like to read and don't already belong to goodreads, you will enjoy it. My page lists all the books I've read, all the books I'm currently reading and all the books I plan to read. There I review each book I've read.
In 2011, my goal was to read one book a week. I've read 43, and will finish one more in the next four days. So 44/52. Not bad. My goal for 2012 is to read LESS. Yes, less. Read less, read better. I resolve to take more notes, study well-written books, fill the pages with marginalia and notes. In 2012, I plan to read 26 acclaimed books and write one. 

As an emerging writer, it's imperative that I read books. But just reading them and hoping to become a best-selling author is like listening to the radio and assuming that you can become a pop star by immersion. I view reading like an enjoyable form of homework. In 2012, I will be more selective in what I read. Excellence in; excellence out. 

My other goal is to listen better and interrupt less. I think it will be easier to sell a novel. 

This is all assuming, obviously, that the Mayans (and REM) were wrong. I have big plans for the next 12 months. Wish me luck.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Open Window Literary Magazine

Hello, peeps. It's been a while... sorry (I've been writing!). But I'm back with great news to report.

An excerpt from my novel The Best Liar of All was selected for inclusion in the inaugural issue of Open Window Literary Magazine. Open Window is an online publication by the geniuses at LCCC in Laramie, Wyoming. Open Window launches on Tuesday, December 20th, 2011. The minute their site is up, I will link you to it.

A bit of background: The Best Liar of All is the story of 39-year old Brooklynite Daniel King. Danny's company went bankrupt, then his girlfriend was murdered. As he's trying to rebuild his life, the SEC tells him they "have a few questions", then the man who allegedly killed Danny's girlfriend threatens his life too. Danny quickly realizes he needs to disappear so he takes his dog (and a bag of cash—a cool quarter million dollars), and heads to his father's hometown of Jackson, Wyoming, a place so small it must be safe. But what he learns when he gets there is that no one is who they seem to be. Danny must filter through "fifty-four years, four months" of fallacious history to find out who everyone truly is, including himself.

The excerpt that I submitted to Open Window is a flashback about Danny's father as a teenager in Jackson, 1956. "Chuck" had a rough childhood, something he never told Danny about, never even told his own wife.

A big thanks to Lori Howe at Open Window, and everyone else on the selection committee. Unfortunately, I am unable to attend the launch party, but with any luck I'll upload a reading of my short story to YouTube that they can watch, and can you too.

xox, Karolyn

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Publishing Dilema #GN/BN

(My new hashtag: #GN/BN: Good news/bad news)

On Sunday, I was sipping my coffee, watching Sunday Morning on CBS, lounging with my husband, reading the paper, minding my own business. I opened up the Life section of Sunday's Des Moines Register and screamed! My travel essay and photos from a recent trip to Panama were published in full color for God and everybody to see. I had submitted my story about 10 days before, but hadn't heard a peep back from them so I had no idea it would be printed so quickly—or at all.

I jumped, I danced, I squealed, I Tweeted, I Facebooked, I called Mom, I called Dad, I texted family from out of town.

Then... I read my printed story, the one I wrote and knew by heart. Five hundred and six words, carefully chosen, carefully edited, carefully reviewed. But lo and behold, there were beaucoup errors! What? How could that be? Embarrassment silenced me. Half the verbs in the printed version are in past tense, half in present tense. HELLO!

My husband insisted that no one except writers would even notice. But... who else matters?

I've written 3 1/2 novels, all in past tense. That's normal for me. But travel essays are often written in present tense, so I challenged myself. It's not that hard, but it does take concentration to tell a story that happened 10 months ago in present tense. I consulted my best editor (yes, my son, @Elliott_Krause (as I now refer to him) on the finer points of non-fiction writing (he's in the NF Iowa Writers' Workshop and is an editorial assistant at the Iowa Review), and soon I had an essay I was happy with. Attach photos. Polite email. Send.

So the GN/BN: My essay was in print—nearly a full page!—but all those errors are so embarrassing that I don't even want to frame my first hard-copy publication. I was ashamed that I let all those errors slip through. Shocked, even. Until I consulted my advisor again, (yes, Elliott) and he said, "Blame the paper." I said, "I can't do that. If I made the errors, I need to be responsible for them." He said, "They may have transcribed it incorrectly to put it in their required format." I said, "What? They don't just Cut and Paste?" He said, "Probably not." So I ran home and checked and, sure enough, my copy is clean, theirs has errors.

I can't (won't) complain to the newspaper editor because a writer does not want a black mark by his/her name with the local newspaper. But, still... how discouraging. What would any of you writers do? Does this happen often? How do you promote your accomplishments when someone else screws them up in the printing/publishing process? I suppose, **it happens, so you just deal with it and move on, right?

One thing I know for sure: This will not stop me from submitting a thousand more articles in the near future.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Aspirers vs. Emergers

If any readers of my blog are not yet aware of Kristen Lamb's blog and book, We Are Not Alone: The Writer's Guide To Social Media, here is a strong recommendation to make yourself aware.

Aspiring Writer: one who sits alone for hours, typing her bleeding heart through her keyboard onto a blank page while dreaming of her novel being displayed on the front table of her local Barnes and Noble, or better yet, the one on 5th Avenue.

Emerging Writer: one who sits alone for hours typing at her computer but has learned not to use words like "bleeding heart"; one who follows sage advice, creates a platform, interacts with professionals and constantly works to become a better writer.

At any stage of the writing game—and according to Paul Auster it just gets worse as one becomes more successful—it seems vital, despite JD Salinger's approach, to maintain active and healthy communication with other people. Writers, readers, agents, publishers, friends, they all play a part in sanity. (That's sanity, not insanity.) Kristen Lamb is a no-nonsense guide to getting one's name out there and preventing the feeling of being a lone writer. (That is, a writer who's alone, not the only writer in the world.)

One of my core values is persistence. Kristen's blog post today is about luck vs. persistence. This ought to separate the "aspirers" from the "emergers."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Getting My Groove Back

Today I opened the files for my fourth novel for the first time in two months. It's a little like reconnecting with old friends on Facebook. In other words, who the heck are these people and what the heck is going on in their lives?

For the past two months, I was finalizing (researching, rewriting and polishing) my third novel, Honorable Lies, which is now in Queryland with 13 agents. Well, I sent letters to 13 agents (because that number has always been lucky for me), but two have already said they are so proud of me, and pleased that I would give them the chance, but that they are unfortunately unable to represent my work. Hmmm. That's okay, I only need one, and he/she is still out there.

You know the sage advice, "Write every day"? That's so you don't forget your own children characters. I had written 20,000 words of A Reasonable Price before I went back to finish up my last novel, and it's going to take a while for me to remember exactly what these peoples' demons and goals are. Fortunately, I have this novel outlined, start to finish, and I have copious notes to use as reference. This is the first time I've been so thorough on the outline, and I'm very glad to have all these notes to suck me right back into the tempest I have brewing in my hard drive. If you're one who's not able to write every day, this might be exactly the tack to take so you can re-immerse yourself at a moment's notice.

Or maybe I'll switch things up a bit now that I'm older and wiser. Either way, it's good to be back.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Van Gogh and Me

I recently blogged about Steve Jobs' influence on my life. Now how about Vincent Van Gogh?

J.D. Salinger is famous for publishing four books, then disappearing for forty-some years. Can I do that? Or do I have to become famous first? Van Gogh sold only one painting in his lifetime, and that was to his brother. Hell, I could sell a hundred books to family members if that counts.

There's a famous adage that everyone wants to have written a book, but few want to actually write it. Well I'm the opposite. I mean, sure I'd like to sell a novel, but I LOVE the writing part. Creating people and problems and scenes so vivid that you feel like you're there with the characters—that's my favorite part. In four years I've completed three novels, and my next is well underway. At this rate, I will fill my bookshelf in a couple more years. Who wants to slow down for the publishing process?

Full disclosure: Today I emailed several query letters to carefully chosen agents. I know the percentage of being chosen from a "slush pile" is about one in a million, but hey, I have 4 sons. What are the odds of that? Four of a kind is a pretty good hand. In any case, my novel Honorable Lies is complete, polished, and ready to go.

Now on to A Reasonable Price.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Embracing Change

Great news to report! I've been published on More.com. This is an essay I wrote about reinvention. Who better than me to write about this? Check out my story here: http://www.more.com/opportunity-mother-reinvention Enjoy!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Steve Jobs and Me

I never met Steve Jobs; I wish I had. Like millions of others, his life's work has greatly influenced mine. I'd like to say that I would write books even if I had only pencil and paper, or only a typewriter. I might, but I'm not sure. But why Steve Jobs, in particular?

I didn't become an Apple fanatic until 2007. Like so many others, my business ran on Windows products so I thought the conversion would be overwhelming. It wasn't until I closed my art gallery and bought a laptop with the express idea of writing a novel (a fresh start) that I felt no barrier to switching products. I have been writing for four years now, yet I'm still not published. A good friend with a good heart recently asked me why I'm not published when so many other people are. I made a few self-effacing jokes and thought I'd let that comment die... and yet I can't.

Malcolm Gladwell is famous for extolling the notion that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in any given field. Because I was not an English major in college (even though reading, writing and academia have been a major influence on my entire life), I believed that I needed to put in five years of writing before I could hope to be good enough to be published. Time will tell, true, and the death of Steve Jobs reinforces that fact. No one begins with perfection.

Looking back, the first Macintosh computer now looks like a dinosaur, a laughable relic. The iMac on which I now type is sleek, elegant and sophisticated—a masterpiece. Yet if Steve Jobs had never released the original Macintosh, this computer would not exist. Nor would the current iPhone, Nano or iPad.

Why am I not yet published? Because I am not yet as good as Ann Patchett or Jonathan Franzen. I am hypercritical of my work and anxious for it to be better. I'm also kind of shy. Stretching out of my comfort zone to pitch a novel that isn't as good as (insert any literary masterpiece here) stops me from sending out the quantity of query letters necessary to find the right agent to rep me. Instead, I finish a novel (I've completed three), send out a few queries, then immediately start on my next story knowing it will be better, it will be good. My standard of good enough is as high as Steve Jobs' must have been, but it apparently didn't hold him back and I cannot let it hold me back.

In 2005, Jobs gave a now-famous commencement address to the graduates of Stanford University. In that speech he said, "The only way to do great work is to love what you do." I love writing. I am confident that I will be published, and thanks to Steve Jobs, I will no longer be shy about what I have created. My first published work will probably not be the great American novel; that's okay. The important factor is where it will lead me.

With enough love, persistence and luck, maybe one day I will write a novel that is as delicious as an Apple.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Liebster BlogLove Continues

Wow, how nice is this? Big thanks to Katianne Williams for sending me the Liebster BlogLove Award. 

Katianne's Blog is very entertaining and right-on. You can also find her on Twitter, of course @Katiannewill. She's represented by Jenny Bent so we know she's talented!

So what's the Liebster Blog? Part of what I call the Twitter Circle of Love.

Here's an explanation of this award:

Here are the rules:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your own top 5 picks (the blogs you love with less than 200 followers) and let the bloggers know by leaving a comment on their blog or twitter.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Have faith that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers.
5. And most of all - have bloggity-blog fun!

Check out some of my favorite (smaller) Blogs:

1. Alison Lockwood: http://alisonrlockwood.blogspot.com/ 
2. Hallie Sawyer: http://www.halliesawyer.com/blog/
3. Kelcey McKinley:  http://www.kelceyjomckinley.blogspot.com/
4. Ann Napoltano: http://annnapolitano.com/
5. Tess Hardwick: http://tesshardwick.com/