UPDATE: Since this interview published Kathryn has gotten a book deal! THE ART OF FALLING (formerly DANCE OF THE FALLEN SPAROW) will be published by Sourcebooks in January of 2014. For updates check out her new author website at www.kathryncraft.com.
We have author Kathryn Craft with us today. Welcome Kathryn!
I am lucky to attend her wonderful regular writing workshops. Visit her at:
When and why did you begin writing?
By ninth grade I knew I was “different”–I thought about things deeply, I felt them deeply, and while I wouldn’t have known what to call it, I was already a bit of a philosopher. I didn’t know what to do with this, though. These were not attributes my mother encouraged or responded to.
Oddly, it was in the wordless medium of dance that I found my voice–meaning, that I learned I had something to say that others cared to listen to. My formal education was writing and research intensive, so I had the basic written communication skills down, but I poured my creativity into my choreography. Dance and writing converged when I became a dance critic. I considered my work to be that of a translator–I watched the dance and applied words to it, so non-dancers knew how to talk about and evaluate what they saw.
I loved writing features on artistic people and once said, “There are so many interesting stories to be told in the world that why would I ever want to make any up?”–even though throughout my life I’d always had my nose stuck in a novel.
But when my first husband committed suicide in 1997, everything changed. He had mocked my newspaper writing as “volunteer work,” even though I’d always been paid for it (although admittedly, not much). Now that he was gone I was free to pursue whatever writing I wanted—how could I best use my writing to explore the horrific events my sons and I had been through? I didn’t want to write articles about it, and I wasn’t ready yet to write memoir. My thoughts turned to fiction. Fiction allowed me a different gate through which to pursue “the truth.”
Are you working on getting a project published now?
Yes, a novel : DANCE OF THE FALLEN SPARROW. I needed to create a suicide story that offered hope, in which I could explore the notion that even when we think we are done with ourselves, the universe may not be ready to discard us–and that this sense of purpose just might be enough to revive us.
Are you working on other projects you would like to share with us?
I’m also writing a memoir, STANDOFF AT RONNIE’S PLACE, about why/how I stayed to raise our sons on the farm where my husband engaged in the full-day standoff that ended his life.
What’s your writing process?
Draft as quickly as possible, take years to revise, lol.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Drafting new material! I do get the same creative high everyone gets at the end of a day when you are staring at material that, that very morning, you had no inkling would exist. But I GREATLY prefer revision, when you have the chance to mine for greater meaning through the application of craft
Do you write for any blogs and if so, which ones?
My blog is Healing Through Writing, http://healing throughwriting.blogspot.com, about the ways in which I continue to use writing to heal and make sense of my world
The Blood-Red Pencil, http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com, is a blog about writing and self-editing and I’m one of the contributing editors. The first Friday of each month I write series: “Busted!—an author caught doing something right,” where I analyze craft in published works. I do a second post in the second half of the month on a topic of my choice.
I also put out an e-newsletter 3-4 times per years, NIBS, which has writing and self-editing tips. People can sign up for it on the home page of my website: http://www.writing-partner.com.
I’ve also been known to contribute to ALLTHE WRITE STUFF, the blog of the Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group’s Write Stuff conference, at http://glvwgwritersconference.blogspot.com.
What books or authors do you enjoy reading?
I sample widely from bestselling literature so I can keep my finger on the pulse of what is selling. I’ve only read every single novel of a few authors, and if you told me they had a new book come out I’d purchase it today: Ann Patchett, Anna Quindlen, Barbara Kingsolver, Amy Tan, Regina McBride, and Margot Livesey.
How do you develop your plots and characters?
Character orchestration comes first. Who does it make sense to put into the story so I can represent all the points of view I’ll need and arrive at the conflict I like to explore. Then I work up a very sparse outline, mostly comprised of emotional turning points that I’m aiming for. Then, I draft.
You also have a developmental editing business, WritingPartner. Tell us about it and what inspired you to start it.
Previously I’d owned a desktop publishing business, but folded it after eight years–I’d learned as much about layout as I ever wanted to know. It was the writing alone that continued to challenge and thrill me.
I’ll never forget how Writing-Partner began: I was sitting in former GLVWG member Melanie Gold’s kitchen. Former long-time member Fern Hill was there as well. I was bemoaning the fact I might have to cave and get a “real” job and Fern said “Why don’t you start a manuscript editing business?” Part of me balked; the other part said, “I could call it Writing Partner!” (That URL was taken, thus the hyphen. But I’ve come to love the hyphen—it’s like a little handshake in the middle of the name.)
I started asking people whose manuscripts I’d evaluated for their opinions about my venture and received the feedback that what I offered was more thorough than what they received from others. Now it’s five years later and I’m already booked for the next 11 weeks with pre-paid work. I really enjoy it–it’s the perfect amalgam of my experience with teaching, analyzing, critiquing, and collaboration. And this economy has publishers and agents being pickier than ever in their choice of projects—no one will choose you for your potential—so there’s a need for the kind of service that helps you put your best foot forward.
What do you do when you are not writing?
When’s that? (haha). When you love your work, your life does tend to be usurped by that work. But when I’m not writing I’m either in our neighborhood fitness center working out or walking around beautiful Doylestown, PA.My husband and I moved here in December 2009 and we love it.
Tell us about volunteering with The Greater Lehigh Valley Writer’s Group Conference, The Write Stuff.
I’ve been involved as a conference volunteer since my second conference in 2001. Once I’d held all the major positions, I served as chair in 2005, and again in 2010. This year I was the Agent-Editor Chair. What can I say? I love The Write Stuff! I love any event that brings writers together, but The Write Stuff has the perfect combination of “small-enough-to-be-friendly” and “large-enough-to-attract-quality-presenters.” Conferences are a great way for all writers to learn and network; volunteering just amplifies the experience. You get to know the presenters, agents, and editors as more than the gate-keepers who can make or break you. You get to know them as people, and often as friends.
Will you be participating in any other upcoming Writing Conferences?
I give a lot of talks about writing to writing groups and last year I gave my first keynote, at the inaugural conference of the Black Diamond Writers Network. That was a real thrill. In June I’ll speak at the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference on “13 Tips & Tricks” you can use to immediately improve your writing–I understand you’ve applied a few of those yourself, Donna! I’ll also run the Friday night Fiction Rap. PWC is another place where I don my volunteer cap–I’m registrar this year. My long experience in the arts has taught me one indelible truth: without volunteerism, the arts world would stop turning and we’d all fall off.
You run (great!) writing workshops as well. Tell us about that.
I recently realized I might know enough people that lived close enough to come to my home in Doylestown to work on some slices of craft. So many of my clients are facing the same challenges, and trying to master the same skills. There’s so much to work on! I’ve offered e-tutorials before and considered doing one again, but it’s as hard for students to lock in to something like that as it is for me. And I know from running writing retreats for women at my summer home that it’s fun to work on these skills together. So I started what I’m calling the Saturday Craftwriting Sessions at my home in Doylestown. You don’t have to commit to a series, you can just come when it suits you. I charge $10 for two hours.
How do you find time to write with all your other projects ?
I have to stick to a pretty strict schedule. I get up at 5:30 a.m.and write for 90 minutes, then work out and eat breakfast, then write from 9 to noon, every day. I edit in the afternoons only, and somehow fit everything else in around it. I try to complete all my blogging on Sunday afternoons. Still trying to find the time for Twitter…
Any other advice for writers?
To be a creative writer, you don’t have to invent the wheel. You don’t even have to re-invent it. Many writers have walked the same road you have, and know its soggy patches and rough spots. They have tips for navigating they can share–just ask! Because guess how they got where they are? Before them, someone farther down the road turned back and lent a hand. If I can be the one to help you, through any of my Writing-Partner services, please contact me at Kathryn@Writing-Partner.com or friend me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/kathryn.craft.
And thanks, Donna, for the role you’re playing to help other writers with your awesome new blog!