Please welcome Karen Walker today to talk about the liberating effects of writing a memoir in celebration of her memoir, Following The Whispers, being released as an e-book!
Karen Walker is a writer who has published essays in newspapers and magazines, as well as an anthology series. After a 30+ year career in marketing and public relations, she went back to college to complete a Bachelor's degree and graduated Summa Cum Laude in 2005 from the University of New Mexico's University Studies program with a major emphasis in Creative Writing. She lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with her husband, Gary, and their dog, Buddy. When she’s not writing, you can find her doing international folk dancing, singing at retirement communities with her trio, Sugartime, hiking, reading, or hanging out with friends.
Take it away Karen!
I wouldn’t have chosen to write a memoir if I felt I had a choice. Well, we always have choice. But I was compelled to write mine. I unexpectedly lost custody of my then 3 1/2 year-old son in 1978. It catapulted me into a deep depression; I was filled with self-hatred and despair. To save my sanity, I began keeping a journal. As a child, I’d fantasized about being a writer, like Jo in Little Women, but that’s all it was--a fantasy.
Keeping journals helped me process what was happening, sort through the complexity of emotions and feelings, and somehow make sense of my life. A seed was planted that someday I’d write about a nice, middle-class Jewish woman who wasn’t a prostitute or a drug addict but who somehow lost her child.
I had to wait until 1999, when my current wonderful husband offered me the opportunity to write full-time to begin that process. Probably the most difficult part of the writing was pouring through hundreds of journals, highlighting parts I thought were important, then typing them into the computer. There were times when I collapsed, sobbing on the floor, unable to continue as I relived my pain. It proved, however, to be extremely cathartic.
The memoir began as a story about losing custody, but after several drafts, I realized it was more about having grown up in a dysfunctional family, been sexually abused at seven years old, and how those kinds of events shaped the person who ended up divorced and without her child at 28.
Writing memoir is not for the weak. It takes courage to face your past--to look deeply at your life and the choices and decisions you made that may have hurt others and probably hurt you. And it takes even more courage to put those out for the world to see.
But memoir serves an important purpose--it shines a light on a life in a way that helps us look at our own lives and perhaps learn lessons we need to learn. That is why I was compelled to write my story. I knew there were others who suffered the same kind of pain for similar reasons. Mine is a journey towards healing and I am content now--something I didn’t think possible. And I think that writing my memoir played a key part in that happening.
Thank you so much for coming today, Karen. It's been an absolute pleasure!
Today is my last blogging day until August 1st (except a scheduled post I have with Karen Walker on Saturday for her Following The Whispers e-book blog tour). I can't WAIT to get out of Athens and sit on the beach and clear my head and forget forget forget that computers even exist!
So, I just have one question for you today. A question I see all over the place and a question which is always answered with a different slant. It's a question that I think does not have one particular answer and is semi-dependent on an individual's interpretation. I'm also beginning to wonder whether we are all attempting to answer this question the wrong way.
What is literary fiction?
I'm beginning to think that literary fiction has become more of a writing 'style' than a genre. Because seriously, when you think about it, you can write any genre to sound literary, can't you? What do you think?
Again, I'm swamped with work. Don't think you'll be getting much out of me for the rest of this week. EEEK! But I will say that I've been commissioned to write a story in THIS ANTHOLOGY and I'm SO excited to get started!
Tiny Dancer: Shadows at the Stage Door will explore the darker side of stepping into the limelight, using Elton John’s song “Tiny Dancer” to traverse the entertainment industry: past, present and future. Through the speculative-fiction lens the reader will be given front row seats to the stories of a cast, not exclusive to, ballerinas, concert pianists, street preachers, opera singers, performance poets, comedians, rock bands, bards, vaudeville acts, groupies and any other entertainment professionals our twenty-six writers invite to take centre stage.
And guess who else is writing for it? The wonderful Theresa Milstein and Len Lambert! A pleasure to be in such great company, ladies! :o)
Have a great Wednesday all and hopefully tomorrow I'll be back with something a little more interactive :-/
Short post today as I'm hot and bothered, have too much work to do before I go on holiday, and am itching to get responses from ten awesome authors to write little blurbs for my cover of String Bridge. (oh look! I used an Oxford comma. Sorry folks, I'm afraid I'm not going to kick the habit.)
Anyway, I'm not going to reveal who I've asked, but I will say that if even ONE of them says yes, I will be so excited I might deafen myself from my own scream.
So let me ask you this: who would you DREAM to have write a blurb for the cover of your debut?
So, you're a debut author and you've got your first book coming out this year and you want to tell me about it by sending me a direct email. Or you run an online support group that you think I might be interested in joining. Or you've got a short story coming out in the latest issue of Glimmer Train and want to show it off. Sure, go ahead and email me about it. I completely understand. I understand how difficult it is to spread news of your own accomplishments without sounding like you love yourself. It can be embarrassing. BUT ...
... for goodness sake, if you're going to email somebody a plug, DO NOT apologize for it! It just makes you sound wimpish and inexperienced and kinda stalker-ish. Yes, stalker-ish, because then it doesn't sound like a business letter anymore. If you want to plug something in a direct email to somebody, be confident about it. Sell it to them. Think along the lines of a query letter. Connect with the person you are emailing and tell them why you think they, specifically, would be interested in your work.
Forget about your insecurities. If there is any place you can disguise low self-esteem, it's via email. If you really really want to plug something to an individual via an email, you really really need to take advantage of that.
Anyhoo, that's my thought of the day. I like to respond to all the plugs I receive, despite how they're written, but someone else might not.
What do you think when you receive a plug for something from someone you don't know from a bar of soap? Do you read them? Do you cringe? Do you not even bother and delete them? Do you respond to some and not others? Why? What is it about the ones you read that sparks your interest?
I have never laughed and cried so much over a book in my life. This book is remarkable! The characters are so perfectly flawed and well-rounded that I fell in love with them all in a matter of pages. Of course, Sweetie and Melissa, being the two main characters knocked my socks off, but I also adored Melissa's parents. It takes skill to make a reader 'not like' a character in the beginning of a book, and then make them sympathize with them the more and more one finds out about them. I experienced this with Melissa's mother. I felt such a roller coaster of emotions while reading this that when it ended I burst into a huge fit of tears. Why? Why oh why did it have to end???
Chapter TEN, is extra special. I will remember that chapter forever. You'll just have to pick this up and read it to find out why :o)
The Author, Ann Best, of In The Mirror, which I reviewed the other day here, reviewed my poetry collection. I am so thrilled! She is such a lovely woman. So if you get the chance, please hop on over. If not to read my review, just to meet her and see how wonderful she is. I feel so silly. I forgot to link to her blog and her book in my review. I was so carried away with how good the book was, that it just seemed to slip my mind ... sorry Ann!
I wasn't intending on posting today, but something happened to me yesterday which I need to share with you all. I can't let the freshness of this experience dwindle before writing it down for you all to read.
This month there will be an article about my poetry collection published online. A very long and in-depth article focusing on a variety of things including my background AND the background of my parents' music career. I did NOT provide the critic with ANY of this background. NOTHING. He found it all online. ALL of it.
Thankfully he was kind enough to let me read it before publishing it. Boy am I glad he let me read it. It's not all praise. And this is totally fine with me. I'm not out looking for only praise, especially when the criticism is coming form an extremely educated mind and from someone who has done their homework. I really truly appreciate how close a reading this critic gave my book. I was in absolute awe. Now. I'm rambling a bit. My point here is, he found something I had said online a while ago that wasn't very nice. I'm not going to say what that something was. I removed it from my blog. And I kindly asked him to remove it from his article too because it could very well end up being read by someone closely related to that comment and jeopardize a future endeavor I have planned. Not to mention turn a whole community of people against me. Yes, it was that bad. I did not think anything of this comment when I wrote it. BUT the context it was in, in the article, made it sound just ABSOLUTELY awful.
So, if you want a career in writing, trust me when I advise you to NEVER write anything you don't want repeated. The smallest of an 'off' comment can bounce back up and bite you in the face. Even in people's comments. You may feel like you're just chatting to a friend, but you're not. It's very easy to forget that anything you put out there--here--in cyberland, is available to the world for scrutiny. I'm lucky. I'm very lucky the person who wrote this article allowed me to review it first. Imagine if he didn't. I think I might have had a heart attack. I've learned from my mistake now. And I want you to learn from it too.
I think I might sift through all my old posts soon and make sure there's nothing else I don't want repeated!
Anything like this happen to you? Are you careful about what you say online?
Next Saturday I'm leaving for my summer vacation for two weeks, so excuse me today while I stare into space while I try to work and imagine that I'm already there. Because I am SO tired. I need this holiday. I hope to spend each and every day lying on the beach with a good book. This is the beach I hope to become a vegetable on:
This has to be one of the most extraordinary books I have ever read. Do not be fooled by the simple language. It is stark and honest and just ... amazing.
I like to think of this memoir as a ballad. If you are familiar with this form of poetry, you would know that the content is often tragic, they begin in the middle of conflict, they contain brief lyrical moments, and that they are condensed. They are so condensed that, if well-written, the language often seems to not portray any emotion at all, but when they are read, the imagery is so strong and raw, and violent in its exposure, that one is often left with goosebumps and struck with utter awe. This is how I felt reading this memoir.
I literally had to force myself to put this memoir down at night. There is so much tension and ache and sometimes desperation woven between the minimalism of Ann's prose. And you don't even have to look that deeply. It just seems to pop out at you when you least expect it and leave you feeling naked.
As a writer of literary fiction, who tends to embellish prose with lyrical content to squeeze the utmost emotion out of my scenes, I am so impressed with this book. And I can confidently say that Ann has taught me the power of simplicity. Raymond Carver introduced me to it. Ann Best justified its worth.
What a wonderful experience to read this book. Ann, I take my hat off to you.
What books have you read recently that have left a strong impression on you?
I've had a couple of hurtful confrontations over the past couple of weeks and I feel hopelessly misunderstood. I walked away from them, after offering a logical and calm defense, feeling the sting of 'why now?' in my throat like bile. No one has ever spoken to me like this when I was an 'aspiring writer.' What's changed? Is it because I'm published? Have I turned into a different kind of person because of this? No, I haven't. So why am I treated differently? I don't want to be treated differently.
For some reason I feel like people think I am assuming some sort of superiority, or am just concerned about making friends to market my books. I'm not. I had been making friends online way before I ever signed that publishing contract. I'm not going to stop now.
I value the friendships I have made online. In fact, I have made some of the most wonderful and strongest friendships through this blog than I have in my entire life. And I would still be friends with these people regardless of whether they helped promote my books or not. The thing is, I am so excited to have my debut coming out this year that I want to share it. It is a dream come true. Why would I not want to celebrate that?
I'm doing everything possible to give my debut a decent kick-start in this crazy jungle of books without over-doing the promo and making people sick of hearing about it. There is a fine line and it's difficult to know where that is exactly. And I'm also trying to make it super easy on the the people participating in my tour. I don't expect them to remember dates. I don't expect them keep track of what they've signed up for, nor do I expect them write their own Amazon Chart Rush plug. I do all of that and I email them with all the necessary info. I have 90 people participating in my blog tour and I have to know, and keep track of, exactly what everyone has signed up for because there are five different things going on: Reviews, print ARCs and PDF ARCs to send and email out, simple release announcements, 44 interviews to answer and Amazon Chart Rush plugs. I am trying to make one of the biggest, most exciting events in my life run as smoothly as possible. Hence the rules and guidelines, and dates and deadlines and all that jazz. I'm just being organized. That is all.
On another, slightly humorous note, I'd like to make a few things clear:
I am not rich. In fact, this year I'm financially struggling the most I ever have.
I am not always happy. Life does still get in the way of that sometimes. This, however, does not make me any less thankful that I have my debut coming out. Sometimes I have to pinch myself to realize that it's actually happening.
I have opinions. I like to share them. I'm not out to step on anyone's toes by doing so. That's just me. I'm an honest person and I like to speak my mind. I have never, once, shared an opinion with the view of causing offense. I've always been outspoken and I don't plan on changing that. I don't want to have to censor myself. I do not want to be fake. I will NOT be fake.
I don't have a problem with swearing. I don't think that is a crime.
I don't like it when people make assumptions about me. It feels like being accused of a lie you never told and still being punished for it. It hurts. A lot. And I don't think I deserve to feel like that.
Have you ever felt misunderstood? Why? Were you able to fix it?
Please welcome Melissa Kline, the author of My Beginning. This amazingly talented woman is a fellow Lucky Press author, so I am thrilled to have her here today. Thank you for coming, Melissa!
Today is the official launch of my debut young adult novel, My Beginning! I am so honored to be a guest on Jessica's blog and to share this very special day with you! I have been dreaming of this day for a very long time.
I have been writing since I was 6 years old and I've completed ten young adult novels, but My Beginning is the only science fiction book I’ve ever written.
The idea for the book came to me in a dream where I experienced an adventure through the eyes of sixteen-year-old Ivory. She lived in a dangerous and toxic world where children were forbidden to venture outside. The dream was so vivid and unusual that I knew upon awakening that it was something special. I grabbed the nearest piece of paper and jotted the entire dream down, then put the paper away in a drawer. It wasn’t until right after I had my second son, about a year later, that I realized - "I’ve got to write this book!"
It took me about 2 months to complete the book with a newborn in tow. I would write all of my ideas down on notes during the day, then string them together at night. When the book was finished I cleaned it up a bit and shared it with friends at a writing workshop, then put it away and started a new project. I didn’t look at it for over a year until my current publisher, Lucky Press, requested it – which is an interesting story.
I had originally submitted a different book and my publisher asked if I had anything else. I was like, "Yes! Of course!" But... I haven’t looked at it for over a year and it’s sci-fi, which is a genre Lucky Press had never published. I sent the manuscript anyway thinking there was no way that it would ever be considered, but my publisher immediately fell in love with My Beginning and here we are!
My Beginning was so much fun to write. It’s a unique story full of suspense, romance and adventure. Here is a brief synopsis:
My Beginningis told through the eyes of Ivory, a 16-year-old girl who has lived her entire life within the walls of an institution: one of many supposedly set up to protect those within from a worldwide plague. She and all of the other surviving children live a strict, mundane life full of tasks and responsibilities—forbidden to go outside, congregate or look at the opposite sex.
Despite the uncompromising atmosphere, Ivory manages to pique the interest of the only boy who did not grow up in the institution, creating a love affair neither of them expected. Multiple secret meetings take a turn for the worse when they are caught and severely punished, but through unexpected circumstances Ivory and Aidan find themselves on the outside. After being taken in by a friendly, supportive community, the young couple realizes they’ve been lied to their entire lives. Yet, there is a lot more to the world than they could have ever imagined, and they soon learn of lifelike machines that threaten humankind.
Ivory faces many unexpected challenges as she matures in her relationship with Arian, and in the end it is up to her to save him and the world she has grown to love.