All posts by k rawson

YA author, freelance writer, technoligista, mom

My Do-it-Yourself Homegrown Self-Appointed MFA

I am never going to get an MFA.

In the first place, the cost of chasing one down is out of my budget–considering I have kids to put through college.

Secondly, even if I had the money, MFA programs have them whattaya-call-em…’standards‘, which means it’s unlikely I’d be accepted.

However, in the spirit of improving my craft, I decided to make 2018 the year of My Do-it-Yourself Homegrown Self-Appointed MFA.

Here’s what I did:

Read. A lot.

I didn’t break any Goodreads records, but I did beat my goal of 36 books this year. I read 40 fiction, motivational, and writing craft books in 2018.

In fact, the idea to earn my Do-it-Yourself Homegrown Self-Appointed MFA came to me after I came across the reading list of an MFA hopeful. This hopeful was pursing an MFA in Young Adult fiction and had been provided a list of ten YA books to chose from. They were supposed to pick three.

I decided to read them all.

Once I finished, I added more YA books to my to-be-read, both new releases and classic favorites. In addition to YA, I read chick lit, fantasy, romance, horror, literature, pulp, and even a few non-fiction.

Fangirl by Rainbow RowellGirls by Frederick BuschBad Girls Throughout History by Ann ShenThe Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa SeeThe Book Thief by Markus ZusakThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerSee All the Stars by Kit FrickBone Gap by Laura RubyOne of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManusSimple Truth by Carol BodensteinerEleanor & Park by Rainbow RowellThe New Jim Crow by Michelle AlexanderThe Wicked, Wicked Ladies in the Haunted House by Mary ChaseThe Hate U Give by Angie ThomasButterfly by Sonya HartnettMansfield Park by Jane AustenBoy Meets Boy by David LevithanAsking For It by Louise O'NeillIf I Was Your Girl by Meredith RussoForever . . . by Judy BlumeThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark HaddonTurtles All the Way Down by John GreenThirteen Reasons Why by Jay AsherRagtime by E.L. DoctorowThe Color Purple by Alice WalkerA Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le GuinYoung Goodman Brown by Nathaniel HawthorneSon of the Morning by Linda HowardEverything's Eventual by Stephen KingA Game of Thrones by George R.R. MartinSkies of Gold by Zoe ArcherThe Giver by Lois LowryAmerican Gods by Neil Gaiman

For craft books, I picked up some excellent suggestions after lurking around the boards at PitchWars. My favorite was Story Genius, but I also enjoyed Writing the Breakout Novel. I’m currently reading Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story.

Save the Cat by Blake SnyderWriting the Breakout Novel by Donald MaassStory Genius by Lisa CronBig Magic by Elizabeth GilbertWired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence

The 5 Second Rule by Mel RobbinsFor inspiration, I opened the year with Big Magic. However, for a good old-fashioned ass-kicking motivation, I listened to Mel Robbins’s audio book The 5-Second Rule. Three times.

 

 

The War of Art by Steven PressfieldStephen Pressman’s The War of Art is a favorite for helping me overcome the resistance/writer’s block that follows me like a tall shadow on a late winter afternoon.

I Found a Critique Partner.

Thanks to Wendy Heard, author of upcoming release Hunting Annabelle, I found a CP. Wendy offers a matchmaking service and matches writers by genre and level of experience. I hit the jackpot with my new Critique Partner, Gavin. Not only is he a talented writer full of insight, he’s got industry experience. I only hope I can be as much help to him as he’s already been to me.

I Got Professional Help.

When I started querying my latest novel this spring, I got lots of requests, but no takers. After the fourth or fifth “loved the writing, not the story” letter, I put my querying on hiatus and started getting serious about finding some professional help.

Image result for kit frick

Kit Frick, author of See All The Stars

I decided to go with Kit Frick. Kit is an extraordinarily talented writer. Her debut See All the Stars is a runaway success and she’s got three more books you can look forward to in the coming years. She’s also a gifted editor offering services through Copper Lantern Studio.

Writers can hire Kit for everything from coaching to Editorial Blueprints to full-manuscript editing. Her prices are beyond reasonable.

Right now, my novel is in her talented hands and I look forward to hearing back from her before the end of the year.

I Took Classes.

I took classes both online and in person. I enjoyed a journalism class, attended webinars, and attended two workshops at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, including Kelly Dwyer’s Five Elements of a Novel.

It was in Kelly’s workshop that I completely revamped my plot for my novel in progress. The feedback I got from Kelly and fellow participants was instrumental in strengthening my story.

I Got Some Writing Jobs.

Iowa’s Emerging Writers Pick up your copy today!

In 2018, I landed a couple of writing positions. I’m now a regular contributor for HER Magazine and have had stories and articles published in local lifestyle magazine Grande Living.

My short story “Hooked” was published in September of this year in Iowa’s Emerging Writers. I was honored and flattered when they reached out to me to request a submission, and proud to be a part of this project along with so many talented writers.

I’ve also been brushing up on my editing chops at 101words.org. For several hours every week, I wade through the slush pile, give writers feedback, and edit stories for publication.

I Wrote.

I wrote. I wrote a lot and then I wrote some more. I finished my third novel in March of 2018 (The Kwan Factor).

I wrote 72 articles and/or stories for my blog. I started two new blogs.

Plus, I’ve written over 200,000 words on my current work-in-progress–just since July of this year! Some of these words are probably even good. I’ll have muchos editing to do when it’s time to pin down the fourth draft of this untitled novel, but I’m proud of the fact that I’ve averaged 40,000 words a month.

The Year In Review

In 2018, I didn’t land representation for my most recently finished novel. I didn’t win Pitch Wars, I didn’t win any writing contests.

I didn’t land a 3-book deal with a major publisher, I didn’t get a fat option for my last novel, I didn’t land on anyone’s best seller list. In fact, I’ve hardly sold any books, and most days it seems my aspirations of making a living as a writer are as distant as Dan Brown’s aspirations for the Man Booker prize.

However, thanks to all this effort, there’s one thing I can check off my to-do list–I’ve earned my Do-it-Yourself Homegrown Self-Appointed MFA. And goddamn, when I look at all these accomplishments all one place, I’m tempted to name myself valedictorian or something.

If you need me, I’ll be signing my own diploma.

What Pegman Saw: Hallo Schönheit

Image result for elvis in the army

“They’re here again.”

Private Smith eyed the gate. A dozen German girls twirled their skirts and stared back hopefully.

“C’mon Smitty. Let’s go down there.”

He shrugged. “They don’t wanna meet no ‘nobody’. They’re here to see him.”

Even Johnson couldn’t argue that. Wherever the Third Armored went, throngs of fans followed—but they were no fans of the soldiers. They were fans of Elvis Presley. Meanwhile, Elvis spent next to no time at the base. He was seven kilometers away in Bad Nauheim.

Still, it didn’t stop the girls from showing up. Elvis wasn’t even all that handsome, Smitty thought. He ran a hand over his buzz cut. He’d be handsome too, if he hadn’t had to buzz his hair to the pink of his scalp.

“Let’s go down there anyway,” Johnson said.

There were a lot of girls. “What are we going to say to them?”

Hallo Schönheit, hallo.”

151 words

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories inspired by the prompt, click here.

This story was inspired by my dad, who was stationed in Germany with Elvis. He never met him, but said he was always surrounded by a crowd.

 

 

Last Stop

Minilik Squar Bus Stop, Ethiopia | Dinberu Getachew, Google Maps

Minilik Squar Bus Stop, Ethiopia | Dinberu Getachew, Google Maps

Nyala be mad at me again.

She won’t say it, but I know she is by the way she stares  like the bus might pop out of thin air if she hope it hard enough.

“It’ll happen for you some day, I know it,” I say, because it’s what I always say, but neither of us believes it anymore.

Me and Nyala, sitting at the bus stop; last time. Best mates since barefoot days, forever friends, married us brothers on the very same day in a double ceremony. We’ll raise a dynasty, we said.

It’s not my fault my babies come easy. Five years, three healthy boys, and now another in my belly snake-dancing like a happy day.

“I can’t be your friend anymore,” she say, not looking my way.

Don’t you remember us? I want to say. Don’t you remember our promises? But promises mean nothing.

150 words

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories inspired by the prompt or to submit your own, click here.

This week’s story was a story I had in mind to write, and so I went in search of a photo of two women in Ethiopia to represent it. I landed at this bus stop where I found not only two women in the midst of some apparent emotion–also these two ghostly girls. I knew then I’d found my spot.

 

 

My Inheritance

PHOTO PROMPT © Nick Allen

Even after the investigation was over, I left the crime scene tape up in the shed. It was mine now: the house, the land, his shed.

I went in there sometimes; stood in the greasy dark, smelling the dried blood, the ancient fear, imagining the screams of his victims. And when I got used to the light, I’d see his still-intact oil can collection, and the outlines of his implements of torture on the now-empty pegboard wall. Sharp shapes; so many.

I’d look at them and wonder…would the police give them back?

And what would I do if they did?

100 words

This has been an edition of Friday Fictioneers. Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting this party and thanks to Nick Allen for this week’s photo. To read more stories inspired by the prompt, click here.

For the Want of Courage

Bridal Veil Falls, Utah | Google Maps

It was where they were to be married. Not at the falls per se, but at the chapel down the ridge. Her in winter wool with a frost of lace upon her neck and sleeves, and him in a fine-tailored frock coat. At least that was how he had always pictured it. But it was not to be.

She had her head turned by a fella out a St. Louis and married him afore two years’ time. And he knew her his whole life.

Knew ‘of’ her at least. And she up and left. It weren’t fair. She was supposed to wait. Wait long enough for him to ask her hand. Long enough for him to pay a call. Long enough for him to work up the nerve to tip his hat—at the very least. He had a lot of working up to do.

But still, it weren’t fair.

150 words

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories inspired by the prompt or to submit your own, click here.

This Year’s River

PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson (Many thanks for the gracious loan of your photo. 😉

This year’s river ain’t no ankle wetter,
no minnow chaser,
no roll up your pant legs for a sunny Sunday wade.

This year’s river ain’t no trout fisher,
No flat-stone skipper,
no Sunday supper-dinner all strung up on a string.

This year’s river ain’t no parasol spinner,
no baptizing sinner,
no check-blanket picnic in the shade.

No, this year’s river is a bridge-out blocker, a gully road washer, a sweep you off the banks, because—

This year’s river is a baby-child taker, a widow-man maker, a trade-your-everything for mud, because—

This year’s river is a flood.


96 words (if you forgive liberal hyphenation-for-effect)
104 words (if you do not)

This has been an edition of Friday Fictioneers, hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. This week’s photo courtesy Dale Rogerson. To read more stories inspired by the prompt, click here.

What Pegman Saw: Stockholm

Copenhagen, Sweden,
Voigt Steffensen Hans (Kunstmaler) |
Kim Michael Wincentz
Google Maps

“Wait a minute, is that her?” I stepped closer, head tilted as I studied the broad brushstrokes which composed the face of the female dancer in Elias’s painting.

I turned back to Oscar, who stood in the center of the studio, arms folded across his chest. He nodded. “Take another look around.”

I walked the perimeter of the studio, more slowly this time, scrutinizing every female face in every painting. The sour mouth, the narrow jaw, the flint-chip eyes in the shadow of the heavy brow: they were all her. Every single woman in every painting—a decade of Elias’s work—and they were all her.

“Why would he do that? She abused him. Robbed him of every confidence. Crippled him socially. Why would he do that?”

Oscar walked to a large canvas resting on an easel. On it, the female face glared triumphantly. “It is because…I think he misses her.”

151 words

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories inspired by the prompt or to submit your own, click here.

Many liberties were taken in the writing of this little story, and my apologies to the artist for highjacking his/her work for my own twisted purposes. The prompt was in Stockholm, however after taking a number of tours of Sweden this morning, I wound up in Copenhagen and landed in this gorgeous studio. And somehow, my Stockholm concept got tangled up in the canvas here.

The tour of this studio is an example of why I love Google maps. Here I sit on a snowy winter morning in the midwest, and yet I was transported to this bright and sunny artists studio, smelling paint, fika, and strong coffee. There are 100 billion stories out there on Google maps and I can only write them one at a time. Which is why I need your help 😉

Have a super-amazing-most-awesome day!

Karen