Category Archives: News

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.

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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.

My April 14 Story Contest News and Spring Complaint

Imminent Spring

Here in the Midwest we’re still getting blasted with late-season snow every other day, but green things are bursting from the ground anyway.

In writing news, I submitted a story for Short Fiction Break’s spring contest. It’s called In the Ring. It was inspired by a story I wrote back in February for Friday Fictioneers called The Contender. As any of the Fictioneers will tell you, sometimes the story is so much more than the 100-word limit will allow! That story haunted me, so I was glad for the opportunity to dig in.

Per the contest guidelines, the story is about what happens when a character winds up stuck between a bad choice and a worse choice. If you like it, Please vote it for a readers’ choice award. If you don’t like it, well then I hope you like J. Hardy Carroll’s story instead.

Happy Spring! Or, if you’re in the southern hemisphere, have a most wonderful autumn.

Karen

We interrupt this regularly scheduled blog silence

…for an update.

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Following my brief hiatus to complete Nanowrimo, and my annual Food-and-Family-Fun-Fest that is December, I wanted to let regular readers my mom know I am back.

Look for my Women of Courage series to return Sunday. Apologies for letting this slip, but thankfully the world has not come crashing to a halt without my articles. Although it has been skittering dangerously close to the edge… Ahem, I’m sure it’s unrelated.

Look for my regular Pegman posts to continue on Saturdays, as well as the occasional photograph. Also hoping to participate in Friday Fictioneers more frequently in the coming year.

In publishing news, I’m in the thick of a second draft of my fourth novel, Best Friends for Never.

As always, thanks for visiting. Without you, I’d be talking to myself. Actually, I am talking to myself. NOTE TO SELF: Consider getting out of the house more.

-k

October Writing Update

I wanted to post an update for my many friends and followers to let folks know what I’m up to… Or actually that would just be you… So hey, you. Thanks for checking in.

A couple of weeks ago I finished the third round of editing on my novel The Kwan Factor. This is a novel four years in the making. I got the original idea while attending the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, where the amazing Kelly Dwyer encouraged participants to plot a novel in this week-long workshop. My snarky ADHD narrator proved hard to tame, and it wasn’t until I took the brilliant Hugh Ferrer’s Clock and Camera workshop summer before last that I came up with an approach to manage her. So happy to say this book is done (for now). Many thanks to the friends and family that supported me during this journey.

I’m currently working on ideas for what to work for NaNoWriMo. For those not in the know, that’s National Novel Writing Month , the writing challenge where participants write 50,000 words for the month of November. I have a couple of partly finished novels I’ve considered revisiting for this challenge, but I’m also brainstorming for what would be a series. I’ve got a few weeks to make up my mind.

Stay tuned for further developments!

Karen