Books…read them, write them, love them

Carol reading babys first book
Image via Wikipedia

My nickname as a child was Book-Worm. Now before you say it, it was not because I was wormlike. It was because I started a grand love affair with books when I was a toddler. The love affair still continues to this day. I grew up with a Disney annual broken up into the four seasons. Each night had a different story that my parents read to me. Soon though being read to was not enough. I wanted to lose myself in the words of the story, I wanted to wander through the pages of this fantastic world of imagination. Books were magical. I could start reading a story and soon I was lost in the paths that a writer had created. Books became my treasures, my adventures, my friends and my portals into different worlds and different times.

Before long, I was making up my own stories and telling them to my baby brother. I realised with that how powerful story-telling was. I also realised how much more powerful stories were when written down. My childhood crush with stories and books had grown into a love story.

I have always said that the worst punishment for me would be to take away my books, my pens and my paper. Some people live life through songs, others live life through activities. For me, words are a method of living. I have used books to learn and research. I have used books to escape from reality for a short moment in time.

In this digital world where so much time is spent immersed in technology or on the internet, books remain the one constant that ties the generations together. I love technology as much as the next person. Typing this post on a Macbook to post in a WordPress blog is a case in point. But sometimes I just need a detox from technology, as wonderful as it can be. Technology can also be draining. There are some times when I have been on the computer for large amounts of time and my eyes are burning with strain and fatigue. There are also times when I don’t want music playing or have flickering images from a television in my view. I have to switch off and walk away. I just want to relax. I want to take a breather…

Often I can go for a walk and the fresh air refreshes me. But the habit I turn to most often when I need a break is opening a book. There is something about opening a book and reading the first sentence in the first chapter that immediately releases all my tension and I find myself again. I become filled with wonder as much as I did when I was a child.

Lately there has been a lot of chatter online about books vs ebooks and which industry is going to ultimately win. The sad thing for me about this debate is that this has become a competition for survival on the books side of the debate. Today I read that someone said that books were dying and I actually caught my breath at that. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine a world without books and it horrified me.

I understand the convenience of ebooks but fail to see how this can be the death knell of paper-bound books. Suddenly I started getting quite a territorial feeling running through me. If ebooks mean the kiss of death for me being able to open a book and disappear into its pages then I have to take a stance.

But no; ebooks are not the kiss of death for books. E-books are convenient, cheap and relatively easy to obtain. As I am writing this I am waiting for my Kindle to arrive. But does my getting a Kindle mean that I am never going to buy a book again nor borrow books from the local library. No. I am getting a Kindle purely for the convenience when I am travelling. It would make my hand luggage much lighter. I always carry at least 3 books with me where ever I go.

I love libraries and book stores. Yes I still go to the Library as old-fashioned as that idea may seem. There is something about reading a book where the pages have been softened and worn by numerous fingers turning them. Then there is the smell. You know that smell – the well read book smell. There is no smell like it. I also love book shops. I don’t like shopping as a rule. But browsing in a book shop I can easily lose all sense of time and before I know it 3 hours has already passed. Bookshops and libraries are another way why the Kindle nor ebooks will become my primary form of reading material. There is no book shelf in Amazon. There is no tucked away armchair in the corner where you can get a preview of the book.

Another reason why e-books will not be my primary reading source is that books don’t need power points not rechargers. I can take my books with me anywhere and read. I have taken them on hiking and camping trips. Books are physical. You can hold them in your hands. You can feel the weight of the story in your hands. I don’t know about you, but I am a five senses type of gal, sometimes six senses. I need to touch something to know it is real. Books are a physical portal into new worlds of wonder and magic for me.

So yes, you may relegate books to the “old-fashioned” side of “trendy”. But then you better call me old-fashioned too. As long as there are readers there will be books. I believe I am not the only person, reader or writer, that will say that if books are dying then the world is going to become worse for wear. I can’t see parents teaching their children to read off a screen. Do you remember the first books your parents taught you to read from? One of my first was Mo the Monkey and El the Elephant.

So bring on e-books and kindles and the advance of technology. But don’t forget your first love of ink on paper just because some people are calling them “old-fashioned” or a dying industry. Go to your local book store and just spend an hour browsing through all the books. Take a seat in that corner and page through a few of your favourites. Go to your local library and take out a book. The best things in life are those that are sometimes relegated to “old-fashioned”. Don’t be scared to be called old-fashioned because you love books. Don’t be made to feel ashamed because you carry a bag full of books around. Cherish books. They have stayed faithful to you through all your growing pains. Stay faithful to books. Wear the title “Book Worm” with pride. I know I do. You can call me Book-Worm. Now I am going to tuck into the book I am reading…

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning

The Gift of Truth Telling

Truth
Image by TW Collins via Flickr

How important is telling the truth to you?

For many writers, they tell the truth about emotional subjects and difficult tales through their stories. They may change a few names around or they may base a character loosely on themselves. I believe all fiction does carry something of the writer‘s experience and emotional map about it. But there are those writers who are called to write a story that will make people question their world views. Their stories make the reader confront the truth. As we all know sometimes the truths in this world can be ugly and destroying. But sometimes there are those rare individuals who can use trials and torments to rise above their circumstances and use that very pain to bring comfort and nurturing warmth into all whose lives they touch. Then you go a step further and meet those same individuals who use their stories of pain as a looking-glass mirror where, through the naked reflection of their pain, they offer others in the same circumstances a way out, a way paved with hope and resilience. Tonight I have the honour of having such an individual and such a writer in the Dragonfly Scrolls studio with me. I am not going to digress anymore because tonight she is going to share her amazing story with you. So I am going to take a step back and let you be inspired by a woman who, like myself, believes in not only seeking the truth but in telling the truth in all its naked complexity. This is a story of a true survivor. Listen to her and have hope no matter how hopeless your world may seem right now.

Firstly thank you for joining me in the Dragonfly Scrolls studio…

Let us start by you introducing yourself to us…Who is Suzannah Burke?


Of all the questions I am ever asked this is perhaps the most difficult to answer. Who am I?  I am an Australian woman in my fifties.  I wake before sunrise and go back to bed after midnight.  I love to walk in the rain, and read in the sun.  I watched Toy Story 3 and cried; I sat with my 30-year-old daughter and watched the entire first series of Glee in one sitting, snuggled on the sofa with enormous amounts of munchies.  On her next visit, we watched the entire first season of Trueblood together.  I live alone on the northeastern coast of Australia in a small fishing village.  I am a friend, a neighbor, an acquaintance, an ex-wife, but my favorite title is mother. I am a writer fortunate enough to have had a book published.  I love my animals, my solitude and my life is as perfect as it’s going to get right now.

Tell us about your background in writing.

I didn’t really begin writing as more than a hobby until 5 years ago.  Like many people my friends said, “Hey, this is good stuff.”  I joined an online writing site and to my delight, they agreed with my friends. I wrote my first complete fiction novel for Nanowrimo in 2009.  I completed another fiction novel for Nanowrimo in 2010…and in between, I wrote “Empty Chairs”

I know that you have a book called Empty Chairs out.  Can you tell us a bit about it?


Empty Chairs is my biography from age three to age 11.  It covers the early years when I was subjected to horrendous abuse instigated by my mother and the pedophile ring she was a pivotal member of.  It covers the abuse and moves quickly on to my life living on the streets at age 11. I hope that people will see within the pages that the results of abuse can be life threatening and certainly life altering.  However, it also made me understand that I had a core of strength inside that simply refused to be broken.  I had a dream of something better and nothing would stop me striving towards that dream.

Now it must take great courage to write about painful events in your life but yet you have.

What was your inspiration for writing this story?

When I first hit the streets, I met and ultimately shared my life with a group of street kids.  We were together for 5 years, and some of us remained friends for over 4 decades. One of the gang was only 8 years old.  Her name was “Jenny.”  I was not the youngest at 11, which in itself will shock many people.  Jenny and I grew close and over the years maintained our bond.  Jenny had asked me to write about our lives on the street.  I used to write {for want of a better term} I wrote stories for Jenny when we were together, normally in the columns of newspapers that we used to sleep on.  I made Jenny the hero in all the stories; she was the Princess who always managed to save herself from whatever monsters I conjured up.  Jenny loved those stories.

I had made her a promise, that “One day” I would write it all down. I promised her I would tell everyone what is was like to live on the streets as we did. Jenny committed suicide on September 1st 2009.  I hadn’t kept my promise.  When I began to recover from my anger and sadness at her death, I made the decision to honor the promise that I had made to her. Empty Chairs is the result.

I have heard that for the month of April all the profits received for your book will be donated to ISPCAN the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.

That is quite a contribution. Can you tell us a little about ISPCAN?

The International Society for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, founded in 1977, is the only multidisciplinary international organization that brings together a worldwide cross-section of committed professionals to work towards the prevention and treatment of child abuse, neglect, and exploitation globally.

ISPCAN’s mission is to prevent cruelty to children in every nation, in every form: physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, street children, child fatalities, child prostitution, children of war, emotional abuse, and child labor.  ISPCAN is committed to increasing public awareness of all forms of violence against children, developing activities to prevent such violence, and promoting the rights of children in all regions of the world. ISPCAN invites you to join forces with its members around the world to protect children in need: their bodies, minds, hearts, and rights.

I think this is a very worthy cause. Can you tell readers where to get a copy of your book in April?

The kindle version on Amazon is here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004K6MJJK/ref=sc_vs__empty_2520chairs_2520by_

The paperback version on Amazon is here:http://www.amazon.com/Empty-Chairs-story-about-child/dp/1453858520/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_2

The Smashwords edition in kindle or eBook is here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/38452

Question: What is your hope for this book and for this cause Susannah?

I hope that people will read this and begin to understand and acknowledge that Child abuse is not only perpetrated in poor neighborhoods, it is not restricted to the uneducated masses…people appear to have a misconception of Abuse, perhaps to safely distance their thoughts from anything so sordid and difficult to comprehend they lump child abuse in a category. That is a misconception that must change. News flash folks, I came from an upper middle class background. My abusers were pillars of the community.  These pedophiles didn’t drive rusted out cars and wear tacky clothes.  They drove Mercedes- Benz and Porsche. They wore Armani and Dior. There are NO social boundaries when it comes to pedophilia.

Abuse is a terrible crime that humans seem to excel at. I am sure there are many people out there who have no support and no place to run to. For readers who may know of or have experienced abuse, what would you say to them now?

When I was a child, there was no place to turn.  This horror was never spoken of.  Today thanks to the hard work of many wonderful people worldwide and the internet, every hospital has counseling and referral facilities.  Doctors are mandated to report suspected abuse to the relevant authorities if the child is under age.  Police departments have their own departments set up specifically to deal with complaints of this nature.  Salvation Army, Red cross, and most churches have their own teams where a person can phone anonymously to access assistance. I have a very long list of help sites on my blog, covering the USA the UK and Australia. The list is growing daily.  I check all the sites before I add them to be certain they are legitimate and approved.  If you are reading this interview and you have been abused or suspect someone you know may be experiencing it now please speak up.  The avenues will respect your privacy, they WILL believe you.  At times especially with younger folks, it is the fear that they will not be believed that prevents them seeking help.  The people and the facilities out there are now immense, they will help you to take all the steps necessary to either stop the abuse or recover from abuse inflicted long ago.

Looking back at your life through the mirror of Empty Chairs, would you say there was a defining moment that led you to write down your story in this book?

Jenny’s death by her own hand was the catalyst.  She was a precious, marvelous human being, yet her soul was murdered long before she took her last breath.  I was so devastated and angry when I got the call. It took me months before I could calm down enough to write the book clearly without emotional overload.

After reading the sample chapter of this book, I see that you chose to write this story in present tense. This creates a really powerful reality where the reader sees everything through your deep POV (point of view).

This must have been very difficult for you as you would have re-experienced much of the heartache and pain again?

Did you have a support system to help you through the writing of this story?

I told no one that I was writing the book, I didn’t want to inflict what I was dealing with on anyone else. I needed to do it in my own time and without questions when I had almost completed it I posted the first chapter on The Night Publishing site. Tim Roux who is Night Publishing contacted me, and on the basis of chapter, one he signed me to a publishing contract for Empty Chairs.  To say I was stunned would be a major understatement.

What would you say was the biggest challenge in writing a non-fiction story based on your life story?

I had flashbacks and panic attacks during the writing of the book. I often had to stop and take myself outside into the clean air to gain a perspective and continue writing. The biggest challenge in so far as the writing itself was to remain true to who I am now and yet recall how I felt then without hyperbole or drama. I needed to allow the things to unfold as I remembered them. I am aware that it is a difficult thing to read.  My honesty can be daunting.  Yet it is not a subject that can be prettied up for public consumption.  I wrote it exactly as I remembered it.

What advice would you give to a writer contemplating on writing a similar memoir style biography?

Be aware that many people simply don’t want to hear about painful topics.  They label this kind of work as “Misery Memoir” You must be prepared for folks to not want to know any more about a very painful topic.  I am one of the very fortunate few who has a Publisher that has supported me.  If you decide to write a biography remember to be true to yourself every step of the way.  I had one publishing house that wanted to sign the book, but only if I prettied it up for general consumption, I refused.

If you decide to self publish be prepared to do the heavy-duty promotional work required to have people read your work.  My publisher is very supportive but I still have a need to put in the hours to help people learn about my work.  Set yourself a target every day, try, and keep to it.  If you find yourself getting caught up in the emotion of the book it will reflect in your writing: that is not necessarily a bad thing, no one wants to read a book devoid of any emotion, but by the same token people need to be able to read the book without the feeling that they are being preached at or ranted to.  Sometimes you need to put it aside and distance yourself a little before you continue.  Most of all believe in yourself.

Since “Empty Chairs” is non-fiction, will you be writing some fiction/have you written any fiction?

I had already completed a Comedy/Romance novel “Dudes Down Under” before commencing “Empty Chairs” and during Empty Chairs, I added more to the fiction book, and I needed to have the Comedy as a release from the remembering.  I also have a fiction Psychological Thriller “Twisted “completed which I’m currently editing.

Would you say there is quite a large difference between writing fiction and non-fiction?

Oh hell, yes!  There is no comparison.  My non-fiction book does not allow me the luxury of inventing characters, places, and happenings.  Truth is often more difficult to write.  With my Fiction work, I have a wonderful time, developing the plot and inventing and rounding out the characterizations.

What other genres do you write in and why?


I write in so many different genres, ‘Dudes Down Under” is a Comedy/Romance I had a ball writing it, and inventing my pivotal chapter linking “character” of Cyril…Cyril is a 28ft long crocodile who wears Armani, drinks copious amounts of JD loves Al Pacino and Brando, dances to “Some enchanted evening” and whose thoughts on every imaginable topic are only known to the reader. The misunderstandings are rife as the story is set on a brand new tropical island resort catering only to the Hollywood ‘A’ listers. What Cyril does to the croc skin luggage of the stars is not to be missed. I adore the escapism of Comedy, and the fun of the romantic scenes. As for my other novel “Twisted” Phew!  What can I say…I have a ball again in a different way, by killing off folks and weaving in a serial murderer and a conspiracy as well, again escapism. I also submit regular short stories online in contests ranging from westerns to paranormal. The only topics I have yet to tackle is Science Fiction and Fantasy…I don’t feel I have enough knowledge for one and am not comfortable with the other.

Are you working on any new projects now?  Can you share anything about them?

I am currently writing the follow-up to Empty Chairs as so many kind people have asked me what happened then?  Where did you go?  What did your life turn out like?

So, yes…I am picking the book up the day after book one ends.  I am also working on another novel entitled “The inheritance” about a young Australian women who is made Guardian of her wealthy US friend’s 4-year-old child.  It’s developing nicely and will I think be labeled as a romance when I am done exploring all the possible journeys that the characters are taking me on.

What would you like you lasting legacy to be as a writer?

This is a difficult question: I guess with my Non-fiction work I would like people who have bought it to say, “Hey, if she can get through it and have a richly rewarding life, then hell, so can I.”  With my fiction work, I love to inform and entertain; if that is how my readers feel then I would be one very delighted woman.

Can you tell us where to find you on the web Susannah?

Okay…  I have my book review/interview/talk writing site on http://sooozsaysstuff.blogspot.com

My book related site for Empty Chairs is on http://staceydansonemptychairs.blogspot.com

I have a competition that I run every month that is very popular at http://paragraphsofpower.blogspot.com

And….my comedy romance and interviews with a crocodile site is http://dudesdownunder.blogspot.com

Phew, I do have a few.

Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview with me.

I commend your courage in bringing a very real and painful subject to life.

Your story is one that is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit even in the face of great pain.

It has been an honour and pleasure to feature an author with such a worthy message.

I hope that you will come back and visit with me in my studio in the near future and tell us more of your future endeavors.

I trust that Empty Chairs becomes a fast best seller so that you may raise many well needed earnings for ISPCAN.

I look forward to watching your future success and especially to your sequel to “Empty Chairs”. Your’s is a story that had to be written. Thank you for showing the great courage you have by writing it.

I am so appreciative of the time and the kindness you have shown, thank you for the opportunity.

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.

For those readers interested in finding out more about the prevention of child abuse, I have added a link to the ISPCAN.

ISPCAN

Tales for Canterbury

This week has been an amazing week in so many ways. It started off with my birthday where I was spoilt by the special people in my life..those that I am privileged to call family and friends. But then the week got even better.

A couple of weeks ago a writer friend connected me with an editor in New Zealand who wanted to put together an anthology of short stories from different authors with the common theme of Survival, Hope and the Future. All proceeds would be donated to the Red Cross for the Christchurch 2011 earthquake appeal. After talking to the editor about what they were looking for, I was invited to submit a short story. I finished the story and submitted it on the 21st of March.

On Monday this week I had the wonderful email that told me they loved my story and with a few edits they wanted to include it in the anthology.

Today my publishing contract arrived which really brought it home to me.

I am very excited, honoured and privileged to be published in this incredible anthology. This anthology is especially dear to my heart as Christchurch was once home to me a few years ago and I have many close friends who still live in Christchurch. So to be able to be part of a project that gives back to the city of Christchurch and helps in some small way to rebuild that courageous city really fills my heart with tremendous joy.

The anthology is called Tales for Canterbury. Below are details of the blog that has been set up by the editors for this anthology as well as a list of all the authors that are contributing. I have also included a link to the pre-order site of the anthology. The anthology will be available in both E-book format and Paperback format. 100% of all proceeds are going to the Red Cross for the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal. There are going to be well over 2 dozen stories in this anthology by both New Zealand authors and international authors. This is an opportunity for readers everywhere to be able to support the community of Christchurch who have shown such resilience and courage in the face of a huge calamity. Instead of falling down, they have stayed strong determined to rebuild their community and their city.

Tales for Canterbury

List of Authors contributing

Get your copy here

Thank you once again to the editors of Tales for Canterbury for firstly inviting me to submit and finally for the great honour of accepting my submission for contribution.

For Christchurch, a city always dear to my heart – Stand Strong and Stand Tall.

– Kim

Upcoming…Watch this space

The first issue of Mad. Art by Harvey Kurtzman.
Image via Wikipedia

I have decided to find the genie in the lamp. He has spent enough time parading around 1001 Arabian Nights with Aladdin and company. I need him stat, as they say in the medical dramas. I find that I need the magical ability to fit 48 hours into 24 hours and that I need this for every day for the next month. 24 Hours is just not enough anymore to get all the things done that I must get done, both writing related and day job related not to mention still fitting in normal life activities like eating and sleeping…

But I digress….enough with the wishes….

There are some exciting events happening in my writing life and my blogging life. April looks like it is going to be as Mad if not Madder than March. I have quite a few submissions due this coming month as well as quite a bit of editing to do.

As for blogging…Warrior Wednesdays is going to be interviewing some amazing authors and writers and I now have all interviews confirmed and locked in until the end of August. So I know where you will all be every Wednesday: sitting down with a cuppa and joining this girl with a quill as I interview some very talented people out there. As Warrior Wednesdays has gained a regular following I am going to start upping the ante as they say a bit…I am going to start digging even deeper into these Warrior Writers and Creative’s  Psyche to get to the real secret veins of gold at the heart of their creativity. For this, I am going to ask for audience participation. That would be you dear readers and fellow creatives / bloggers. I need you to tell me what questions you really want answered from these writers. So in order to do this, I have set up two methods of dialogue and discussion.

Warrior Wednesdays Page

This is the area I have created for Audience Participation. This is your area. You get to post a question here that you would like answered by each Warrior. Each week, starting on the first Wednesday of April I will pick a question from this page (it could be your question) to ask the Warrior.

Warrior Wednesdays Tweets

This is a twitter chat room where you can tweet your questions. You can also discuss the previous interviews. I will be asking all the Warriors that I have interviewed already whether they can do a guest host on this tweet chat and you can delve further into anything you would like to know from them. I will let you know via here when we will be doing some guest hosting with the Warriors themselves.

This will allow you to not only read the interview but get you involved in the interview process. So starting this week, you have 1 week to post your questions.

Wednesday 30/03 Warrior

For this week’s Warrior Interview I have the very gutsy and sassy Leigh K Hunt in studio. I have already received her interview answers and let me tell you that this is going to be a Wowser of an interview. So watch this space tomorrow. You definitely want to be here for this interview.

Other Exciting Developments

This coming month of April is: Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention month. So in honour of this worthy cause I am going to have the honour of interviewing an Australian Author who is donating the April income from her new biography to this cause. This interview will be hosted on Friday, April the 1st this week. So watch this space for that interview.

&

In April I am going to be reviewing a pre-print new fantasy book. I just received the book today so will be letting you know a review date once I have read it. Let me just tell you the book looks like a very intriguing read.

So yes, April is going to be a Mad month again but there are some exciting developments coming up. I hope to see you all here.

Look forward to seeing you all participate…lets have some great blog discussions.

– Kim

First Draft..Second Draft..Third Draft..

So it begins
Image by Graham Binns via Flickr

Today has been a good day for refocusing. I was on twitter chats #writecraft and #storycraft and the topics were first drafts. As most chats end up going, it went down other paths but the main topics were first drafts and first chapters.

One of the questions was: What tools do you use to get into the Zone?

Another question was: Are emotions necessary for being in the Writing Zone?

A third question was: How do you turn off the internal editor and should you turn off the internal editor in the first draft?

There were a number of great points and questions raised. The great thing about these chats are the wealth of information us writers can be for each other. Each of us has a unique spin on the craft of writing and the writing life. Each of us, whether published or unpublished, have at least got through a first chapter and many have full first drafts completed.

So today I am going to ask you these questions which were raised in today’s chats:

  1. How important is a first chapter? Do you believe a book rests on the first chapter?
  2. Do you think a first chapter must have an immediate active element or immediate conflict?
  3. Which tools do you use – Music/Software/Stationery/Surroundings/Time of Day – to get yourself into the Creative Zone?
  4. Do you feel that the key to being in the Creative Zone is emotion – whether controlled emotion or the release of emotion?
  5. How do you turn off the internal editor?
  6. Should you turn the internal editor off during first draft and if so, how do you do this?
  7. Do you outline the first draft before writing it?

So the questions are given to you? What are your secrets for first chapters and first drafts?

What other tips can you share with me and the readers of this blog?

Post any tips or queries regarding first chapters and first drafts here…and lets get a discussion going.

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.

Writing without words…

LesCorsetsLeFuretParis18cutA
Image via Wikipedia

…I know you just saw the title of this post and ???????  filled your mind…

Of course you and I both know that writing defines words. Or does it? Is it words that fill your mind before you start writing? Or is your mind assailed by images, emotions,instincts, sensory stimulation?

I believe that text-book writing is filled with words both in the conception and the birth of the product. But is poetry / prose / fiction filled with words? How do you picture your imagination – in essence, how do you imagine your imagination? Is it words you see?

Maybe it is. But for me writing inspiration is not made up of words. Indeed sometimes I battle to find the words to convey what I see, hear and feel in my imagination. For me, my poetry in particular is not formed of words. Although words in a poetic form are the final birth product of my conception, words are not how those poems begin. For me poetry is music, emotion, passion, heart, sound, sight, taste, feel and instinct. Words don’t come into it. But to convey what I feel, I must use words. Because we are verbal creatures. We speak with words. Words give my poems a voice. But my poems could easily be a music composition, a sculpture, a painting or a photograph. All of these would convey the feelings and emotions that are in my poetry.

What about fiction and prose? Surely those come under “writing with words”? Do they? For myself my stories come through sensory and emotional stimulation. I write best with music. This is common to a lot of writers. But for me the music I am listening to leaks out and inspires my writing. If I put a name to it, I could call it The Fountain head of Music and the water that flows from here is the inspiration behind my stories.

Which part of the human brain is the home of creativity? The right side of the brain or the Right Brain is. The left side of your brain dictates logic, thought and speech. The right side dictates emotion, fantasy and creativity. Aha!

So why do we end up writing with words? We choose to write with words so that our right side of our brain can communicate with our left side of the brain. We choose to write because society finds words easier to interpret and understand than a painting, a sculpture or a music composition.

The talent of a writer is to interpret those feelings, emotions and senses into words and sentences that the average Joe can understand and appreciate. It is a worthy gift that holds a weight on the shoulders of a writer. As writers we are the bridge between logic and emotion, we are the bridge between fantasy and understanding.

So when we feel blocked or battle to get past a point in a story is it because we have dead-ended inspiration? Have we lost inspiration? No, I don’t believe we have. Speaking for myself, I get blocked when I use too much of my left brain and over-think a story / character / scene. I use that time to peel back the layers of my story and try to refocus on what the original conception was. It might have been a dream I had. (I often get my story ideas from dreams – a visual smorgasbord of random sights and sounds.) It might have been from a piece of classical music I  hear. It might have been inspired by something I saw. I start refocusing with my right side of my brain and that’s what unlocks me. I don’t like the term “blocked”. I prefer the term “locked”. All you have to do sometimes is retrace your imagination’s steps and find where you misplaced the key so that you can unlock the story again.

The epiphany of the day is that the key to interpreting your imagination and your inspiration through words is to refocus the right side of your brain. You need to write without words….

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning

 

Short,Sweet & To The Point

story

I have recently been stretching my narrative abilities through the medium of Short Story. This is a medium that I find very challenging. Not since High School have I really read or written any Short Stories. Last year at the RWNZ Writers’ Conference that I attended I specifically enrolled in a talk on the Short Story and on Novellas. Then this year I started looking at writing some Short Stories for competitions. This month though I am working on three Short Stories. One is for an anthology that I have been asked to contribute to. The other two are for writing competitions. So I thought today’s post would be focused on the Art Form of Short Story Writing.

What is the difference between a Short Story and a Novel?

A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas (in the 20th and 21st century sense) and novels. (Wikipedia)

A short story is more concise and tight in writing than a novel. Unlike a novel where there may be a number of incidences leading to one climax; a short story usually contains one incidence.

A novel can have multiple plot lines, different settings and a variety of characters. A short story has one plot that covers a short time period in one setting and fewer characters.

A novel is very structured in the traditional 5 point structure: Plot; Exposition, Complication, Climax, Resolution and Anti-Climax. A short story on the other hand follows a much looser structure. You have a limited space to write in so often the beginning of the story is started abruptly and often in the middle of action. The Short Story still has a Climax/Crisis/Turning Point. The ending of a Short Story is abrupt and open sometimes having a moral turn to the story. Short Stories that follow a strong moral or ethical theme are called Parables or Fables.

Now we come to the Length of a Short Story. The classic definition of a Short Story dictates that it should be read in one sitting. When talking Word Count though there are varying definitions. Often the consensus is that a short story is between 7000 and 9000 words. Once a short story gets to a count of 15 000 – 20 000, it starts becoming a Novella. Stories with less than 1000 words are called Flash Fiction.

The History of The Short Story

Short Stories find their birth in oral story telling. All the ancient cultures of this world have a base in oral story telling. Stories that were told to one another to pass down truths and teach lessons. These stories were the fodder for early imaginations. As children short stories are the first stories we come to hear, read and love. Whether we call them Fairy Tales, Bedtime Stories or Fables; these are all Short Stories. Think of ghost stories you heard sitting around camp fires or the stories your parents told you to calm you when you woke from a nightmare. In contemporary times, magazines are filled with Short Stories. Radio brought another form of media to the art of Short Stories. Short pieces are pieces of fiction to wet our imaginative taste buds.

These are the points to write a successful Short Story:

  • Have a very clear theme but Beware of being Preachy
  • Have a very strong Protagonist with clear characteristics and antagonist and a maximum of 2 other characters should secondary characters be needed
  • Hook your readers with a powerful first paragraph
  • Immediately grab the reader’s attention with an action or a conflict point
  • Strong POV – Choose 1 point of view to write from
  • Stick to one tense: Either Past Tense or Present Tense
  • Decide if your Narrator is going to be subjective or objective
  • Write tight and meaningful dialogue
  • Be very concise in your setting: Include just enough detail to put your reader into the story but make sure your detail only adds to the story
  • Set up the plot very clearly before writing
  1. Beginning – Start with a situation of conflict
  2. Middle – Present the problems (Rising Action) that occur from this situation
  3. End – Solve the problem. Keep the reader’s suspense by revealing the final point as late as you can.
  • Create Conflict and Tension quickly
  • Build this Conflict/Tension to a Crisis Point/Climax
  • Find a Resolution by showing your character has learnt and will grow from the Conflict you threw them into
  • Use vivid imagery
  • Use your words like a man uses water in a desert: very sparingly and with clear intent

Below are authors that were successful at both the Art form of Short Stories and Novels:

Charles Dickens, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Nathaniel Hawthorne, Virginia Woolf, Boleslaw Prus, Rudyard Kipling, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, P.G. Wodehouse, H.P. Lovecraft and Ernest Hemingway

Like with any medium of story telling you need to immerse yourself in Short Stories to be a successful Short Story Writer. Read Short Stories. Read some fairy tales or fables. Take note of what points the various authors use to make that Short Story a success.

What have I learnt from Short Stories?

I have found that dipping my pen back into Short Story telling is teaching me to be concise and to the point in my writing. It is teaching me the value of a gripping start to a story. It is teaching me to have a very clear POV. IT is also teaching me the essential tool of having FOCUS in a story. I have even been editing one of my full length novels with all the above points in mind. I think that the lessons from writing a short story translate perfectly into a Suspense / Thriller or Adventure story. Your words and sentences have to be short and sharp. You have to connect with the reader in a very immediate way that is very visceral in impact. This is definitely a medium of writing that I am going to continue to further hone my writing craft.

Have you written any Short Stories? What challenges did you face?

Stretch your creative muscle this week by writing a Short Story. You may just find that this Art Form teaches you essential points about writing that you have missed before now.

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning

I am back blogging!!

lock
Image via Wikipedia

Well this has been a very frustrating 5 days. Since Thursday last week I have been locked out of my blog as well as all other WordPress sites. I was ok on Friday. On Saturday I was starting to get impatient. By Sunday I was nail-biting, wondering whether any of my posts would still be there. By Monday I had succumbed to the idea that it may be a long while until I get back onto WordPress. I was thankful that, in the worst case scenario of being locked out permanently, I had backed up all my posts and could re-archive them via a new blog.

The one plus about the situation was that I finally got to grips with tumblr. I had toyed with tumblr this year; mainly using it for posting photographs. But with WordPress denied to me, I was forced to get tumblrised with tumblr. I learnt how to add a comments tab as well as a “Facebook Like” page. I also realised that should the need rise, I could blog from tumblr.

Just as I was giving up hope on WordPress and preparing to grieve my loss of my beautiful Dragonfly Scrolls, I logged on this evening and….I was in. The site was very slow and took about 15 minutes to get me in but I was in. The first thing I did was check that all my previous posts were intact and unharmed. Thankfully I can report that they are all intact.

I did have a few breakthroughs during my enforced lock-out. I was forced to get down and dirty with a short story that I have to write this month. I had a theme and an idea but the characters and the essential plot kept on evading me. Finally inspiration struck and I had my main character. The story suddenly came alive for me.

This made me realise once more that for me Character is the all-important element in a story. Without a Character I have no emotional connection no matter how good the story idea may be. So for me no Character is a creative block.

So now I have a Character and I can see where this story is going. Suddenly where before a faceless Character stood at a four-way crossing not knowing which way was the best route to take; now a Character with purpose and drive took me down a route that was suddenly clear of obstacles.

Another plus about this enforced lock-out was that  inspiration struck constantly this last weekend. I have a head full of story ideas. So I have to invest in a new notebook that I can keep handy and capture the ideas as they flow. I have five submissions to complete by the end of this month, not to mention work on two WIPs. So these ideas are going to have to take a backseat for a little while until I take them out and give them the full attention they deserve.

For now I am just happy to be back in the land of WordPress. Watch out for me here. The next post will be a new interview for the Warrior Wednesdays series…If you don’t find me here know that I have been locked out again. Do not despair there is more than one way to word a blog. If not on WordPress, look for me on tumblr. Post I will…by hook, crook, WordPress or tumblr…

For now I leave you with a taste of one of my WIPs. This is a piece I tumbled on my tumblr site:

A snapped twig in the dark

Inspiration is sometimes loud and jarring. But sometimes it is that one snapped twig in the dark forest. There is an eery silence and you believe you are all alone and then very faintly you hear a distinctive snap: someone is walking there. Suddenly you are not alone.

Today I heard the snapped twig in the dark forests of my imagination. It is the foot tread of a story. It moves quickly and quietly through the forest. Is it following me or am I following it? I still my thoughts and listen. The dark silence is almost deafening. Nothing.

Out of the corner of my eye I catch a glimmer of movement. There is a shadow behind the tree. My heart beats violently struggling to maintain its home in my chest.

I feel watched.

Yellow eyes…

© All rights reserved Kim Koning.

To submit or not to submit

Banned Books #4
Image by ellen.w via Flickr

“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.” – Barbara Kingsolver

Writing is not a job description. A great deal of it is luck. Don’t do it if you are not a gambler because a lot of people devote many years of their lives to it (for little reward). I think people become writers because they are compulsive wordsmiths.” – Margaret Atwood in The Times

Any man who keeps working is not a failure. He may not be a great writer, but if he applies the old-fashioned virtues of hard, constant labor, he’ll eventually make some kind of career for himself as writer.
Ray Bradbury
The reason 99% of all stories written are not bought by editors is very simple. Editors never buy manuscripts that are left on the closet shelf at home.
– John Campbell
There are three difficulties in authorship: to write anything worth publishing — to find honest men to publish it — and to get sensible men to read it.
– Charles Caleb Cotton
An artist’s sensitivity to criticism is, at least in part, an effort to keep unimpaired the zest, or confidence, or arrogance, which he needs to make creation possible; or an instinct to climb through his problems in his own way as he should, and must.
Christopher Fry
I went for years not finishing anything. Because, of course, when you finish something you can be judged…I had poems which were re-written so many times I suspect it was just a way of avoiding sending them out.
– Erica Jong
You may be able to take a break from writing, but you won’t be able to take a break from being a writer…
Stephen Leigh

To submit or not to submit…that is the question of the week?

It is one thing to decide to write a story, it is another thing to finish this story and still a completely other thing to submit the story to a professional. It takes courage to do all three but I believe the greatest accomplishment and most courageous of these three is: to finish this story. Of course there is nothing stopping you from then putting your completed manuscript in a hidden drawer with the secret knowledge that you have completed a book.

Is this why you wrote your story? To hide it, unacknowledged by any but you. Perhaps this is your reason. For that I, nor anyone, can judge you. But what happens if there is a fire and your manuscript burns before you can free it? Then you would have put all that work and courage, all those tears of frustration and smiles of joy, into something that has become nothing. Soon, you will forget your story and then it will disappear like a thread on the end of a zephyr’s tail.

What is your other option? You are then faced with the quandary at the beginning of this post:

To Submit or Not to Submit

  • You have written it and rewritten it countless times.  You are at that point in the relationship where you commit or leave.
  • You commit.
  • You write a synopsis.
  • You write a query letter.
  • You find agents who accept your genre.
  • You submit your manuscript.

Now you wait. From some agents you wait for weeks, some days, some moments. But eventually answers will start trickling in. Some of them will be non-committal. Some of them will be bland refusals. Some will be harsh. Some will be filled with constructive criticism. But all these first ones, if you are like most authors both known and unknown, will be rejections.

But are they rejections?

Yes, they have refused to take your book under their wing. At first, your initial reaction will be like that of a parent being told their kid was the only kid not picked for the sports team. You will feel personal anger, even irritation. Then you will feel doubt at your own ability.

Again I ask the question, are they all rejections?

Perhaps the question should be why am I being rejected? You may get the answer to that with the rejection slip or you may never know. But you must remember one very important fact: Agents / Editors / Publishers are all human beings. This means they are fallible. They are subjective. They are emotional beings. They can make mistakes. They have personal likes and dislikes. Second important fact: As a first time submission, they do not know you personally. This is not a rejection of YOU.

Here are some important rejections you can take heart from:

Emily Dickinson: Recluse and poet Emily Dickinson is a commonly read and loved writer. Yet in her lifetime she was all but ignored, having fewer than a dozen poems published out of her almost 1,800 completed works.

Theodor Seuss Giesel: Today nearly every child has read The Cat in the Hat or Green Eggs and Ham, yet 27 different publishers rejected Dr. Seuss‘s first book To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.

Stephen King: The first book by this author, the iconic thriller Carrie, received 30 rejections, finally causing King to give up and throw it in the trash. His wife fished it out and encouraged him to resubmit it, and the rest is history, with King now having hundreds of books published the distinction of being one of the best-selling authors of all time.

J. K. Rowling: Rowling may be rolling in a lot of Harry Potter dough today, but before she published the series of novels she was nearly penniless, severely depressed, divorced, trying to raise a child on her own while attending school and writing a novel. Rowling went from depending on welfare to survive to being one of the richest women in the world in a span of only five years through her hard work and determination.

Jack London: This well-known American author wasn’t always such a success. While he would go on to publish popular novels like White Fang and The Call of the Wild, his first story received six hundred rejection slips before finally being accepted.

So the question is: After submitting and after rejection do you give up?

Do you give up after 5 rejections?

Do you give up after 25 rejections?

Jack London did not give up after 600 rejections. You may say: I am not Jack London. No. Quite correct. You are not Jack London. You are YOU. As such you have a unique story all of your own. Do you hide that ability, do you deny that story to the rest of the world just because some people do not want it? There are hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of agents and editors in this industry. The right one will come along. It may take you years. But if writing is your passion, your focus, your purpose: Do you dare give up?

Now I leave the question with you:

To submit or Not to submit?

To give up or To PERSIST?

Only you can be your guide.

– Kim


© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning.

Synopsis: Are you in or out of Sync?

Unique Selling Proposition / Unique Selling Po...

Recently I completed an online workshop run by Savvy Authors. The course was called Pass the Shovel. In this course each lesson was about breaking down your story, your plot, your voice, your dialogue and your characters. I found the whole course very worthwhile but the lesson that I found the most enlightening was lesson 1. Lesson 1 was about breaking down your book into a summary or what the writing industry calls a synopsis.

synopsis |səˈnäpsis|noun ( pl. -sesˌsēz|)a brief summary or general survey of something : a synopsis of the accident.

• an outline of the plot of a book, play, movie, or episode of a television show.

DERIVATIVES synopsize |-ˌsīz| |səˈnɑpˈsaɪz| verb

ORIGIN early 17th cent.: via late Latin from Greek, from sun- ‘together’ + opsis ‘seeing.’

synopsis – noun

the synopsis was so intriguing that I just had to buy the book summary, summarization, précis, abstract, outline,

digest, rundown, roundup, abridgment.

Then on my writing groups that I belong to, there have been various discussions about the horrors and necessities of the Synopsis. So I thought today’s post should be about the topic of the month: Synopsis ~ Are you in or out of sync with your synopsis?

So why is a synopsis necessary?

  • A synopsis is needed when you write your query letter and you pitch your book.
  • An agent does not have the time to read the first 50 pages of every manuscript that lands on their desk. They need a “taster” to see if your book is going to be featured on their menu. Cue in your synopsis.
  • An editor does not have the time to read the first 50 pages of every manuscript that an agent lands them. They also need a “taster” to see if your book is up their alley. Cue in your synopsis.
  • Your synopsis is your billboard advertisement that gets the passing agent’s/editor’s attention on the highway to a sold and published book.
  • Your synopsis is the clincher in getting your book from your bottom desk drawer to the hands of an agent then an editor and finally your reader.
  • Your synopsis is a SELLING TOOL. It is a way to convert your manuscript from a story to a published and saleable book.
  • To write a successful synopsis you need to think with a sales mind and not a writer’s mind.
  • The synopsis is your SPIN-DOCTOR for your book.

So we have just a few reasons here to tell you that a synopsis is vital to the success of you finding an agent, an editor and a publisher. So now we come to the crux of the matter:

How do you write a synopsis?

How do you get “in sync” with your synopsis?

One of the tips that I have learnt about over the last few months has been the value of being able to write a maximum 50 word synopsis. This will encapsulate the Hook of your story. Then from there build that up to a paragraph long synopsis. Next try building that up to a page long synopsis. Finally try building that up to a 2 page synopsis. Now you may still be reading this and scratching your head in consternation. You are still stuck with the idea that you have to hone down a 70 000 – 100 000 word novel into 50 words then finally into 2 pages. Well here are some questions that may help you break down your novel into synopsis form.

  • What’s my idea?
  • Where does my story take place?
  • When does my story take place?
  • What is my timeline?
  • Why is this happening?
  • What is my POV – Point Of View?
  • Who are my characters?
  • How will I begin my story?
  • What is my plot?
  • What is my complication?
  • What is my climax?
  • What is my resolution and anti-climax?

The main points that should be in your synopsis are:

  1. The HOOK – This is your USP or UNIQUE SELLING POINT. This is the part that you want to put front and centre and at the top of your synopsis. This is going to be the GRABBER.
  2. The CHARACTERS – Stories are about people. Tell us about your Main Characters. Tug at our heart-strings. The main points here should be: Motivation / Conflict / Goals. What makes this character’s story interesting? Why would a reader want to invest time and emotion in this story/this character?
  3. The BODY of the STORY – Here is where you want to focus on the PLOT of the story. Keep your writing tight and concise. Only put the necessary plot points here. Tie together your plot with your main characters.
  4. The CLIMAX / ANTI-CLIMAX / RESOLUTION – This will pull the whole story together. This is the part where you tie all your different colours of strings into one seamless ribbon. This is where all the questions of your story will be answered. This is where your character will change and grow. These will be the A-HA moments in your story.
  5. Use present tense at all times. Irregardless of whether your book is set in the past or the future, the present tense of a synopsis will put the agent / editor directly into the heart of your story and allow them to walk in your character’s shoes. This will create an emotional pull for them.
  6. Use strong adjectives and emotive language when writing your synopsis. This is your one chance to get the agent/ the editor’s attention. Use your best written skills for this synopsis. Do not waste space or words.

How are you feeling now? Are you feeling more confident with tackling The SYNOPSIS? Are you feeling more “in sync” with your synopsis?

Now lastly, when do you write a synopsis? There is no hard and fast rule that you can only write the synopsis at the end of the novel. In fact, if you leave it til then the nerves and doubt will kick in. Try your hand at writing a loose synopsis at the beginning stages of your novel. You will have the bare bones of your final synopsis. You may even find that your synopsis may be a guiding point for your story. I have written a synopsis both at the end of a WIP and now I have written one at the beginning of my current WIP. In this latter synopsis, I reached a moment of EPIPHANY in the conflict and the anti-climax of my story. Now I can tackle my WIP with renewed vigour and when it comes to the final synopsis, I have already completed half the task by writing my synopsis first.

Now it is time to get IN SYNC with your SYNOPSIS!

© All rights reserved Kim Koning.

Tales for Canterbury « Parchment Place

I Say A Little Prayer For You...
Image by Christine ™ (Formerly with the red wall.) via Flickr

Tales for Canterbury « Parchment Place.

What an Amazing contribution and idea to help support Christchurch in her time of need. Thank you Cassie and all the other people who are helping to put this together.

I spent 6 months living in this beautiful city. Christchurch and the generous, courageous spirit of  the people of Christchurch will always have a special place in my heart.

This is a city built on faith, strength and fortitude. Two days ago the foundations at the core of this city shook and Christchurch underwent another massive natural disaster  just 6 months after the earthquake in September 2010.

Where many other people of cities would have fled for the hills caring only for the safety of their own, Christchurch has banded together with the courage and generosity particular to the Cantabrians and helped one another. Strangers are taking the time to search for missing people and other strangers are taking in homeless people.

This is a city that may have been shaken to fall on her knees but she is not down and she is not defeated. Christchurch will persist in getting to her feet and rebuilding the city that is so dear and near to so many hearts.

The news coverage throughout the last few days has portrayed stories of ordinary people turned heroes and of selfless strangers doing everything in their power to help their neighbour, their friend, a stranger.

The people of New Zealand and the world who watch stand in awe of the stoic courage and hope that the Christchurch people have shown in the face of great calamity.

This is my prayer and hope for Christchurch, a city very dear to my heart that is home to some of my favourite people…

“Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by.” (Psalm 57:1) Lifting up Christchurch in prayer tonight…May your strength and hope shine through and may it be a beacon to the rest of us. May God be with you all. May the Lord still the earth beneath your feet. May He strengthen your foundations. May those that are trapped be sheltered under the Lord’s wings and kept safe til they can be rescued…May those who are waiting to hear be comforted and strengthened…May those who are scared be encouraged to know that many, many prayers are being lifted up for your city in this hour of her need. And a special prayer for strength and endurance for those brave rescuers amongst fire-fighters, paramedics, police, military, medical staff and good Samaritans.

Christchurch – May God be your foundation as the ground’s foundations tremble beneath your feet.

-Kim

© All Rights Reserved Kim Koning