Monday, August 30, 2010

Feed Your Inner Teen. And Your Inner Writer.

Like many writers, I grew up knowing that I had stories to tell. In my deepest heart, I wanted to declare to the world, “I’m a Writer!” But I hesitated. More than hesitated…I froze up and choked and buried the writing desire under years of being too busy. I ignored it. Denied the stories that tumbled around in my head.

Did I write anything during all of this denial? Of course. Essays and film criticism papers for college classes. An occasional thank you note… Eventually, user guides and business procedures. But no stories.

During the day, I work for a very large business software company. Somehow I ended up with a job where I spend most of my time…you guessed it… writing. Weird how things work out sometimes, isn’t it? It’s not storytelling, really. Or at least it didn’t start out that way. But it got me started and helped me believe that I could put words down on paper. And, I have to admit, the results were encouraging. I write technical training materials – lots of “how to” stuff. I teach, too. And my experience standing up in front of a group of students led me back to a fundamental truth: Stories help people learn. I’d make them up on the fly. Share stories from my own experience, and create new ones to fit a specific question or challenge we were facing in class.

I dug into the concept of how people use stories to teach each other; how we learn as children and as adults from the stories others tell us. Then I got brave. I submitted a proposal to an online training journal. They quickly accepted my idea, so I had my first experience working with an editor, meeting a deadline, and seeing my name in print. (Well – on screen, since it was an online journal. But it still felt good!)

Would you believe it? I got fan mail. What a hoot! But it sort of turned me on to the idea that I could – and would – share what I’ve written.
And I’ll just admit it now – fiction is so much more fun to write than this technical stuff!

So what stories will I put in this blog? Mostly I’d like to share my journey from a technical writer to a fiction writer. Share stories from my own experience of researching my genre, attending classes and conferences, working with a writing partner, finishing a draft (then another and another and another…). I hope to have a few things to say that might help other writers believe in themselves and spark their desire to write.

And…I can’t help it. I’m also going to plug books that I love. I read about one a week – sometimes more. It’s usually a mix of stuff – but lately, the bulk has been either Middle Grade or Young Adult. I could tell you it is all about researching my new career path. But it’s not. I love these books! Oh, the teen angst! The falling in love, the anger and frustration…the conversations between lockers and the catty glares across the caf! Escapism for a woman of a certain age…but I like to call it “feeding my inner 14 year old.”

If you’ve read any young adult or kids lit lately, let me know! I’m always on the lookout for titles and love to pick up something a friend has recommended. And if you haven’t picked up one of the hottest selling genres around – head to your local library and check out Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games. The third book in the trilogy, Mockingjay, just came out last week. Any so-called adult who doesn’t fall into this story – cheering for Katniss and Peeta and District 12 – should be ashamed of themselves!


  1. Great post! I'm finishing paper towns and giving myself small doses of mockingjay daily -- trying to drag it out. (I was always one of those kids who saved the best food for last)

  2. I gulped it all down -- like a big bowl of chocolate ice cream on a hot day! -- this weekend. Sigh. Experiencing post-series depression now...

  3. Karen,

    I have your nephew, Kenny, in class (at this very moment!). I just read these three blog posts, and this one really spoke to me. I feel like I could have written parts of it myself, especially about having a story to share but not writing it! I just know that one day these stories in my heart will explode...I just had a baby, and the school year has just begun, so I'm definitely "too busy" at the moment to write.

    One of my goals this year is to write along with my students. Here's hoping!

    Would you be interested coming in as a guest speaker to talk to our 8th graders about the process of becoming a writer?

  4. Jessica --
    I would love the chance to talk to your 8th graders about the experiences I've had so far with writing and the process of writing a novel, finding an agent, etc.

    If you are interested in speaking on the phone or meeting for coffee to talk about what you have in mind, that would be great. You should be able to send me a personal email via my profile on this blog to talk more...

    Best Regards--

  5. It's so refreshing to know that I'm not the only one! I love middle grade and YA books too! I also enjoy reading biographies and memoirs.

    Of course I must plug one particular YA book that I really adore called "And the Violin Cried" by Susan Joy Clark. Susan is actually one of my best friends, and while it is a Christian-based novel, the story itself is very well written and well researched. You can find it on Amazon here: