Category Archives: News

Editing Your Novel? Give Adaptation a Try

First, the inspiration behind this post: I am incredibly proud to announce that I sold the teleplay version of my fem scifi novel-in-progress, The Fire Eaters! Huzzah! I sold the teleplay (not the book; important distinction) to an indie book publisher that’s now in the process of shopping it around Hollywood. But, regardless if it ever gets picked up by a studio (wouldn’t that be a trip?), I couldn’t be more proud that my story and characters have garnered such sincere interest. It gives me a real boost of confidence about the prospects for the novel as a whole.

The idea of adapting my own novel was a daunting one at first, even though I’ve adapted plenty of other books in the past. This was partly because I wasn’t even sure I wanted a film/TV version to be made at all (the novel, after all, is still what’s closest to my heart), and also partly because I plain wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to divorce myself enough from the book-version to make the plot and character changes that are (almost) always necessary when adapting for film/TV.

In the end, though, I decided to approach the adaptation as an exercise in revitalizing my energy/creativity/brutality for editing the novel: What subplots and characters truly are unnecessary? Could certain characters be combined, streamlined, or better developed? Could certain symbols and themes be cut, added, or made to work harder?

Stripping the book down to an almost purely dialogue format was also helpful in getting me to reconsider different conversations and dialogue-heavy scenes throughout the book. It allowed me to zero-in on conversations that sounded unnatural, but that I hadn’t noticed before due to all the crowding narration. It also helped me realize when certain conversations weren’t contributing anything at all, just taking up space.

Bottom line: If you’re feeling stuck or uninspired with one of your longer prose projects, try adapting it into a teleplay or screenplay format (and force yourself to be diligent and honest with the genre shift; no teleplays over 45 pages or screenplays over 110!). You might be surprised at how helpful an editorial exercise this can be. Alternatively, you can try your hand at things like Bartleby Snopes’s 8th Annual Dialogue-Only Contest. Submissions end on September 15th, but the perks and usefulness of the challenge itself apply all year long 🙂

P.S. If you’re interested in trying out some screenwriting software, I would recommend either Final Draft or Adobe Story.

Keep Writing! Keep Reading!

 

 

Feature image owned by KC Mead-Brewer

Novelist, Poet, Short Story Writer?

First, the good news (because Fridays should always start with good news): My flash fiction piece “Zebra Skin” has just been accepted for publication with Fiction Southeast! I couldn’t be happier about this–both because I happen to especially love this story and because I’ve been hankering for a spot in Fiction Southeast for…forever? Definitely ever since I learned that Aimee Bender was among their ranks.

Now, on to the meat and potatoes (or, if you’re a veggie like me, the cabbage and potatoes):

This past May, I hired on the tremendous Seattle-based editor Tara Weaver to help me tackle the monster novel that I’ve been working on for a few years now, (working title) The Fire Eaters. Not only was Weaver basically incredible (professional, kind, straightforward, sincere, creative, timely, and many other equally wondrous things), but she also helped something crucial finally click into place for me: I am not a novelist. I am a short story writer.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I’ll never write a novel — I’ve already written several rather dreadful ones, in fact — but it does mean that, at least for now, short story writing is where my heart lies. It’s where I boogie. And it’s all thanks to Weaver asking me a deceptively simple question: Katie, did you enjoy writing this novel?

I had no idea of how to respond. Of course! I wanted to say. Of course I enjoyed it–I love my job, don’t I? This is what I do!

And yet there was that little voice in my head: But did you, Katie? Did you actually enjoy writing this novel?

I ask, she told me, because it was clear to me as a reader when you stopped enjoying the writing of this book. In your short stories, though, there’s never a moment where I feel as though you stopped enjoying the process or the project.

It took a while for me to really know what to do with this information. I’m a writer. Of course I write short stories–I have no skill for poetry, and how else would I build up a resume to finally write and sell a novel one day? (Right?)

But then I had to ask myself: Well, would it be so bad if you were a short story writer instead of a novelist?

Novels sell. Short stories don’t. –This is the mantra I grew up hearing, reading, encountering again and again. But on the other hand, it’s not like my novels are anything worth selling at this point, unlike my short fiction.

So, next question: Well, what kinds of books do you most enjoy reading?

Short story collections. Hands down. Always. Whenever I have an author recommended to me, I always seek out their short fiction first and, if I can’t find any, more often than not, I’ll usually ignore the recommendation and move on to someone else.

This is a habit that I know not many readers share with me, but it’s one that’s served me well time and again. If you don’t have a short story for me, there’s little chance that I’m going to trust you with the amount of time that a novel demands of its consumers. Also, short stories are those blissful dives into the moment, into the now, whereas novels so often seek to drag me into the past with flashbacks, backstory, stock characters, and on and on. Or, as Katey Schultz so beautifully says in her article “What is Flash Fiction?“:

In an era of bombardment … we’re hungry for precise details and a widening of the moment. We’re anxious for an excuse to hold time and look closely.

–And this is an urgent, pivotal job of the short story, of flash fiction, of prose poetry.

Of course, this isn’t to say that short stories are somehow better than novels, but simply that they are different (albeit closely related) artforms, and thus demand different skills and serve different purposes.

So why this hesitation on my part? Why all this pressure to write a novel when they aren’t even my preferred go-to as a reader?

Well, here’s one reason–as Amber Sparks so tragically points out in her articleLet Us Now Praise Famous Short Story Writers (And Demand They Write a Novel“:

Most people really don’t like short stories. And that includes lots of critics, who often seem to regard short story collections as a warm-up for the real thing.

“The real thing” — aye, there’s the rub. In today’s world, short stories are still often looked down on as somehow lesser, somehow not as professional, not as artistic, not as meaningful, not as powerful, not as important as the grand Novel. And I played right into their hands by letting this slop infect my perspective.

I know I also often fall into a similar trap when discussing my writing career in general. As a full-time creative writer, I’m often made to feel badly about my career. As if writing was nothing more than glorified unemployment. When people learn that I’m a writer, their follow-up questions usually tend toward these paths:

But do you also edit? Are you planning to be a teacher? What’s your day job? Have you ever considered self-publishing?

To dodge these kinds of well-meant yet soul-chewing questions, I often simply avoid telling people I’m a writer at all. –But this cannot be the answer. We writers must stand up for ourselves. We cannot allow the misconceptions of others to define who we are or what our work-lives mean, just like I must also now proudly stand up for the short story as an artform that’s every bit as vital and meaningful as the novel.

As Kara Cochran says in her (tremendous!) article “A ‘Real’ Job: The Legitimacy of Creative Writing“:

Unfortunately, writers often perpetuate the stereotypes they fight against. … We often fail (or refuse) to define what it is that we do …. Maybe we feel guilty for our gifts, for having the means to pursue something for love over money, for having found something that makes us happy. …

The problem is this: all of this is self-perpetuating. Because convention tells us to accompany writing with a ‘real job,’ writers struggle to make writing a real job.

C’mon, fellow writers, let’s make this a real job.

I’m a short story writer. I love what I do and I’m proud of it. Whether you’re a novelist, short story writer, poet, a triple threat–own it. Love what you do and be proud of it. Own it–for art’s sake!

 

 

 

Cease, Cows & The Spyglass

I am so proud that my short story “The Spyglass” has found its home with Cease, Cows. I wrote this short story a long, long time ago and it’s gone through a shocking number of iterations before finally finding its sweet-spot.

Check it out now with Cease, Cows!

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Hungry for a taste? Here’s the teaser:

Mom had once told me that all women had the same parts down there, but Aunt Theo’s were definitely different from mine. Where I was all hairless and smooth and small, she was big and bushy and tangled, like one of the neighbor’s, Mrs. DuPont’s, armpits.

 

Happy Reading and, as always, Happy Writing!

New Publication!

I am so proud that my short story “The Slide” has finally found its niche. I wrote this short story while working with The Roving Writings in Pittsburgh, and it’s gone through several major shifts before finding its way home.

Check it out now with Litro Magazine!

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Hungry for a taste? Here’s the teaser:

My left eye was sliding down the side of my face, drooping like an almond in a half-melted candy bar.

First, I reminded myself not to scream.

 

Happy Reading and, as always, Happy Writing!

Lucky Reads for Your Spring

Let’s welcome in springtime and St. Patrick’s Day with a big Cleaver Magazine THWACK! Lucky Issue No. 13 is out—so let’s see what’s on the cutting board.

Lucky 13

***Full disclosure, I’m an Editor-at-Large with Cleaver, and am incredibly proud to be so given its talented staff, dedication to including emerging writers/artists in each issue, and its combination of traditional and nontraditional forms of storytelling. So, yeah, I’m a bit biased.***

I recommend giving the entire issue a read, but here are just a few of my personal favorites:

LAST WORDS
by Willie Davis

(short fiction)

For a long time, I kept myself awake by writing personalized suicide notes for each of my friends. I’d found a website that compiled every recorded suicide note of the last ten years, and, not to sound conceited, I could do better. …


COCKCROW
by Tyler Kline

(poetry)

 Moment: a mother inks the scythe
above her daughter’s breast …


A PRESENCE IN WOOD
Wood Sculpture
by Miriam Carpenter

(visual art)


BLUE: SMOKE: COTTON: TEETH: CAT: JELLY: BLOW
by Anne Panning

(flash fiction)

I rarely wear blue, but today there’s a striped dress the color of rain in my closet. …


EMU ON THE LOOSE
by Thaddeus Rutkowski

(flash fiction)

Not much was happening at the artists’ retreat (people were hiding in their studios; maybe they were working; maybe they were drinking) until the emu arrived. We didn’t know where it came from; no one came with it. Wherever it had been, it hadn’t been missed.. …


 

NIGHT OWL
by Carmella de los Angeles Guiol

(creative nonfiction)

I once loved a man who was a creature of the night. Like me, but more so. He slept through most of the daylight hours, his wily hair a halo on his satin pillowcase. Sometimes I stopped by his room between classes to curl up next to him and feel his dreaming body register mine. …


Wintry Omens

I looked out my attic-office window last night and saw a fresh layer of fluffy snow falling over my street. Whenever it snows, I always feel a strange sense of possibility, as if it were a harbinger or omen. Of course, it’s snowed plenty in Baltimore this winter, and most of it’s seemed to simply be snow. Still, a superstitious person like myself can have a difficult time shaking those mysterious, inexplicable “feelings.” (And really, who even wants to shake themselves that hard?)

When I finally pulled myself away from the window to get back to work, I checked my email (classic writer-proscrastination move), et voilĂ ! I had a note waiting for me from the editors of Natural Bridge saying they wanted to publish my short story, “The Soup.”

Looking out my window now at a snow-painted myrtle tree, there’s a handsome pair of cardinals standing guard and looking back at me.

It’s been a rough few weeks, but–knock on wood–I think everything’s going to be alright. I really do.

Be on the lookout for my new short story “The Soup” with Natural Bridge this fall!

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Natural Bridge is always a rewarding combination of the weighty and the whimsical, a literary encounter worth pursuing.

–New Pages

Here’s a teaser of the story to come:

            They only needed thirty cherry stone clams for the chowder, but the woman at the counter—wearing gloves and a stocking cap against the chill of the dead iced fish—said that a bag of fifty would be cheaper.

“What do you say, baby?” Frank asked, winking at Louisa from over their grocery list.

“Can’t have too many,” she said, and settled the plastic sack of blond-shelled clams down in the cart, top shelf where their child would’ve sat if they’d ever had one. …

 

Happy Writing!

New Publication!

After being sick and gross for the past week, it was especially welcome good news that I received today from Literary Orphans. My flash fiction story “Shelf Space”—a story adapted from a moment in my current novel-in-progress The Fire Eaters—has just been accepted for publication!

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What is Literary Orphans, you ask? What are they trying to create? Well, as they themselves explain:

Some people read to escape. You may even have come here for that. But you won’t leave on any electronic flying carpets. The world we struggle to create on these binary pages is a world that will make you uncomfortable and reflective.

Look for “Shelf Space” in the upcoming issue!

 

 

 

 

Happy Writing!