Summer Author Panel!

I am so excited to be on a panel with the amazing Jim Hill, Rajani Narasimhan LaRocca, and MarcyKate P. Connolly at the Marstons Mills library TOMORROW, Thursday, August 8th!

I’m also teaching a teen writing class before from 3-5! If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

Titcombs will have books for sale!

Flying in the Fog Today

We are at the CCWC 2019 in Hyannis and though the clouds were overhead as of this morning, the hope is for a dash of sunshine by lunch.

At the CCWC 2019

My class is terrified of me!!

Someone let me loose in the Library. Again.

The Art of Being Short

“I would also suggest that any aspiring writer begin with short stories. These days, I meet far too many young writers who try to start off with a novel right off, or a trilogy, or even a nine-book series. That’s like starting in at rock climbing by tackling Mt. Everest. Short stories help you learn your craft.” – George R.R. Martin

 

The Sandwich Library is this epic place, stuffed full of history, architecture, cool people, and endless stories. They also staff this brave woman (Re: Kathy Johnson) who said to me a few months back, “Kate – can you teach a short story workshop?”

Of course I said yes, because well . . . why not? I mean, I was crazy enough to jump in with all those fish that time in Mexico when the party boat guy said they were American-eating piranhas because, well, GIRL POWER and what not, and the captain was kinda a jerk and . . . ummm.

You know what?  Nevermind.  In fact, forget all that Mexico party boat stuff because it’s kinda rich with blackmail potential and there is a photo floating around somewhere and . . . OMG, just nevermind!!

Back to the whole point: So, Ms. Johnson asked that I teach the Short Story Workshop and I thought to myself, “Kate – this can’t be anywhere near the equivalent of jumping off that stupid boat in Cozumel.” CRUD. I just mentioned THAT story again.

I will admit that I kinda ignored the little voice in my head that was saying, “Hey – STUPID! You write HUGE books!” Let’s face it – that little voice is pretty irritating (mine occasionally sounds like Caillou), so ignoring it is a totally normal thing for me.

Of course, Little Annoying Caillou Voice can be right sometimes. I DO pound out words like a baseball player spits sunflower husks during the World Series, but how hard could it be to pull back the reins? To pump the storytelling brakes, as it were. I could do it. I could.

Well . . . you know that story that we won’t talk about anymore? THAT was WAAAAY easier than writing short stories. At least, that was the basis of the mild panic that seeped into my bones about a week before I was to start teaching.

You see, I do love a good short story and I like the CREEPY STUFF. All hail Stephen King’s deliciously twisted Nightmares and Dreamscapes anthology. But me? I write the BIG stuff. I write stories that go on and on, leaving a trail of flesh-eating Easter Eggs in their twisted wake.

I started reading everything I could about the craft of short story writing until a friend slapped some sense into me and said, “Kate – the way you write, you make EVERY chapter a short story.” I did the whole light bulb illuminating, blinky-eye thing and realized, “OMG, I DO!” This friend also pointed out that I’ve been a journalist for YEARS and each article was a short-story in and of itself.

DUDE!

That’s when I stopped panicking. That’s when I realized that a short-story is this small, juicy piece of a larger whole. A short story settles in more towards the climax or the end of a larger picture. A short story follows one, maybe two characters, and one main problem. Despite its limited length, the writer still must tangle in motivation and personality. Potholes must appear to challenge the character and drive the reader to keep going, just like in novel writing.

I got this. I can teach this.

Heck, I love to tackle the mountain and I don’t pull back on the reins. R.R. Martin would think I’ve had my brains cooked by a dragon.

Short stories are a challenge for me, but I’m obsessed with digging into the essence of them. Plus, at the end of the day, I know who I am and what I can tackle. After all, I’m a storyteller first, writer second, and that girl who did the thing in the place when I was younger. I figure if that combination of attributes isn’t a well balanced diet of stupidity and bravery, then I don’t know what is.

So – what will you challenge yourself with as a writer?

 

 

 

 

 

I am willing to go Dark.

As I head to teach at #NESCBWI19, I thought it would be a good idea to add a post to my blog about writing . . . and what it sometimes costs us as people to tell the story.

The other day, I had a fascinating conversation with another writer. We were going through her manuscript and there was a scene she’d written that just wasn’t working for some reason. I asked the most basic question that I ask of myself all the time: “Are you being true to your character?”

As she started peeling back the layers of the character she’d built, she realized that what she’d written – what she wanted the character to do – was not in line with the character’s core personality. It wasn’t in line with the character’s history, her way of thinking, and her self-esteem. The scene was corrected to follow what the character would do, rather than what the author WANTED the character to do, and the issue was fixed.

When a storyteller truly writes, they should yield control of the story to the characters they’ve created. The reason is simple: no one can ever control the emotions, reactions, and train-of-thought of another person. You can try to cheer someone up, convince them of a certain path to take, or beg them to feel better about themselves, but there is no way to actually impact what sits in their mind. If you can’t control a real person, what makes you think you can control a fictional one written to be real?

I’ve always yielded control of a story to my characters – I’m merely the one to transcribe their lives. I’m also the meddlesome twist of fate that throws obstacles in their path, but I don’t control their reaction. Ever. This is maddening in some ways – plotting finer points is basically impossible when you follow a character down a rabbit hole. What I will say, however, is that the end result is a detailed, twisted, page-turner of a novel with rich, unforgettable characters.

I’ve never had a problem slipping into the skin of a character – even the bad ones, even the ones on their death beds. I never had a problem . . . until I started writing The Coffin Crew. It was the first time my Forensic Psychology background failed me. It was the first time I could NOT understand a character’s thought process. It was the first time I started calling people and asking “HOW? How could someone do this?”

No one could go down the rabbit hole and help me slide into the skin of a Nazi scientist who worked under Josef Mengele. I could not, NOT understand how so many MANY people in WWII simply turned off any shred of humanity. It was beyond me.

I am still struggling to bring this Nazi character to life on the page.  Trying to become him, makes my own heart seize and my blood run cold. I’m mentally exhausted by this book. I’m so done, DONE wanting to read a single page more of the true evil that swept through humanity in the 1930s and 1940s.

People lost their SOULS in WWII.

People became the embodiment of evil in WWII.

I can never forget what I’ve learned in researching WWII. I try to keep my sanity in check while reading, but I want to rage and cry at the same time. You can’t be unaffected by the horrors of the Holocaust and it’s so far beyond what you thought it was. It’s so much more horrific than you could ever imagine.

I won’t let these stories of survival and loss, bravery and selflessness, be forgotten. I won’t let evil slip by with the passage of time, and I won’t let the Greatest Generation simply be viewed as elderly people slumped over in their wheelchairs. I am willing to carry what I’ve learned and burrow down into the mind of a Nazi to portray him in haunting accuracy on the page. I am willing to read the documents and be forever changed by what I’ve learned.

I’m willing to write it, so that it can NEVER be forgotten, especially by the current generation.

I am willing to go terribly, terribly dark and I’m willing to show the beauty in hope and courage.

I’m willing to tell this story.

What story are you willing to tell?

 

 

Agatha is Cozy?

 

The debate of “cozy crime” and what makes Agatha Christie’s novels (and adaptations) so good is covered in this read. While personally I agree with James Prichard, the chairman and CEO of Agatha Christie Ltd., that “cozy (cosy) crime” is not a correct label and that crime is meant to be something to disturb you and make you think, the opposite view is also explored. I also find it interesting to think about the “cozy crime” in the sense of television crime dramas -they are there when you  turn on the TV and you can settle in and watch comfortablely. But, I think challenging this subtype of genre we can delve deeper into crime and what it says about human nature. This is also exactly why Agatha Christie’s mysteries are excellent reads. Her understanding of human nature is used in her books to make the motivations of killers realistic and a demonstration of what can, and has, happened in the world of crime. Read the full article HERE.

Writing in the age of Internet

In this article, an overview of how technology has impacted the world of writing is provided. It is interesting to see how many ways the Internet and mobile devices have benefited, as well as impaired, the writing industry. The two most important impacts, in my opinion, are the ability to have a global connection, and therefore audience, and how short an average person’s attention span has become. This leaves writers with two things in mind; one is that their audience has become a lot larger and diverse and two is that they need to engage their reader faster than ever before. Read Laura Thompson’s full article HERE.

 

WattPad to PubPad?

The world of publishing is changing, and not only in terms of the type of media it produces. The popular online storytelling application Wattpad is creating a publishing division, called Wattpad Books, that uses technology to scan the stories published on the site to find ones that would generate the most commercial success. Of course, the publishing division will also have human editors to help in the process. This is a fascinating concept on two levels: not only is the publishing industry starting to utilize technology to find promising unpublished works, but one of the largest online writers’ communities will be able to provide its users the opportunity to be formally published under their own brand.

Read more about Wattpad stepping into publishing HERE.

Virtual Reality Storytelling? YUP!

The future is NOW. This video discusses the developing Virtual Reality experience of “Whispers in the Night,” which is interactive storytelling at its finest. In this story, you share secrets with a girl named Lucy, in which she reacts to and remembers what you say. This is the perfect example of how the worlds of Artificial Intelligence and storytelling are overlapping to create something unique. While it is still too early to tell, it may be possible that VR will be the new branch of publishing that generates new interest in the world of storytelling. In other words, VR could be the new ebook.

See more here: https://vimeo.com/313038866

Dennis-Yarmouth Literacy Night!

HEY! Bookish peeps!

I’ll be at Dennis-Yarmouth High School tomorrow night, March 29, 2019 (5-7pm) with super cool writer weirdos Jim Hill, Mick Carlon, and Kathryn Knight talking books, plots, and characters. It’s all part of the Literacy Night at the high school and Titcombs will be there selling books! Ya gotta come!!!

 

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