Pelletier Liz new photo

Q&A with Liz Pelletier, CEO & Publisher of Entangled Publishing

Liz Pelletier co-founded Entangled Publishing in 2011. Over the past four years, Entangled has gone from a small start-up to a bestselling romance publisher, with more than 17 NYT bestsellers and 39 USA Today bestsellers. Her out-of the-box approach to everything from pricing strategies to marketing to editorial allows Entangled to be both disruptive and agile within a dynamic publishing landscape. Liz continues to disrupt the publishing business with her launching of Entangled Music in 2015, where stories come to life through the extension of music.

Midwest Writers committee member Cathy Shouse interviewed Liz about coming to 43rd writers’ conference this week, July 21-23, 2016, in Muncie, IN.

MWW: Which publishing lines of Entangled will you hear pitches for?

LP: I’m happy to listen to pitches for any Entangled imprint.

MWW: How should someone best prepare to pitch to you? Should they bring a couple of pages or anything with them? Manuscript should be finished?

LP: The best way to prepare to pitch to me is to relax. Unless your book’s genre is really far off from what we publish, I’m going to request a full regardless of the pitch. Some people have a real talent for pitching a book verbally that doesn’t match the writing, and others fumble through their pitch but have an amazing voice in print. I can’t really tell if a book is going to be great until I read it! So relax, start with word count, genre, and if the book is completed or not, and just tell me the very basics of the conflict and what you love most about the story. The rest we can figure out after I read your manuscript!

MWW: Is there any story genre or sub that is saturated/not appropriate? (Is a mystery without a romance thread acceptable, for example?)

LP: We’re really focused on stories with a strong romantic arc at Entangled. However, we are actively acquiring women’s fiction with a romantic element at this time as long as the main protagonist is 35yo or younger and the tone is humorous. Paranormal is still a bit saturated, but we are looking for vampires and shifters again! Beyond that, I’m just looking for a great story that I can get lost in.

MWW: You were co-founder of Entangled Publishing in 2011, and by 2013, you started collaborating with MacMillan and St. Martin’s. What did it feel like to have this said about you? John Sargent, Macmillan’s CEO, said, “We are hugely impressed with Liz Pelletier’s vision and what she has accomplished in such a short time. We found her out-of-the-box approach to publishing incredibly exciting and saw potential to work together with her on several levels. We think Liz and Entangled have found a new way forward and we think we can help build on that remarkable success.”

LP: John Sargent’s comments were a highlight in my career thus far. He’s truly a visionary in the publishing world, and I’ve been delighted to try to blend a traditional approach to publishing with Entangled’s more out-of-the box approach to digital. Our partnership with Macmillan has been amazing, and we look forward to continuing the relationship for many years to come.

MWW: How would you briefly define episodic writing? How much of a problem is it in manuscripts you see and what’s the cure?

LP: I don’t mind episodic writing in certain genres, the writer just needs to be aware that end of scene hooks are vastly important in today’s saturated market. So ending a scene with a pretty bow, as would happen in most scenes of this style, simply is not strong enough to create a bestseller in the romance market. In addition, stringing together a series of small conflicts that can be resolved within the scene is a good way to lose the attention of a reader as there is no main, overarching and organic conflict pulling the reader forward in the story written as episodic fiction. Chicklit, as an example, can do quite well in this form of writing, however one would still need to address a larger, big picture conflict as well as end of scene hooks to create an unputdownable read.

And just for fun:

Twitter or Facebook?  Facebook

Print or e-book? ebook

Disney or Universal? Disney

Writing platform or story? STORY

As an editor, if you can’t have both, will you choose writing style over content or vice versa? Writing style

In addition to hearing pitches, Liz’s sessions include:

  • “Editor Q&A with April Osborn”
  • “How to Edit a Bestseller”
Wild book

Among the Wild Mulattos & Other Tales: Thinking Outside the Two Box

[This post is the sixth in a six-part series of Book Reviews of books by some of our 2016 Midwest Writers faculty. The MWW interns wrote the reviews as one of their assignments for the Ball State University class “Literary Citizenship in a Digital Age,” taught by MWW Director Jama Kehoe Bigger.]

 

Among the Wild Mulattos & Other Tales: Thinking Outside the Two Box

Among the Wild Mulattos & Other Tales by Tom Williams begins with the “The Story of My Novel, Three Piece Drink With Combo.” Cut to a painfully oblivious author reading rejection letters from the magazines Random Acts of Prose, Amateur Writers Unite!, and Boning the Muse. While he’s contemplating ending his writing career to become a full-time manager at Delta Lanes Bowling Alley, he’s eating chicken at Cousin Luther’s, a fast-food chicken establishment. Then, inspiration strikes. He is suddenly compelled to eternize what a work of art his three piece drink with combo truly is. He requests, and is granted, sponsorship and publication by the fast-food chain itself and begins to write his novel. In three months he writes the novel, mostly subsisting on Cousin Luther’s chicken. The tale ends, as most of Williams do, in search of fulfillment.

In this collection of tales, Williams forces the reader to accept realities with minor adjustments: fast-food publishing houses, a television crazed nation where every citizen but one has appeared on reality TV, popular writers using celebrity look-alikes for publicity, doppelgangers that slowly steal lives away from their counterparts, and secret group of mulattos living the woods of Arkansas. The characters that William’s creates are so vivid and complex, their shortcomings in plain sight. While Williams creates relatable characters, he also paints the shortcomings of the reader.

His tales are compact and succinct. You will not find flowery descriptions that bloom off the page. In small stories and plain words, you will find vulnerability that possibly no one else but Williams could articulate so gently. You will be confronted with the micro-aggressions of living a multi-racial life while feeling very macro-emotions.

Williams also explores the array of choices between and outside of binary options. In his tale “The Hotel Joseph Conrad,” a man has been given funding to find the elusive Hotel Joseph Conrad. Ultimately, he discovers his two options aren’t simply to find the hotel or not find it, he finds the solution in the nuance of his contract to search for the hotel. Regardless of the length and where the characters are in their lives, the tales always end with a deep sense of completion and intelligence.

“Among the Wild Mulattos,” the final tale and the namesake for the collection, is one of the most profound and lasting tales. An anthropologist begins searching for, and subsequently finds, a band of wild mulattos that are rumored to be living in the woods of Arkansas. The colony refers to the outside world as Two Box, as in the two boxes that one must identify with on clerical forms, white or black. Williams writes so viscerally about the experiences of living in a culturally ambiguous body.

A mulatto in Two Box was subject to the worst kind of stupidity and intolerance from all sides. For every Anglo like my uncle who pretended I didn’t exist so he wouldn’t have to admit his niece had had intercourse with a black man, there was a black man who sneered when I tried to find solidarity with him.

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Throughout his entire collection, and glaringly so in this tale, Williams grapples with the complexity of identity and race. He presents readers with the impossibility of choice when a person is only given two boxes to express the entirety of a nuanced identity. He explores the choices of black or white, and skin color serves to make characters blend in or stand out, sometimes oscillating between the two. His light and whimsical style of writing is not meant to be taken lightly though, he discusses the very real and limiting state of contemporary social politics.

By Rachel Wright-Marquez

Wanderlost book

Book Review: Lose Yourself in “Wanderlost” and European Lust

[This post is the fifth in a six-part series of Book Reviews of books by some of our 2016 Midwest Writers faculty. The MWW interns wrote the reviews as one of their assignments for the Ball State University class “Literary Citizenship in a Digital Age,” taught by MWW Director Jama Kehoe Bigger.]

 

Join author Jen Malone on her first international journey filled with enticing experiences and an unexpected longing for a lustful romance in her newest novel,Wanderlost.

Wanderlost bookPlace yourself in the beginning of the novel with quirky and angsty Aubree at a graduation celebration with her class accompanied by a slew of forbidden alcoholic refreshments. A cop soon approaches the house with the intention of addressing a noise complaint, Elizabeth, Aubree’s older sister, answers to the door to cover her sister and her friend, but then the cop leaves with Elizabeth in handcuffs. For the sake of saving her sister’s political career, Aubree is sent on a European tour with Elizabeth’s application, Elizabeth’s passport, and a bus of senior citizens.

While, at times, readers may wonder why Aubree seems unwilling to venture out of her comfort zone, her meal choices and honest unawareness of the world outside her realm of Midwestern living reminds the reader to take a trip back to life as a teenager. Even though teenagers may think they will remain protected by their parents, their realities are extremely different from the realities of adulthood.

While avoiding revealing numerous accounts of fraud, Aubree pretends to be Elizabeth during the trip, and the plan seems to unfold flawlessly until she meets the trip owner’s handsome son, Sam. While this plot seems a tad bizarre, it aids in creating a humorous experience for Aubree. After being overcome with guilt, she begins to slowly tell Sam the truth while also attempting to conceal her identity. Playing dress-up for Elizabeth becomes difficult though when she realizes she enjoys being independent and adventurous, which were definitely not qualities she possessed before this well-planned but also unintended trip. Her thoughts on her summer in Europe changed from “I like things predictable and familiar and safe and easy” to “This place is magical. All of it.”

Aubree’s growth brings a fresh insight to the reader about how harrowing circumstances might be the best way to realize your own strength and independence. The pacing of Aubree’s thought process encapsulates the thought process of a teenager nearing adulthood who wants to impress her family, but who also does not want to grow up quite yet. These conflicting thoughts keep the reader entertained as we gain insight on why she makes the decisions she does throughout the novel. It is through these scenarios in which we see Aubree’s remarkable growth.

Before she left for her trip, Aubree had never even had a job or been out of her hometown. Now, she is in Europe, handling deranged sets of chaos, and even finding a seemingly perfect guy. Will she be able to balance handling her independence, perfecting her duties worthy enough for a good review from her boss for Elizabeth, and falling for Sam? Readers will become entranced when reading Aubree’s international tale.

By  Lauren Cross

Coincidence book

The Coincidence of a Love Story

[This post is the fourth in a six-part series of Book Reviews of books by some of our 2016 Midwest Writers faculty. The MWW interns wrote the reviews as one of their assignments for the Ball State University class “Literary Citizenship in a Digital Age,” taught by MWW Director Jama Kehoe Bigger.]

 

Warning: Do not read on an empty stomach. Amy E. Reichert’s debut novel The Coincidence of Coconut Cake not only contains descriptions of food that makes you want to taste them yourself, but is also a delicious meal containing perfect servings of humor, romance and drama.

Coincidence bookLou is the owner of a small French restaurant in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Lou is living the dream, owning her own kitchen, despite the conflicts with her fiancés plans. Her dream is shattered when she decided to surprise him on his birthday with a coconut cake, only to find him with a half naked intern. She tried to get her mind off the betrayal by working, but ended up only making the worst dish she had ever made (unknowingly) for the snarky new restaurant critic in town. When Lou goes to a bar to wallow in the sorrow of her broken relationship, she meets Al, a British newcomer. After some drunken flirtation she promises him to show him the best of Milwaukee. After a series of non-dates around Milwaukee, Al falls in love with Lou and the city, only to find out her true identity and to discover his review of her restaurant had ruined her business while also crushing her dreams.

Amy Reichert’s own experience in the kitchen served her well when writing this novel. She gives a look at what happens backstage in the kitchen, while also showing the different kinds of people that work there. Her many descriptions of food making making readers want to try the dishes she described. I do like the pace in the book because it shows a realistic sense of dating and falling in love. The plot was well written, with two plot lines being mixed into one, one plot about romance, the other about Lou trying to save her restaurant. The story keeps you interested in the plot while leading up to the climax. Reichert wraps up the ending quickly with a glimmer of hope, which works well for this book. The novel focuses on building their relationship, until they finally realize they were truly in love.

By Kara Harris

Dumplin book

Dumplin’ Redefines the Word “Beautiful”

[This post is the third in a six-part series of Book Reviews of books by some of our 2016 Midwest Writers faculty. The MWW interns wrote the reviews as one of their assignments for the Ball State University class “Literary Citizenship in a Digital Age,” taught by MWW Director Jama Kehoe Bigger.]

 

Dumplin’ Redefines the Word “Beautiful”

Dumplin bookIn this real-world story about high school drama, love, weight issues, and loving yourself, Willowdean seeks to prove that she can be just as beautiful as the pageant girls her mother coordinates.

Following Willowdean through her awkward high school years brings forward a memory of that girl we all remember. She is the girl that longs to fit in with the crowd, but finds herself being picked out. In the beginning of Dumplin’, Julie Murphy writes Willowdean to be this open-to-imagination character where the readers only know she’s fat. This allows anyone, plus sized or not, to go through the trials that the main character goes through.

In the story, Willowdean is very open about her weight and it doesn’t seem to bother her until more and more people comment on it. She says, “But that’s me. I’m fat. It’s not a cuss word. It’s not an insult. At least when I say it. So I always figure why not get it out of the way?”

Her hatred of the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant slowly begins to fade as she realizes that she has just as much of a right to be included and feel beautiful as the other girls. Through this entry of the pageant, she believes more in herself, finds confidence, and allows herself to be who she wants to be. Murphy does well in creating this character that most can relate to. The readers can place themselves into Willowdean’s shoes and relate to at least one of the many situations pushed upon the main character.

Though the situations may be many, they aren’t too much for Willowdean. She powers through each of them and shows the reader that being yourself is enough.

 By Amanda Byk

Little Pretty book

Little Pretty Things Tests the Waters Between Friendship and Rivalry

[This post is the second in a six-part series of Book Reviews of books by some of our 2016 Midwest Writers faculty. The MWW interns wrote the reviews as one of their assignments for the Ball State University class “Literary Citizenship in a Digital Age,” taught by MWW Director Jama Kehoe Bigger.]

 

Little Pretty Things Tests the Waters Between Friendship and Rivalry

Juliet Townsend has always been jealous of Madeleine Bell.

Lori Rader-Day PLTLiving in Maddy’s shadow since they were fierce competitors on their high school track team, Juliet  now works a dead-end job at a hotel, cleaning rooms. One night, Maddy checks into the Mid-Night Inn, well-dressed and sporting a diamond ring on her left finger. Maddy has it all and Juliet wants it. The next morning, however, Juliet is more than just a jealous best friend – she’s the main suspect in Maddy’s murder.

Juliet gets stuck in a rut for ten years, dealing with low self-esteem and it takes the murder of her friend to force her to decide it is time to take charge and change her life. She takes advantage of her daily running routine to discover secrets of a painful past. So it doesn’t surprise her when the police pursue her as a suspect in the murder of her close friend. After discovering details of events leading to Maddy’s murder, she decides it’s time to find the real killer and clear her good name.

Lori Rader-Day, author of the Anthony Award-winning The Black Hour, teaches mystery writing at Story Studio Chicago. Day takes readers on a tour of crime and mystery in Little Pretty Things. With a well-planned plot, a rollercoaster of emotion, and a twist you won’t soon forget, the mystery is solid, every detail in place. The characters are developed and relatable. But it’s the relationships the protagonist has with other women that will resonate for a long time after reading this book, like the pretty little things we tend to overlook.

Little Pretty Things is a summer must read.  

 

By CarolineDelk
side effects book

From Concrete to Debris: Side Effects May Vary

[This post is the first in a six-part series of Book Reviews of books by some of our 2016 Midwest Writers faculty. The MWW interns wrote the reviews as one of their assignments for the Ball State University class “Literary Citizenship in a Digital Age,” taught by MWW Director Jama Kehoe Bigger.]

 

“I knew what this looked like. It looked like I was using Harvey. But here was the reality of the situation: the minute my life went from semipermanent to most likely temporary, I decided to latch on to everything in my world that had always been permanent, and for me, Harvey was so permanent he was concrete.”

In Julie Murphy’s first novel Side Effects May Vary, childhood best friends Alice and Harvey find themselves together again after Alice is diagnosed with leukemia. Divided between Alice and Harvey’s perspectives in chapters titled “then” and “now,” the novel follows the two on every path of Alice’s journey with cancer, from the beginning of high school and her revenge-filled kick-the-bucket list to the other side, where Alice learns she’s in remission.

side effects bookBut is remission the good news it should be? For Alice, who was preparing to die, the situation is bittersweet as she must now deal with the repercussions of her actions and face the realities of her relationship with Harvey, especially as he struggles with his feelings for her, reflecting, “But, really, I loved her, and that hurt the worst of all because I was tired of being her debris.” Will she lose the best friend she finally connected with again when she was dying? Or will she find a way to adjust to truly living once more without pushing Harvey and his love away?

Murphy has crafted narrators that both fight and balance each other as they struggle to find their footing in their own past and present. Alice’s narration is particularly polarizing, allowing for Harvey’s emotions to inform the reader as Alice breaks down both the manic pixie dream girl trope and the interplay of likable and realistic narrators, as she describes, “I was rotten on the inside, and I didn’t know if that had happened over time or if it had always been so.” While the novel hinges on Alice’s diagnosis, the real meat of the plot concerns the very side effects of the diagnosis, pre- and post-remission, and how it impacts each character as they collide with Alice and Harvey’s story.

By Rachel Lauve

MWW Holly Miller quote

Conference 101 for first-time attendees

MWW committee member Holly G. Miller will welcome first-timers to our workshop during a new session,“Conference 101,” Thursday, July 21, from 3:45 to 5:00 p.m.

Holly explains what that session will offer:

My goal for Conference 101 is twofold: First, I hope to reduce–or better yet, eliminate–the fear factor. Rubbing elbows with successful authors and New York agents sounds scary, but this is the friendliest environment imaginable. Authors and agents come here to share what they know, meet the NEXT generation of successful authors, and to be surrounded by people who love to read, write and tell stories. Second, I want Conference 101 to give newcomers a heads up on what to expect and how to get the most out of the two days that will follow. How should they decide which session to attend? How can they get feedback on the novel they’ve written?  Where can they hook up with people who want to write in their genre?

I’ve taught at writers’ workshops from Cape Cod to San Diego. Each one has a unique personality, but none is more motivating than MWW. That’s why people come back year after year. And that’s why it keeps growing.

Best piece of advice for persons heading to Muncie in July: Keep an open mind. If you write romance novels, sit in on a poetry class; if nonfiction is your passion, go hear how to plot a cozy mystery. In other words, plan to stretch yourselves in all sorts of new ways. The best part of being a writer is that you never master it. You’re always learning and experimenting.

MWW Holly Miller quote

 

About Holly:

Holly picAmong my noteworthy accomplishments:

1) Serving as a contributing editor to a magazine geared to high-tech professionals at a time when I barely knew how to switch on my IBM PC Jr.

2) Ghost-writing a book for a champion bodybuilder when I hadn’t been inside a gym since grade school.

3) Interviewing Judge Judy and living to tell about it (actually, she was very nice!)

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Coming to MWW16, YA author Natalie C. Parker

Natalie C. Parker is the author of the Southern Gothic duology Beware the Wild and Behold the Bones (HarperTeen), as well as the editor of the forthcoming young adult anthology, Triangles: The Points of Love (HarperTeen). She is the founder of Madcap Retreats, an organization offering a yearly calendar of writing retreats and workshops. In her not-so-spare time, she works as a grant coordinator for the University of Kansas, where she runs writing workshops for tribal college students in STEM disciplines. 

Natalie will team teach the Part I “Building the YA Novel” Intensive Session with Julie Murphy.

MWW committee member Shelly Gage recently interviewed Natalie about her sessions and her writing.

SG: What should we expect from your sessions at MWW and how will they be structured?

NCP: Each of my sessions with be co-taught with the illustrious Julie Murphy. As we considered what we were best equipped to offer, we knew our focus would be on Young Adult genres and we settled on the intimate places where prose becomes power — single pages. We are both very interested in writing that takes the reader forward by leaps and bounds in the course of a single paragraph, page, or chapter.

Our sessions will be a blend of close analysis and practical application. We’ll study passages that represent voice and world building and character, and then we’ll challenge each other with prompts and exercises.

There will also be an abundance of Magic Mike references and possibly candy because what’s a writing workshop without a double dose of sugar?

SG: What achievement are you most proud of and why?

NCP: Madcap Retreats. Last year, I started a small business focused on creating writing retreats for aspiring and established writers. Almost a full year later, we’ve hosted five incredible events and have twice as many on the horizon.

The venture grew out of the first retreat I ever attended as an unagented, star-in-my-eyes writer. Having access to authors who were established in their careers and willing to talk about it was invaluable to me. I came away from that experience determined to recreate it for as many writers as possible. And that’s exactly what I’m doing with Madcap.

SG: How have conferences influenced your life and career (assuming that they have)? What writing tip or two has had the most positive impact on your career?

NCP: I didn’t attend my first writing conference until after I found my agent, but I was immediately taken by the possibilities for creative, constructive community. If I could give my younger self some advice, it would be to find a local writers’ conference and be brave!

The writing tip that continues to comfort and challenge me is this: break the rules. I have always bristled at the notion that there are do’s and don’ts when it comes to creating fiction. Do use dialogue tags, don’t use adverbs, do start close to the action, don’t open with a dream sequence. Hearing those things repeated again and again has always inspired me to find the exceptions. At some point, I realized that’s what I wanted out of my own writing — to create something that operates under its own set of rules.

SG: I really enjoyed the way you handled the supernatural elements in your books. My husband and I are real-life ghost hunters and the Clary stories reminded me of urban legends we’ve run into in our research, but they were also very grounded in Sticks. How much research did you do into the supernatural, or did you have personal experiences to draw upon?
NCP: As a kid, I was desperately in love with ghost stories and collected as many as I could get my hands on. But I also lived in a neighborhood with one house that was said to be haunted. It was a large house that pre-dated our Virginia subdivision with a wilting barn and a huge lawn that backed up to the Elizabeth River. And since I am a sagittarindor, I took (take?) every excuse to drag my friends on adventures. Especially adventures that might end up with ghosts. Double especially adventures that might result in a story about ghosts.
I can’t say that I ever successfully tracked down a real ghost, but I certainly crafted dozens of scenarios in my head. Many of my ghost stories come from the moments when I crouched in a dark surrounded by my friends and the destroyed walls of a barn, waiting for the noise that would send us running in terrified delight.
To be very honest, I’ve always felt a little like Candy in Behold the Bones–willing but maddeningly unable to see the ghosts that might be around me.

 

SG: Sterling’s voice was one of my favorite elements of Beware the Wild, and I loved the dynamic between Sterling and her friends, especially her relationship with Candace. I was delighted to find that you’d put out a sequel, and excited to see that the new story was from Candace’s perspective. She was such a forceful personality from the start. Did you know from the start that you would write a second book from her POV or did the character step up and demand her own book?  That seems like something Candy would do. 🙂
NCP: I wrote Beware the Wild as a stand alone and didn’t know that I was going to be able to write another story in Sticks until the time came to pitch my second book. But as soon as that possibility opened up, I knew it would be Candy’s voice at the helm. As a girl who was raised in Virginia by Mississippi parents, I love digging into tales about southern girls. Candy was equally a pill and a treat to write (and that’s just the way she likes it).
SG: Speaking of characters who may demand a book of their own, is there any possibility of a third story from Abigail’s POV?  Is there more to explore related to the Shine and the Swamp?
NCP: If there is ever an opportunity for me to return to Sticks, Abigail’s story is ready and waiting!
SG: If not a return to the Swamp, what is next for you?
NCP: I’m currently in the midst of editing my very first anthology filled to the brim with all sorts of love triangles! It’s been an incredible project to work on with 15 other Young Adult authors contributing in every genre imaginable. We’re working on the title now. It’s set to come out in fall 2017, and it’s going to break/ mend/ explode your heart.
Thank you so much for this incredible interview! I’m so excited to be joining MWW this year!

***

Natalie’s (and Julie’s) Part II sessions include:

Agent/Author Relationships Panel Julie Murphy/Natalie Parker & Molly Jaffa, Amy Reichert & Rachel Ekstrom, Uwe Stender/Brent Taylor & Summer Heacock

Voice/Dialogue – Julie Murphy & Natalie C. Parker. Voice is the lifeblood of every story. You’ve either got it or you don’t. Some would even say it can’t even be taught. Join Natalie C. Parker and Julie Murphy as they unlock key secrets and tricks to finding and nailing your narrator’s voice.

Word by Word: What Your First Line Says About Your Book – Julie Murphy and Natalie C. Parker. We know a good first line when we hear one, but we don’t always stop to consider what makes it good. In this session, we will evaluate a series of first lines for the promises they make about the novel to follow.

 

Brown Karma

Meet Karma Brown, popular Women’s Fiction author

Karma Brown is a National Magazine Award-winning journalist, freelance writer, and author of the international bestseller (and listed as one of The Globe & Mail’Top 100 books for 2015) Come Away With Me (Mira/HarperCollins). She spent her debut year blogging at The Debutante Ball, and is a proud member of the Tall Poppy Writers group. A former marketing director and copywriter, Karma now spends her days writing fiction in coffee shops, coloring (outside the lines) with her daughter, and perfecting her banana bread recipe. She’s also an avid runner, skier, and bucket list chaser, who believes coffee cures all. Karma lives just outside Toronto, Canada with her family. Her second novel, The Choices We Make, hits shelves July 12, 2016.

MWW committee member Shelly Gage recently interviewed Karma about her MWW sessions.

*  *  *

MWW: What should we expect from your sessions at MWW and how will they be structured?

KB: In our Women’s Fiction session Amy E. Reichert and I will discuss the genre’s definition and scope, common (and often overused) tropes, and what makes Women’s Fiction such a vital part of the publishing landscape. The workshop will explore different writing styles seen in Women’s Fiction, tips for your own writing, and ideas for helping your story stand out–including characterization, pacing, and conflict. We’ve also asked attendees to do a bit of pre-work, which is to read Forever, Interrupted and Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid, who we’ll be using as one example of how variable Women’s Fiction can be. The session will be interactive and hands-on, meaning you won’t have to listen to us drone on as though we’re delivering a lecture! It’s meant to be a fun yet intensive workshop, with significant takeaways for those writing within this genre. [NOTE: STILL TIME TO REGISTER AND TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THIS: For those with complete story ideas, you’re welcome to submit a 2 page, single-spaced synopsis to Karma and Amy, along with your first 250 words by July 1 (midwestwriters@yahoo.com/subject line: Women’s Fiction Intensive). All submitted synopses and writing samples will be given feedback, and a few will be discussed in class.]

MWW: What achievement are you most proud of and why?

KB: Outside of my marriage and becoming a mother (a major achievement as we had an extraordinary path to parenthood, which involved cancer and  gestational surrogacy  (http://www.redbookmag.com/life/mom-kids/features/a44046/my-sister-was-my-surrogate-and-i-am-a-mother-because-of-her/), I would say seeing Come Away With Me on the bookstore shelves (and bestseller list!) is the thing I’m most proud of. Whenever someone tells me how lucky I am to be an author and writer, I like to point out that luck had little to do with it (but thank you!) — that book showcases a lot of hard work, frustration, rejection, and grit.

MWW: What writing tip or two has had the most positive impact on your career?

KB: There are two writing tips that have stuck with me over the years: one,  you can’t edit a blank page (this seems to be attributed to a number of authors, but the first time I heard it was from Jodi Picoult); and two,  write every day. This last one is from Stephen King, whose memoir and writing craft book On Writing remains my favorite, and the one I go to whenever I need a boost. I’m fairly diligent about setting my alarm for a 5 a.m. wake up call, especially when I’m heavy into drafting, and knocking out a thousand words or so before everyone else gets up. It keeps me sane (as long as I have coffee) AND keeps the momentum going.

Mac or PC?

Mac. I can’t even use a PC anymore. My MacBook Air and I have a serious relationship (the keys are basically illegible because the letters have been scratched off from so much typing), and I don’t even like other people to touch it.

Plotter or Pantser?

I like to call myself a “Plantser” – part plotter, part pantser. I create a fairly in-depth synopsis before I even start writing, and then map out the chapters and scenes using a writing tool called Scrivener (there is nothing better for drafting a book, though I do final edits and revisions in Word). But once I have this roadmap I allow myself some freedom, and see where the characters take me. Also, I never have the end sorted out until I’m about two thirds of the way through the book.

Early bird or night owl?

I used to be a night owl, but then I had a child and she’s the quintessential early bird (she used to wake up at 4 a.m., EVERY SINGLE DAY). She trained me to get up before the sun and birds, and I realized it was the perfect time to write. So now I’m an early bird and I can’t imagine going back to late night writing … everything feels so much more manageable in the morning, as long as there’s a lot of coffee.

Coffee or tea?

*See above!

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Karma’s Part II sessions include:What to Expect When You’re Expecting a (Book) Baby –  Taking a book from SOLD to shelf can be a long process, filled with plenty of unknowns, hard labor, and thrilling milestones. Tips and insights for what to expect through (and beyond) the debut year.
Slaying the Synopsis – Tips and tricks for how to write a killer synopsis that gets the job done…without losing your mind, or your creative energy, while you do!