PRAYER QUILT

Prayer Quilt Tom RodgersPrayer Quilt

 

On the eve of my husband’s surgery to remove a pancreatic cyst, two quilters from our church’s quilt group dropped by the house to present this “prayer quilt” to Tom. Ellen Boston and Pauline McCallum told Tom to wrap himself in its warmth and to know that he is loved and cared for.

 

As we gathered in a small circle in our living room and Ellen began to pray, Tom lifted the quilt to his heart and opened himself to prayer.Prayer Quilt 2

 

Many thanks to so many people who’ve reached out to us these past few weeks.

 

Tom and I are so grateful,

 

Kathleen

Kathleen M. Rodgers’ second novel Johnnie Come Lately is forthcoming from Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press, February 1, 2015. Her first novel The Final Salute has been featured in USA – Today, The Associated Press, Military Times and many other publications. She is represented by Loiacono Literary Agency. Her husband Tom is a retired Air Force fighter pilot and also a retired commercial airline pilot.

 

ADVENTURES IN THE PUBLISHING TRADE: An excerpt from Dwight Jon Zimmerman’s new autobiography

Dwight J. Zimmerman, Adventures in the Publishing TradeIn Part I of my interview with Dwight Jon Zimmerman, we discussed his long writing career working with Bill O’Reilly, Marvel Comics, and more.

http://siteblog.kathleenmrodgers.com/?p=1737

In Part II, Dwight exclusively shares here an excerpt from his upcoming autobiography for RED ENGINE PRESS tentatively titled “Adventures in the Publishing Trade: and a Little Bit More about Life, Love, and the Pursuit of a Dream. It’s the story of a young man with a dream and the unlikely and impossible-to-plan path he took to achieve it.

Kathleen: You grew up in North Dakota and started out as a printer. How old were you when you moved to New York City, and where did you get the courage to make such a drastic change?

Dwight Jon Zimmerman: Oh, boy, the question you just asked! Joyce Faulkner and Pat Avery, fellow members of the Military Writers Society of America, own Red Engine Press, a small publishing company. Over the years at the organization’s annual conferences they heard many stories of my experiences in the publishing industry. One thing led to another and I’m presently writing my autobiography for them. With your permission I’d like to answer your question by providing this unedited draft excerpt of the chapter dealing with that event, because there was a lot of history behind making the decision I did. I should warn everyone, it’s not a happy anecdote.

Chapter 3

I Cross My Rubicon

                        “I am not a bum.”

—Dwight Jon Zimmerman, circa. 1976

            The distance between Grand Forks, North Dakota, where I worked, and Devils Lake, where I grew up, is 90 miles. One weekend in July 1976, I headed west from my apartment on a Sunday drive that I didn’t want to make, but had to.

Dad1972

Dwight’s dad 1972

Too many years have passed for me to remember anything about that day except the meeting I had with my father in the living room where I broke the news. I know that it happened sometime after lunch and that dad and I were alone. I had decided to tell the news first to him, because even though I knew he wouldn’t like hearing what I had to say, I thought he’d be a little more sympathetic than my mother. He was in his easy chair and I was sitting nearby on the couch when I said I had something I needed to tell him.

I said I was planning to quit my job at the UND Press in one year and travel to New York City and try to make a go of things at Marvel Comics where Dave [Kraft my high school friend] was working. I explained why I was making this decision—that I was young and single, and that I didn’t want to have the “what would have happened to me if” question hanging over my life. If things didn’t work out, then I’d know and move on with my life as a printer, as that was a skill I could use anywhere. In the meantime, I needed to store my possessions at home.

Dad was sixty-two and his health had been bad for several years, the consequence of alcoholism, bad eating habits, and no exercise. He’d already had one heart attack and two strokes. He was overweight, diabetic, and suffered from high blood pressure; in short, he was a sitting pathology. After I finished my speech he looked at me for a moment. Then he said, “Well, if you want to go out and be a bum, that’s your business.”

That’s all that I remember about what happened that day. I don’t remember telling my mother, and I don’t remember the drive back to Grand Forks that afternoon.

I do remember being hurt—and angry.

 David Anthony Kraft (right) and I (left) showing off the latest issue of our science fiction and fantasy fanzine, OMNIFAN, circa 1970.

David Anthony Kraft (right) and I (left) showing off the latest issue of our science fiction and fantasy fanzine, OMNIFAN, circa 1970.

Since my sophomore year in high school, my relationship with my parents had been essentially a truce punctuated by arguments, invariably about something that I liked and wanted to do. With the exception of my decision to go to North Dakota State School of Science in Wahpeton where I learned the printing trade, they pretty much opposed everything. NDSSS had a reputation for being a “suitcase college.” On Friday afternoon, almost the entire student body would get in their cars and drive home for the weekend. Not me—home was the last place I wanted to go. I stayed at the near-deserted campus, enjoying the quiet and solitude. In fact the only time I went home was during the holidays. After that first year, I found an apartment with some friends. The habit of not going home carried over after I had moved to Grand Forks. Trips home were usually once-a-month affairs.

I thought that now being on my own, and with my sister recently married to Joel, I wouldn’t have a fight on my hands to do what I wanted to do. It turns out I was right, I didn’t. With his one-liner Dad had done something worse: he threw one of his guilt trips on me.

My father had led a hard life. The oldest of four children, two boys and two girls, he grew up on a small farm in Wells County. He was in his mid-teens when his father committed suicide or was murdered (I’ve heard differing accounts) during the Great Depression. His younger brother Gordon was mentally retarded. (I knew all of dad’s siblings. Gordon died in 1963. Margaret married, lived on a farm near the homestead, and died of accidental self-immolation in 1982. Connie, the youngest, married and moved to Idaho where she still lives.) He quit school after the eighth grade and knocked around the West working at a variety of jobs, one of them being a carnival barker. His first wife was a young woman looking to escape her family. That marriage soon ended in divorce. He married his second wife shortly before he enlisted in the Army about a month after his 28th birthday on April 25, 1942.

His MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) was Parts Clerk 348. After training in Camp Sutton, North Carolina, he was assigned to Company G, 255th Infantry Regiment, 63rd Infantry Division, rising to the rank of Tech Sergeant. His campaigns included Tunisia, Southern France, the Rhineland, and Central Europe. He received his honorable discharge on October 8, 1945. In addition to his campaign ribbons, he received the Good Conduct Medal.

Mom1972

Dwight’s mom 1972

Not long after he returned to North Dakota, his second wife divorced him. In a tale all too common during the war, she had married him for his service paycheck and death benefit insurance. When the latter didn’t happen, she was gone. Neither marriage resulted in children. That would come with dad’s third wife, my mother. In March 1953, Morris Zimmerman and Darlene Stolt eloped to South Dakota where they got married. On June 2, 1953, at a hospital in Harvey, North Dakota, I was born. My mother was twenty years old. Dad was thirty-nine. My sister, Mary, was born four years later; and in 1960 my brother, Chris, was prematurely born, delivered by Caesarian section.

Now, with the exception of some general statements about the war, and a couple of passing mentions of minor events, my father rarely talked about his life, and never mentioned the fact that mom was his third wife. The facts recounted here came from his mother, my Grandma Mabel, before she died in the early 1970s, and from his discharge paper, which I saw years after his death in 1981.

(An aside here. The circumstances of my father’s death have proved a constant source of amusement for me whenever I have to fill out the family history section of medical forms. When I get to the father section, after checking the “Deceased” box I proceed to the “Cause of Death” section where I write: “Surgery.” Invariably whenever the doctor gets to that answer, the physician’s brow furrows and I get a quizzical look. I then proceed to explain that while my father suffered from acute coronary disease that caused him in 1981 to undergo high-risk life-saving surgery, when the doctors opened up his chest they discovered there was nothing they could do. His heart was too damaged to repair. So, while the contributing factor of my father’s death was a bad heart, the form wasn’t asking for that information. It was asking for cause. And “cause” was surgery. He went into the operating room alive, and came out dead. QED. None of the doctors have been favorably impressed with me about that.)

So, though gaps existed, I knew things about my father’s life that he didn’t know I knew. Grandma Mabel’s statements about dad explained a lot of why he acted the way he did to us kids, specifically his paternal guilt manipulation of us.

Here I am on my  Honda 100 circa 1972.

Here I am on my Honda 100 circa 1972.

In the past when he played the guilt card, even when I carried through with what I wanted to do (like buying my first motorcycle) it was only after a lot of emotional soul-searching and agonizing. Not this time. Dad had pushed me too far. The emotion I was dealing with wasn’t guilt. It was anger.

Once in my apartment, I grabbed some paper and a pen and began writing him a letter. I began with a short recap of my decision to go to New York City, my reasons why, and his response. I concluded that first paragraph with the sentences: “You called me a bum. I am not a bum.”

With the second paragraph, I let him have it with both barrels. I wasn’t profane, and I didn’t reveal any of the facts about his life I had learned, but years of accumulated fury were behind the sentences that stated this was my life and I was going to live it my way.

Years of accumulated fury were behind my sentences. I had my first attack of nervous exhaustion when I was twelve years old. I remember lying on the couch one evening. Suddenly my heart started racing, my body started trembling, I had repeated heat flashes, and I started crying uncontrollably. I thought I was going to die, and said so. Dad rushed me to the hospital where I stayed for three days. When I got home I asked my mother what had happened to me. She said, “It was just nerves.”

I felt ashamed of myself for being weak. I endured two more attacks in senior high school. The second incident occurred in German class while I was taking a test. Now familiar with the symptoms, I managed to maintain sufficient control to finish the test and exit the class at its conclusion. I rushed home, skipping the rest of the school day. Mom also worked, so I was able to ride the spell out alone. The third bout happened at the end of school one day, so it was easier to for me to go into seclusion.

It was one day near the end of my junior year in high school that my mother kicked the parental support chair out from under me. She had a stock response whenever we complained about something: “You think you have it so bad? The kids in [name of a handy third world country] have it worse.” This time she raised the ante.

My parents and I had been going through a particularly stressful period. I was leaving for school when she looked up from the breakfast table and said, “You know, Dwight, you’re a disappointment to us.”

To use modern parlance, that was when Dwight Jon Zimmerman 1.0 died and Dwight Jon Zimmerman 2.0 was born. Though I still lived at home, from that point on I was both alone and on my own.

As I was writing, I realized a larger reality—that the roles of parent and child had become reversed and that I now had something that put me in control of our relationship from this point on: I had me.

And here I am on my Norton 850 Commando, circa 1978. I'm having a Coors in the front yard of my aunt's house in Idaho (this at a time when Coors was only available in the West). Dave Kraft's Norton 750 Commando is in the background. We were on a road trip to California--one of the best vacations I ever had!

And here I am on my Norton 850 Commando, circa 1978. I’m having a Coors in the front yard of my aunt’s house in Idaho (this at a time when Coors was only available in the West). Dave Kraft’s Norton 750 Commando is in the background. We were on a road trip to California–one of the best vacations I ever had!

Though the statements I was writing of my plans to go forward and the storing of my possessions at home were clear enough, I was also sending a between-the-lines message: “If you fight me any further on this, you will never hear from me again.”

I didn’t want to explicitly state that sentence, because that was the ultimate hammer I held. I didn’t want to use it because if I did, both sides would lose. Also, the threat of using it made it more powerful than its actual use.

The next day I dropped the letter in the mail.

The letter created uproar back home—so much so that my brother-in-law wrote me a blistering letter calling me, amongst other things, an ingrate and demanding I apologize to my “wonderful parents.” My sister’s first husband (she’s now on husband number three) was sticking his nose into business that didn’t concern him. But, knowing that I had made my point, a couple of days later I called home and when my mother answered the phone, apologized.

One year later, I was on a plane flying to New York City to start a new adventure.

BIO:

DWIGHT JON ZIMMERMAN is a bestselling and award-winning author, radio host, television and movie producer, and president of the Military Writers Society of America.Lincoln's Last Days

He co-authored the #1 New York Times bestselling young adult book, Lincoln’s Last Days, an adaptation of Bill O’Reilly’s New York Times #1 bestselling history Killing Lincoln. Lincoln’s Last Days won the 2013 Branson Stars and Flags Book Awards Grand Prize. It is the second year in a row Dwight has won the organization’s highest honor.

He penned a series of World War II 70th anniversary articles for the Defense Media Network website that chronologically recount that conflict, available at www.defensemedianetwork.com.

He is the author of Saga of the Sioux, the award winning, critically acclaimed young adult adaptation of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. Saga of the Sioux won the 2012 Gold Medal in the Young Adult Non-Fiction category from the Military Writers Society of America and the 2012 Branson Stars and Flags Book Awards Grand Prize, the organization’s highest honor.

Dwight is the co-author, with John D. Gresham of Uncommon Valor: The Medal of Honor and the Six Warriors Who Earned It in Afghanistan and Iraq which received the Military Writers Society of America’s most prestigious honor, the MWSA Founder’s Award for 2010.

First CommandHis first book, First Command: Paths to Leadership, which has a foreword by James M. McPherson, presents the pivotal challenges and events that occurred in the early careers of generals from George Washington to Colin Powell and how they overcame them. Dwight was the co-executive producer of the cable television miniseries based on his book. The miniseries debuted on the Military Channel in 2005 and has been regularly aired on the channel ever since. It won the 2005 Aurora Platinum Best of Show Award for Historical Programming. In 2009, the book received the Branson Stars and Flags Gold Medal Award in the Reference/Technical category. First Command is on the U.S. Army Chief of Infantry Recommended Reading List: Junior NCOs.

He’s written two acclaimed popular surveys of wars and weapons through the ages. The Book of War is about pivotal battles, leaders, and strategies from ancient to modern times and received the 2009 Gold Medal Award for Reference by the Military Writers Society of America. The Book of Weapons is a critically acclaimed sequel about important weapons, weapon designers, and arms manufacturers throughout history.

Dwight’s authored two graphic histories. The Vietnam War: A Graphic History, illustrated by Wayne Vansant, is a groundbreaking book that for the first time recounted the entire Vietnam War in the graphic novel format. The Vietnam War: A Graphic History received the 2010 Gold Medal Award: Artistic/Graphic from the Military Writers Society of America and the 2010 Branson Stars and Flags Gold Medal Award in the photography/graphics category. Military Review, the official journal of the U.S. Army, placed it on its recommended reading list. The Hammer and the Anvil, also with art by Wayne Vansant, is the critically acclaimed graphic biography of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

Dwight’s young adult biography, Tecumseh: Shooting Star of the Shawnee received the 2010 Bronze Medal Award: Young Adult from the Military Writers Society of America and was a finalist in the young adult category in the 2011 Western Writers of America.

His book The Day the World Exploded is the critically acclaimed young adult adaptation of Simon Winchester’s bestselling Krakatoa.

Dwight is the co-author, with John D. Gresham, of the critically acclaimed history of seven pivotal special operations from the Vietnam War to present day, Beyond Hell and Back.

He’s written numerous articles on military subjects for Faircount Media for its military-themed print publications and its Defense Media Network website, and other publishers. His article, “Maritime Mobility,” for The Shield of Freedom, an annual publication about the Coast Guard, was selected by the Naval War College for use in its curriculum. And his article about a special operations mission during the Korean War led by the theater’s surgeon general that had high-stakes diplomatic consequences, originally published in The Year in Special Operations 2009 was selected for re-publication by the Journal of Special Operations Medicine.

Dwight has lectured at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the Naval War College, and has appeared on the FOX programs DEFCON-3 hosted by K.T. McFarland, and AMERICA NEWS HQ discussing military subjects.

“Pulitzer Prize-winning author Philip Caputo (right) and me holding the 2006 Connecticut Center for the Book award for 10,000 Days of Thunder. I had a great time collaborating with him on that young adult history of the Vietnam War. Since my name couldn't go on the book, he insisted I attend with him the event at Hartford. Thankfully we won.” ~ DJZ

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Philip Caputo (right) and me holding the 2006 Connecticut Center for the Book award for 10,000 Days of Thunder. I had a great time collaborating with him on that young adult history of the Vietnam War. Since my name couldn’t go on the book, he insisted I attend with him the event at Hartford. Thankfully we won.” ~ DJZ

He was the host of “At Ease,” an hour-long program about authors and their projects, part of Veterans Radio Network. Information about the program is available at www.veteransradio.net. Guests on his program have included Rick Atkinson, Robert M. Edsel, Larry Bond, Thomas Fleming, Craig L. Symonds, Jake Tapper, and Stephen Coonts, amongst others.

He was a producer for the independent film, Trooper, which received the Bronze Remi Award at the 2010 Houston International Film Festival.

Dwight was the researcher for the critically acclaimed The New York Times Complete History of the Civil War, edited by Craig L. Symonds and Harold Holzer with a forward by former president Bill Clinton, and The New York Times Complete World War II edited by Richard Overy with a forward by Tom Brokaw.

He collaborated on a series of award winning young adult histories published by Atheneum. The authors of record included such Pulitzer Prize winners and bestselling authors as James M. McPherson’s Fields of Fury (Civil War) and Into the West (Reconstruction and settling of the frontier), Philip Caputo’s 10,000 Days of Thunder (Vietnam War), Stephen Ambrose’s The Good Fight  (World War II), and Benson Bobrick’s Fight for Freedom (the American Revolution).

Dwight with a lot more hair--and darker!--sometime in the 1980s, doing balloon placement on a comic book story.

Dwight with a lot more hair–and darker!–sometime in the 1980s, doing balloon placement on a comic book story.

Dwight began his career in publishing at Marvel Comics, where he held a variety of editorial and staff positions. Among his Marvel comic book writing credits are stories for Spider-Man, The X-Men, and The Hulk, and other super heroes. In addition to his comic book stories, he has written a wide variety of children’s book adventures based on licensed product toy lines, most notably the Transformers. In 1992, he became executive editor of Topps Comics, a division of The Topps Company, and was responsible for the editorial and art direction of its lines of media tie-in comics based on The X-Files, Mars Attacks, Jurassic Park, Zorro, Xena: Warrior Princess and other movies and programs. In addition, Dwight was the writer, editor, and art director of Princess Diana the graphic novel biography of Diana, Princess of Wales published by Topps.

MWSA_Logo copyDwight is the current president of the Military Writers Society of America. A native of Devils Lake, North Dakota, he presently lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Joëlle. They have two adult children.

 

 

 

 

 

Behind the Scenes of a #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

Hometown boy makes good! Dwight was the guest author at his hometown of Devils Lake, North Dakota, during their centennial celebration in July 2008. He was front page news on my hometown newspaper.

Hometown boy makes good! Dwight was the guest author at his hometown of Devils Lake, North Dakota, during their centennial celebration in July 2008. He was front page news on his hometown newspaper.

A candid interview with Dwight Jon Zimmerman: author, producer, radio host, and former writer/editor at Marvel Comics

Kathleen: Welcome, Dwight.  Congratulations on hitting the #1 spot on the New York Times Bestselling list for LINCOLN’S LAST DAYS. I understand this is a young adult adaptation of Bill O’Reilly’s bestselling book, KILLING LINCOLN. If you are comfortable, please discuss the details of how you came to work on this project.

Dwight: Thank you, Kathleen—happy to be a guest on your blog! LINCOLN’S LAST DAYS was a great experience. As to how the project happened, Bill O’Reilly and I share the same publisher, he on the adult side, I on the kids’ side. KILLING LINCOLN had been a huge hit for Holt’s adult division and the adult publisher contacted his counterpart on the kids’ side about doing a young adult adaptation. At her next meeting with her editors, the kids’ publisher asked who among their stable of writers was a good candidate to do the adaptation. A year earlier I had written SAGA OF THE SIOUX, an award-winning adaptation of Dee Brown’s American West classic BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE. The publisher contacted my agent who contacted me. I got a copy of KILLING LINCOLN to read over the 2011 Christmas holiday. I thought it was an exciting story and signed on.Lincoln's Last Days

Now, the crucial thing was that they wanted the manuscript fast—by April 1, 2012, because they wanted to release the book in August! Yes, that essentially made this an instant book. I had a meeting with the publisher, editor, and head designer in January and discussed work details—I was also asked to do image acquisition.

I got a digital copy of the manuscript and immediately went to work condensing a 93,000-word manuscript down to about 36,000 words. And, because this was for kids, I was asked to write additional material that described life in Washington, D.C. during the Civil War. Condensing was a challenge, as you might expect, because in addition to deleting so much text, I then had to revise passages to maintain story flow integrity and make the vocabulary age appropriate.

The publisher also wanted to have at least one image on each two-page spread. One of the things I truly love on projects like this is image acquisition. Most of my books are loaded with photographs. LINCOLN’S LAST DAYS has more than 150 photos, if I remember correctly.

I’m proud to say I submitted the first draft and image package one week before my deadline. LINCOLN’S LAST DAYS debuted in mid-August in the top five on the New York Times bestseller list and by the second week had shot to #1.

KMR: I was honored to read an advanced copy of UNCOMMON VALOR: The Medal of Honor and the Six Warriors Who Earned It in Afghanistan and Iraq, the book you coauthored with John D. Gresham. In my review, I led with this question: What makes a person deliberately fall on a grenade, charge into a line of fire, sacrifice his life to save another? Please share what is was like to interview the families of the fallen and to delve into their backgrounds.

DJZ: Writing UNCOMMON VALOR was an extraordinary experience and one of the most difficult books I’ve ever written because of the responsibility of telling the stories of these brave young men as accurately as possible—particularly the stories of those who received their Medals of Honor posthumously.Uncommon Valor

Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons neither John nor I were able to interview family members. The one relative we were able to contact (a recipient’s father) demanded $5,000 before he would talk or allow other friends and relatives be interviewed. As the information we could obtain from him and the friends and relatives was about the late recipient’s childhood and pre-service background that had been extensively covered in a series of newspaper articles, we declined. We discovered later he used our interview discussion as leverage to secure his own book contract about his son.

What fascinated us about the stories of the recipients in UNCOMMON VALOR was the diverse background of the recipients. They came from all walks of life and socio-economic backgrounds. For some, the military turned their lives around. Others, with Ivy League and upper middle class backgrounds chose the military out of a sense of obligation to the nation. And, all were young—the youngest being just nineteen when he died. Doing the research on their lives was one of the most rewarding experiences I had.

One of the most humbling experiences John and I had concerning the book occurred up at West Point where we did some lectures and a book signing. At lunch we were brought up to the poop deck, an elevated platform in the middle of the mess hall. When we were introduced the entire Corps of Cadets, 4,700 strong, gave us a standing ovation. We asked the first captain of the class of 2011 why we received such an enthusiastic reception, he replied, “You tell our stories for us.”

KMR: How many books have you coauthored with John D. Gresham? I understand he worked closely with Tom Clancy on several projects.

DJZ: UNCOMMON VALOR was our second book. BEYOND HELL AND BACK, which is about seven pivotal missions that led to the creation of Special Operations Command, was the first. I’ve known John for several years, and we’ve worked together in a variety of editorial and writing capacities on books and articles. John collaborated with Tom Clancy on the series of guided tour non-fiction books about military units, ships, and airplanes.

KMR: Do you have a literary agent? If so, does this agent represent all of your work?

DJZ: I do have an agent, but he only handles my young adult books.

KMR: You have led many lives in your publishing career. What is your typical day like? Do you keep office hours?

DJZ: If you saw me, you’d think me probably one of the laziest people in the world. And, in one sense you’d be correct. Since I write military history, and have had to write on a variety of subjects ranging from U.S. Navy Dentistry to battles and wars throughout history, I do a lot of research. I’d say the ratio of research to writing is two-thirds research, one-third writing. So, I spend a lot of time reading.

There’s no real typical day, but rather typical periods. Research involves a lot of reading and Internet searching. I will pull out stacks of books from my library and do printouts of documents I’ve found (sometimes entire books) and then, pen and yellow highlighter in hand, will then mark up and highlight passages.

There are periods where I don’t do any writing at all. I grab a notepad and pen and try to put down words, but nothing really happens. I’ve been a professional writer long enough to recognize this sort of situation; that it’s best not to fight it. When it happens I do anything and everything else but physically write. What’s actually happening is that my mind is working on the stories. The longest such period took three weeks, which did start becoming a concern during that third week—when I’m not writing, I’m not making money. Then, one morning, the words just started flowing out and within a week I had written three small and one big article.

I do have an office where I do a lot of my work (and where I’m answering your questions). But when the weather’s nice, I’ll take my reference material and notebook (I handwrite my rough drafts) and sit down at the table in our back yard. Though the yard is small, my wife’s done an excellent job creating a flower garden and it’s a great pleasure to take little breaks looking at the flowers and stretching my legs walking down the backyard path.

KMR: How long did you work at MARVEL COMICS and what did you do there?

Dwight with a lot more hair--and darker!--sometime in the 1980s, doing balloon placement on a comic book story.

Dwight with a lot more hair–and darker!–sometime in the 1980s, doing balloon placement on a comic book story.

DJZ: I broke into the publishing industry in 1977, working in production at Marvel Comics. And most of my career, about twenty years, was in the comic book industry where I held a variety of staff positions in addition to being a writer. I was a journeyman writer at Marvel, and wrote every major character in the company’s stable, including Spider-Man, Wolverine, Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk, amongst others. In 1992 Topps, the sports and entertainment trading card company and manufacturer of Bazooka bubble gum, hired me from Marvel to help start up Topps Comics, their new comic book division. The crowning moment of my career was that of Topps Comics executive editor.

KMR: On September 11, 2001, you were working as an acquisitions editor at a mid-size publishing house in New York City. As a novelist, I am intrigued by the inner workings of a New York publishing house. How long did you work there and would you elaborate on your job? Give us some inside scoop.

DJZ: The comic book industry collapsed in the wake of Marvel’s bankruptcy in 1998. Though Topps Comics was still making money, the company decided to fold the comics division shortly thereafter and I was laid off. I joined Byron Preiss Visual Publications, a mid-size publishing house and book packager, in 1999 as a senior editor, originally responsible for its line of licensed novels based on Marvel Comics characters. I later became responsible for the company’s military history books, and that opened the door to my military history-writing career, starting with ghost writing young adult histories for Stephen Ambrose (THE GOOD FIGHT), James M. McPherson (FIELDS OF FURY and INTO THE WEST) and Phil Caputo (TEN THOUSAND DAYS OF THUNDER).

KMR: What was the hardest part of your job as a book editor? Was it reading proposals, sending out rejections or simply finding the time and energy to read through mounds of manuscripts?

DJZ: Since I edited both comics and books, I’ll include my experiences in both fields. As a comic book editor, my most difficult experiences occurred at comic book conventions. Over time I came to hate doing portfolio reviews.

Aspiring comic book artists would attend comic book conventions hoping to get their work noticed by editors. Showcasing opportunities were usually formalized by convention organizers who arranged with publishers scheduled portfolio review times in a room or area set aside for that purpose, or they were informal with the artist approaching an editor at the publisher’s booth and asking if the editor had a few minutes to conduct a portfolio review.

I saw all kinds of work from artists ranging from high school kids to men in their thirties. The kids were easy to critique because they were obviously just starting out. It was pretty obvious who had talent and who didn’t. Regardless, I stressed the need to practice. A lot of artists with marginal talent became successful in the field more through their persistence than talent, and sometimes that’s what it takes.

There were two types of artists that were real difficult to critique: the ones on the cusp, and the ones incapable of letting go of their dream. The artists on the cusp had to be given specific instruction, a challenge because you could see the disappointment in their eyes because they thought their talent level was ready. The others, usually men in their late twenties or early thirties, had to be lied to. The best example of the latter occurred at a small convention in the South. This guy in his late twenties confidently approached me at the portfolio review table and gave me his portfolio. As he did so he told me to give me an honest appraisal, assuring me that he knew how to take criticism. I opened the portfolio, and saw that this guy would never make it as a professional comic book artist. The quality was that of an artist in his late teens. I pointed to a figure and began a general comment about what was wrong with the anatomy. The man’s expression became one of panic. And, this was a mild negative comment about the figure’s anatomy. So much for him accepting criticism. I immediately went into my set speech about practice and made some nice comments about things that I thought were good in the art samples, and wished him luck.

After a while I found myself seeing too much bad art, I decided I would no longer look at portfolios. Though at one convention I wound up making an exception to that rule. This artist came up to me and asked if I would review his portfolio. Accompanying him was his girlfriend—his exceedingly hot girlfriend. I opened up his portfolio, and saw some of the worst art I had ever seen in my life. How this guy ever thought he had artistic talent is beyond me. But he had this absolute babe of a girlfriend. So, that artist got one of the most detailed critiques I ever gave. He went away walking on a cloud because of my comments. That was the only time I had fun doing a portfolio review.

On the book side, it was editing manuscripts of writers who had contracts to write novels of Marvel Comics characters. My predecessor had given contracts to his science fiction and mystery author friends—and most of them had no feel or knowledge of the Marvel Comics characters. Some were just downright bad writers. This contributed to his being fired. I was hired because of my knowledge of the characters and I found myself tearing my hair out over some of the ridiculous things I encountered. Things like Spider-Man sporting a pistol, and advising a major supporting character in the Spider-Man universe to use it to “shoot to kill.”

Another novel had a morally reprehensible act as its driving element. It was Professor X physically taking over the body of a young man with mental retardation, now called intellectual disability, and repeatedly putting the young man’s body in harm’s way—actions completely out of character for Professor X. While there was nothing I could really do about the “body snatcher” part of the storyline, I did have a trump I could play which the author couldn’t fight. Basically, the author’s depiction of the young man revealed he had no experience with anyone having that condition. And I did—one of my uncles had intellectual disability, as did one of my neighbor’s sons in my hometown. So, I was able to chapter and verse him on what he did wrong in scenes involving that young man and how they had to be rewritten. If the author didn’t, I would rewrite them myself (an advantage I had because it was a licensed product). He did the rewriting as instructed. 

KMR: You currently serve as president of Military Writers Society of America. How long have you served in that capacity and what are your duties?MWSA_Logo copy

DJZ: I’ve been president for almost two years now. My responsibilities include setting the goals and agenda for the organization, managing operations, am the organization’s representative at official functions, oversee the annual conferences, amongst other duties. I particularly like welcoming new members at our annual conference. I’ve recognized that my varied career has given me more experience than what most people in the industry have received, and as such I feel an obligation to give freely to members any and all information that I have to help them in their writing.

KMR: You reside in Brooklyn, NY. Are there advantages to living in the same city where most of your publishers are based?

DJZ: Yes. I can enter the subway and visit editorial offices in Manhattan within an hour. Though the Internet has made contact between writers and editors a lot easier than ever, face-to-face contact is still important. And, it gets me out of the house.

KMR: Please list all the titles of your books and your many awards.

DJZ: You had to do that to me, didn’t you? Okay, here goes:

Books:

LINCOLN’S LAST DAYS (with Bill O’Reilly), Grand Prize 2013 Branson Stars and Flags Book Award

Saga of the SiouxSAGA OF THE SIOUX (with Dee Brown), Grand Prize 2012 Branson Stars and Flags Book Award; 2012 Gold Medal Young Adult Non-Fiction, Military Writers Society of America

THE HAMMER AND THE ANVIL: Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, and the End of Slavery in America (art by Wayne Vansant)

UNCOMMON VALOR (with John D. Gresham), 2010 Founder’s Award, Military Writers Society of America; Silver Medal Non-Fiction 2010 Branson Stars and Flags Book Award

THE VIETNAM WAR: A GRAPHIC HISTORY (art by Wayne Vansant), 2010 Gold Medal Photography/Graphics Branson Stars and Flags Book Award, 2010 Gold Medal Artistic/Graphic Military Writers Society of America, Recommended Reading: Military Review, the official journal of the U.S. Army

TECUMSEH: Shooting Star of the Shawnee, 2010 Bronze Medal Young Adult Military Writers Society of America

THE BOOK OF WEAPONS

THE BOOK OF WAR, 2009 Gold Medal for Reference, Military Writers Society of America

BEYOND HELL AND BACK: How America’s Special Operations Forces Became the World’s Greatest Fighting Unit (with John D. Gresham)

THE DAY THE WORLD EXPLODED: The Earthshaking Catastrophe at Krakatoa (with Simon Winchester)

First CommandFIRST COMMAND: PATHS TO LEADERSHIP, 2009 Gold Medal Reference/Technical Branson Stars and Flags Book Award; Chief of Infantry Recommended Reading List: Junior NCOs, 2005 Aurora Platinum Best of Show Award for Historical Programming (three-part Military Channel mini-series based on my book, I was co-executive producer)

Chief Researcher:

THE NEW YORK TIMES COMPLETE CIVIL WAR

THE NEW YORK TIMES COMPLETE WORLD WAR II

Faircount Media Group:

Assorted web and print articles on a wide variety of military history subjects. Web articles can be found at www.defensemedianetwork.com. Dwight’s article on “Maritime Mobility” was selected by the Naval War College for use in its curriculum.

Stay tuned for part two of Kathleen’s interview with Dwight where he’ll share an exerpt from a new autobiography he’s writing for Red Engine Press. 


Author Kathleen Rodgers & Agent Jeanie Loiacono on cover of DISPATCHES Magazine

I am humbled and honored to be featured with my agent, Jeanie Loiacono, on the cover of the Spring 2014 issue of DISPATCHES, the magazine from Military Writers Society of America.

Kathleen Rodgers and her literary agent Jeanie Loiacono

Kathleen Rodgers and her literary agent Jeanie Loiacono

 

Story by Pat McGrath Avery.

Story by Pat McGrath Avery.

 

Pat McGrath-Avery did an outstanding job on the article she wrote about my writing journey  (found on page 24).

“When Jeanie Loiacono of Loiacono Literary Agency offered to represent Kathy, she not only found an agent, but also a kindred spirit. Jeanie is an Army veteran and the daughter of a career Air Force veteran.”

My essay about loss, rejection and success appears on page 25. Many thanks also to Joyce Faulkner for her hard work on this issue.

My essay on loss, rejection and success. Originally featured on my blog Dec. 2013.

My essay on loss, rejection and success. Originally featured on my blog Dec. 2013.

 

 

Kathleen M. Rodgers’ 2nd novel Johnnie Come Lately is forthcoming from Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press, February 1, 2015. Her first novel The Final Salute has been featured in USA – Today, The Associated Press, Military Times and many other publications. 

Day in the Life of a Literary Agent

A  candid  interview  with  Jeanie  Loiacono, President of Loiacono Literary Agency.

Jeanie Loiacono

Jeanie Loiacono

(Kathleen): Welcome, Jeanie.  As a literary agent, what is your typical day like?

Jeanie: Up at 5am, at work by 6am and am glued to it till sometimes after 9pm. I read submissions from 6-8 am  and on the weekends. Being an agent is not a 9-5 job. Any editor will tell you the same thing. It is your life, but it is a chosen passion, not a job. If you think of it as a job, you should change professions. You have to look at each day as “dayclean.” (That is what the Gullah people from Sapelo Island, Georgia call the beginning of each day.) God gives you a clean slate with each sunrise. With each sunset, you are smarter than you were before. I think there should be a “daycleanse” at the end of the day where you take nothing negative to bed with you.

There is a lot of research that goes on throughout every single day. This industry changes by the minute and you have to be on top of things to move forward. Then there is networking, communications, administration, editing (copy only for me, no content unless it makes no sense), submitting (knowing who, when and how many to each house), follow-up, notices, social media, promotions, marketing, etc. Being courteous and professional at all times is essential.

You must be a multi-tasker who needs no one to tell you what to do or how to do it, self-motivated and driven, not for money or your own success, but for your authors. Their success is your success.

I could go on and on. Believe me, I am never bored. I live by my company slogan, “Can’t is not in my vocabulary.”

KMR: According to your agency’s website, you represent over sixty clients. How do you juggle so many authors’ careers?

Tom and Kathleen Rodgers having lunch with Jeanie and Robert Loiacono in historic Grapevine, TX.

Tom and Kathleen Rodgers having lunch with Jeanie and Robert Loiacono in historic Grapevine, TX.

JL: I prioritize minute-by-minute. You have to decide what is most important for that second. Do it right away and go to the next. This is not a position for someone who is indecisive, hesitant, or waits for someone else to tell them what to do. When you take on an author, they are your son or daughter; their books are their babies, your grandbabies. You want nothing but the best for them and their works. “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” What would Jesus do? His very best, for their very best.

KMR: When it comes to reading queries, can you describe your process? Do you glance at queries certain times of the day or when you have a break in other duties?

JL: First impressions mean the most. For anyone who aspires to be a writer/author, do your research, take classes, go to conferences, make friends with authors, and most importantly READ. The more you read, the better you write. Also, look at the submission guidelines on the LLA website http://www.loiaconoliteraryagency.com/submission-guidelines/. I try to make it as easy as possible for a successful submission. When a writer sends me a submission, I do look at it as soon as it comes in. If it is something that strikes a cord, I read the query. If the query is professionally done, makes sense, gives me all I need to know about the manuscript and the author, I read the synopsis. If it is done correctly (beginning, middle and end; just the facts; one page, single-spaced) and the writing is good, I read the first page of the manuscript. If it is done correctly, there are little or no errors, the grammar is good and it grabs my attention and does not let go until the last page, it is a winner. Don’t think it is an easy thing to do. The hardest part of my day is sending rejections. If you don’t want one, do all the above and submit to me. If it’s good, it’s going to join the LLA family.

KMR: For writers looking for representation, what is the best way for them to grab your attention?

JL: Genre, subject, professional writing, formatting and credentials. Impress me.

KMR: When you are reading a manuscript, at what point do you know you want to take it on? Does it happen on the first page, halfway through the story, or do you read all the way to the end before you contact the author and offer representation?

JL: I never take on a manuscript without falling in love with it, having confidence I can sell it and without reading it to the last word. It has to hold me by the collar and scream, “Take me on! I am damn good!” all the way through. When you look at the list of authors on my website, each one had to pass my tests, and they did so with flying colors.

KMR: How do you keep track of all your correspondence from editors you are pitching to? If a rejection comes in, do you immediately open up that’s client’s file and make the notation?

JL: You bet I do! If you do not respond immediately, note what is said and take action on it, you will be lost. Some rejections are short, “No thanks.” Others are lengthier, which tells you they read some or all of it before responding. Sometimes the constructive criticism goes a long way. I do not send my authors every response. It would be devastating to read all that negativity. Instead, I send them what would improve their work or any “bites” like the editor is reading it or they are interested in offering a contract. You do not want to discourage an author, only empower and motivate.

KMR: When you take on a manuscript that you believe in, how do you handle the rejections when they come in?

JL: Whether you agree with what is said or not you are polite. Remember what Thumper said? “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” Well, I always thank them as I am ever so appreciative of their taking the time to respond one way or the other. I ask what it is they are most interested in at this time; that I will gladly check my list. One door closes, another opens. “You never know, it just might happen.” That is from JP in Angels in the Outfield.

KMR: How often do you converse with editors by telephone rather than e-mail?

JL: That depends on what needs to be said. Lengthy discussions are better done over the phone. I prefer email for the rest for two reasons: I can answer when it is convenient (it does not take away from what I am in the middle of) and I have documentation of the response that I can refer back to.

KMR: Do you attend writers’ conferences?

L-R Writer Valerie Haight, LLA clients Lin Waterhouse and KD McCrite with Jeanie Loiacono at a writers conference.

L-R Writer Valerie Haight, LLA clients Lin Waterhouse and KD McCrite with Jeanie Loiacono at an Ozarks Writers League  conference a couple of years ago.

JL: I used to do a lot more than I do now. I make the point of attending those where I have authors present, 2-3 a year, and those I am participating in. I am so very proud of them all and like praising them as much as possible.

KMR: This may sound like a funny question, but I’ve often wondered if agents get together and have agent conferences.

JL: No, not much, if any. There are a few in the major cities, but sharing contacts and information can be both positive and negative. I would like to brainstorm with some of the best in the business, but it is so competitive. I met with two agents at different conferences and expressed my desire to do so and they closed-up. I take no offense to this since this is a survival of the fittest business. If any other agents read this and want to give and take, let me know.

KMR: How do you keep up with the changing climate of the publishing industry? In other words, how do you decide which editors and houses to pitch to?

JL: One word: RESEARCH. I cannot emphasize that enough.

KMR: How did you get into this business?

Trixie Belden Series

Trixie Belden Series

JL: I have loved the literary arts since I was a little girl and my sister turned me onto chapter books, the Trixie Belden series. It was a seed that took a long time to germinate, but about seven years ago, I co-founded a writer’s conference and my tree produced good fruit. I met so many great authors, editors, publishers, etc. and one asked me if I would like to be an agent. I jumped at the chance and have been doing it ever since. Everything happens for a reason.

KMR: If you’re comfortable talking about it, can you describe the difference between working in an established agency and going out on your own?

JL: Define “established.” When I started working as a contract agent for the agency I started out in, they had three authors. Two had dropped off the radar years before and the other I took over, Stephen Doster. Oh, how I love his works! Established, no. It had a website. I took the reins and got it back on the map. When I broke off and started my own agency, all but four came with me.  Fifty-five authors stayed with me because they believed in me. I now have one other agent who works with me, Evie Saphire-Bernstein, in NYC. I hope to take on several more agents in the near future. So, if you are an agent and would like to work at LLA, contact me.

The boat that brought Jeanie and Robert together.

The boat that brought Jeanie and Robert together.

KMR: Please tell us about the boat that’s featured prominently on your website.

JL: That is the boat that brought me and my husband together.

At the Grand Canyon after Robert proposed to Jeanie.

At the Grand Canyon after Robert proposed to Jeanie.

My author, Stephen Doster, knew Vic Waters, another of my authors, who knew Jim Grimshaw, who knew Les Pendleton, who became one of my authors, who knew Robert Loiacono. AHHHH! Well, Vic had a book signing for the book I sold, Hogan’s Boat. There I met Jim Grimshaw, Vic’s cousin and also a famous actor, who told me all about Les Pendleton. I took on all six of Les’ manuscripts and sold them in a matter of months. Robert Loiacono sold Wings, now known as TwoPeas, to Les. When Les met him, he said, “I know just the woman for you.” Then Les invited me to go sailing with him and Susanne, his wife, one weekend. As we are gliding out of the marina, he says, “I know just the man for you.” Neither of us took the bait; had every excuse in the world. Then Les sent an email saying, “Jeanie this is Robert. Robert this is Jeanie.” The rest is a story I will write in about twenty years.

                            ***

Author and her Agent

 

Kathleen M. Rodgers’ 2nd novel Johnnie Come Lately is forthcoming from Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press, February 1, 2015. Her first novel The Final Salute has been featured in USA – Today, The Associated Press, Military Times and many other publications. Despite a long and successful writing career, Kathleen longed for the kind of relationship that legendary author Eudora Welty enjoyed with her agent, Diarmuid Russell. When Jeanie Loiacono offered representation, Kathleen rejoiced, knowing she and her work had finally found a good home. To read Kathleen’s complete bio, please visit http://www.kathleenmrodgers.com/bio.html.

“A Good Story” by Joseph Durepos

 Joseph Durepos, executive editor/trade acquisitions at Loyola Press, has penned a moving essay about his dad. I’m delighted to spotlight Joe on this week’s blog. As an aside, Joe and I both graduated from Clovis High School, Clovis,  New Mexico. 

Joe and his dad
Joe and his dad

A Good Story

by Joseph Durepos

My dad read to me a lot when I was young. We always had a storybook going before bed. Later, I asked him why he read to me so much. He said that if you can find your way into a story, you can often find your way out. That sounded pretty Zen-like coming from Dad. I’m not sure I understood it at the time.

Several years later, I listened to poet Robert Bly talk about fairy tales and why they’re so enduring. He said something very much like my father had. He made his point by talking about certain doctors in Europe who worked with patients in psychiatric wings of hospitals—many of them troubled by bad dreams and feelings of inescapable panic.

Frustrated by their inability to reach these patients, the doctors began reading fairy tales to them before bed. Startlingly, many of the patients reported finding doors in nightmares where there were only walls before. Others saw light where there had been only darkness. Some patients showed marked improvement in moods and a lessening of agitation.

If I’m honest with myself, I didn’t always appreciate my father’s gifts, but I did always love him. He was an orphan, and his childhood had been tough. He lived in a foster home with lots of children moving in and out. The woman who ran the home liked my dad and raised him as her own. But there was nothing easy about growing up as a foster child in an orphanage in rural Maine during the Depression.

When he turned 17, he graduated from high school and immediately joined the military. It was a perfect marriage for him; it offered him structure, a way to find himself in the world, and a good job for almost 30 years.

My dad was a military man. A stoic. He rarely complained, certainly not about personal pain. In his world, unless you were down for the count, you just kept on keeping on.

Late on September 10, 2001, I got a call that my dad wasn’t doing well; I needed to come home right away. I flew to Albuquerque that night, met my two sisters, and drove to Lubbock, Texas, where my father had been taken to the hospital.

We arrived at the Texas Tech University Medical Center early on the morning of September 11. All eyes were on a small TV in the corner. Within five minutes I learned that my father was dying, probably had been for some time but hadn’t sought medical attention until he collapsed under the pain. I learned that all flights had been grounded. I learned about the hijackings, the attacks, and the estimated death counts. It was all too much to process at once. But I realized we were living in a story within a story: my dad’s story and our family story, but also the larger story of that day’s horrible events. This is how my father would have wanted me to make sense of the craziness.

We lost Dad less than four months after that terrible Tuesday. My father wasn’t a religious man, but he believed. As he drew closer to death, he spent quiet moments praying with his prayer book from childhood and reading novels. He told me that stories can make transitions, even difficult ones, possible. Then he winked and said he was simply finding his way out of the story. When he died, he was serene.

My dad never had a chance to read my first published book. It was a book about Saint Paul. In the first chapter, I talk about being part of the larger story of the faith that we live as Christians. It’s a vast, enduring story of salvation and redemption. Each one of us plays our part in the unfolding. It’s a concept I know intimately because of my father.

I’m in publishing today largely because of the love of stories my father nurtured in me. My dad loved that I became an editor and a writer. He would ask about my work and smile proudly. I still see that smile in my dreams, and I wake up happy. It’s a good story.

Bio:Joe Durepos 2013

Joseph Durepos is the executive editor for trade book acquisitions at Loyola Press, where he has worked since 2002. He’s published over 300 books, including New York Times Best Selling authors Fr. James Martin (My Life with the Saints) and Joan Wester Anderson (In the Arms of Angels).

Durepos has also worked as an independent literary agent specializing in religion and spirituality titles.  Titles sold include No Greater Love by Mother Teresa and The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer both with worldwide sales of over 500,000 copies.

As both an agent and editor, his books have been New York Times Best Sellers (The Rhythm of Life by Matthew Kelly) and Publishers Weekly Best Sellers (The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer and I Like Being Catholic by Michael Leach & Theresa Borchard); they have also won Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of the Year awards (Prayer is A Place by Phyllis Tickle and My Life with the Saints by James Martin, S.J.).

Durepos lives in Woodridge, IL with his 18-year-old American Eskimo, Sasha.

                        ***

Clovis High School, class of '76Native New Mexican Kathleen M. Rodgers’ second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, is forthcoming from Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press, February 1, 2015. She is represented by the Loiacono Literary Agency. Kathleen started writing for her high school newspaper, The Purple Press, her junior year.  She didn’t take the writing gig seriously until she won First Place for Feature Writing from New Mexico Press Women her senior year. The winning story, “Strange Blobs of Light Whiz Through the Night,” was inspired by the UFO sightings over Clovis in 1976.  http://www.kathleenmrodgers.com

New Mexico author Lesley Poling-Kempes, Winner of the 2013 Tony Hillerman Award for Best Fiction

LPK author photo medium

Lesley Poling-Kempes

I am pleased to introduce New Mexico writer and historian Lesley Poling-Kempes, author of Bone Horses and Winner of the 2013 Tony Hillerman Award for Best Fiction, New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards.

(Kathleen): Welcome, Lesley. Please give us a brief summary of the book. What is your genre and who is your target audience?

bone-horses-front border


“Lesley Poling-Kempes is deservedly known for her beautiful nonfiction books about Abiquiu and the Ghost Ranch area of northern New Mexico. Her second novel, Bone Horses, can only enhance her reputation. Her love of the land and its wild spirit shines through this tragic story with redemption at the end. It is a fine mystery, with complex twists and turns. Bone Horses is also a paean to the land and especially to its rare wild horses who symbolize all that is wonderful about our high desert country and all that needs our love and protection.”
–John Nichols / author of The Milagro Beanfield War.

New York school teacher Charlotte Lambert is practical and predictable, and never allows life to veer off course. Until she comes to New Mexico. During one summer in Agua Dulce, a village haunted by a phantom herd of wild horses and where ravens embody the spirits of ancestors, Charlotte’s world is upended as she unearths the details of her mother’s forbidden love affair, chilling murder, and courageous last act of redemption. Pursued by a madman hell-bent on killing her, Charlotte finds shelter, romance, and her own misplaced soul at the desert camp of a surprisingly sophisticated cowboy, and learns how love in its myriad forms is the only path to lasting salvation.  

My target audience was and is readers like me…I love a good story about people living through the best and the most difficult times of their lives, and emerging stronger and happier. The heart of all of my stories is…my heart. BONE HORSES has been called a mystery, woman’s fiction, and last week in a review by the Western Writers of America Roundup Magazine, the novel was called literary fiction. I like all of those genre/labels. I did not, however, start out to write a genre novel.

KMR: What did it feel like to have John Nichols’ endorsement? (See text at left.)

LPK: Oh, John is such a rock star author and person! I just glow every time I read his blurb for BONE HORSES. I suppose John remains the author against whom all Southwestern writers measure ourselves at some point in our careers. He is generous, smart, relevant, politically active, opinionated, incredibly well read, savvy, human, loving, and funny as heck!

KMR:  How long did it take you to write Bone Horses?  The story has multiple layers and is peopled with characters that feel like your own family and neighbors. In your acknowledgements, you mention that it took many drafts and revisions. Can you talk a bit about the process? For fiction, do you write from an outline, notes, or do you wing it? Did the story change over time from the original vision you had in your head and did any scenes and characters appear that surprised you?

Ghost_Ranch-210LPK: Yes, yes, and yes. The novel began with the story of the wild horses – told to me by several old-timers when I was researching my book GHOST RANCH. I couldn’t get past that story and what the shooting down of those mustangs did to the heart and psyche of the people who knew and loved them. From that extraordinary and heart-wrenching bit of history, BONE HORSES was birthed. Characters began to step into the story – Charlotte’s mother, Alicia, was first, and her story was told in more detail in early drafts. Charlotte and Thea came next, Barty Bill and his gas station – I just love that gas station! – and Conchata speaking from the Other Side. I would wake in the night and scribble notes about these characters; they were chatty and had lots to say. I’d take a pad and pen out walking on the desert (I go out every day) because one of the characters from Agua Dulce would strike up a conversation and I had to write it down. (I need written notes…how did we write books before post-it notes were invented?)

It took seven years to pull the stories and scenes together (the novel had to be shelved while I wrote the book GHOST RANCH), and many revisions of a 500 page manuscript that eventually was cut to 350. I draft out an outline and scenes in longhand in a notebook over many months, and when I’m ready to really dig in and write, I use a computer. My handwriting is atrocious and I’d never be able to figure out what I’ve drafted if I wrote in longhand…although I love good journals and wonderful pens!

I am taking notes for a sequel.

KMR: Was it hard for you to switch from writing nonfiction to fiction? If so, did you find writing fiction more challenging?

LPK: I find nonfiction much harder to write than fiction. When I began writing after college, I hoped I’d only write fiction, but then I kept finding great untold nonfiction and I was given contracts and even advances for those projects, so I have written more nonfiction than novels. I am just this very moment completing a new book of nonfiction LADIES OF THE CANYONS for the University of Arizona Press. It has taken two very intense and challenging years to research (at archives and collections on both coasts) and write.  I think it may be my best book of nonfiction. I was both energized and exhausted by the scope and potential of this project. (The narrative is based on the true stories of four women friends who came to the Southwest before WWI.)

I next will return to complete a novel that is 3/4ths done. I so look forward to fiction again! This new novel is called GALLUP, and is a fictionalization of the true story of Gallup, New Mexico, in World War II: Gallup was the only community in the US that did not intern their Japanese American citizens when ordered by Executive Order 9066 to do so. The novel is based on a screenplay of the same name, and both are co-authored by me and Robert N. Singer. The film is in development.

KMR:  I first read about Bone Horses in New Mexico Magazine shortly after the book came out. Although I didn’t order it at the time, I was intrigued by the title and the whimsical cover art that depicted a lonely gas station with red mesas and snowcapped mountains in the background. I stared at the artwork for a long time, getting homesick for my native New Mexico. The cover brought to mind all the old gas stations that dotted the highway between my childhood home in eastern New Mexico and my aunt’s and uncle’s home in sprawling Albuquerque on the other side of the Sandia Mountains. Can you talk a bit about the cover artist, Carolyn Barford, and if you had any input in the design? It’s a striking cover.

EPSON MFP imageLPK: Carolyn Barford is a gifted painter and illustrator and one of my oldest and closest friends. We work very closely on a cover – she also did the cover for the paperback edition of my first novel, CANYON OF REMEMBERING. For BONE HORSES we sat down and discussed what we imagined for a cover – after she had read the manuscript – and then she just goes at it. First as a sketch, and we tweak and discuss the first drawings – and then she paints. And Carolyn brings to life my vision in a way that is even grander than what I imagined. She also drew the page from the missing notebook that is key to the novel – she was fooling around and showed me the sketch and I grabbed it and said, “this is going in the book.” And it became the wonderful title page illustration.

KMR: When your novel tied for first place with Growing Seasons, penned by my friends Sue Boggio and Mare Pearl, I immediately ordered your book. You are an extremely gifted storyteller and you write with emotional impact. Your story rings with authenticity and your characters feel like real people, and yet you employed the use of magical realism and it all worked for me. I never questioned the legend of a phantom herd of horses coming down from the mountains to attend the burial of young men killed in the Bataan Death March. If anything, the legend of the horses lends dignity and honor to the military ceremony.

The same goes for the conversations that the story’s matriarch, Dorothea Durham, carried on with her late friend, Conchata. For me, these were some of the most unforgettable and emotionally charged scenes in the novel. I highlighted so many lines in the story that made me pause, look off in the distance, and ponder life and death. And what’s out there beyond the mountains of life. Were these the moments in the middle of the writing that recharged your battery? That told you that you were on the right path?

LPK: I depended on the sage counsel of Thea and Conchata throughout the writing of this novel. They were a calm, steady, affirming source of guidance. The best kind of self-help! My husband’s favorite line in the novel is Thea’s answer to Barty‘s question as to why Thea and Conchata don’t give people warning but let them suffer life’s catastrophes: “Because Conchata’s not all here… and I’m not all there. Yet.” (p. 255)

KMR: Bone Horses was published by La Alameda Press based in Albuquerque, NM, and your first novel, Canyon of Remembering, was published by Texas Tech Press. If you’re comfortable discussing the details, can you explain the difference between working with a university press and a smaller traditional press? I’m curious because more and more authors (including myself) are finding success with small presses. While many of us still dream of getting picked up by a major house, the paradigm in the publishing world has shifted and small presses offer hope to writers who want to get their work out there but wish to avoid self-publishing.

LPK: BONE HORSES had a winding road to publication, including two agents who had to give it up for personal reasons, several Big Houses that were very interested, but then the crash of 2008, and mid-list novels were cut from lists, and BONE HORSES became a casualty of the global crisis and its effect on publishing. I put it in a drawer for a year or more, and then began to discuss the novel with La Alameda Press. I knew if Alameda published the book, I would do all of the marketing. But I also knew if JB and his press wanted to do the book, it would be a beautiful book from design details to paper/typeset choices, to cover and etc. Alameda said yes, and BONE HORSES was published.

KMR: Does your literary agent represent all of your work, including your novels?

LPK: Yes. I now have a wonderful agent (Liz Trupin-Pulli) and I discuss everything past, present, future that I am working on or thinking of working on. For the first time in my literary life, I have an agent with whom I feel safe, cared for, and completely affirmed as a writer and a person. We even share recipes!

KMR: When it comes to marketing and promoting, do you have a publicist or do you do most of it yourself?

LPK: For BONE HORSES, I am the publicist. I have had to learn as I go along. I really prefer having a marketing/PR department behind me and a book – I’ve published 2 books with the University of Arizona Press, and look forward to working with them to promote LADIES OF THE CANYONS. But I’ve learned a LOT about the Internet and book marketing with BONE HORSES that will serve my other books.

In 2013, I also took the initiative and published CANYON OF REMEMBERING as an eBook (Texas Tech U Press, the publisher, wasn’t interested, so I acquired the ebook rights) and I’ve been amazed at how a book can have a new audience as an eBook. It’s been wonderful to have new readers and reviewers for my first novel, published in 2000.

valley coverKMR: You are originally from New York. I read where you first visited New Mexico as a child. What led you to return to The Land of Enchantment years later, and did you envision how much the state would shape your life as a writer?

LPK: My dad was raised in El Paso, and we had family out west. My parents moved to Albuquerque when I was in college, and I transferred from the College of Wooster in Ohio to UNM because I just loved New Mexico. That was 1971. I’ve never left.

KMR:  What is it like to live in Abiquiu, New Mexico, surrounded by the landscape that inspired Georgia O’Keefe?

LPK:  Abiquiu is my idea of paradise. I love desert living, and with my husband, built a solar adobe house on the edge of the national forest (aka high desert). I met O’Keeffe a few times around Ghost Ranch, before she became so famous and iconic…I really didn’t know much about her back in the 70s.GOK cover

I love rural life and rural people and their stories. I’m also quite the hermit when I’m writing, and enjoy the silence and space and light of my home country near Abiquiu. I imagine I’ll stay here for the rest of my life, god willing.

Other books by Lesley Poling-Kempes:

Ghost Ranch  (University of Arizona Press)

Southwest Books of the Year “Top Choice” Award 2005; Finalist, Independent Publisher Book Awards 2005 – Best western non-fiction; Time Magazine Notable Paperbacks

“Poling-Kempes is a skillful writer, smoothly dovetailing the human stories that make up the narrative of this pristine, peaceful, and appealing place. The author flat out knows how to tell a good story.” Richard Etulain, author of Re-imagining the Modern American West

“Rare is an author who possesses equal talent for writing both fiction and nonfiction. Lesley Poling-Kempes succeeds at both. Moreover, her historical material is as pleasing to read as a gripping novel.” New Mexico Magazine

Harvey Girls coverThe Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened the West (Da Capo Press)

Winner, Zia Award for Excellence, New Mexico Press Women

“A story that seems to have completely vanished from the national memory; for giving it new life, Poling-Kempes deserves gratitude and praise.”  Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post Book World

“Although Poling-Kempes’ subtitle might mislead you into thinking they were an all-female wagon train or a roving band of women outlaws a la the James Gang, the Harvey Girls actually were ‘only waitresses,’ as one denigrator put it to the author… an interesting, sometimes even amusing bit of Americana.”  Susan Rice, New York Times Book Review

Canyon of Remembering   (Texas Tech University Press)

Spur Award Finalist, Best First Novel, Western Writers of America

“Lesley Poling-Kempes has given us a story full of joy, sadness, love and beauty – and most of all, full of truth. Canyon of Remembering deserves a place among American classics.”  Tony Hillerman

“Like its New Mexico setting, this debut novel offers beauty in simplicity as it depicts a variety of people, licking their wounds from a variety of hurts, who come together to form a true community…Poling-Kempes writes with a quiet, seductive rhythm…”  Publisher’s Weekly

Valley of Shining Stone: The Story of Abiquiu  (University of Arizona Press)

“A writer’s acute, compelling history of one of America’s more endangered landscapes…Digging deeply into the history of a place, Poling-Kempes mines a rich vein of lore and myth.”  Kirkus Reviews

Georgia O’Keeffe and New Mexico: A Sense of Place by Barbara Buhler Lynes, Lesley Poling-Kempes, & Frederick W. Turner  (Princeton University Press)

Winner, 2005 Independent Publisher Book Awards, Best Fine Art Book

“In her meticulous account, Lesley Poling-Kempes discusses the geophysical origins of this land of ‘extremes and contrast,’ analyzing the layered stone formations and matching them up with O’Keeffe’s keen observations of red shales, sandshales and silt stones created 200 million years ago.” Dore Ashton, Times Literary Supplement

Forthcoming fall, 2015:

LADIES OF THE CANYONS: A League of Extraordinary Women & the Creation of the Modern American Southwest, University of Arizona Press.

crow canyon 4Lesley Poling-Kempes

Author bio

Lesley Poling-Kempes is the award-winning author of six books about the American Southwest, including “Bone Horses,” winner of the 2013 Tony Hillerman Award for Best Fiction, “The Harvey Girls: Women Who Opened the West,” and “Ghost Ranch.” Her work has won the Zia Award for Excellence, and her first novel, “Canyon of Remembering” was a Western Writers of America Spur Award finalist. Lesley was born and raised in New York, and received her BA in journalism from the University of New Mexico. She has lived with her husband, Jim, in Abiquiu, New Mexico, since 1976. They have two children.

Links:

http://www.lesleypoling-kempes.net/  

http://www.collectedworksbookstore.com/bone-horses  (signed copies via internet)

https://www.facebook.com/LesleyPolingKempes  (FB author page)

http://www.santafenewmexican.com/pasatiempo/books/book_reviews/article_2ba6521c-df6f-11e2-8944-0019bb30f31a.html  (Wonderful review by the Santa Fe New Mexican)

Harvey Girl Olga Berg

Harvey Girl Olga Berg
(Kathleen’s grandmother)

 

 

Native New Mexican Kathleen M. Rodgers’ second novel,  Johnnie Come Lately, is forthcoming from Coffeetown Press, February 1, 2015. She is represented by the Loiacono Literary Agency. Kathleen grew up in Clovis, NM, enchanted by her grandmother’s stories of her younger days as a Harvey Girl.

One day when we’re grownups…

One day when we’re grownups

we’ll leave behind

our schoolyard bullies

stop name-calling

and throwing spit wads and rocks

at others

for being different.

 

One day when we’re grownups

we’ll hold hands

with our neighbors

step out of our comfort zones

and look into the faces of strangers

and see ourselves…

 

Author’s note: Please add your own line or two in the comment section. Let’s continue the dialogue.

The author at age ten.

The author at age ten.

 

Kathleen M. Rodgers’ second novel,  Johnnie Come Lately, is forthcoming from Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press, February 1, 2015. Her first novel, The Final Salute, has been featured in USA-Today, The Associated Press, Military Times and many other publications.  She is represented by the Loiacono Literary Agency.

Keeping a Fighter Pilot’s Legacy Alive Through Story

USAF Capt. Roy Westerfield and his wife, Petey (Maryellen). Roy was killed in a midair in 1980. Petey did remarry and passed away in 2009.

USAF Capt. Roy Westerfield and his wife, Petey (Maryellen). Roy was killed in a midair in 1980. Petey remarried and passed away in 2009.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every Feb. 6, Tom and I remember our dear friend, USAF Capt. Roy Westerfield, killed in his F-111 as he made his final approach into Cannon Air Force Base, Feb. 6, 1980. Roy was a gifted musician, and he played the trumpet at our wedding just a few months before his final flight. His beautiful wife, Petey (Maryellen), took our wedding photos.

Forthcoming August 2014 from Potomac Books.

Forthcoming August 2014 from Potomac Books.

 

 

For us, Roy and Petey were always larger than life. Petey is gone now, too, but both of them will live on in my Air Force Times’ essay “Remembering Forgotten Fliers, Their Survivors” that will be republished in the new anthology Red, White and True forthcoming from Potomac Books this August. Thanks to editor Tracy Crow for including my essay in the collection. In some small way, my story will help keep their memories alive for future generations.

Petey’s poem “Taps” graces the opening pages of my first novel, The Final Salute. She did get to read the book before she passed in 2009. Her poem is a tribute to Roy.

Roy Westerfield’s death haunted me for years. With Petey’s permission, I gave Roy’s first and last name to two different characters in The Final Salute. Tuck Westerfield and Roy “Wheaties” Wheaton carry on the legacy of so many fighter pilots who die in the prime of their lives…while flying peacetime training missions.

From Lithograph "Motherly Secrets" by Thomas C. Rodgers. Used with permission.

From Lithograph “Motherly Secrets” by Thomas C. Rodgers. Used with permission.

Kathleen M. Rodgers’ work has appeared in national and local publications. She is the author of the Amazon best-selling novel, The Final Salute, which has been featured in USA – Today, The Associated Press, Military Times and many other publications. Her second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, is forthcoming from Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press,  February 1, 2015. She is represented by Loiacono Literary Agency 

http://www.prlog.org/12265957-kathleen-rodgers-novel-johnnie-come-lately-has-been-acquired-by-coffeetown-press.html

Author Visits Dawson Middle School For Career Day

Posted January 30, 2014

kathleenmrodgers Dawson Career Day

I just returned from speaking to three different groups of seventh and eighth graders at “Career Day” at Dawson Middle School in Southlake, TX. This was my second time to visit the school, nestled in an affluent suburb of Dallas/Fort Worth, and talk about my work as an author. The students rotated between three different sessions and heard other speakers discuss careers in medicine, law, architecture, aviation, music, education, and graphic design to name a few.

The students get to pick what careers they are interested in, and I’m always intrigued by the ones who show up to hear me speak. Some are shy and won’t look me in the eye, while others are not afraid to ask questions. A few have landed in my room because they didn’t get their top career choice and others seem indifferent or bored.

But it’s those students who won’t look me in the eye, or the ones who hang on my every word, that might grow up to be writers. Truth searchers. Explorers of the heart. Daydreamers who weave stories out of thin air and end up touching lives.

As I read an excerpt from my latest novel, Johnnie Come Lately, acquired by Coffeetown Press, Seattle, WA, I was reminded of the man the school is named after. George Dawson, an African American, learned how to read at the age of 98. After he coauthored his biography Life Is So Good with Richard Glaubman in 2000, he appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Mr. Dawson died in 2001. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Dawson_(author)

From Lithograph "Motherly Secrets" by Thomas C. Rodgers. Used with permission.

From Lithograph “Motherly Secrets” by Thomas C. Rodgers. Used with permission.

Kathleen M. Rodgers is an award-winning author whose work has appeared in national and local publications and in several anthologies. She is the author of the Amazon best-selling novel,The Final Salute, featured in USA – Today, The Associated Press, Military Times and many other publications. . Her second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, is forthcoming from Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press, Februrary 1, 2015. She is  represented by Loiacono Literary Agency.

See official press release:  http://www.prlog.org/12265957-kathleen-rodgers-novel-johnnie-come-lately-has-been-acquired-by-coffeetown-press.html

Author and Agent discover characters on a T-shirt

Posted January 19, 2014

L-R  Author Kathleen Rodgers and Agent Jeanie Loiacono posing in "Johnnie Bird and Brother Dog" T-shirts.

 Author Kathleen Rodgers and Agent Jeanie Loiacono posing in “Johnnie Bird and Brother Dog” T-shirts.

My literary agent and I spent another fun Saturday afternoon in historic Grapevine, TX, scouting possible locations for the book launch of my second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, acquired by Coffeetown Press. As Jeanie Loiacono and I strolled up and down Main Street, chatting and brainstorming, I kept pointing out specific places that I’d fictionalized in the novel. At times I felt like I was living in two different dimensions: the real life setting before me and the fictional town of Portion, TX, modeled loosely on Grapevine’s historic district, the nearby lake, and the bustling DFW Airport on the other side of the freeway. I fully expected to see one of my characters lumber out of a bright yellow building and head north on Main Street in his vintage VW bus, my protagonist, Johnnie Kitchen, staring after him in dismay.

After Jeanie and I left the Convention and Visitors Bureau where I introduced her to my dear friend, Billie Cooper, who’s been volunteering for the city for years, we stepped into a cute shop called ooh lala! Time stopped as we both stared at a T-shirt of a red bird and big dog, displayed high on a wall. For both of us, it was one of those moments when we knew God had sent us a sign. For you see, a male cardinal and a Chocolate Lab play key roles in my adult novel about recovery and redemption. Jeanie and I looked at each other and grinned.  “It’s Johnnie Bird and Brother Dog!” we blurted out loud, our excitement spilling over into the friendly, but curious face of our saleslady. After introducing ourselves and paying for two shirts, we posed proudly in front of the shop for a photo op.

What I really wanted to do was fling my arms in the air and run up and down Main Street, calling to the rest of my characters to come out and play. “Hey, Johnnie and Dale and the kids, Granny Opal and Grandpa Grubbs, you too, Mr. Marvel. And please don’t be shy, Mama. Guess what, y’all get to live!”

To read more about Johnnie Come Lately, please visit my website:  http://www.kathleenmrodgers.com/johnnie-come-lately.html

Or the official press release announcing the acquisition by Coffeetown Press:

http://www.prlog.org/12265957-kathleen-rodgers-novel-johnnie-come-lately-has-been-acquired-by-coffeetown-press.html

Loiacono Literary Agency and Kathleen Rodgers celebrate acquisition of “Johnnie Come Lately”

 

Update: Johnnie Come Lately will be published by Coffeetown Press on February 1, 2015.

Tom and I spent a glorious Saturday with my agent and her husband in downtown Grapevine, TX, the setting for my new novel. Here’s what Jeanie Loiacono had to say about our afternoon together:

Loiacono Literary Agency and Kathleen Rodgers celebrate acquisition!

Tom, Kathleen, Jeanie, and Robert at Tolbert's in historic downtown Grapevine, TX. Frank X. Tolbert Sr. was a Texas historian, journalist and novelist.

Tom, Kathleen, Jeanie, and Robert at Tolbert’s in historic downtown Grapevine, TX. Frank X. Tolbert Sr. was a Texas historian, journalist and novelist.

 

 

To celebrate the acquisition of Johnnie Come Lately by Coffeetown Press, author Kathleen Rodgers, her husband, Tom, Jeanie Loiacono, her literary agent, and her husband, Robert Loiacono, visited several sites mentioned in the novel.

Portion, Texas was based on Grapevine, Texas; specifically the Main Street areas of the Historic District very close to Grapevine Lake. Turning onto Main from West Dallas Road, it was like going back in time — all the buildings were older and renovated; quaint, unique shops; lots of people walking. Of course, the weather was gorgeous; an unusual 60+F for a January day.

Kathleen and Jeanie cutting up in front of "Johnnie's house" in Grapevine, TX. The red brick bungalow in the background served as the inspiration for Johnnie Kitchen's home in the novel.

Kathleen and Jeanie cutting up in front of “Johnnie’s house” in Grapevine, TX. The red brick bungalow in the background served as the inspiration for Johnnie Kitchen’s home in the novel.

In future installments, we shall share photos and give tidbits of information concerning the novel. When you “meet” Johnnie Kitchen, you will feel like she is your long, lost friend, and you may even be tempted to visit Grapevine.

 

 

 

 

To read more about the acquisition, check out the official press release issued last week:

http://www.prlog.org/12265957-kathleen-rodgers-novel-johnnie-come-lately-has-been-acquired-by-coffeetown-press.html

After A Year Of Loss and Rejection, I Find Success

Posted December 23, 2013

Update January 2014: My second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, has been acquired by Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press, Seattle, WA, with a tentative release date of February 1, 2015.  http://www.prlog.org/12265957-kathleen-rodgers-novel-johnnie-come-lately-has-been-acquired-by-coffeetown-press.html

New Mexico home altar off entryway.

New Mexico home altar off entryway.

2013 was a year of deep painful losses for my family, but it was also a year of huge achievements for me as a writer. Pardon the cliché, but when one door slammed shut, several swung open.

In late March, days after my husband retired from the airlines, I finished my second novel and sent it to my copyeditor in Wisconsin. Over the next few weeks, Joyce Gilmour and I went over the manuscript several times, making sure it was polished before I began the arduous task of finding an agent.

Copyeditor's hardcopy of manuscript for first read through before she works via computer.

My copy editor, Joyce Gilmour, owner of Editing TLC, prefers to work with hard copy for the first read through.

 

 

Bubba's stocking

Bubba worshipping his brown stocking one Christmas.

On May 14, without any warning, our beloved Chocolate Lab, Bubba, died and left us in a state of shock. Meanwhile, my father was on his deathbed in New Mexico, and my husband and I were waiting  for the phone call.  With time pressing in on me, I placed my left hand on the box containing Bubba’s ashes, draped his red collar around my neck, and sent out my first query letter to an agent I’d been following for three years. Dad died a few hours after I hit the “send” button. The following day – a Sunday – as my husband and I made plans to head to New Mexico for Dad’s funeral, I received a personal confirmation from Jeanie Loiacono, President of Loiacono Literary Agency. Her e-mail said she would look at my work, but it might  take a few months…she had several writers ahead of me. Despite my grief, I had hope for my new novel, which stars a Chocolate Lab named Brother Dog. Then I got to work writing my dad’s obit.

Dick Doran looking all dapper at church.

Richard (Dick) Doran looking all dapper for church.

 

A week after we returned from Dad’s funeral, and still numb from two deaths back to back, I busied myself by sending out batches of queries to agents all across the country. Despite my thirty-five plus years in the business, I don’t handle rejection with grace. Usually I get angry, maybe even curse a bit, and then I sit down and fire off more queries. One night, after a handful of rejections, I stood in the kitchen and yelled, “My dog died. My dad died. And I can’t get a *#@*ing agent.” I’m glad my husband was the only one there to witness my outrage. Gulping down a glass of ice water, I marched back in the office and fired off another round of queries.

As the rejections continued to trickle in, along with several agents requesting a full or partial, I pressed on with faith that my new novel would find a good home. I believed in my story about a woman named  Johnnie Kitchen, a character who came to me years ago while I was working on my first novel.  Looking back over my long writing career, I reminded myself that each acceptance came with a slew of rejection.

Wilbur and Kathy

Wilbur and Kathy

While I prayed, kept my fingers crossed and continued to send out queries, our oldest son’s precious cat went missing and never returned home. A week later, Thomas’ longtime girlfriend lost her brother very tragically. In the midst of our own grief, Tom and I rallied around Brittany and Thomas and offered to help take care of their dog, Wilbur. Where Bubba’s food and water dishes had been went Wilbur’s dishes, along with his bed.

During the worst week of Brittany’s life, I found joy in caring for Wilbur. Having a dog in my home again helped fill in the empty spaces left behind after Bubba’s death. Each day I continued to send out queries and to have faith in my new book. Hope came when an agent with excellent credentials made an offer to represent me, but something told me to hold out for the first agent I’d queried. After all, I’d followed Jeanie Loiacono’s career for three years, and she’d promised to give my work serious consideration. A writer friend, who’s also one of Jeanie’s clients, reassured me that Jeanie and I would be a good fit.

Agent Jeanie Loiacono, President of Loiacono Literary Agency.

Agent Jeanie Loiacono, President of Loiacono Literary Agency.

In mid September, four months after I sent that first query, I received an offer of representation from Jeanie Loiacono.  After our initial meeting, she went to work pitching “Johnnie Come Lately” to numerous editors at various publishing houses. We are hoping to share good news sometime after the New Year.

 

Feeling grateful this Christmas,

Kathy

Denton the Wonder Dog in yellow chair by Mom's writing desk.

Denton the Wonder Dog in yellow chair by Mom’s writing desk.

PS: We rescued Denton the Wonder Dog from Denton, TX in October. He has big paws to fill, but he’s learning quickly that the yellow chair next to Mom’s writing desk is the best seat in the house.

Bio:

Kathleen M. Rodgers’ work has appeared in Family Circle Magazine, Military Times, and other national and local publications, including several anthologies. Her Air Force Times‘ essay, Remembering Forgotten Fliers…Their Survivors, will be republished in the new anthology, Red, White and True, forthcoming August 2014 from University of Nebraska Press/Potomac Books. Her debut novel, The Final Salute, has been featured in USA Today, The Associated Press, and several other publications. Her second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, is forthcoming from Camel Press, an imprint of Coffeetown Press Februrary 2015. She is represented by Loiacono Literary Agency.  

http://www.prlog.org/12265957-kathleen-rodgers-novel-johnnie-come-lately-has-been-acquired-by-coffeetown-press.html


Karoline Barrett and The Art of Being Rebekkah

Posted December 10, 2013

Author Karoline Barrett and her debut novel, The Art of Being Rebekkahthe-art-of-being-rebekkah

Kathleen: How does it feel to go from being a writer with a fiction manuscript to being a published novelist? There is a difference.

Karoline: Thank you for having me on your blog, Kathleen. Yes, I agree, there is a difference.  It feels awesome! This has been my dream for so long, and I’m very excited to share The Art of Being Rebekkah with my readers.

 Q: Give us a brief summary of the book. What is your genre and who is your target audience?

karoline barrett pic

Karoline Barrett

A: When talented Jewish artist, Rebekkah Gelles finds out her husband has a frightening dark side, she wants out of her marriage; but her life gets complicated when she moves back to her parents’ home in Park Slope, Brooklyn and falls for the charming Italian detective who’s investigating her estranged husband. Convinced he’s all wrong for her—he’s not Jewish for one thing—Rebekkah struggles with love, faith, family, and a surprise pregnancy. It’s women’s fiction with a romantic element. My target audience is women (ages 19-99), although I have given Advanced Readers Copies to a few men, including my sons and a Rabbi, and hope they enjoy it, too!

  Q:  How long did it take you to write the book? Can you talk a bit about the process? Do you write from an outline, notes, or do you wing it? Did the story change over time from the original vision you had in your head or did any scenes appear that surprised you?

A: It took about a year to write The Art of  Being Rebekkah.  I outline, outline, outline! I also have notes all over. I need to see where the story is going before I begin writing. The story definitely changed from the original version; I started over when I got to chapter fifteen because I realized I had no idea where this book was going. In my original draft, I had a totally different bad guy.

Q: Your literary agent (Frances Black) is also your publisher (E-LIT Books). How long did it take you to find an agent and can you elaborate on this new trend in publishing – where the agent is also the publisher?

A:  I finished The Art of Being Rebekkah in November 2011. I began querying in January 2012. I signed with Fran in October of 2012. The publishing world is changing so much these days; I fully support agents being publishers. It’s creating more opportunities for writers who don’t get a publishing deal right away, but who have written terrific books. E-Lit Books and DJC Communications have done a fantastic job publishing and promoting their authors.  

Q:  Before I started the query process to find an agent for my second novel, I hired a copyeditor to help me polish the manuscript before I sent it out into the world. Did you hire a copyeditor or did your publisher provide the editing?

A: I worked with an editor while I was writing my book. I’d send her two or three chapters at a time. My agent also gave me suggestions, which definitely improved my book.  

Q: According to your website, you were born in upstate New York and you’ve lived in many places. I am fascinated that you lived in South America at one time. How old were you then and how long did you live there? Will this experience ever inform your fiction?

A: My family moved to São Paulo, Brazil when I was one and stayed until I was twelve. I loved it! My favorite things were the food and the beach. I’ve never used that experience in my writing. So far.2

 Q: I love that you modeled your detective character after a man that visited your home to collect rubbish. What was it about this gentleman that grabbed you? Was it his looks? His gestures? His personality or all of these things?

A: Actually, he came to my in-laws co-op in Queens, N.Y. His name was Dominick (my detective is named after him), and I just loved his name, good looks and personality. Very take charge and outgoing. I knew someday I’d have to use him.   

Q: I read somewhere that you don’t like math. This cracked me up as I have a huge fear of math.  I even gave this same fear of math to my protagonist in my latest novel. How old were you when you realized math was not your favorite subject?

blog picture kr

Karoline with her mother and brother.

A: In grade school when my father (an electrical engineer) tried helping me with my math homework; I just didn’t get it! I still don’t—even though math plays a huge part in my “day” job.

 Q: What were your favorite subjects in elementary school, and what is the first book that had an impact on you?

A: English and history. My mother, a great reader herself, instilled a love of books in me at a very early age. The first books I remember liking were Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers series.

 Q: When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Besides writing, what other jobs have you had?

A: I’ve always wanted to write. It just took me a while to get here! I’ve worked for the phone company, a public library, and now, as I mentioned, I work with math all day as my “day job!” I think God has a sense of humor! 

Q: When my first novel was released in 2008 by a small traditional press, I had to do most of the promotion myself. I didn’t have the funds to hire an expensive publicist so I became a one-woman-marketing-machine. How do you plan to promote your book? Will you and your publisher work as a team? Do you have speaking engagements and book signings lined up in your area or out of town? If so, please include them here or a link to your website.

A: I have a wonderful publicist who has arranged a whole package of blog tours (you’re one of the stops on it!) for me, she also arranged for me to do an article for JMag, the magazine of JDate, the premier Jewish online singles community, and they are promoting my book. I promote it on Twitter, Facebook, online writing groups to which I belong, and wherever else I can. I do hope to have both speaking engagements and book signings in the future.

 Q:  What are you working on now?  

A: A cozy mystery called (so far) An Apple A Day Can Be Murder. It’s set in upstate New York, and I hope it will become a series. It features Molly Tyler, owner of Batter Up Bakery.

 Q:  God forbid, but if you were to suddenly lose the use of your hands, would you find a way to still write?

A: That’s quite a question. I’d like to say yes, but on the other hand (no pun intended), how would I manage that? 

art of being rebekkah button

ChickLitPlus.com

Bio: Karoline Barrett was born in upstate New York and has lived in South America, Indiana, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. At the moment, she lives in a small Connecticut town with her husband.  When she’s not writing, she loves reading, spending time by the water, traveling, and doing anything that has nothing to do with math. She’s currently working on her second novel, a cozy mystery set in upstate N.Y.

Website:           Karoline Barrett

Facebook:         Karoline’s Facebook author page

Twitter:            @KarolineBarrett

Pinterest:          Pinterest

Email:               karoline@karolinebarrett.com

Agent:              Frances Black, Literary Counsel  

E-Lit Books:    E-Lit Books

 

 

From Lithograph "Motherly Secrets" by Thomas C. Rodgers. Used with permission.
From Lithograph “Motherly Secrets” by Thomas C. Rodgers. Used with permission.

Kathleen M. Rodgers is an award-winning author whose work has appeared in national and local publications and in several anthologies. She is the author of the Amazon best-selling novel, The Final Salute Her latest novel, Johnnie Come Lately, is represented by Loiacono Literary Agency.

Johnnie Come Lately has been acquired by Coffeetown Press, Seattle, WA. http://www.prlog.org/12265957-kathleen-rodgers-novel-johnnie-come-lately-has-been-acquired-by-coffeetown-press.html

 

New Mexico Writing Partners Sue Boggio and Mare Pearl

GrowingSeasonjpeg

A Growing Season ~ “The compelling story of a young man’s coming of age in an extended family with generations of secrets. Using a chile farm as its central setting, the book tells the enthralling and moving story of the power of love to find us where we sit and transform mundane lives into joy.”—Anne Hillerman, author of Gardens of Santa Fe and Tony Hillerman’s daughter.

I’m pleased to introduce the writing team of Sue Boggio and Mare Pearl. Friends since childhood, Sue and Mare have been collaborating for 50 years.

(Kathleen): Please list your book awards and nominations.

(Sue): A Growing Season won the 2013 Tony Hillerman Award for Best Fiction by New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards. (We tied for first place with Lesley Kempes for Bone Horses.)

A Growing Season was a 2013 Finalist in the New Mexico Press Women’s Zia Award for Fiction and a 2013 Finalist in Women Writing the West’s Willa Award for Contemporary Fiction

Writing partners since childhood, Sue Boggio (L) and Mare Pearl.

Writing partners since childhood, Sue Boggio (L) and Mare Pearl.

 

KMR: How long have you been friends and when did you start writing as a team? Tell us briefly about your background growing up in Iowa and how you both ended up in New Mexico.

SB: Our friendship began fifty years ago when I moved into Mare’s neighborhood in West Des Moines, Iowa. We were creatively energized by the Beatles invasion and decided at age ten that if Lennon/McCartney could collaborate, so could we. The whole idea of two people creating something together was transformational. We began writing stories and passed them to each other in intricately folded notes. By adolescence we wrote poetry and co-wrote some short stories for our creative writing class in high school. Our teacher, the wonderful Mary Swenson, nurtured our writing collaboration.

The young authors in their best Beatles poses.

The young authors in their best Beatles poses.

Life intervened and after high school, we began to drift apart. I pursued a career in nursing while Mare moved to NYC to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy.

Sue Boggio

Sue Boggio

December 8, 1980, the night John Lennon was murdered, Mare called me and we talked all night, reunited in tragedy. Mare was in Pennsylvania and I had moved to Albuquerque in 1979 and was working as an RN at UNM. We began writing long letters back and forth, sending stories one of us would begin and the other would add on to and mail it back until it was too big for an envelope, no email or internet back then! 

Mare Pearl 1972

Mare Pearl 1972

Mare made several trips a year to New Mexico to visit and fell in love with the Land of Enchantment. By 1989 she moved here and we began to get serious about our writing in the early 1990s, joining Southwest Writers Workshop, and learning as much about the publishing industry and fiction writing craft as we could.  

KMR: What did it feel like to have Tony Hillerman’s endorsement on the cover of your debut novel “Sunlight and Shadow” when it was first released by New American Library (Penguin Group) in 2004?  Tony Hillerman wrote, “Filled with emotion. A real winner of a story.”

SB: We got to know Tony Hillerman through Southwest Writers. He got a kick out of our collaboration and always asked us, “What are you two girls working on now?” In 2001, we won second place in the SWW novel contest with Sol y Sombra, Sunlight and Shadow. And after we told him it had the mystery element of a missing person, he offered to read it for a blurb. Even before we found an agent, we had a blurb from Tony Hillerman. He said, “I never could figure out what happened to that guy until you revealed it at the end!” His endorsement helped us get our agent and I know it impressed New York editors as well and helped us get published. So winning the Tony Hillerman award for Best Fiction this year is especially meaningful.  

2013 Tony Hillerman Award for Fiction.

2013 Tony Hillerman Award for Fiction.

 

KMR: Can you describe your journey in getting “Sunlight and Shadow” published by a major house? Did you have an agent? How long did the entire process take?

SB: We spent some years writing and trying to sell a first novel and like many first novels, its purpose was for us to learn our craft. When we accepted it belonged locked away in a drawer, we began our second novel. “Sunlight and Shadow” was conceived as our love letter to New Mexico. After it won second place in 2001 SWW contest in September, an assistant editor, Jennifer Jahner from NAL/Penguin who attended the conference requested it for the new Accent Books they were launching to appeal to book clubs, i.e., “Oprah Books”. She loved it and pitched it to her senior editor who turned her down because they were only launching 6 books that year and they already had one with Hispanic characters. Jennifer was about as disappointed as we were. She sent us the editorial notes she had planned to use if she had been green-lighted. We took about a year to re-write the book based on her pages of detailed notes.

Sunlight and Shadow, re-released by University of New Mexico Press. Originally published by Penguin. (Cover artist Barbara Clark.)

Sunlight and Shadow, re-released by University of New Mexico Press. Originally published by Penguin. (Cover artist Barbara Clark.)

In the fall of 2002, we began to query agents using Jeff Herman’s Guide (our first agent for our first unsold novel, but that’s another story!) and Sandy Choron of March Tenth Literary agency offered representation by December. She sent out a first round in late January, which included sending it back to NAL/Penguin Accent Books, to Jennifer Jahner. It was Jennifer’s last day there, but after seeing it was our book from the previous year and that we had rewritten it using her notes, she hand carried it to her boss, editor Laura Cifelli who read it and loved it and called our agent four days later with an offer.

So from writing the first draft to publication offer, it took around three years, then another year until its release in February 2004, moved up from November 2004 due to our editor’s pregnancy/maternity leave, which is a very compressed production schedule. (Especially since we were presented with 8 pages of single-spaced editor’s notes which resulted in an entire overhaul of the manuscript, complete with new characters and accelerated investigation timeline in the story.) Normally it is closer to 18 months between contract and release, so all deadlines were moved up and it got rather frantic at times since we were both still working full time. I was going over final line edits with our editor over the phone as she was going into early labor with her third child. She was a talented editor who helped us make a better book and you can’t hope for more than that. As a bonus, both Laura and her assistant, Rose Hilliard, were completely wonderful to work with.

We pursued traditional publishing because we believed it was the best way to go, given the options at the time. We wanted the validation of being vetted through the crucible of mainstream publishing at a major house, even though the path is fraught with rejection and heartbreak. It’s a great way to learn tenacity and self-belief beyond all reason. We still can’t believe our luck.

KMR: Your latest novel “A Growing Season” was released earlier this year by University of New Mexico Press. If you’re both comfortable discussing the details, can you explain why you chose to go with a university press over a major house?

SB: We wrote the first draft of A Growing Season the year Sunlight and Shadow was released, 2004. I had several detailed phone conversations about character arcs, etc., with our editor who expressed enthusiasm for the project. But then (cue heartbreak music) she passed on it saying it was “too regional” and she was also changing her focus to editing Romance books for the new Eclipse line.

On the shelf it went while we worked on other projects. Then in early 2011 I got a call from a writer friend who had heard that UNM Press was looking for “quality regional fiction”.  We quickly brushed up A Growing Season and then requested a meeting with John Byram (Director of UNM Press, whom we had just met at the UNM Writing Conference) and Clark Whitehorn (Editor in Chief). At the conclusion of our thirty minute pitch, they both wanted to read it. We pulled out our two copies of the newly revised manuscript and gave them each one.

Once they approved it, it went to two outside professional reviewers for evaluation. The reviewers fill out extensive forms, citing strengths and weaknesses, and state whether they recommend publication. Both recommended publication with specific feedback on how it could be improved. We did another rewrite incorporating their suggestions. Then Clark presented A Growing Season to the University Press Committee (Twelve professors representing various specialties) at their monthly meeting. The committee voted in favor of publication. We signed the contract and a publication date was set for one year from that time, September 2012.

It was fun to work with Clark and UNM Press. We met with Clark and other UNM Press staff throughout the process. When I was still working on campus, I could just walk over for impromptu meetings or to drop something off and actually conduct our business face to face a lot of the time. So it was a much more personal experience than working long distance with New York.

But whether it is a major house or small press, it is pretty much the same process and we approached both situations with humility and gratitude and strove for a high degree of professionalism, so hopefully it was a pleasant experience for everyone concerned.

Finalist for the Zia Award for A Growing Season.

Finalist for the Zia Award for A Growing Season.

KMR: Give us a brief summary of  “A Growing Season.”

SB: In A Growing Season, authors Sue Boggio and Mare Pearl return to Esperanza, New Mexico, where a devastating drought threatens the farming community’s survival. Vultures circle in the form of developers who see failing farms as ripe pickings. Court battles pit the endangered silvery minnow against the farmers as the once mighty Rio Grande shrinks from its banks even as demand for its precious water increases.

Abby Silva and her adopted son Santiago must heal from the violence of the past to claim their futures. CeCe and Miguel Vigil must care for CeCe’s octogenarian Jewish parents, whose disapproval of their marriage is now played out under their own roof, threatening their once solid union. Their daughter Rachel finally confronts the Jewish half of her ethnicity through her grandparents, Holocaust survivor Zeyde Mort, and feisty Brooklyn Bubbe Rose. But cultures must cross divides if all are to thrive. Love is risked and secrets are revealed as the community of Esperanza struggles to preserve its traditional way of life despite overwhelming odds.

KMR: How difficult was it to write a sequel to “Sunlight and Shadow”? Can “A Growing Season” be read as a stand-alone story or do readers need to first read S & S?

SB: When we wrote Sunlight and Shadow, we put great emphasis on creating a fully-realized fictional world in Esperanza, New Mexico, complete with a detailed cast of both primary and secondary inhabitants. We hadn’t planned to write another Esperanza book until 3 things happened. First, we began to hear from Sunlight and Shadow readers who said the book ended rather abruptly and they wanted to know more about what happens with the characters. Second, New Mexico was hit by a devastating and continuing drought that hit farmers along the Rio Grande very hard, resulting in rationing of irrigation water, battles over the endangered species silvery minnow that was federally protected, and we wondered how this would affect our family chile farm. And third, I came upon a beautiful, fallen cottonwood tree on a walk and had a vision of Santiago as a young man finding such a tree on his property, and seeing it evoked a very unsettled reaction in him. That vision became the scene that opens A Growing Season.

Writing A Growing Season had both the comfort of returning to a (fictional) place and characters we knew well and loved, combined with the challenge of researching and presenting new characters, the details of chile farming, and the complicated issues concerning water use from the Rio Grande.

We wrote A Growing Season to stand alone. It takes place seven years after Sunlight and Shadow’s conclusion. So both books may be read independently, however, the mystery element in Sunlight and Shadow is revealed at the beginning of A Growing Season. We have readers who have read them out of order and still enjoy both, but if you want to preserve the mystery in Sunlight and Shadow, read that one first.

Willa Award Finalist for A Growing Season.

Willa Award Finalist for A Growing Season.

 

KMR: Your cover art on “A Growing Season” is breathtaking and captures the essence of New Mexico. The same can be said for the artwork on the UNM Press re-release of “Sunlight and Shadow.” Tell us what it was like to work with New Mexico artist Barbara Clark. Did you know her before you signed your contract with UNM Press?

SB: When Nal/Penguin published Sunlight and Shadow, our editor talked about a cover that would focus on the dappled sunlight through a towering cottonwood tree, CeCe’s garden in full bloom, perhaps a basket of chiles…then she went on maternity leave and the cover that ended up being selected had none of that and we didn’t have a say. Granted we didn’t push the issue out of diplomacy and we loved that our names were on the cover—but beyond that we were less than thrilled.

So when A Growing Season was under contract, we began searching for New Mexico art that would do justice to a book set in New Mexico and that is so much about the beauty of the land. I went to the Corrales Bosque Gallery and saw work by Corrales artist Barbara Clark who did gorgeous pastels of New Mexico landscapes with arroyos and mountains.

New Mexico artist Barbara Clark.

New Mexico artist Barbara Clark.

  I went home and looked at her website and it was as if I saw the setting of our book come to life. I called Mare and we selected our favorite eight or so and sent them to Clark at UNM Press. He and others at UNM loved them and once we narrowed it down to two or three, UNM Press made the final selection, though they did pick our first choice. I called Barbara Clark and introduced myself and asked if she would be interested in having her work on our cover and she was thrilled. Then after UNM Press decided to re-issue Sunlight and Shadow (and liberate it from its previous cover) it was a no-brainer to select another Barbara Clark painting. We’ve met Barbara on a number of occasions and become friends. She is a fabulous person and amazing artist. Please visit her website: www.bacpastels.com.

KMR: Give us a peek into how you work as a writing team. Do you meet in person for brainstorming sessions? How do you decide who writes what sections and scenes in your novels or do you both work on the same scenes together?

 SB: We talk a lot about a project before we begin writing, taking notes. We talk about theme, define our characters and their arcs, we talk about setting in detail, and sketch out the broad strokes of the plot. We meet once a week for about half a day to read aloud to each other the scenes we’ve each written for that week. Reading aloud is so critical to our process. We listen intently to dialogue, description, whether the scene accomplishes its mission and give our feedback. We might say ‘this goes too long and needs trimming’ or we might say ‘expand this part—needs more development.’ So we do revise as we go along to an extent. Then we decide what’s next and assign scenes to write for the following week (along with rewriting anything problematic from the week before). We each write at least one POV (point of view) character, sometimes two, and we write our scenes through their thoughts and feelings. (In A Growing Season, I wrote Abby and Santiago. Mare wrote Rachel and CeCe.)

Brainstorming is a lot of it since we like to allow for discovery of something we hadn’t thought of before that moment. We plan ahead with a loose outline but it changes as we go along. Usually we pretty much know the ending. We use tools like scene cards, charts, time-lines to track everything. We draw maps of our settings, floor plans of houses, etc., since we both need the same mental image of shared settings and detailed character appearances/clothing/eye color. With two writers, you constantly check for continuity issues. We don’t worry about chapter divisions until we’re finished with the first draft. We use scene cards to decide the final order, then Mare gives me all her files and I merge them with mine and figure out chapter breaks. Then I go through everything multiple times, line editing, cutting as much as possible (we tend to over-write), and re-working rough spots. I confer with her about anything significant of hers that I think I should change, reading it over the phone to get her approval.

KMR: Do you ever have disagreements over how a scene is written or how a character is portrayed? If so, how do you work through these issues?

SB: In our brainstorming, we debate about everything. It is pretty free-wheeling. We tend to explore things using, “What if –blah blah blah?” Until we hone down what feels right and it is usually a mutual gut instinct. Sometimes we’ll try something one way and then after a read-through decide to modify it or throw it out altogether. For us, story comes out of character, so sometimes we’ll call each other on “I don’t think she would do that, or say that.” We really rely on the reaction of the other a lot, which comes out of fifty years of trust. I think we trust each other even more than we trust ourselves when it comes to the kind of decision making necessary in writing a novel. I don’t know what I’ve written until I read it to Mare for her reaction.

KMR: Do you both still have day jobs? If so, when do you write?

SB: I retired from UNM fulltime RN work July 1, 2011. Mare retired one year later on the same day. Mare picks up night shifts at the children/adolescent psychiatric hospital maybe once or twice a week, if that. I work for UNM on particular projects that come up seasonally, with months off in between. Prior to our retirement, not only did we work fulltime, but I worked days and Mare worked nights and we had different days off. We still managed to write five novels and a screenplay during those years. But then we reached an age where something had to give and fortunately, it was fulltime work. We have balance now and our productivity—and I think our quality—have improved.

KMR: We all met at the Southwest Writers Workshop Conference in 1998 held in Albuquerque, NM. Are you both still active in the organization?

SB: We would like to get back into it. The times/days they hold their meetings haven’t been conducive for us to attend. SWW was instrumental in our development as writers, both learning our craft and how to navigate the industry, and obviously the contacts and friendships we made there are priceless. (Including and especially yours!)

We are more involved with New Mexico Book Co-op and attend their monthly lunchtime meetings. We can network with other writers, publishers, and hear the latest industry news, including opportunities to market our work.

KMR: How has the publishing industry changed over the years since your earliest attempts at writing novels? Since you are traditionally published, what are your thoughts on writers who choose to go indie?

SB: We’ve always been told how hard it is to get published, and with corporate mergers, it is even harder now. Things move at glacial speed. Rejection is the norm. But, we’ve always taken that with a grain of salt. We own our careers. We believe no matter how dismal the odds, if there is a chance, it is up to us to make it happen. Meanwhile, we love the process, we love our partnership, we love hearing back from readers.

We support all forms of getting the written word out there. Many writers are making a great go of it publishing independently and more power to them. We haven’t gone that route, but we don’t rule it out. Distribution and marketing, I think would be even more challenging, but you hear about indie books that rise to fame and make a lot of money for their authors, so who knows?

KMR: What are you both working on now?

SB: We have an agent shopping our novel, Four Fools, about a counterculture 1960s family. It is our most ambitious novel, spanning decades and required a lot of research into the events and politics of the 1950s and 1960s. We just finished a novel called Hungry Shoes, based on our work with adolescents in psychiatric care. It is now in the hands of our beta readers, a child psychologist/social worker, a child psychiatrist and a former mental health worker (and long-time trusted first reader). Once they report back to us, we will incorporate their feedback into another revision and then get it to our agent to see if it is something she wants to take on. If not, we’ll embark on another agent search!

We are in preliminary discussions about a third Esperanza book, if UNM Press likes our ideas that may be next.

KMR: And the final question. Is your partnership like a marriage? Till death do you part?

Photo Booth in 7th Grade in Iowa.

Photo Booth in 7th Grade in Iowa.

SB: We have a feeling we’ve already shared many lifetimes together and there will be many more. But, we have a particular attachment, at the moment, to this lifetime and want to wring all we can out of it. When we were little kids, I did a sketch of us sitting in rocking chairs as old ladies next to each other on a veranda, so we’ve always taken the long view. As we’re turning 60 this year, we’re completely boggled that we’ve gone through fifty years already! We have so much more we want to accomplish together that one lifetime will not be enough. 

Cover art by New Mexico artist Barbara Clark. To read more about her work please visit her website at:  www.bacpastels.com

Contact Sue Boggio and Mare Pearl at  www.boggioandpearl.com