Write Up - Newsletter from Author Teresa LaBella.
Welcome to the latest edition of my author newsletter Write-Up.
The name reflects my full-circle writer’s journey from journalist to fundraising executive, freelancer to author and the direction following our dream will take us. I invite you to join me on this journey while you compose your own life chapters and verse.
“Have you always been a writer?”
I stumbled on my vague reply to that question posed by a romance reader at a recent book signing.
Well, yes, I’ve always wanted to write.
Reflecting on that glib response, I’ve arrived at a more honest answer. Whether reporting the facts as a journalist, compelling others to take action in support of a charitable cause or creating conflict for fictional characters, writing has been and will always be my livelihood.
Truth is I have to write. Story ideas generate and resonate into places described on the page. Characters speak and their voices must be heard.
When I don’t write, I deny who I am.
I am and will always be a writer. Embrace whatever muse moves you. Own it!
Write-Up Author Events
Author Fair, book signing and round table discussion on writing, publishing and the journey in between at the newly-opened Regional Learning and Cultural Center, 112 E. Third Street in West Liberty, Iowa. I’ll be there with fellow authors Misty Urban, Bob Bancks, Lyle Ernst and Karen Nortman from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday, June 18th.
I’ll take time out to sharpen my craft at a workshop led by much admired murder mystery author C. Hope Clark and mingle with other writers at the David R. Collins Writers’ Conference hosted by the Midwest Writing Center www.mwcqc.org on June 23-25 in Davenport, Iowa.
Then it’s on to Clinton, Iowa, and another chance to chat and share a cup of coffee with lovers of romance at Deanna’s Java Station at 1938 Lincoln Way on Saturday, July 9 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
I look forward to signing my name and writing a personal message for you on the inside cover of “Reservations” and “Heartland.” Before you go, ask me about “Tales from Heartland,” my e-book of short stories about life and love in Harmony. I promise these steamy reads will add sizzle to your summer!
Write-Up on Misty Urban
Misty Urban’s historical fiction writing workshop at the Midwest Writing Center last fall jumpstarted my journey toward an imagined re-telling of my grandfather’s life story against the backdrop of early 20th century history. Misty inspires students through instruction and example. Her passion for the written word enriches, enlightens, educates and entertains fortunate readers who discover the worlds and characters she creates.
What and/or who inspires you to write?
I am that unfortunate type of person who processes the world through writing; it’s how I make sense of my experiences and get a handle on my emotions. I journal a lot, and so I have a built-in reflex, when something is bugging me, to take it to the page, where it usually comes out as bad poetry or, more recently, short personal essays. Most of my short stories come from a similar place—an emotional tangle I want to pursue, an impossible situation I want to explore. I am also that unfortunate person who gets cranky and restless when she doesn’t write, so that has taught me to make time each day to process, even if it’s just some scribbling in the journal before bed.
What genres and authors do you choose to read?
I gravitate especially to stories by or about women, and I enjoy the whole spectrum: “serious” literary fiction; women’s fiction about family relationships; chick lit about sassy women who screw-up; historical fiction about queens and flower girls; and romance of all sorts, historical, contemporary, and romantic suspense. I just discovered the cozy mystery genre, and I might be hooked. For nonfiction I prefer memoir, natural history, biography, or scholarly works, and I have a special love for poetry and the classics. Like most bibliophiles, I’m usually reading in tandem: a book to review, a book for my research, a “literary” book, and then something mindless right before bed.
How do you market your books and promote yourself as an author?
I’m very bad at selling things; I learned that when I was a Girl Scout. My book of short stories is only available through the publisher’s website (http://www.snakenationpress.org, for those looking). I approached some bookstores, sent the book to a couple reviewers, and hosted a Goodreads giveaway, but for the most part, I rely on author appearances for publicity. I never turn down an invitation to read, but most of my energy goes toward building writing networks and teaching writing, whether through classes, workshops, or critique groups. If that leads someone to my book, great, but I’m more interested in having a conversation than in doing a sales pitch.
Where do you get your storytelling ideas?
You just flashed me back to a memory of sitting in a workshop with Robert Olen Butler at Florida State University, where I got my MA: “Don’t ever tell me you have an idea for a story!” he scolded us. He taught that stories come from the senses and a deeper unconscious place—From Where You Dream, as described in his book of that title. Some of my stories begin with an image, real or imagined, but most of the time, I meet a character with a problem: a young man with a crush on a regular at his grocery store (“Monsoon,” from A Lesson in Manners), a pregnant young woman whose husband has just discovered she has a secret checking account (“Trying to Find a Corndog in Tompkins County”), a girl who develops motion sickness after her sister dies and can’t hold down a job (Caro in “Planet Joy”). Or a girl in 19th century England who wants to be a mathematician—the heroine of the novel I’ve just finished. I decide to follow that character into their world.
What advice would you give a new author?
Do the work and have patience. Those are the two hardest lessons I’ve had to learn. Lots of us are full of good stories, and some people have a natural storytelling talent or a distinctive voice, but there’s a real craft to writing, and it takes practice. I’m not saying everyone has to go the MFA route, or that the traditional publishing model is ideal. But, as with any skill, the people who write well have worked long and hard. Learn from them, and don’t be discouraged by rejection. Just do the work, and you’ll find your reader.
What are you working on now?
It’s usual for me to have lots in the hopper. I’m putting a final polish on that historical novel before I send it out to agents, and I have a second story collection, The Necessaries, that I’m shopping as well. I’m editing a collection of scholarly essays on the medieval legend of Melusine (now that’s a great story), and I have a couple of scholarly articles and conference papers to write this summer. That said, there’s another novel or dozen I can’t wait to write—as always, the trick is finding the time!
Misty Urban holds an MFA in fiction and a Ph.D. in medieval literature from Cornell University, and she coordinates the new Writing Center at Muscatine Community College. Her recent book of short stories, A Lesson in Manners, won the Serena MacDonald Kennedy award and was published by Snake Nation Press. She lives in Muscatine. You can find more about her medieval scholarship, other publications, and stories about her screwball kids at her website, http://www.mistyurban.net, or find her at http://www.femmeliterate.net, a website devoted to feminism, literature, and women in/and/of books.
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