Sunday, October 25, 2015

Karen Walker

Please welcome the lovely and talented Karen Walker to the blog today!!!
Karen has been one of my favourite blogging buddies for years now and I'm thrilled to be able to help her promote her foray into fiction!

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The Process of Writing a First-Time Novel after Decades of Writing Nonfiction

Thank you, Jemi, for hosting me today.

 Okay, I’ll admit it right off the bat. Deep, deep down I’d always wanted to write a novel. Ever since I’d read Little Women when I was a child I wanted to be Jo, sequestered in an attic, spinning tales. But that wasn’t the direction my life took. Instead, I became a marketing/public relations professional and wrote articles, essays, brochures, annual reports and the like – always with my client’s name on the piece – never my own. 

After three decades, I quit to write full time. I had a story to tell, but it wasn’t fictional. It was my own story. That resulted in my memoir, Following the Whispers, which I published in 2009. Later that year, while vacationing in Scotland, I heard a voice asking me to tell its story. I’d never experienced anything like that before and it frightened me. It happened again in Ireland, so when I got home, I began to explore what this voice was and what story it wanted me to tell.


In the first session with my writing coach, Mark David Gerson (www.markdavidgerson.com), I said, “I can’t write fiction.” I’d tried. During the years I was working on my memoir, I went back to school to complete a college education I’d started in the 1960’s. I took every creative writing course the university had to offer and got straight A’s – even graduated Summa Cum Laude. But it was clear to me that I was not a fiction writer. In my mind, you must have a great imagination, write great metaphors, use similes and other writing techniques. Be able to write lush, rich descriptions. That just wasn’t me. I was used to the who, what, where, when, and why of a press release. 

Big sigh here. Mark David’s gentle coaching style helped me move past my own limiting beliefs so that I could begin to allow this story to emerge. Believe me, I kicked and screamed the entire six years it took to get this story out of me. I’ve lost count of the number of drafts. The first one Mark David called a skeleton. “Now you have to put the skin and organs on it.”

Writing a novel was perhaps the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I am not an analytical thinker when it comes to writing. I write from the heart. So I didn’t think through a character’s motivation or even character traits. They just came through and I wrote it down. I guess it was kind of like automatic writing.

I’m still much more comfortable writing nonfiction. I’m pretty sure that will be my next project – in fact that same voice is now asking me to write a companion piece to The Wishing Steps – one that imparts all the wisdom that came through during the writing of the book. I’ve learned that it doesn’t pay to ignore those callings. Stay tuned… 
Here’s the scoop on The Wishing Steps:
Three Women and a Single Story That Unites Them Across the Millennia
“Totally engrossing. A must-read for today’s wise woman!” Rev. Kathleen McKern Verigin, minister/priestess
Brighid, Ashleen and Megan: Bound through time by a curious light, a mysterious voice and a call they dare not ignore. Yet in obeying this strange force, the women must face soul-searing trials that call into question everything they know and believe — about themselves and about the world around them.
“Guaranteed to inspire you to a deeper level of spirituality and a new appreciation for Goddess.” Rev. Clara Z. Alexander
Karen Helene Walker is a widely published essayist and author of the 2009 memoir, Following the Whispers. When she isn’t writing, you will often find Karen performing in nursing homes and retirement communities as part of the Sugartime or Sophisticated Ladies musical groups, traveling with her husband of 20 years, Gary, or relaxing with a good book at their home in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Visit the author’s website at www.karenhelenewalker.com
The Wishing Steps is available for purchase NOW in both print and ebook versions at: Amazon.com. You can also purchase it as an ebook on Kobo, I Tunes, and at Barnes and Noble.
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Thanks Karen! I love the story of your journey to becoming a fiction writer - it's so interesting how the stories choose us. 
What about you? Do your stories choose you? Do you want to stretch your wings and try nonfiction (if you're a novelist) - or the reverse?

49 comments:

  1. I'm proud to say I've caught glimpses of your struggles via our interactions on the blogs and very happy with the way things have turned out. Best of luck in the future Karen!

    *waves* Hi Jemi! Thank you for hosting Karen today. :)

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    1. Hi Jemi, thanks so much for hosting me today.
      Hey there, DL, thanks for the good wishes

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  2. Must be able to write lush, rich descriptions? Well, crap, I guess I'm not a fiction writer either.
    You did it though, Karen!

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    1. Alex, you make me crack up - I guess I should have clarified that in certain kinds of fiction you must be able to write lush, rich descriptions. You can't keep denying you're a writer!!

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  3. Six years of struggle to write a story is bewildering to me. I am amazed at your determination and perseverance and lesser mortals would have given up the project which is so daunting and energy sapping involving too many sacrifices.

    You are a fantastic author.

    Best wishes

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    1. Hi Joseph, guess I'm lucky I'm tenacious. Actually, it's a bit bewildering to me as well, but the lessons learned from the experience and the book being out in the world are great rewards for the hard work.

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  4. I went to school to be a journalist and got comfortable writing within all the rules they had...then I went into public relations. So I know what you mean about having to move past fact-based writing into fiction, but it's interesting--a lot of the same creativity goes into writing the nonfiction articles and press releases I write as a freelance writer now. You still have to pick an angle and tell a story. Fiction is just MUCH more fun, I think!

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    1. Yes, Stephanie, I agree, it takes creativity to do the PR stuff, but it was such a different part of my brain to write fiction.

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  5. Thanks again for dropping by Karen!!!

    Hi DL! :)

    Alex - me neither! That lush writing eludes me :)

    Joseph - Karen is amazing!!

    Stephanie - I agree - fiction is definitely more fun!

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  6. I like the skeleton comment since all my first drafts are skeletons of about 30K words. I think it's great you're going with a novel this time, Karen. Who knows, it might become you're genre of choice?

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    1. Oh dear, Karen, that scares me. But who knows. I've learnt never to say never.

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  7. Yay! I'm glad you found a way to finally tell the story. What a terrible thing to have a story inside you and not be able to get it out. Props to your writing coach for his patience.

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  8. L.G. Thanks so much. Mark David is such a gift in my life. I could call him the Story Whisperer.

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  9. Congratulations, Karen! I'm happy for you. Your story is inspiring.

    Jemi, you always bring us neat posts! :)

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    1. Thank you, Dawn. I hope it's inspiring.

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  10. This is wonderful Laren. I've enjoyed reading about your writing journey. Buckets of good wishes to you!

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    1. Thanks, Denise. I'll take the buckets.

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  11. I stretch my wings by trying new genres, so I guess non-fiction could come up at some point. I've dabbled with something along the lines of a memoir here and there, but always lost interest. Guess I don't have that sort of story to tell yet. :-)

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  12. I love the idea about the nonfiction companion piece!

    And I've always thought that you had *such* a creative job. Originally, being a marketing or PR person was the direction I'd wanted to go in.

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    1. Hi Elizabeth, It was creative to some extent, but I found that writing fiction used parts of my brain I'd never used and didn't know I had.

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  13. Congrats on your book. That's awesome that you didn't let go of your dream and got the encouragement you needed to write your book.

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    1. Thanks, Natalie. I'm very grateful for the Muses and guidance in my life.

      Thanks again, Jemi, for hosting me today. It was so much fun.

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  14. Karen, it's been fun learning more about your writing experience. So glad you held on to that dream.

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  15. Karen JG - I find it so much easier to cut than add later, but my 1st drafts are becoming more skeleton-like too :)

    LG - agreed!

    Dawn - thanks!

    Denise - Karen's had a fascinating journey :)

    Misha - not yet! I've considered nonfiction, but not at this moment

    Elizabeth - it would be an interesting job!

    Natalie - it truly is :)

    Mason - those dreams are so important! :)

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  16. Hi, Jemi and Karen,
    Yes, that was quite a switch, but a good way to test your skills in other directions and mix things up a little.

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    1. Ah ha. Mix things up. That's a good way to put it.

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  17. What a great story!
    As a writer of fiction, I do occasionally think about writing non-fiction. But having made the switch from chldren's to adult books, I'm not sure I'm ready for a third genre!

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    1. Hi Beth, I can totally understand that.

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  18. Beautiful cover for the Wishing Steps! Congrats to Karen. Enjoyed learning about your writing journey!

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    1. Thanks, Kelly. I love the cover, too. It was quite a journey in and of itself to get it created.

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  19. Interestingly, fiction also requires the who, when, what, where, etc. It just needs a slightly different focus and the organs and skin, lol!

    Smart to listen to that inner voice. Wishing you the best with this!

    Sia McKye Over Coffee

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  20. It's a good thing Mark kept pushing you!

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    1. Yup. I'm so grateful for him in my life.

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  21. JL - a good mix up is good for the brain!

    Beth - 3 is a lot to keep straight! :)

    Kelly - it is gorgeous :)

    Sia - great analogy!

    Diane - agreed :)

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  22. Congrats to Karen on the book. It's wonderful she leaped into novel writing. Mark sounds like a wonderful coach.

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  23. Karen, I'm so glad you were able to move past the "I don't write fiction" stage. Everyone has a different style--from a minimalist dialog only to the flowery language of artsy-fartsy. We just have to figure out what our style is and go with it.

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  24. Medeia - he does!

    Crystal - so very, very true!

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  25. Hi, Jemi, Hi, Karen...

    Congrats again, Karen. You ARE a writer.... make no mistake about that. Always remember most fiction is BASED ON REALITY... Fiction writers draw from their REAL LIFE experiences and fit them into their characters. Both my novels have TONS OF ME experiences in them. And almost all my character draw some trait from me. Just like every other writer.

    I am so proud of you that you kept going even when you wanted to give you. Always listen to the voices within. They'll never let you down...

    All the best with your debut fiction novel.

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  26. Wonderful to learn about Karen! How interesting that she switched from non-fiction to fiction. I can understand why it was hard to make the switch. Glad she was able to stay with it. :) Best of luck to Karen.
    ~Jess

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  27. Michael - agreed!

    Jess - thanks - Karen is awesome!

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  28. Congratulations to Karen! It was great to learn about Karen.

    All the best, Karen!

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  29. what a journey! congratulations, Karen!

    and Jemi, thanks for stopping by my simulation release tour!

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  30. Great guest post from Karen! I can relate far too well to having a voice suddenly appear and demanding its story be told. Very cool how that ultimately resulted in The Wishing Steps; it sounds like such a fascinating novel!

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  31. Nas - thanks for dropping by!

    Tara - you're so welcome!

    Heather - it really is fascinating!

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  32. The transition from non-fiction to fiction was interesting to read about! I started with fiction and attempted non-fiction... which didn't go well, haha. But I do plan on eventually trying non-fiction again with a different project. Thanks for sharing, Karen! (And hi, Jemi!)

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  33. What an amazing journey, Karen.
    Mark sounds like a gem. You're so blessed to have him in your corner.
    The Wishing Steps sounds wonderful! Good luck with the companion piece calling to you... take heed and follow...
    *waves at Jemi*

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