Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Feature: Journeys Toward Publication and Beyond: Kristine C. Asselin

I am excited to welcome all of you to another Friday Feature, where we delve into one writer's journey toward publication.  And, I'm very excited to welcome my guest, Kristine Asselin.  I have loved getting to know Kris in the blogging world, and was thrilled to meet her at last week's NESCBWI conference in Fitchburg.  She is a kind, dedicated, talented writer, and I am so thankful that blogging has brought us together.  Oh, and she kicks butt at Wibij!! She has a beautiful blog, and I love her new feature, highlighting sports books for girls.  Very cool!

Hello, Kris, welcome! Please start today by telling us a bit about yourself.

I graduated from Fitchburg State College (yes, the NESCBWI was in my college town) and the University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT.  I worked in higher education (specifically student activities and first-year orientation) at Brandeis University in Waltham, MA for almost ten years and quit when my daughter was 10 months old.  I currently work half-time at a local community college.

I'm currently writing middle-grade nonfiction and young adult and middle-grade fiction. My first book from Capstone Press came out in January 2010. I'm a girl scout leader, a book club member, a golfer, and an avid reader.  I love music, but I can't dance.  I'm a Sagittarius and like fancy frozen strawberry drinks...but that's another story.

So, Kris, what project are you writing right now?

My current WIP is a contemporary YA sports romance.  And because I’m always asked what sport…it’s golf.

Kris, what made you start to write seriously?

In high school, I wrote bad poetry (I’m not telling how long ago!). In college, I majored in film, so I wrote scripts and creative short stories.  In my professional career, I wrote and edited college promotional material.  I’m currently a grant writer. So, I’ve always written.  But, (like most writers I know), my daughter’s birth inspired me to write my first children’s story.  In 2004, I wrote my first picture book manuscript and started subbing it waaaay too early (but didn’t we all?).  I did have some early “personal” rejections which I knew weren’t the norm, so I kept writing.

Along the way, a few of my stories were published in Fandangle Magazine – an online story site no longer in existence, except in archives.  Those early successes fueled my drive to be a better writer.

As far as the current WIP, a conversation with a friend jogged a memory of something that happened on a golf course in 1988.  I wrote it as a short story in the summer of 2007. I had good feedback from critique circle and from readers who wanted to know what happened next. That short story was published in Golfer Girl Magazine in December 2008.

I started writing ‘what happened next’ in 2008, and finished my first draft of the novel on Thanksgiving Day 2009. The current version is about 65K words.

I always feel like script writing hones dialog writing skills.  What an excellent writing background, Kris! What stage are you at, currently, in your journey toward publication? And--how is that going for you?  Has anything surprised you about this stage?

I’m in several of those stages at once!  (Does that make me schizophrenic?) I’m currently about 85% done revising my WIP, but also researching agents.  I’ve had a fair amount of agent interest from a face-to-face workshop and conference critiques and blog contests, but I haven’t yet queried widely.  Nothing like a little positive feedback to get the juices flowing – out of five agents, three either want see more, or see it again after revisions! I’m very antsy to finish revisions and get the ms out there in query land.  (My trigger finger is getting itchy, really.  And it’s not quite ready yet!  Don’t send it too early!)

I’ve also had some success with work-for-hire.  I’ve completed four non-fiction books aimed at grades 3-5 with Capstone Press.  Taurus, Virgo & Capricorn: All About the Earth Signs came out in January 2010.  I have three more titles that will hopefully be out in 2011.  WFH is a very different style of writing – it’s been fun to explore.

I’m completely surprised and shocked that I wrote 65K words of the same story. 

I try NOT to be surprised by the positive feedback I’m getting.  There are days when I have no idea why someone would want to read my story and I’m sure I totally suck.  I’ve read how hard it is to rise out of the slush and there is so much competition out there.  And everyone else is so great and so much better than I am. 

And then I slap myself.  Hard. Actually one of my crit partners usually slaps me first.

You can’t get better without starting worse (does that make sense?).  I’ve improved so much since the first draft of the story. 

And it is worth reading. 

And it’s not paranormal romance.  (Not that there’s anything wrong w/ that, it’s just that my ms is different at a time when the market is pseudo-saturated.)

Or so I keep telling myself that.  ;)

I love that, about starting worse!  Tell us about your online writing journey--if you had to pick one favorite blog, what would it be?

I love Laura Pauling’s blog.  Laura is one of my critique partners, and she inspired me to step up my own blogging.  She’s insightful, funny, and helpful to new writers.  I also love Casey McCormick’s Literary Rambles blog for agent research.

Yay, two of my favs, too! What is a favorite blog post that you have written?

Oh, for sure the one I did balancing golf balls.  I just wish I could have balanced more…

What online resource have you found most helpful?

I really like Query Tracker right now for keeping track of agents I like.  They maintain a great blog with really useful entries. 

When I first started writing seriously, I spent a lot of time on Harold Underdown’s blog, as well as the Verla Kay “blue board,” just lurking and soaking it all in.

What has been your biggest trial in writing?

Time. Time. Time. And, oh yeah, time.  Or lack of it, actually.  Also, the feeling that I’m ignoring my daughter on a daily basis in favor of this book.  Guilt. Shame. Remorse.

Oh, I have those days! What tricks have you acquired to make you write or create when you don’t feel up to writing?

This is a hard one.  I’m very easily distractible if I’m not “in the mood.” (cliché alert!) 

My critique group has been most responsible for keeping me honest with my writing.  I know I owe them 8-10 pages every other week, and boy, I better get it to them.  Or else. 

At the 2008 NESCBWI conference in Nashua NH, keynoter Laurie Halse Anderson advised writing every day. And I remember gasping out loud.  “No way I could ever write every day.”  I still don’t.  But I’m better at writing almost every day, or blogging, or revising something, or tweaking, or commenting on a blog.  Something related to my writing every day.

Tell us about a book that has impacted your writing life.

Like a good writer, I own a lot of craft books that sit on my shelf unread, thank you very much.  I did really like Chris Vogler’s Hero’s Journey. I also like James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure  and Darcy Pattinson’s Novel Metamorphosis.  Not that I actually read them. I mean to, though.

What is your practical goal with your writing?  Do you have a reach-for-the-stars goal that you would like to share?

Practical to keep writing as much as I can.  You can't get better without practice.  Reach for the stars? Absolutely find an agent and publish my novel. Should be easy, right?

So far, what has been the best part of your writing experience?

I’m grateful to have found my critique group.  They will be life-long friends and I look forward to sharing the writing journey with them.  It was also gratifying to see my name on the cover of my first book w/ Capstone.  The paycheck didn’t hurt either.  Actually, it helped a lot – my husband now finds my “hobby” a lot easier to support.

If you could create the perfect place for you to write in, what would it look like?

An office.  With a door.  And a window (negotiable).  I guess I’d need a computer, too.  I’m not fussy, though, just something besides my dining room table would be lovely.

If you could be a character in a book, and live within their world, what character would you be?

Hermione Granger, without a doubt.

What other distractions are in your life?

I’ve got a great kid – who loves books.  I’m a Girl Scout volunteer.  I have a very supportive husband.  I volunteer for the school.  I work outside the home (and inside it, too).  So, I have lots of distractions, some bigger than others. 

And, just because I’m curious, coffee or tea?

Coffee.  Regular. Sometimes, if I’m feeling wild and crazy, with a little chocolate in it. Mocha. Yum.

Thanks Heather for the opportunity to talk about myself.  ;)

You're welcome, Kris, it was absolutely my pleasure!  I loved finding out more about how you got to where you are.  Everyone, remember to leave a question or comment for Kris here, in the comment section, and she'll stop by to answer them.  Check out the WIBIJ clue (#5) which led players to her blog last Wednesday.  And, at her blog she's posted pictures of us all at NESCBWI last Saturday--please stay to peruse her site, check out her page about sports books for girls, and check out her wonderful new feature!  Thanks, Kris for being here today!

35 comments:

  1. Kris--Thanks so much for coming by here today to answer questions--I was touched when you said, about your current novel, "And it is worth reading." I think that says it all about getting over doubts.

    Can you tell us a little of what you know about MG and YA sports books for girls in general--is this a slim area in kid lit? Do you think more writers should be writing sports for girls?

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  2. Hi Heather! I'm so excited to be here! I don't want to misrepresent my expertise in the area of books about sports for girls - it's something that I'm exploring. I've had a few librarians and book sellers get excited about my WIP because they tell me the genre is lacking. I think it's an area that might be ripe for growth -- I'm hoping, for my sake!

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  3. Heather, thank you for a super interview! Thank you, Kris, for spending time with us and congrats on getting published, with more to come. I'm appreciative you shared such helpful links. I think it's great you're writing YA sports. There's so little out there. Do you think YA writers tend to 'follow the herd' too much, subsuming individual talents to appear current?

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  4. Thanks for a great interview Heather & Kris. I need to be slapped almost daily when I have self doubt if my writing and story is good enough. Thanks for the inspiration.

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  5. Loved the interview. My wip is YA for girls and features competitive swimming. It isn't the main story problem, but it's an important element.

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  6. Kittie - Thanks! I'm not sure about the "follow the herd" mentality. I do know I've heard that agents are seeing an extraordinary percentage of paranormal romance and seem to be asking for other things on their blogs (totally general and non-scientific observation on my part ;) ).

    Natalie - self doubt is part of the process, I think. You can't make your ms better if you don't have some self-doubt. Get a good crit group that will kick your butt!

    Stina - I love that swimming is a subplot for you! I really love seeing nontraditional extra curricular activities in books -- not just football and cheerleading. Those sports are great, don't get me wrong! But, it's nice to see some variety.

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  7. I have read your first page (on your blog), Kris, and can certainly understand why people want to read more! I can't wait.

    And, I also find your words about self doubt inspiring. Especially since I found your prose so pleasing! My own self doubt can be debilitating. I guess I should be slapping myself, or something...

    It has been such a pleasure to get to know you! This interview was like icing on the cake!

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  8. Thanks so much, Tina! I hope people want to read more. ;) Thanks for you compliments! I sort of forgot I had the first pages up there for a while. Now I just have my one sentence pitch line.

    I'm not used to being in the spotlight, so I find it a bit disconcerting! But, it's been so great to find this great writing community - it is inspiring to know other people are going through the same things!

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  9. Um, a question...I'm thinking...still thinking...okay, got one. Do you think you'll ever explore another sport outside of golf in your writing?

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  10. Thanks for sharing your journey with us, Kris.

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  11. Great interview, ladies!
    I have a question for Kris. How did you get involved with Capstone Press? Did you send writing samples or a manuscript to them? Thanks!!

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  12. I love both Laura and Kelly's questions. Wish I had thought of them.

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  13. I'll admit that I'm not a big golf fan, but a book about golf and romance? I could get into that! :-)

    Heather, I think you should do a tally of how many of your interviewees have said they want to be Hermione Granger or would like to live in the HP world. It seems like there's quite a lot of us!

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  14. Great interview, Heather & Kris! Helpful and inspiring hearing others' writing journeys!

    I enjoyed being part of Wibij this week, too -- great chance to meet several folks and see how the game works. Thanks for the fun!

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  15. Hi everyone! Thanks for all the nice comments and questions! Keep 'em coming.

    Anna--I think that everyone probably wants to be H.G. Even those who don't admit it!!

    I'm so glad you had a fun time with WIBIJ, Martha! And thanks for the nice segue-way! It's a Kris week all around! Kris, (and everyone) pop over to WIBIJ to see what I mean!! The award's ceremony has posted!

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  16. Great questions!

    Laura - I'm not a natural athlete. I played golf as a kid and it came pretty easily. That said, it's really the only sport I can say I know intimately as a player. Could I research and write something on another sport? Probably, but I don't think it's likely.

    Kelly - Capstone's guidelines at the time (2007) asked for resume, coverletter, and writing samples. I indicated a special interest in history. It took a full year to get my first assignment, but I'd recommend it to anyone -- it's been a great experience.

    Anna - I love Hermione - smart, brave, and ends up w/ the cute red-head. *awesome*

    Thanks for reading Martha and Tina!

    And thanks, Heather! I just stopped at WIBIJ -- How cool is that?!? Thank you!

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  17. Hi Kris!

    I enjoyed reading more about you! I can relate to you in so many ways...
    1) Frozen strawberry drinks. Yum.
    2) Submitting waaay too early
    3) Guilt, shame, remorse
    4) "I'm not in the mood."

    (My WIP): "Dena, let's do this tonight...it's been too long."
    (Me): "No, WIP, I've got a headache."
    (My WIP): "Oh baby, don't be like that! It's been waaaay too long."
    (Me): "I'm not in the mood right now, WIP."
    (My WIP): "Can I give you a back massage?"
    (Me): "No...unless there aren't any strings attached."
    (My WIP): "I feel so neglected."

    It's a complicated emotion.

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  18. Dena!
    Comment 1: award winning
    Comment 2: cryptic

    Love 'em both!

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  20. Dena - My WIP says the same thing. *scratches head* Wait a minute...nah...can't be. It wouldn't dare... :)

    And, I'll see your beef taco and raise you a bean burrito. With sour cream.

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  21. Kris!! Your WIP is such a player!

    Thanks for the bean burrito. It's not going to be pretty tonight. It's good we've got a 'virtual' relationship lol...what with all the beef tacos/bean burrito shenanigans

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  22. Yeah, well, that WIP better be home tonight or I'll start getting really suspicious. I have my own intentions for later. And, I'm hungry for Mexican food. :)

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  23. Great interview, ladies! I already hopped over to your blog and am now following you, Kris! :-)

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  24. Great Interview. *smooches* Lot's of love to a great critique partner!
    (and good job Laura on the question!)

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  25. Just here to show support, love the interview you too, but too tired to have a question. Maybe tomorrow. Falling asl e e p . . .

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  26. What a great interview! I'm a fellow UConn alumni. (Although I never did finish my degree) Congrats Kris on all your success and I wish you luck with your fiction work!

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  27. Great interview, Heather!

    Hi, Kris! *goes to check out blog*

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  28. This is great! I like stopping by Kris's blog.

    My daughters are taking golf lessons for the first time this summer, but I'm hoping there will be no romance involved!

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  29. I LOVE you LADIES SO much!!!

    Although I follow Kris - a LOT of this information was really new to me.It was a real insight getting to know you better.

    I think that you are really smart to go and write a book in an area which hasn't really been explored yet Kris - very smart indeed!

    Dena's comments had me in fits of laughter - does she get a prize or something for her BRILLIANT commenting?
    HI DENES!

    THANK YOU ALL!

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  30. Ansha - *smooches* to you too!

    Jonathan - questions are welcome anytime!

    CQG - I was a graduate student husky a long time ago -- but it was a blast!

    Larissa - Hi! *waves*

    Anita - I hope your girls enjoy their golf lessons! Golfer boys are pretty cool!

    Ann Marie - you're so sweet. Thank you.

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  31. I'm a little late but really enjoyed the interview. Good luck with getting your novel ready to query. A YA that involves golf sounds interesting and unique!!

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  32. LOL!

    Ann Marie--Dena totally deserves an award for wacky comments. Maybe her commenting is stuck in WIBIJ mode! Or maybe she's just practicing!!

    Paul, it's never too late, welcome to the party!!

    Hello everyone! (*waving*) Thanks for stopping by and commenting and questioning! Kris--thanks for the fantastic interview!

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  33. Love contests and finding new places to read, and relax. Thanks for sharing.

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