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!