By Kathryn Handley
Although it seems like I took a long and winding path to publishing two books, perhaps in the “lit world” it’s not so. Looking back to my know-nothing status as a newbie writer, I counted on a good bit of luck and a huge amount of perserverance. When I was starting out, I joined a South Shore writing group and soon realized that I needed to know more about craft. At a Wesleyan Writer’s conference, Chris Offutt praised my short story, “The Squat,” that eventually became Birds of Paradise, A Novel. The next year at the same conference I met Steve Almond and he directed me to Grub Street and Bruce Machart. I became a fan of Grub and a student in many fine classes, where I dabbled in short fiction and flash fiction and excerpts from the novel.
Here are the steps I went through to get to where I am today. I do hope that this will be helpful to other writers, because we writers need all the help we can get, don’t we?!
Kathy’s Steps to Success
- Read The Artist’s Way. Write each morning at 5AM and use these blasts of creativity as story starters.
- Reach out to others in groups and classes in order to be motivated and improve your work.
- Read books by local writers and show up at their readings.
- In classes and in writing groups, listen, learn, forget, learn again, and eventually added your own ideas to the mix.
- Submit lots of work. Dig in your heels after rejections. Eventually, you’ll have pieces accepted and then, lo and behold, place in contests and win a few prizes.
- Start madly writing back stories without any real knowledge of plot. Start thinking about favorite characters and the possibility of a novel.
- Glean secrets from Grub instructors and at The Muse and the Marketplace. One very precious secret is that successful authors work totally hard and generously share of themselves and their work.
- Get a great editor to give you a critique. After I spent time with Bruce Machart (The Wake of Forgiveness) I sent my manuscript to Tara Masih who gave me a good first draft critique.
- Submit your work to many agents and don’t give up! Two lovely NY agents read my manuscript, gave me wonderful feedback, but alas, did not take on my project.
- If you’re like me, consider self-publishing. A new gal in publishing, Stephanie Blackman of Riverhavenbooks.com welcomed me and answered so many questions.
- Start thinking about shorter pieces as part of a collection. The subtitles of my pieces came to me as a reflection of the work (love, envy, yesterdays, Irish voices and California Lost).
- Looks matter. Not a small miracle in itself, I found a lovely cover photo for my book through a friend on Facebook. Her pal gifted me the “red shoe” photo on one of my books and the same photographer, Amanda Borozinski, then created the cover for my novel, Birds of Paradise.
- Above all, have fun. Enjoy the process!
Here’s the scoop about me and my books.
Kathy Handley, a Grub Street member, writes fiction of all lengths. Her short fiction has appeared in many literary magazines. It has also placed in contests, such as Press 53′s 2010 Flash Fiction Contest. Most recently Ms. Handley won Word Hustler’s Page-to-Screen Contest (2011) judged by Sara Gruen. Kathy currently serves as Prose Poetry Judge for the National League of American Pen Women Soul-Making Contest. She has two books: Birds of Paradise, a novel, and a world of love and envy: short stories, flash fiction, and poetry. Both of these books are available through www.RiverhavenBooks.com and through Kindle ($2.99). Please check out Kathy’s website: www.KathyHandley.com to keep abreast of events, signings, and stores where her books will be carried.
Birds of Paradise is the story of trucker Joe-Mack who picks up a runaway in Vegas and drops him in Hollywood. He gives this boy his phone number in case he ever needs help, and when the call comes, Joe-Mack reaches out to him and becomes embroiled in Freddie’s life and the search for Starlet, the homeless girl who desires stardom. The three have in common a search for love and for a place to belong. Set in California’s beautiful, yet challenging neighborhoods, the characters, like lost Birds of Paradise, take on risks and maintain thin threads of dignity amidst troubling situations with surprising twists along the way.