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Author: Kelly

My year of reading Stephen King (et al)

Before 2021, I had never read a single Stephen King novel. The only Stephen King work I had read was “On Writing,” which was required reading in the same college creative writing classes I took which told us if you write genre fiction (like King) you are sellout trash. (I’m paraphrasing of course).

Every October, however, I indulge in a month-long binge of horror movies, and in 2020 I watched all adaptations of Stephen King novels, wondering to myself why I’d never read a single one even though I knew I enjoyed the movies. (This year, notably, I watched the entire Friday the 13th series and did not come close to enjoying them all.) The answer, of course, is that it was hammered into me that commercial fiction like King’s wasn’t worth my time.

Of course that’s a ridiculous notion. Commercial fiction is successful for a reason – people like it! People read it! I dismissed silly things like romance novels as having no literary merit, forgetting the fact that my favorite author of all time – John Updike – wrote some highly pornographic shit. Just because it’s Pulitzer porn doesn’t make it any less porn. King is arguably the most successful commercial author of my lifetime, and for the first time I felt like I was missing out on something, so I decided to spend the year reading as many Stephen King novels as I could – helped by the fact that my public library had pretty much all of them for free.

I read 19 (and a half – I’m nearly halfway through the 3rd book in the Dark Tower Series) Stephen King novels in 2021 – and here are my drawn conclusions:

  • My favorite: 11/22/63. It was the most compelling story for me, and I loved watching it all unfold.
  • Honorable mentions: The Stand, The Outsider, and The Dead Zone. Yes, I listened to all 47 hours of the newest mega-edition of The Stand.
  • My least favorite: Gerald’s Game. I’m glad she survived and all, but fuck that book.
  • Dishonorable mentions: Rose Madder and The Long Walk
  • Every woman in King’s books has to have perfect boobs because in the real world, women don’t have perfect boobs.
  • I bristled at hearing the N word used so often, but it just goes to show how recently that kind of speech wasn’t a big deal in commercial fiction.

I’ve also made a point to discard another indoctrination from my college days – if I don’t enjoy a book, I will no longer power through and finish it. Life is too short to feel read things I don’t like. If I don’t want to keep reading after 100 pages, I don’t.

Outside of Stephen King, I read 55 books and had a goal of only 35. My top 5, in no particular order, were:

  • Hollow by Owen Egerton
  • 11/22/63 by Stephen King
  • The Motion of the Body Through Space by Lionel Shriver
  • Smoke Gets In Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty
  • House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III
  • Self Care by Leigh Stein

Here’s my 2021 Goodreads reading challenge, in case you’re curious.

My goal for 2022 is to read 60 books, and hopefully none of them are my own, because I am tired of reading it! And I will keep working my way through Stephen King’s backlist, even if I hate the way he talks about every woman having perfect boobs, because his work still has a great deal of literary merit (not Gerald’s Game, though).

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My least favorite part of this book process…

Earlier this week I got my design pages from my publisher! Not only is it a wonderful preview of what my book will look like in print (sans cover), it’s also my last chance to make any edits. In meetings with my publisher and other authors in my cohort, I knew it was coming, and I also was told repeatedly of two things I could do to make sure I was catching any last minute typos: 1) print my design pages on brightly colored paper and 2) read the printed pages out loud.

I think even your average author despises the sound of their own voice (good thing David Sedaris is not average… I can’t imagine anyone else reading his audiobooks). Because I have a speech impediment (stuttering), I hate listening to the sound of my own voice more than most, because the sound of my own voice – even when I am by myself in the master bedroom, because it is the only room in the house with interior locks, after draining my Buc-ees mug of coffee with Bailey’s – is sometimes a legit battle.

But since I can fit the amount of things I know about the business side of books into one tiny pinky nail, I trusted their word and printed out my design pages on bright yellow paper… because it was second cheapest. (Salmon was cheapest… but I just can’t bring myself to stare at that much pink while I read out loud.)

And as much as I would like for this blog post to be a refutation of my publisher’s recommendation… goddammit they were right. I’ve probably read this manuscript at least 20 times and have done so with the eagle eye I’ve been told I have on multiple professional occasions. And yet, by reading it on piss yellow paper in my wavering stutter, I’ve already found missing words, transposed words, and an entire section in the wrong verb tense… and this is AFTER the proofreaders did their worst.

So, I’m going to fumble over my words and finish reading this super-yellow manuscript out loud until page 277, because I am magically catching things I should have caught years ago, and because it’s making my book a better book. Even when I can’t pronounce words that begin with R.

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It only takes one rejection…

Writers deal with a lot of rejection. Years, sometimes decades of rejection. And when they discouraged, their fellow rejectees bolster them up with the same refrain: It only takes one yes.

Sadly, the inverse is also true. It only takes one stinging rejection for all the impostor syndrome to creep back in. I’m lucky in that while I’ve had my fair share of manuscript rejections in the past year, I’ve also had a lot of yeses. This year, I’ve had 3 essays published, a poem, a flash fiction piece, and my third novel is crawling along to its June 2022 publication date.

I recently entered a contest for both fiction and poetry for an all-writer voted publication. Everyone who submits also votes on the submissions, the best from each round move on to the next one, and the top 30 submissions make it into the final issue.

I entered round 1 with 3 of my best poems and a short story I haven’t touched in years, thinking that as a serious, multiply-published author, surely I could crack the top 30 with both my submissions.

Well, I didn’t. My short story finished 131 out of 221, and my poems finished 147 out of 239. I didn’t even make it past the first round, and I read some very weak submissions in the first round. I felt immediately dejected. How could I possibly expect to publish and have any level of commercial success with my novel if I couldn’t even have a short story in the top half of a contest? It wasn’t too late to call my publisher and stop the train and go back to the drawing board. It’s not like I deserved that yes!

But that’s the thing about pity parties. They never last long. And I read the nice feedback I got from the writers who read and ranked my submissions in round 1, and all the criticism was totally fair. And prose and poetry are both incredibly subjective, as they should be. In round 1, one writer ranked my poems the best… another, the worst.

Instead of feeling sorry for myself and listening to those negative thoughts about not being good enough, instead I’m going to be happy for the winners because (the ones I read and voted on anyway) their work was really good. I’m going to look forward to reading the final issue with the top 30 stories and poems because I bet it will be amazing. And I’ll keep grinding away at my work and submit something even better next time.

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Another feature in Moms Don’t Have Time to Write

This essay was jostling around in my mind long before Moms Don’t Have Time to Write put out a call for submissions about holiday topics, but I was hesitant to even give voice to the negative feelings I was having. More than anything, I was scared to submit the essay because I was worried how it would be received by my family.

However, as a writer, I’ve found that whenever I find myself writing something that scares me, that’s actually the place where the gold is. The minute I start self-editing is the minute I stop being authentic, which is a disservice for me and my readers. Needless to say, after much hand-wringing I submitted the essay for consideration. This week, they surprised me by publishing it!

Check out my published essay here.

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I’m featured in Moms Don’t Have Time to Write (again!)

I recently went through some unpleasant shit with my lady doctor’s office and it brought up a lot of equally unpleasant and shitty feelings about my long and complicated history with lady doctors over the years, to the point that I felt compelled to sit down and write about it.

And now it’s an essay on Moms Don’t Have Time to Write! Go check out my 3-minute read when you have 3 minutes to spare. Cheers.

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COVER REVEAL for Community Klepto!

How beautiful is this cover?

OMG y’all my cover is here and shit is getting real. Unlike my first two novels, I really didn’t have a concrete picture in mind about what the cover of this book might look like, but the designers over at She Writes Press really nailed it and I can’t stop looking at it.

In other big Community Klepto news, the book hit the data feed for all major and most independent bookseller’s websites this week so you can now find it EVERYWHERE for preorder: BookPeople, Barnes & Noble, Rainy Day Books, (and of course Amazon, too). It is available for preorder now, and I won’t stop you if you do, but it doesn’t come out ’til June so you can slow your roll a bit (unless you just really want to give yourself a nice surprise in June 2022 because you will undoubtedly have forgotten about it by then).

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The Rastaman is out!

I was randomly scrolling through my Tweetdeck when I ran across an open submission call for poems and art about Bob Marley. I don’t often hop on these types of calls unless I have something on theme already in the hopper, but this immediately brought to mind my time at home on maternity leave with my twins, when I would play Bob Marley when I was at the end of my rope with two crying babies.

I wrote the poem one night, edited it the next, and sent it out before the submission deadline the day after that, and it was almost immediately accepted! I’ve been so busy this summer that I admit I completely missed the publication announcement, but the anthology is out now, and my poem Alexa, Play Bob Marley is the last poem in the book. Check it out and support an independent press in the process.

Get yourself a copy on Amazon.

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I got featured again!

I had a lot of complicated thoughts of fever-induced mom guilt after COVID hit our house, and threw some of them into an essay that I put together hoping to get picked up by Working Mother magazine or something.

I never heard from them, but it was accepted by Moms Don’t Have Time to Write and the post is now live on Medium! This is my second essay to be accepted by them, so I hope that this means I could end up becoming a regular contributor as the one-year countdown to Community Klepto’s release begins.

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I’m featured in Moms Don’t Have Time to Write

I recently had an essay get accepted to Moms Don’t Have Time to Write, a new website brainchild of award-winning book podcaster Zibby Owens. A fellow author clued me into their call for submissions, and though I was nervous about submitting since I have never written anything expressly through the lens of being a mom before, I was pleased when they accepted my submission the very next today.

It was published today, and I hope you enjoy it! My Less-Than-Triumphant Return to the Barre

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