Monday, June 30, 2014

Writing Process Blog Hop: Snatched!

by Kim Van Sickler

Writer and photographer extraordinaire Ann Finkelstein tagged me for the Writing Process Blog Hop. I'm happy to play along!

What am I working on now?
Snatched in Gullybrook, a YA contemporary with an expected publication date in August 2014. I'm self-publishing my debut novel and totally enamored with the process. I LOVE taking charge and bringing my line editor (Janie Sullivan from The Center for Writing Excellence) and my cover artist (Michael di Gesu) on board to collaborate with me. I love that Dr. Jacquelyn Meshelemiah, a human trafficking expert at OSU, tells me that my book is the most realistic depiction of domestic trafficking she's ever read, and I've got to publish it now so she can make it required reading for her trafficking classes. This is how writing is supposed to be! What a rush! My heart beats faster just writing about it!

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
This book is unique in that it is told from the POV of three teenage trafficking victims. All of the "experts" told me not to write it this way. They wanted the story told in one POV, but I strongly believe that telling it from three, and dovetailing the stories together, emphasizes the trafficking nature of this crime. There are more people trafficked in the world today than at any other time in human history. And in the U.S., traffickers are getting bolder. Girls from middle and upper class families are targeted via social media, via men who pretend to care about them, via women who pretend to be concerned about them, and via children their own age who pretend to be their friends. These trusting victims are manipulated, kidnapped, and forced into a life they never dreamed could happen to them.

Why do I write what I do?
I write what captures my attention, grabs hold, and refuses to let go, like my dog with his ratty piece of rawhide he gnaws at until it's coated in saliva-y grime. My other finished novel is an MG historical fiction about an orphan who works as a muleskinner (mule driver) on the 1840s Ohio Canal. The Canal Era fascinates me, and it played a huge part in the settlement of the area where I live (Northern Ohio).

How does my writing process work?
I love research! I read, watch movies, talk to experts, and sometimes try to replicate my characters' journeys. In the case of my Ohio Canal book, I actually backpacked 110 miles of the restored canal towpath in five days, a pace not dissimilar to what my muleskinner would have done. It exhausted me! I'm also a big fan of thumbing through magazines and finding pictures of my characters as I'm brainstorming my plot. Then I flesh out biographies of them as I go along, returning to my photos frequently to stare and absorb their physical power. Pretty soon I'm dreaming about them as I know them.

Megan, the maybe lesbian and sometimes kleptomaniac.
Candace, the cheerleader.
Sissy, Daddy's little princess and shopaholic.
My major villains! Clockwise: Pimps: Tex, Iron Man, and Romeo, and Trixie: befriender of unsuspecting girls.
What about you? Share something with me about your writing process, your reading process, your process of selecting what you want to write or read about... I love hearing about other journeys.

Monday, June 23, 2014


by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

Have you ever been bored? What did that feel like? It’s a feeling I experience only rarely. Like when listening to a dull speaker.

For the most part, I don’t have time to be bored. My time is filled with family and friends and writing. And if I do have moments of time in between those things, like waiting in the doctor’s office or eating a meal by myself, I read. Books have been part of my life since I was a small child.

These days, I eat most of my meals at our kitchen table with my husband, but if he isn’t around, I have a book handy. I have eaten meals during the battle of Gettysburg or on the wild prairie or watching two soul mates search for and find each other.

Other restaurant patrons might wonder what made me laugh out loud. (One day it was WEDNESDAY WARS). A waitress might catch me wiping tears from my cheeks. (Lots of books have done that.)

Yes, I have to deal with the occasional (or frequent) soda splash or ketchup blot on a page, but I wipe it off and continue on the journey the author has laid out for me. If I find the book boring, I have a back-up book at the ready.

Readers like me know how to not get bored. I always, always have a book close by. And I never eat alone.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Making Art

by Kim Van Sickler

Last week a group of us got together to try our hand at painting.

There are franchises like this all over. The idea is you take a group of people looking for a social bonding activity and teach them all how to paint the same picture.
Artists Uncork'd
We used a non-franchise group called Artists Uncork'd, based in Cleveland, OH. Sara showed up at our neighborhood hangout an hour ahead of time to set up the individual place-settings of: easel, canvas, pallet of paints, cup of water, paper towel, and variety of paintbrushes. We provided our own refreshments. Edible and drinkable. Sara stood at the front of the room with her own teacher-sized easel and instructed us step by step through the painting process.

Before our big day we had reviewed the organization's website and Facebook page and selected our painting. Now all there was to do was replicate it. No problem, huh?

When everyone began arriving I heard a lot of, "I don't have a clue how to paint; about the best I can draw are stick figures." I belonged to this camp.

But Sara was patient. She nurtured us. Leaked snippets of essential information in a methodical fashion so we had just what we needed when we needed it. Like the schoolteacher she formerly was. And our canvasses metamorphosed.

Ultimately we arrived at 16 unique variations of "Cleveland Starry Nights".

Even though we referenced the same original drawing, and all tried to copy what Sara was doing at the front of the room, every single picture turned out differently. Every one reflected the personality of the artist who made it.

Our end result was a reflection of us.

Now that is art.

Monday, June 9, 2014


by Kathy Cannon Wiechman

Writing Process Blog Tour

I was invited to participate in this blog tour by Kerrie Logan Hollihan (author of the new non-fiction book REPORTING UNDER FIRE)

The blog tour requires me to answer the four questions below and invite others to answer the same questions on their blogs.

1. What am I currently working on?
I am doing preliminary promotion for my novel LIKE A RIVER (due out in Spring, 2015 from Calkins Creek). And I am sixteen chapters into a new novel set in Kentucky coal country during the Great Depression.
The sinking of the Sultana is one of the misadventures described in Kathy's new historical fiction book.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I try to find events from history that few people are aware of, and build everyday fictional characters who could have lived at the time, and tell their stories.

3. Why do I write what I write?
History was a subject which bored me in school. But reading historical fiction was a way to “live” the history through a person’s eyes. It fascinated me. People are what bring history to life. I hope my stories can draw in a reader the way I was.

4. How does my individual writing process work?
After I have done a ton of research, I create characters to tell my story. I flesh them out in a series of questions I ask myself about them. When they “breathe,” I know it’s time to write.

I begin my writing time each day by re-reading what I wrote the day before, tweaking it as I do. Going over the previous day’s work re-sets my focus, getting me back into the mind of the character and the flow of the story.

While I am writing one novel, I am doing research for others. That way when I finish, I have a beginning place for my next project instead of a blank page.

Those are the questions and my answers. For the next leg of the blog tour, check out CityMuse/CountryMuse on June 23.

If you’d like to take part in the tour, you can answer the same four questions on your own blog. Just mention Swagger in your intro, and leave a comment below to tell us when and where to find your answers.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


by Kathy Cannon Wiechman
Click on the link to learn more

As a kid, I listened to Cincinnati Reds baseball games with my dad. I asked questions, and he answered. That bond with my father is what made me a Reds fan.

I listened to what announcers said about the players—including Pete Rose. No matter what else he has done, he still holds the record for most hits ever, having passed Ty Cobb in 1985.

What you may not know about Pete is that he was never considered to have “natural ability.” He became the all-time hits king in spite of this so-called lack of talent. He loved baseball and wanted to play. He threw himself into the sport 100%. He took extra batting practice. He studied the pitchers to anticipate what they would throw him. His hard work made up for what he lacked innately. Did it ever!

But baseball and Pete Rose are not my topic today.

My topic is Voice, a necessity in successful writing. Experts say Voice can’t be taught. You have it or you don’t. I was told I have it. For that, I am grateful. But what if I’d been told I don’t? Would I have quit writing?
writer's voice
I wonder if someone ever told Pete Rose that hitting a baseball took talent. Did they tell him either you have it or you don’t? Did someone ever try to discourage him from playing the game he loved? If they did, he showed them—and everybody—what can be accomplished without innate ability.

My reason for writing this post is to remind you that obstacles can be overcome with hard work. If you love to write, write! If someone says you don’t have Voice, dig deeper and work harder. You might just find that you can make up for what is not innate.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Self-pub Journey. Step One: After the editorial evaluation

by Kim Van Sickler

The time feels right to get my human trafficking book out into the marketplace.

After a year of, “Great story, but too edgy for us,” I’m ready to self-publish. I’ve polished the manuscript and have a convincing cheerleader in Dr. Jacquelyn Meshelemiah, a human trafficking educator at The Ohio State University. She encourages me by insisting that my book captures the essence of human trafficking better than any fictional account she’s ever read. She wants to make it required reading for her massive open online course on human trafficking.

So now what?
 CreateSpace - An Amazon Company
I contacted CreateSpace, the self-pub arm of Amazon for an editorial evaluation. The evaluation took about two weeks and covers issues like plot, structure, and pacing. Overall I’m left with plenty of encouraging comments like this one under the subhead: Writing Style:
The overall style and tone works for the manuscript, given the plot and genre. The syntax, diction, and word choice are appropriate. The author has a gift for incorporating the other four senses (sound, taste, touch, and feel) besides sight into her prose. This works especially well for the sex and rape scenes. For instance, on page 103, it states: “Me on top doing all the work while he lies there like an engorged tick. A tick that oozes fast food and coffee from his large pores.” The author’s voice remains consistent, since she retains a young adult, female voice quality throughout the entire book.

However, there are areas where change is urged. And now I’m faced with deciding whether I am going to venture down those roads or not. The edit recommends I change the name of the book because it “sounds too vague and almost happy-sounding”. Instead, I should reference the darker, more disturbing nature of the story in my title. Even though I consciously chose an innocuous title. One that conjures unremarkable images of an outing with girlfriends, a common place for teenagers to escape Mom and Dad, flirt, and shop. An unremarkable place with pitfalls that every teenager should be aware of.

So do I want to change the title to something darker? I’ll have to ponder that.

The suggestion for change I will really struggle with is the one to nix the three points of view and proceed with my lesbian trafficking victim as the main character. This isn’t the first time I’ve been told that feisty Megan is my strongest character. The evaluator wants the other two victims to become Megan’s back-ups. The reason? “Their backgrounds and experiences are not different enough to warrant separate characters”, even though she felt that, “[A]ll the characters give variety and yet do not confuse the reader”. Again, a trio of victims versus one victim was a conscious decision of mine. The repetitive nature of the indignities they suffer underscores the trafficking nature of the crimes against them. They are cattle. They are a small part of a growing business enterprise: the sale of human flesh for sexual gratification.
 Writing from the POVs of the three victims is supposed to amplify the growing magnitude of the problem. I’m fairly sure it’s something I don’t want to change, even if the evaluator thinks writing solely from Megan’s perspective will make the story “more compelling”.

But the suggestion to amp up some of my setting descriptions, to make them more “evocative and concise”, including the “suburban upper-middle class setting from which the girls are kidnapped”, rings true with me. Settings have always been something I need to go back and flesh out. I will definitely read through the manuscript again and do this.

Have you ever felt strongly against incorporating an agent’s/editor’s suggested changes to your story? What have you done about it?