Writer Victory!—Yearning, Empathy, & How Political Correctness is Killing Diversity in Literature

Edie didn't care the Johnny was the funniest looking puppy she'd ever seen.

Edie didn’t care the Johnny was the weirdest puppy she’d ever seen.

After deviating last week, today we tackle the final letter in our Writer Acrostic. Thus far, we’ve covered: V is for Voluntarily Submit. Anticipate trials and challenges and understand there is far more strength in bending than breaking. I was for Identify Problem Areas. We can’t fix what we fail to acknowledge. Our profession hinges on us writing better today than we did yesterday. C was for Change Your Mind. We can only achieve what we can first conceive. Make your mind and set it and keep it set.

T was for Turn Over our Future. When we let go of things we can’t control, we’re far more powerful to drive and direct that which we can. R was for Remember Writers are Magicians. This isn’t a hobby or “playtime.” Our society is only as evolved as the artists who drive the change. Show me a country without writers and I’ll show you a country doomed.

Y stands for Yearning. Natural talent has very little to do with being a great writer or a successful writer. We have to want the dream. I can teach you guys structure, technique, POV, etc. but I can’t do the work for you. You have to want it.

Over Memorial Day, Hubby and I watched Lone Survivor. There was a really neat quote in the intro: “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing. Moderation is for cowards.”

A Writer’s Work is Never Done

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Benjamin Watson.

Image via Flikr Creative Commons, courtesy of Benjamin Watson.

Unless I’m sleeping, I’m always on the job. Even then, y’all should be privy to some of my dreams. Since my fiction involves a lot of complex science, it’s not uncommon for me to bolt up in the middle of the night with an A-HA! I make a joke that I do my best work while sleeping.

One of the reasons I tell writers NOT to start a writing blog is that teaching writing and writing are two completely different skill sets. Writers are not necessarily good teachers. In fact, I will go so far as to say some of the most brilliant authors I’ve ever met were dreadful teachers.

I remember being at Thrillerfest and one of the mega-authors (who I won’t name) had somehow been coaxed into teaching a class. This was a writer I…worshipped. BRILLIANT man.

I battled for a spot right in the center so I could take notes and learn all I could. The poor author, though? I was waiting for him to chew off his own leg to escape. He kept saying things like, “Well, I don’t know how I do it. I just…do it.” *looks at watch* *looks for fire exit*

Writers (novelists) are not all craft teachers and that’s fine. Readers won’t care about plot or dialogue unless we screw it up. What WE are experts at and what we should be experts at is storytelling. Paying attention to life. We explore questions regular people might not even know they have. They just have this deep dark niggling they can’t articulate. We see what others miss. We make the seemingly trivial relevant. We pay CLOSE attention.

I don’t think it’s an accident that science and art use many of the same parts of the brain. In ways, writers are scientists. We extend the logic.

We ask things like, “What would happen if the government was allowed to completely rule our lives?” “What would happen if suddenly an alien race ‘answered’ all these messages we are sending out?” “Could humans keep their humanity in a world with no food source other than other people?” “How would a Muslim girl cope with trying to balance two vastly different cultures?”

I have been devouring John Maberry’s Rot and Ruin series. It has been immensely popular with young boys and male teens, the toughest demographic to get to read. This has inspired me. After I finish the novel I’m working on, I want to write a YA series for boys using two of my son’s favorite things to talk about—zombies and dinosaurs. I want to pen books my son will love.

Talk about a brain-bender. How can I get zombies and dinosaurs in the same book without it being the stuff of Sharknado? What diseases can I use? What disease might affect humans and yet affect reptiles differently? Is it an engineered bioweapon? What timeline should I use? How does the disease work?

Maybe incorporate time-travel? Perhaps unknowingly infected scientists go back to the Jurassic Period to explore and are made into snack food. Infects dinosaurs and immediately alters current timeline for those in the future. Humans now face a two-front war. Bio-weapon has unleashed hoards of the undead and suddenly creatures that should have been dead are very much alive.

How would this affect our world? What would be the bigger “human” question?

I have a log-line:

Borders and beliefs no longer matter. Humanity is now facing extinction from the extinct and the undead.

Maybe it’s lame. Maybe not. The puzzle is what keeps the yearning in me alive. It’s a challenge.

Yearning is vital. It’s what makes us do the stuff we might not like (I.e. branding and social media). Yearning challenges us to grow where we are weak. Yearning keeps us going even when others think we are nuts. Yearning asks WHY, even if the question goes nowhere or the answers are uncomfortable.

Yearning Leads to Understanding

It's good to walk in shoes that aren't ours….

It’s good to walk in shoes that aren’t ours….

After my post The Disease of Self-Importance—Can We Find a Cure? Jami Gold wrote a fabulous follow-up piece about how PC could endanger diversity in books. If we allow PC to reign, will it discourage authors from writing about a diverse mix of characters? I believe yearning is what makes us good at writing other characters.

***And PC kills yearning because it makes us afraid to just talk to each other and ask questions out of fear of “offending” someone and being labeled a racist. My POV.

I have a confession. Y’all ready for it?

I have never been a dinosaur.

Now, don’t tell AARP that or the folks sending me coupons for hearing aids and information on prepaid funerals (I AM ONLY 40!). But, I might make the dinosaurs sentient in my book. I’d have to use empathy to imagine what it would be like to have the brain the size of a walnut (might call Congress for tips 😀 ).

I’ve also never been SHOT and hope it stays that way. But I have written characters who’ve been shot.

I believe yearning is often what makes us good at writing characters unlike ourselves. I know my male characters are almost ALWAYS better than my female characters. Why? As a chick I take too much for granted. Since I’m 99% sure I’m not a man (or a dinosaur), I pay attention to mannerisms, speech, beliefs, etc.

Same with characters of different racial groups. Years ago, I wrote a novel that won a major award and the BEST character was an African American female. Last I checked? I’m still white.

I’ve won awards on three short stories with protagonists vastly different from me. One was from the perspective of a suicidal middle-aged white male and the other two were love stories from the POV of the elderly WWII generation.

Great writers must have empathy. The stronger the empathy the better. Just like we don’t have to be kidnapped and beaten to be able to write about it, I don’t feel we need to be another race, religion, orientation to write those characters. In fact, if we can’t write characters who aren’t us, we’re in BIG trouble.

Yearning fuels empathy. Empathy leads to appreciation and understanding. We yearn to understand the perspective of another. This is why diverse characters and diverse books are so vital. Rot and Ruin was from the perspective of a young teenage boy, and because I could spend time in that unfamiliar head, the book gave me new insight of how to be a better mother to my son. Maberry highlighted areas that a boy needed that a mom might not be aware of.

Yearning is the fire that fuels the passion and the progress.

What are your thoughts? Do you have to read books or attend conferences to reignite your yearning? Are you always on the job, too? Hubby has forbidden me from speaking during movies. Do you like coming up with insane story ideas and seeing if you can make it plausible without being ridiculous? Do you write characters who are different from you? Do you have the same experience? That maybe the characters unlike you are actually stronger? Do you think PC is anathema to diversity in literature? Maybe makes writers afraid to explore and thus leaves only the stereotypes and tropes (ironically fueling more misunderstanding)?

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of JUNE, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Note: I’ve just gotten over a nasty bout of bronchitis, so will announce May’s winner later this week.

If you need help building a brand, social media platform, please check out my latest best-selling book, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.

Upcoming Classes:

I am running my First Five Pages Class on June 20th. The first five pages are essential and often symptomatic of bigger weaknesses in the book. Hook hard and hook early. For those who want a DETAILED critique of the first five pages, I offer the Gold Level. This is WAY more than simple line-edit and is a thorough analysis of your writing. Use WANA15 for $15 off.

Also running my Antagonist Class. This will teach you how to make sure your core story problem is as strong as it can be and also how to generate tension on every page. Will teach you to become a master plotter and FAST. Excellent class for anyone wanting to write multiple books a year or even series. Again, use WANA15 for $15 off.

I also offer the Gold level for this, which is one-on-one time with me. Clear up a confusing plot, fix a weak plot, plot a series. I am here to help.


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  1. I would love to see your dinosaur & zombie book in print. I think it could be amazing. Just make sure you include those vegan zombies too.

  2. Great logline. God, those are tough to write!

  3. This is a great post today, Kristen! I love that you say readers don’t care about plot or dialogue until someone messes it up! That’s so true. Loglines are the hardest to write, but I’ve only known people to write them for screenplays and not novels. But, this is cool! Congrats on writing the YA series bout dinosaurs and zombies. May I ask, what is your writing process? How much do you write a day?

    1. I write early in the morning and am a fan of fast-drafting. If I am taking on a project I read A LOT ahead of time. For instance, I likely won’t tackle the YA series until I’ve read all of Maberry’s series and will likely read a lot of comics and graphic novels since I will have a young male protagonist. I am in a Gracie Ju-Jitsu class with a lot of teenage boys, so will study, listen, ask questions. Then research all kinds of different science, diseases, theories. This gives me reservoirs of information that can yield the cool plot twists.

      I strive to start with a true log line. What is my book about in ONE sentence? Then, I know my ending and I jot out major plot points (which can deviate) but it gives me direction. Then I write. I do much the same with my NF.

      Since I blog, my word count is pretty high. My minimum is 1500 words a day and I strive for 1500 to 2000 for any WIP. I think I average about 4,000 words a day. BUT, this didn’t happen overnight. Also, if I am in a researching phase this number could drop to 1500-2000 (blogs and articles). If I am in a fast draft? Could be as high as 6,000-8,000. But it took time to get those kinds of word counts. For years, I was lucky to hit 500. It’s why I recommend blogging. Increases speed and quality.

  4. fabulous advice as always. thanks

  5. It’s very hard not to have something of yourself in characters, but I’d say that a few of mine are more verbally fluent than I am and decidedly braver. As for the PC anathema, it’s an impossibly difficult one. I’ve just started submitting something to agents and publishers and have had my characters say the odd thing that might get me into trouble with radical feminists. Who knows? But it’s authentic to the situation I’m writing about.

    Wishing you a speedy recovery following your bronchitis.

  6. It would appear that a few words now define the person. PC at a new extreme. Two media filled events, where folks using words have become the most evil of evil, have buzzed our ears recently. I remember a long-time radio talk show entertainer losing his job for using the word “nappy” coupled with another choice word.

    I don’t condone use of language used to deride another person, but words meant to beguile, at worst, or provide humor, surely should be met with a greater common sense.
    Worst still we quickly judge the person from only a few words.

    Deceitful creatures, splashed in the perfume of Sunday Morning escape such scrutiny; a scent so strong as to render evil thoughts and deeds fresh as a gentle breeze over a field of spring flowers; a scent so powerful as to allow only words mixed with popular appraisal and consent.

    No one takes the time to judge character – that would take insight and examination.

  7. Is your fiction under a different name? Where can I find it?

    1. I’ve only published short stories. The novels that won awards I never published but probably will one day. At the time, my works were vastly different genres and agents didn’t want an author with a sci-fi fantasy and a women’s fiction 😀 . Also been sidelined being a “social media expert for writers” LOL. I am finishing a trilogy right now (scientific thrillers) and waiting until the books are all done to submit or publish so I have continuity. Might just leave it at two books–a novel and a sequel. Kinda stoked to get going on the YA stuff. But likely I will publish under Kristen Lamb.

      If you want a sample of my writing, here is a link to my short story “Dandelion.” It’s a gritty dark sci-fi and not for the faint of heart.


  8. “What would happen if suddenly an alien race ‘answered’ all these messages we are sending out?”
    Intriguing 🙂

    First off, we are writers, then perhaps teachers. Our mission is to conceive a unique storyline, not a rehash of Harry Potter, Hunger Games, or Divergent…all wonderful series, btw, imo. One thing that is constantly in the forefront of my ‘writer’s head’ is something the renowned and revered author Ben Bova said, however. And I paraphrase: You can use the most beautiful language ever. You can have the finest cast of characters, but if you don’t have a great plot, your book is sunk.

    That to me is the challenge.

    Yes, I’ll re-post this excellent post on my blog, Kristin. Thank you!

    1. I think we need all of it. We can have the most clever plot and if we hate or can’t empathize with the characters or they are one-dimensional talking heads, then who cares about their problems?

      1. Not too many:) It’s kind of like a house. Excellent foundation. Exquisite architectural design. Many-faceted, and not easy to get it all to work toward a beautiful, unique end.

    • Tamara LeBlanc on June 4, 2014 at 9:56 am
    • Reply

    You write that zombie/dino book, Kristen!!! You GO!!!
    And, ummm, I’m thinking we better stop all this message sending to outer space. If someone (or something) answers, they’re gonna be as smart or smarter than we are. They’ll probably see our pretty blue planet as a conquest :0 Believe me, I’m stocking up on ammo, water and food, it’s either gonna be aliens, zombies or time traveling dinos that try and knock us out. I want to be ready!! 🙂
    Happy writing!

    • Tamara LeBlanc on June 4, 2014 at 9:56 am
    • Reply

    By the way, I LOVE the pics of the puppy/kitten and your sweet spawn, SOOO adorable 🙂

  9. Since I am a middle-aged woman and I write YA, I obviously believe in diversity (from myself). Most of my YA characters are more like some of my students or kids’ friends than like I was at that age. Of course, the emotions are all based on me imagining what the situation would feel like or tapping into my own cauldron (or should that be cistern?) of past traumatic experiences.
    The book I am brainstorming now stars a Chinese girl, a Polynesian-American boy and three dragons. Could it be any more diverse?
    Time to go sign up for the First Five Pages class. So glad you’re doing it again!

  10. WANA site is saying the WANA15 promo code is expired and won’t let me use it for the class.

    1. Will fix it. Jay activated the $10 discount. I was more generous 😀 . And NOW y’all know why I am not a millionaire.

      1. Even $10 off is nice. I’m just one of those people who likes to think I’m getting a good deal. In this case, your expertise is worth full price. But I’m still cheap?

  11. One of the more potentially interesting things one can write about vampires is how their behaviors and customs may conflict with the modern PC world.
    My vampires were much more progressive than society in general as regards homosexuality, interracial relationships et al, but their tradition of terminating new special-needs and physically handicapped vampires is NOT very PC….
    This is an extreme but perfect metaphor for exploring the discrimination these people face in the real world.
    My story would not have the power it does if Jack did not have to fight for his life right from th start….

  12. I shared this on FB. I also printed it out for my writers group tomorrow night. Some of my dinosaurs are allergic to FB. I agree that research makes a story real. Once we have the science to a plausible level, our imaginations can run freely.

  13. Hi Kristen, you always come up with interesting blogs, and they make me think. That is so mean. Ha. So, writers and writers-about-writing? I think I’d rather be a writer. But…at least half my blog is filled with how-I-try-to write. So, what does that make me?


    • netraptor001 on June 4, 2014 at 10:38 am
    • Reply

    Re: zombies and dinosaurs, at least one bestselling author has done it! http://goldenbookwyrm.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/harry-dresden-on-a-zombie-t-rex.jpg

  14. Hi Kristen,

    I so know what you mean. I was having a meeting with an editor at the Squaw Writers Conference who essentially told me I didn’t have the right to write from the POV of a Korean orphan, that I was appropriating someone else’s story. I felt like I’d been called into the principal’s office. The word squirming comes to mind. I got over it, and even wrote a blog post called “The Right to Write.”

    But I still squirm a little when a Korean reader picks up the book I published (a different one but still related to Korea). I always wonder: Will this reader hate me?

    1. “Appropriating”… Hmm, that would mean that either you “stole” shelf space from some other Korean orphan book (which as we all know, the publishing industry doesn’t work that way–success breeds success for similar stories and it’s not a zero-sum game) or you “exploited” the story in some “othering” way.

      I haven’t read your story to know for sure, but I don’t buy either of those arguments on the surface. Keep writing the stories that speak to you. 🙂

    2. Thanks for the shout out to my blog, Kristen! 🙂 Like you, I certainly HOPE we can write outside our personal experience.

      As someone who writes paranormal romance from both the hero and heroine’s point of view whether human or paranormal creature, my genre *requires* me to put myself into shoes that aren’t mine. LOL!

      1. Oy. Half a brain today, replied to myself…or something. LOL!

    • Ron Estrada on June 4, 2014 at 11:02 am
    • Reply

    The more I learn this craft, the more I realize that it is the outrageous and unpublishable that gets the girl, the brass ring, the gold, and thousands of 5-star reviews. For Petes sake, a story about a bunch of kids put in an arena to kill each other sold millions. What could be more depressing (for the record, it never got not depressing, the last book made it worse)? Write for the Spawn. If nothing else, you get to live in the same house with your #1 fan (but not like Misery). He’ll do nothing but tell you what a great writer you are from morning ’til night. What more could you want?

  15. Actually…Thank you. I have been struggling for the longest time to understand why I have lost all the wind in my sails as far as writing goes.

    I doubt that I’ve ever really had the passion and desire to write. Sure, I can write and I’ve studied like crazy through the mechanics and lessons, but I can’t say it is an all consuming passion to stay up and wonder about situations.

    I have a lot to chew on for this one. Thank you!

  16. I have only started to explore my abilities as a writer and I love it so much, at times I think I could explode! I yearn to be better each day, to write and celebrate the diversity of humans and emotions, to try new methods, to observe and write about things I don’t know about, to feel the sweet pain of cramped writing muscles and to rejoice the end result, no matter how random or mediocre. I yearn, I yearn, I yearn….Thank you for such inspiring posts…

  17. I hope I write characters that are different than me. Considering a lot of my characters are psychopathic assassins, I sincerely hope they are different from me, haha. In seriousness, though, I think I do. I don’t have a character that is “me,” for instance. Bits and pieces of me show up here and there according to my friends who’ve read my stuff, but just bits and pieces.

    Anyway, to your dino/zombie book, I had an idea for how you could mush them together. Basic gist: Normal zombie plague breaks out via whatever the typical causes tend to be. A team of plucky researchers not infected yet set off to find a cure, following various scientific data and whatnot. Eventually, their research into the disease leads them to Africa or some other continent, and they discover dinosaurs still living in the world. Maybe a Pallucidar sort of vibe? The cure for zombie-ism is found within the dinosaurs’ blood. Voila. Dino/zombie combo, no time travel needed.

    I tend to flee from time travel like it is the plague. It is a dangerous can of worms to open, because you have to be terrified of stepping on an ant and dooming the world in the future, blah, blah, blah, time is relative, by the way I have a headache sort of stuff. Haha. Or conversely, you have to come up with a whole plethora of rules for time travel. Like, is it actually okay Marty ran into Marty 2.0 in 1955? Exhausting!

    Anyway, thanks for the great post. This Victory acrostic has been great.

    1. Yeah, that’s why I was still noodling the idea. Great suggestion!

  18. Love the quote! Words to live by for sure. Great post!

    • Jill on June 4, 2014 at 1:52 pm
    • Reply

    My life got out of control enough that I have missed reading your recent posts. Saw this one today and thought, “Great. She’s summarizing a few recent posts.” Then I got hung up trying to figure out what word you were spelling… VI and I guessed Vital. VIC and I guessed Vice. VICT and I guessed Victim. VICTR and I couldn’t come up with a word. I read back over the first ones thinking I missed a letter. Nope. So, I kept going. VICTRY? Confused me! The I re-read and realized VICToRY. Thanks for today’s brain-teaser and for the ever-challenging messages your posts deliver. Keep up the great work!

  19. Love, love, love this post, Kristen! The entire series has been inspiring.

  20. Of all the characters I write about, the one I identify with most isn’t even my species. 🙂 I’ve never understood the way some people interpret “write what you know” as meaning that we all have to write only what we’ve experienced ourselves in our real lives. I write science fiction, and that wouldn’t be possible if I stuck with stories based closely on the life of Thomas Weaver, physically disabled former high school art teacher.

      • Nan Sampson on June 5, 2014 at 8:38 am
      • Reply

      Thomas – it’s so nice to hear someone else validate what I’ve been thinking for years. I used to hear the same thing from “writing teachers” but I write SF/F as well and it always seemed like an oxymoron. Thanks!

  21. Hmm, I don’t know. “PC” is a term used to spin empathy (a necessary trait for writers, as you point out) in a negative way. Sure, there are people who take being Politically Correct “too far,” just as there are people who take everything too far. But generally, if someone tells you that you have offended them, and your reaction is to say that they are being too sensitive, too PC… well, I’m not sure I can get down with that. (Not “you” personally, just the general you)
    Of course you can’t speak without offending someone, and the larger your audience the more likely it is you will step on someone’s feelings. But that doesn’t mean we can’t talk. We just have to acknowledge our errors (no matter how unintentional) and accept responsibility for our words (instead of blaming the people we offend).
    I think if we are being truly empathetic, really putting ourselves in another persons shoes *and doing the research to back it up* then chances are we won’t offend, at least in our writing. And diverse literature will be safe.

    1. One author I know (not Kristen), who is white, was attacked and told (by multiple people) that white authors shouldn’t write outside their race, orientation, etc.

      This all-too-common idea is damaging to the push for diversity in books. Insulating ourselves and the power of our empathy from diverse ideas damages society.

      This post of Kristen’s is partly in response to mine, which was partly in response to this issue of needing to support diversity, no matter our personal situation. I know none of the involved parties advocate for using “too sensitive” as an excuse to not TRY to avoid offending people. And I know you weren’t saying *we* were, I just wanted to take the opportunity to make that clear. 🙂

      The real issue is this feeling that white authors might not be “allowed” to write diverse characters without pushback, being told they’re doing it wrong (even though there’s no “one universal experience for being xyz”), etc. As long as the portrayals aren’t perpetuating stereotypes (especially negative ones), fetishizing, othering, etc., I think the more diversity the better. Diverse books–no matter the author–can help readers with empathy as well. 😀

      1. I get it. And as a (mostly) straight woman who writes from an almost exclusively gay male pov, I understand the pushback, and I know I walk a very fine line between representation and fetishization.
        And… I screw up a lot.
        I guess I just don’t want to see the “everyone is so easily offended these days” line used as an excuse to not check our own privilege, or to not be responsible for our own words and actions. (not saying anyone here was doing that, just that is where my thoughts went when I read this)
        And while I would certainly hate to see anyone put off from writing what they yearn to write (see, I got back on the post subject!) because of a fear of that (inevitable) pushback, in some ways being aware of that PC stuff is helpful, because it forces us to think really carefully before we write, to be damn sure we are doing our best, to know our work will stand up to criticism.
        Thanks for responding to me! 🙂

        1. Yep, and that’s why–in my original post–I pointed out Roni Loren’s post, which I thought did a really good job about how to do that “careful thinking” and make sure we’re doing the best we can to get things right. Agree completely! 🙂

        • Kathy Azevedo on June 15, 2014 at 5:48 pm
        • Reply

        What about The Help?
        It was written by a Caucasian.

  22. Hmm, this was supposed to be its own reply… I’m fighting a cold and working on half a brain. LOL!

    Thanks for the shout out to my blog, Kristen! 🙂 Like you, I certainly HOPE we can write outside our personal experience.

    As someone who writes paranormal romance from both the hero and heroine’s point of view whether human or paranormal creature, my genre *requires* me to put myself into shoes that aren’t mine. LOL!

  23. I don’t like PC (as I mentioned over on Jami Gold’s blog) because it speaks to the people who don’t need to hear it or the people who are going to ignore it anyway, but leaves the people in the middle feeling like if they screw something up, the PC gods are going to point a finger at you and go, “You have done a terrible thing!” The problem is those are the people you want exploring diversity or it will not happen enough.

    As a reader, I like seeing diversity because it brings a different perspective to the story. But I also don’t want it put in a story to check the box, or have the story be about diversity. The latter is really common with disability — it’s like suddenly the story has to be about dealing with the disability, rather than a character dealing with a regular life problem or a mystery or a evil empire. I just want a good story to read, not a lecture.

    But it’s really easy to go to a default and take the easy way out — pretend like the reader is imaging the characters in their own way. A friend edited an anthology and was practically begging for diversity in the stories. Out of the hundreds, they got 12. The disabled characters were bad guys (angry for being disabled) or murder victims (because of their disability). There were few with women characters, and well, you get the idea. Writers have to make the effort and make conscious decisions about each character. That’s not happening.

    • Paula Palmer on June 4, 2014 at 4:54 pm
    • Reply

    I’m a winter writer (age 80) and your huge fan—especially now as I follow Rise of the Machines and slowly set up my sites. (have 90 draft blogs.)

    I’m an easterner, ME & NC, born in Seattle. learned at age 70 that my father, Hans Pederson, who died when I was one month old, was a pioneer early 20th century contractor—possibly Seattle’s largest. I’ve written a memoir, and found interested agents when I attended the 2013 PNWA conference.

    Then I signed with an Eastern agent instead of a NW one, who sent the ms to an Eastern publisher. They sat on the ms for 4 months. The editor wanted it, but their sales dept. just turned it down because they have no track record with Seattle books.

    So I’m upgrading my social media platform your way—learning so much that it’s bound to ward off Alzheimers. Trouble is, I have to postpone work on my next book. ( I expect to live forever.)

    Still drafting the website. Will have it professionally done, but need to decide where.

    I’m forwarding this blog to 2 imaginative writing friends—both younger than I, but not by that much.

    Your latest photo of the spawn makes my day. It would melt the heart of a rock.

    Paula Pederson

    1. Contact Laird Sapir. She does most of the sites for the WANAs and her work is affordable and AMAZING.

  24. I would very much read a story on zombies and dinosaurs. A definite vote on the “Write it!” side.

    As for being constantly on the job, very much yes. Which can get conflicting when I am also constantly on my *other* job of parenting two very lovely but highly energy consuming little people. it’s not a choice, in either case – I *have* to write, and I *have* to parent (and love doing both immensely. Which makes me really lucky, because so many people don’t even have *one* thing they love devoting their time to!) I just sometimes need two brains. Or to clone myself.

    I find I have to read and and blog and chat and read some more in order to keep my creativity levels high – if I’m doing too much outputting (writing, planning etc) and not enough inputting (reading, researching, listening to music that “goes” with my characters) then things really start to stagnate. So very much a case of needing to work at keeping that yearning going.

  25. Reblogged this on M.T. Miles.

  26. Reblogged this on ugiridharaprasad.

  27. Okay, my new favorite quote: “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing. Moderation is for cowards.”

    Thank you! My entire life people have told me I’m overdoing it. Why am I trying to hard. Sometimes it “good enough.” I can’t have a tea party unless I go ALL the way and make the dang petit fours myself.

    I cannot have a Doctor Who birthday party unless I’ve actually studied the episodes and written down all the food mentioned and serve them. Yes, we all ate custard and fish fingers (not as bad as you might think).

    If I make a Halloween costume, I make it to last for decades and be a done with good fabric, trims, real zippers and button holes, and finished edges.

    I cannot be a writer unless I go, go, go! I have to restrain myself NOT to talk about my latest short story I’m in love with or the fact that even with kids, hubby, work, house, I’ve managed to write 2,000 words today!


    You have given me so many freedoms. This is just another in a long line of permissions. Thank you for being your awesome you, Kristen!

  28. I love your statement, “Yearning fuels empathy. Empathy leads to appreciation and understanding. We yearn to understand the perspective of another.” So timely. Your article resonates with my blog post today regarding trigger warnings and the need not for censorship, but for compassion.

  29. Why live your days in just one life, seeing the world through just one set of eyes? I like the experience of being someone else for the day before coming home to me.

  30. It’s quite possible to be a writer and a writing teacher – both of which I do – and yes, the skill sets are different. But they are also complementary. One of the reasons why some writers can’t explain what they do is that they haven’t broken down the process or understood it; and I always think that even if they ‘know’ it instinctively, they’re missing something by not understanding the structures. Writing is a constant learning curve – especially, I think, for established writers, because it’s important not to stagnate. Having both writing and writing-teaching skills is one way forward.

    • Nan Sampson on June 5, 2014 at 8:54 am
    • Reply

    Kristen – as always, amazing and insightful post. I believe that as long as writers have the courage to step outside their own skin to write characters that are not carbon copies of themselves, the spectre of PC will remain merely that – a vaguely-perceived, shadowy presence. And posts like this, that make us re-examine what we’re doing and shine a light on those shadowy places, will provide the “Ghostbusting” power to keep those spectres in their place.

    And OMG, that picture of the Spawn made my day! The boots are even on the wrong feet! Adorable!
    Thanks, Kristen

  31. You stated writers who are actually writing shouldn’t have a blog about writing. At least that’s the mean I got. Who else is going to have a writing blog that is worth reading? I was to read what a seasoned writing has to say about writing. I hope to learn a thing or two from them. Writers who are newbies, however, I feel should definitely stay away from telling others how to write unless, in the posts, they are rephrasing what a knowledgeable author has said AND have not screwed up the meaning of it.

    Yes, I have the yearning, no doubt about it. I’ve been told I also have the natural talent but I have yet to see that.

    1. There is a difference between blogging about writing and having a WRITING BLOG. One is dictated by the author, the other constrained by the subject. It’s a good way to burn out and readers don’t care about How-To. I blog about writing but lots of other stuff, too. It keeps me fresh and my audience diverse.

    • Sarah Brentyn on June 6, 2014 at 12:18 pm
    • Reply

    I guess I’m always on the job. I like how you weave all this together here. Nice post.

    I’ve also had some dreadful teachers who were successful writers in their field. DREAD-ful. But, I’ve taught writing for many years and enjoy it. I don’t write about writing, though. Well…maybe the occasional post about how I can’t write because my kids are running cars over my feet or something. 😉

    P.S. I’m totally checking out John Maberry’s series. Thanks!

  32. I cracked up when I got to this line. Great stuff as usual, Kristen. I always learn so much and get so motivated when I can come by and read your blog. Thanks for all you share.

    • Thaddeus Dombrowski on June 7, 2014 at 4:31 am
    • Reply

    I thought you should know this. I first discovered you through a writing group. But, my writing journey is not centered here. So, I am not a regular reader. But, I do come back from time to time to see what is going on. Every six months or so.

    I do believe I have seen you grow as a writer tremendously as a writer. And the main reason I can see it is that I am having to grow, too. I behind your words something of my own experience,

    • Thaddeus Dombrowski on June 7, 2014 at 4:32 am
    • Reply

    Sorry, too, for the typos. I should re-read before posting, not after.

  33. Great post! Thank you!

    For some strange reason I like writing female characters, even though I’m a mid-thirties guy. I think they must fascinate me and I work a lot harder to observe them then other males. Like you, I take my own gender for granted. Boring, I say. Though that will likely change as I have an idea for a story which I think will connect uniquely with boys and men. We’ll see!

    Thanks again for sharing your wisdom.


  1. […] while carefully gnawing around the pepperoni, I happened to glance at today’s blog post from editor/author Kristen Lamb (warriorwriters.wordpress.com). I love her snarky sense of humor […]

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