Monday, December 31, 2007

The Week Between Christmas and New Year's Day

I love this time of year. It’s a space of quiet between the hubbub of shopping and baking and decorating of the Christmas Season and the start of the New Year. It’s a time to remember all the wonderful things from the past year and to plan for what I would love to have come into my life in the next year. In short, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is a time of calm and reflection and planning for me.

Tonight I’ll go to a Burning Bowl ceremony where we release that which no longer serves us in our lives. Tomorrow I’ll begin polishing up the lessons for my online writing workshop.

I hope that for each of you, looking back at this past year, there were moments that make you smile. I hope that as you look ahead, you see exciting and wonderful new possibilities and you can’t wait for the New Year to begin!

Know that each of you who reads this blog is a blessing in my life.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Best Christmas Present

My daughter gave me a wonderful Christmas present yesterday. She got us tickets to see Rosencratz and Guildenstern are Dead at the City Theater Company here in Austin, Texas. It was a wonderful production! I’ve heard about the play since I was in high school and this was my first chance to see it. I was very impressed with the actors—especially the two who played Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

I hope everyone is having a lovely holiday season! I know that some of you may not be. My own holidays are always tinged with sadness because my father died on Christmas Eve some ten years ago. If you are part of the group who got my cross country trip email before I started this blog and read about my visit to my parents’ gravesites (for the first time) then you know the intensity of emotion my relationship with my parents evokes in me. My father’s death was both a sorrow and a relief. Which means that my emotions are always in something of a turmoil on Christmas Eve. I share this so you know that I do understand about difficult emotions at this time of year.

For me, one of the things that has allowed me to still enjoy this time of year is to consciously choose to create new traditions that are exactly right for ME. Some years I go out to parties, some years I realize I can’t and without guilt stay home. Most years I’m lucky enough to have my daughter with me and that’s wonderful too because I’m able to look at her and know I broke the cycle and that she has grown into a fabulous young woman (who will probably help to change the world).

As a writer, all of this is a reminder to think carefully about how different people respond differently to the same situation. It is a reminder that it is never enough, in my writing, to say that something has happened and assume readers will know how my characters feel. I must show how my unique characters feel and why. It is not what happens that matters nearly so much as how my character (or an individual) responds to that event.

So at this holiday time, I hope that each of you is happy and warm and safe and feeling joyful. For those who are not or who have difficult emotions mixed in, I wish you peace and comfort. I hope that you are able to find a path that lets you find those things.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Good Reference Book for Writers

Today I’d like to recommend a good reference for writers and especially romance writers. It’s Love Smart by Dr. Phil McGraw.

Yup, Dr. Phil. Who isn’t always my cup of tea but in this book I think he shares a lot of useful information. I got it on sale thinking it would be useful for a romance writer (me) to have and I was right. Ostensibly it’s for women looking for a man or for a way to improve the relationship they have. In fact, it’s probably useful for a woman in terms of every relationship in her life—romantic, professional, or friendship.

For a romance author, Love Smart by Dr. Phil is a goldmine of information on how guys think and react and what moves a relationship forward—or doesn’t. For any writer in fact, I think it provides useful information on who to show male/female interactions in a way that will feel authentic to readers. And if it helps in one's personal life as well, isn't that a nice bonus?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Online Class

I’ll be teaching an online class in January. It runs 5 weeks because there was so much I wanted to cover. It incorporates Book in a Week, of course, but it’s much more than that. It’s about aspects of writing from the perspective of: What works?

As you know, if you’ve ever heard me speak, I believe there is one fundamental rule in writing: If it works, it works and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.

The other piece of what I do is focus on how writing can be easier and more fun because I believe deeply that when we like what we’re doing, when we’re having fun, we do it better and faster and are far less likely to procrastinate.

There’s no wrong way to write a first draft. It will be whatever it is—for YOU. Later comes all the polishing and work to make it into a publishable final draft. Some writers manage it on their first draft, most of us don’t. They key is to find out what works for YOU and then go with it because you will write better and faster if you do. This class is designed to help each writer figure that out for himself or herself.

It’s an experiment for me, offering it this way, instead of through a website that provided online classes to community colleges. I hope this makes it affordable and accessible to many more people.

If you’re interested, here’s the official release on the course:

**Permission to Forward**

OUTREACH INTERNATIONAL is pleased to announce our CAMPUS online workshop for the month of January.

DATE: January 7 – February 8, 2008
TITLE: Book In A Week
INSTRUCTOR: April Kihlstrom
LEVEL: Beginner to Intermediate
COST: $20 Outreach Member/Others $30
Deadline to receive application and payment: January 4, 2008

Course Description:

In this 5 week class, multi-published author April Kihlstrom will show you how to write faster and better than you ever thought possible—and have fun doing so! As part of the online class, she will take you through the steps, from start to finish, of writing a book. She will talk about planning and plotting, practical writing issues, revisions and self-editing. She will share techniques she has found useful in getting past writer’s block and in crafting a novel that others want to read. There will also be one week of intensive writing where class members write as much as they can, as fast as they can, and try to complete the first draft of a book in one week. If that sounds overwhelming, April says not to worry—there is no way to fail at this experience!


To make writing more fun and more productive. To discover how, when, where, what one writes best and how to do more of that. To create the first draft of a book in a short span of time.

Topics covered include:

Weeks 1-3: Preparing to write the first draft of a book in one week
Creating compelling characters and/or how to write about real people in nonfiction
Planning plot elements or structure in a nonfiction book
Significance of names
Effective paragraph and sentence structure
Using imagery and sensory detail to add impact
Writing effective dialogue
Creating a productive writing environment
Enlisting the support of those around you
Mentally gearing yourself up to write faster (and better) than you thought you could

Week 4: Intensive Writing Week

Week 5: Evaluating the writing experience itself
Making revisions
Sending out material


Although her background is in mathematics, (including a masters degree in operations research), April Kihlstrom is an award winning author of 31 published romance novels. She believes Book in a Week is a way to recapture the joy of writing and write faster and more effectively at the same time.

Always a slow writer, April was lured into attempting Book In A Week by a group of writers on Genie. Much to her surprise, she discovered it was a technique that worked well for her and she really could write the first draft of a book in a week! Since she began using the book in a week method, Romantic Times has called her a “rising star” and a “diamond of the first water”.

April offers coaching to fellow writers as well as classes and workshops in writing to both romance and non-romance writers and has spoken at many conferences including: the RWA national conference (romance) and the East of Eden conference (non-romance).

CAMPUS workshops encompass the RESEARCH and CRAFT aspects of writing. The workshops are conducted via email only, no real-time or live chats, on a private list. Participants will be subbed to the list for the month of the workshop then unsubbed when it's over. Each workshop includes lectures and Q & A sessions. You don't have to be an RWA member to take these workshops; they are open to everyone with email capability who wishes to participate.

Check out the OUTREACH INTERNATIONAL website at Outreach International, you can find out more about becoming a member of OUTREACH INTERNATIONAL ROMANCE WRITERS Chapter and signing up for the course (online campus).

Please pass on this information to anyone you think might be interested.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


I traveled recently. It was a short trip back east to stay with my son for the weekend. I had very little free time though I did catch up with my friend who is recovering from breast cancer. It was a huge relief to see her looking as good as she is and know that every day she grows stronger and that she seems to have beaten the cancer. I would have liked to see more friends just wasn’t possible.

As I was flying back to Texas, I found myself thinking how different areas of the country have different patterns of interaction and what’s valued most. In some areas, plain speaking is valued over being polite. In other areas, politeness is the priority. Some airports have employees who go out of their way to smile and others have employees who focus on briskly doing their job. And so on. Each style has benefits and drawbacks. Someone raised to think everyone should behave in a given way might be taken aback to see people acting very differently somewhere else.

For writers, this means thinking about where our characters grew up and what impact that might have on how they interact with others. It means that merely by having our character travel to a different location we might be able to create some very interesting situations as the expectations of one character clashes with the expectations of another.

Fundamentally, of course, we’re all more alike than different. But to a writer like me, it’s interesting to watch for the differences and how people handle them.

Meanwhile, I’m glad to be back home and trying frantically to catch up on all the things I couldn’t get done while I was back east.