Well, it’s a developing story. And an exciting one at that. I will share details when I can. How’s that for leaving you hanging?

On another note… what do all these books have in common?

debuts 1debuts 2debuts 3debuts 4debuts 5debuts 6

They’re all great, yes. But, besides that, they have something else in common. They’re all debuts, first (published) books by previously unknown writers.

I love to get my hands on a good debut. I feel for the writer. I assume it took years for the book to be written, and years for it to be published. I assume there is so much anxiety that goes with publication, putting yourself out there to the world. As a reader, it’s always magical to latch onto someone new. When I read A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, I fell in love with Dave Eggers. And I’ve been first in line every time he releases a new book. There’s something cool about being a long-time follower.

I think many readers assume a debut book is the writer’s first book. Sometimes that’s true. But sometimes it’s not. I’ve written a handful of books, and the latest one looks like it might be the first one I publish, my debut. I am insanely excited to revisit the old novels and apply all the things I’ve learned through this process to those stories. Because I’ve learned a lot…begrudgingly.

What’s your favorite debut book?


Oh, booze.

My novel is out in the world again, searching for a publishing house to call home. Wish it luck.

On another note, who feels like a drink?

Thanks to, I got to know the drinking habits of some famous authors. If you are too lazy to click on the link (after all, you clicked on a link to get HERE), I will summarize:

1 ian fleming
Ian Fleming
-Known to polish off a bottle of gin a day
-His doctor suggested bourbon, saying it was slightly healthier
Drink of choice: Gin martini

William Faulkner
-Once said, “A man shouldn’t fool with booze until he’s fifty, and then he’s a damn fool if he doesn’t”
-Kept whiskey nearby when writing
-Jack Daniels was his label of choice; some leave bottles at his grave site in Oxford, Mississippi
Drink of choice: Mint Julep

F. Scott Fitzgerald
-Favored gin because it couldn’t be detected on the breath
-Alcohol led to his problems with wife Zelda. He famously said in a letter to her, “We ruined each other”
Drink of choice: Gin Rickey

Stephen King
-He said the late 70s and early 80s got so bad with beer, depression, cocaine, and suicidal musings that he didn’t remember writing Cujo
-After an intervention, he realized he could write sober
-He admitted, “I always drank, from when it was legal for me to drink. And there was never a time for me when the goal wasn’t to get as hammered as I could possibly afford to. I never understood social drinking, that’s always seemed to me like kissing your sister”
-He drank at home, saying, “I didn’t go out and drink in bars, because they were full of assholes like me”
Drink of choice: Beer

3 hunter thompson
Hunter S. Thompson

-It was once noted that at his first meeting with a major publisher, he downed a 20 oz glass of double Wild Turkey and then “walked out as if he’d been drinking tea”
Drink of choice: Wild Turkey Bourbon and Dry

4 capote
Truman Capote

-Drinking was definitely a part of his writing process: “As the afternoon wears on, I shift from coffee to mint tea to sherry to martinis – I don’t use a typewriter. Not in the beginning. I write my first version in longhand”
-He frequented the revolving carousel bar inside New Orlean’s Hotel Monteleone
Drink of choice: Large vodka and orange (he called it his “orange drink”)

Raymond Chandler
-He once said, “There is no bad whiskey – there are only some whiskeys that aren’t as good as others”
-He claimed he could only finish the screenplay for The Blue Dahlia if he was blind drunk…so he got blind drunk and finished it
Drink of choice: Gimlet

Edgar Allen Poe
-Favored brandy–a bottle at a time
-His roommate said he was “seldom without a bottle of Benny Haven’s best brandy” (Benny Haven was Poe’s local watering hole)
Drink of choice: Eggnog

Oscar Wilde
-He developed a drinking habit in Paris
-He loved absinthe
-In his final days, he eased his pain with opium, chloral, and champagne, saying morphine wasn’t enough
Drink of choice: Iced champagne


In case you’re wondering, I don’t drink when I write, but I do drink. I love beer, with a special affinity for IPAs and Belgians. Red wine is a second choice. You?

Thirteen Writing Prompts — by Dan Wiencek

This was originally published in 2006, but I just discovered it over on McSweeney’s. As I finish my book revisions, I’ve been thinking about having some fun with writing prompts to get the creative juices going for a new project. Maybe I should try one of these. Ha.

“Thirteen Writing Prompts” by Dan Wiencek


Write a scene showing a man and a woman arguing over the man’s friendship with a former girlfriend. Do not mention the girlfriend, the man, the woman, or the argument.


Write a short scene set at a lake, with trees and shit. Throw some birds in there, too.



Choose your favorite historical figure and imagine if he/she had been led to greatness by the promptings of an invisible imp living behind his or her right ear. Write a story from the point of view of this creature. Where did it come from? What are its goals? Use research to make your story as accurate as possible.


Write a story that ends with the following sentence: Debra brushed the sand from her blouse, took a last, wistful look at the now putrefying horse, and stepped into the hot-air balloon.


A wasp called the tarantula hawk reproduces by paralyzing tarantulas and laying its eggs into their bodies. When the larvae hatch, they devour the still living spider from the inside out. Isn’t that fucked up? Write a short story about how fucked up that is.


Imagine if your favorite character from 19th-century fiction had been born without thumbs. Then write a short story about them winning the lottery.


Write a story that begins with a man throwing handfuls of $100 bills from a speeding car, and ends with a young girl urinating into a tin bucket.


A husband and wife are meeting in a restaurant to finalize the terms of their impending divorce. Write the scene from the point of view of a busboy snorting cocaine in the restroom.


Think of the most important secret your best friend has ever entrusted you with. Write a story in which you reveal it to everyone. Write it again from the point of view of your friend. Does she want to kill you? How does she imagine doing it? Would she use a gun, or something crueler and more savage, like a baseball bat with nails in it?


Popular music is often a good source of writing inspiration. Rewrite Bob Dylan’s “Visions of Johanna” as a play.

Source: Deviant Art (I love it!)

Source: Deviant Art (I love it!)


Write a short scene in which one character reduces another to uncontrollable sobs without touching him or speaking.


Your main character finds a box of scorched human hair. Whose is it? How did it get there?


A man has a terrifying dream in which he is being sawn in half. He wakes to find himself in the Indian Ocean, naked and clinging to a door; a hotel keycard is clenched in his teeth. Write what happens next.


They actually had a contest calling for people to write to these prompts. Entertain yourself with the winners here.

David Mitchell on how to write: “Neglect everything else”

I like David Mitchell. He’s one of the greatest novelists alive right now. He’s best known for Cloud Atlas, but I really loved Number9Dream. So, when I saw he had a little chat with The Atlantic , I had to read it. You can read the whole thing here.

Here’s some of what he had to say:

“The world is very good at distracting us. Much of the ingenuity of our remarkable species goes towards finding new ways to distract ourselves from things that really matter. The internet—it’s lethal, isn’t it? Maintaining focus is critical, I think, in the presence of endless distraction. You’ve only got time to be a halfway decent parent, plus one other thing.

For me, that one other thing is: I’ve got to be writing. I have a few ways to make sure I can carve out time.

Part one: Neglect everything else.

Part two: Get disciplined. Learn to rush to your laptop and open it up. Open the file without asking yourself if you’re in the mood, without thinking about anything else. Just open the file: and then you’re safe. Once the words are on the screen, that becomes your distraction.

Of course, it’s not distraction—it’s work, and it’s wonderful when it goes well. I’m sure other, more disciplined people can do it without needing to rush, but I have to. The moment you think okay, it’s work time, and face down the words, you rush past all the other things asking for your attention.

Part three: Keep the Apple homepage, because it’s rather boring. If your homepage is the website of your favorite newspaper, you’ve had it.

These are just some of the sticks I use to beat myself into opening up the file. Once I do, I’m safe. I’m home free.”

david mitchell
“I do think there’s some relationship between maintaining focus, looking closely, and the act of writing itself. The more you practice really looking, the more convincingly you can build a set for a scene. You become used to looking at the relationships between objects and people and light and time and mood and air…I think all writers do this.”

And there’s this little tidbit from The Paris Review that makes me like him even more (because I’m a longhand-before-computer person myself):

david mitchell 2

Daily routines of famous writers, part 2

I’m weirdly fascinated when I read about the daily routines of writers. I guess I’m curious to see if my routines are similar or different. I’m looking for the key to writing a good novel. I always come to the same conclusion: there is no magical ritual, there is no one way to write. Still, I continue to post these types of things.

These tidbits are from Enjoy.

2 murakamiHaruki Murakami

  • Wakes at 4AM and works for five to six hours straight
  • In the afternoons, he runs or swims (or does both), takes care of errands, reads, and listens to music; he’s in bed by 9PM
  • In his own words: “I keep this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the most important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”
  • Admits he doesn’t have much of a social life

Jane Austen

  • Woke up early, before the other women were up, and played piano
  • Organized family breakfast, her one major household chore
  • Wrote in the sitting room, often with her mother and sister sewing quietly nearby
  • Hid her papers and started sewing if visitors showed up
  • Ate dinner at 3 or 4 o’ clock
  • Read her work-in-progress to her family in the evening

1 orwellGeorge Orwell

  • Worked at a second-hand bookshop in London in the early morning, wrote in the late morning and afternoon, and went back to the shop in the evening

Victor Hugo

  • Woke at dawn, drank coffee, read his morning letter from his mistress, and swallowed two raw eggs
  • Enclosed himself in his lookout and wrote until 11AM
  • Wrote standing at a small desk in front of a mirror

Mark Twain

  • Ate a hearty breakfast and then went in his study and wrote until dinner at 5PM (he skipped lunch)
  • His family knew not to bother him. If they needed him, they would blow a horn

Stephen King

  • Writes every day of the year, including his birthday and holidays, and almost never lets himself quit before he reaches his daily quota of 2,000 words
  • Usually finishes between 11:30AM and 1:30PM
  • Spends the rest of his days napping, writing letters, reading, enjoying his family, and watching the Red Sox on TV

de beauvoirSimone De Beauvoir

  • Daily schedule focused on her work and her relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Worked by herself in the morning, then joined Sartre for lunch. They worked together in silence at his apartment in the afternoon, then spent their evenings attending events, seeing movies, or drinking Scotch and listening to the radio at her apartment

Franz Kafka

  • Lived with his family in a cramped apartment, where he could muster the concentration to write only late at night, when everyone else was asleep
  • Usually wrote from 10:30 or 11:30PM until 1, 2, or 3 o’clock in the morning. Once he worked straight through until 6AM

Leo Tolstoy

  • Worked in isolation. Nobody was allowed to enter his study, and the doors to the adjoining rooms were locked to ensure he wasn’t interrupted
  • Wrote every day without fail, “not so much for the success of the work, as in order not to get out of my routine”

Charles Dickens

  • Needed absolute quiet; at one of his houses, he installed an extra door in his study to block out noise
  • Had a specific setup for his study: writing desk in front of a window and, on the desk itself, his writing materials (goose-quill pens and blue ink) laid out alongside specific ornaments: a small vase of fresh flowers, a large paper knife, a gilt leaf with a rabbit perched on it, and two bronze statuettes (one depicting a pair of fat toads dueling, the other a gentleman swarmed with puppies)





Just keep swimming

That’s what I think of when I’m struggling with writing–just keep swimming, just keep swimming. You know, from “Finding Nemo.” If you don’t know, you should watch that movie.

That one little phrase has helped me get through hard weeks at work, a week-long trek through the High Sierras, half marathons, and now this book revision.

I’ve come to see that publishing a book is about 20% talent, 20% luck, and 60% tenacity / stubbornness / refusal to give up / ownership of the “Just keep swimming” philosophy.

In the latest issue of Poets & Writers, author Rufi Thorpe says she thinks talent is pretty meaningless and it’s all about “perversity of spirit”:

“Talent is the least important thing about a writer, compared to a love of books, which must be deep and abiding. The only other thing a writer really needs is perversity of spirit, the emotional equivalent of a cartoon creature’s bouncy springiness, so that after being run over or blown up–or, in the case of the writer, rejected and then rejected some more–the writer is irrationally unfazed by even the most valid criticism and continues with the work of being a writer, magically unharmed.”

I’d say the “magically unharmed” bit isn’t exactly accurate. I’ve been harmed. But it just pisses me off and makes me want to publish a book that much more.

Thorpe goes on:

“You have to fall in love with the dark, formless place where the words come from. You have to be addicted to that deep sea inner world that is the reading and writing of books. And you have to be willing to ignore just about everything else.”

Ah, yes, the “deep sea inner world.” It can be a lonely, crazy-making place, but just keep swimming, just keep swimming…

Muse, I don’t have time to wait for you.

I’m writing this post as a means to procrastinate. I’m trudging along through my book revision and I have a very intense chapter to write today. With that in mind, I did every errand I could think of. And now here I am, blogging. I swear I will open the dreaded Word document right after I finish this. Really.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about “the muse.” I used to think it was best to wait for inspiration to strike, then write. Now I think it’s best (for me) to start writing and get inspired somewhere along the way. Life has been very busy lately ,with lots of distractions, so I’ve been forcing the writing. But, you know, after those first few minutes of staring at the dreaded Word document, something excites me and it all starts to flow. There are days when it’s just not there, but those are rare. Usually, it’s there; I just have to coax it out.


Last week, Slice published an interview with Elissa Schappel, author, editor, book reviewer, and cofounder of Tin House. She said this about her muse:

“In my twenties I realized that the muse is a bum. The muse only shows up when you bait her by putting your ass in the chair. She can only be lured to your side by the sound of pounding keys, the smell of paper and ink.”

Yes, that’s it.

Well, sometimes that’s it.

Sometimes, I agree with what author Bill Hayes told the New York Times:

“Not writing can be good for one’s writing; indeed, it can make one a better writer… Don’t work through the pain; it will only hurt. Give yourself sufficient time to refresh.”

I have taken months-long breaks from writing over the years. Sometimes I was just too busy. Sometimes I was frustrated with the publishing industry. Sometimes I just didn’t feel like it. So, yeah, there is a place for what Bill Hayes is saying. The problem is that it can be too easy to rationalize that “time to refresh.” I know how that goes:

“Oh, Kim, you’ve had such a long week. You are way behind on episodes of The Killing on Netflix. You’ve cranked out a lot of pages recently. Just veg out today.”

It would be fine if I did veg out. But when else do I have a few hours to focus on an important chapter? I know that some magic will happen in those few hours, in spite of my whining. And, maybe when I’m done, as a reward, I can watch an episode or two of The Killing.

Off I go. Wish me luck.