Nina Laurin is a bilingual author of suspenseful stories for both adults and young adults. She got her BA in Creative Writing at Concordia University, in her hometown of Montreal, Canada. Her debut, GIRL LAST SEEN, was released June 20, 2017 from Grand Central Publishing.
Social media is full of publishing professionals telling aspiring writers not to write to trends. Which can be a frustrating Catch-22 if you’re an unpublished writer in the query trenches. On one hand, they keep saying they want more of this or that popular thing—and then they go and tell you not to write to trends! So which is it?
Truth is, there are lots of reasons not to write to trends. Including the obvious ones: for example, it takes a book up to three years to be published, and in that time, the trend might end. Womp-womp. But writing to trends is also not that great for you as a writer—as I learned at my own expense.
When I first set out on the journey to traditional publication, a little over five years ago, I did everything you’re supposed to do. I studied craft, I researched, I read extensively. I focused my reading on the category and subgenre I decided to write in. I picked up the most successful books and analyzed them with (what I thought was) a critical eye. All I had to do was figure out the formula behind their success and recreate it with a personal touch. That’s what all the articles on writing tell you to do… right?
Unfortunately, the stories I produced to fit the “formula” never seemed to go anywhere. Either I got bored with them by chapter five, or, if I did complete them, they collected rejections. Maybe because the agents I queried, and even the beta readers I used, could detect the lack of soul. Sadly, no creative writing manual can teach you how to fake that.
After a while, I realized I wasn’t enjoying reading as much as I used to, and writing has become joyless work, not to mention a major source of stress. The activity that once brought me so much happiness and helped me escape from the real world had now become a burden. That’s when I knew things had to change.
I did a lot of soul-searching—and a lot of deleting stuff from my hard drive, which was even less fun than the soul-searching. I realized, in the end, that I was trying to write to a trend, and I had to stop.
Letting go of all that—the thrill of the chase, of feverishly writing what you think might be the Next Big Thing, and all the big hopes that come with it—was tough. But I finally understood why you shouldn’t try to shoehorn your writing into a trend. My chosen genre started to feel confining and ultimately unsatisfying—not because there was anything wrong with it, but because it didn’t suit the stories I wanted to write.
I learned to accept the fact that my stories weren’t meant to fit any one mold. And so what? Maybe I didn’t want to be the next So-and-so—I wanted to be the first, well, me. I finally felt like I was writing for the right reasons, and being true to the stories I was telling.
And I think some of that realness trickled down into my prose, because for the first time, I started to get genuinely positive reactions.
My most memorable meeting with a writer was, without a doubt, Gillian Flynn! I’ve been a fan for ages—she’s the kind of rebel-writer I aspire to be, and proof that you can be successful without following trends. At Thrillerfest 2016, I finally got to meet her at a book signing, for all of 10 seconds. And of course, I was so star-struck that I completely froze! So, on the off-chance you ever see this, Gillian Flynn, I’m really not as big a dork as I come across.
Girl Last Seen
Olivia Shaw has been missing since last Tuesday. She was last seen outside the entrance of her elementary school in Hunts Point wearing a white spring jacket, blue jeans, and pink boots.
I force myself to look at the face in the photo, into her slightly smudged features, and I can't bring myself to move. Olivia Shaw could be my mirror image, rewound to thirteen years ago.
If you have any knowledge of Olivia Shaw's whereabouts or any relevant information, please contact...
I've spent a long time peering into the faces of girls on missing posters, wondering which one replaced me in that basement. But they were never quite the right age, the right look, the right circumstances. Until Olivia Shaw, missing for one week tomorrow.
Whoever stole me was never found. But since I was taken, there hasn't been another girl.
And now there is.
Where to Buy Girl Last Seen
Sam Wiebe is the author of the Vancouver crime novels Last of the Independents, Invisible Dead, and Cut You Down. Wiebe’s work has won an Arthur Ellis award and the Kobo Emerging Writers Prize, and he was the 2016 Vancouver Public Library Writer in Residence. His short fiction has appeared in ThugLit, Spinetingler, and subTerrain, among other places. Visit samwiebe.com or follow at @sam_wiebe .
Years ago, long before I wrote anything even the most generous editor would call fit to publish, I took a course on American Lit. I was already reading voraciously, and struggling through my non-literary courses, and and trying my hand at stories of my own.
Our professor introduced our unit on poetry with a video interview of Robert Frost. To this day I remember a phrase Frost used—that to write you have to start “on insufficient knowledge.”
That phrase broke down my biggest assumption about successful writers—that they knew.
To this day, writers publicly hype the amount of research they do, the forensic or procedural authorities they consulted—as if this grants their work authenticity.
I don’t know about authenticity, but it seemed to grant them confidence, something my younger self didn’t possess in abundance. Frost was the first writer I heard who hinted that he, too, had felt unprepared for what he was about to undertake.
I finished my second year of college and then quit. Held a bunch of different jobs, most terrible and low-paying. Wrote sporadically and accrued rejection slips.
In my mid-twenties I went back to college, finished my bachelors, and went on to grad school. Around that time I realized if I didn’t put the time in to write a novel, to finish what I started, then I was probably closing the door on that dream. I had to start. Even worse, then I had to finish.
Without really knowing what I was doing, I wrote a novel. I stole time between classes, on the bus, in the library carrels after others had gone home. I finished a book. It was awful, a mess. But it was a complete, finished, awful mess.
Each year I make a goal for myself, and that year my goal went from “write a book” to “write a good book.” Something I’d be proud of, something I’d be comfortable to submit.
Obviously I’m glossing over a few things, like hard work and luck, but my point is, every step was taken with insufficient knowledge—in other words, in faith.
Faith is a weird word to someone who’s not all that religious. Maybe you prefer confidence. Fine by me. Whatever you call it, with writing, ultimately you learn what to do by doing it. Books on writing, classes, critique groups, only take you so far.
When I was working on what became my debut novel, Last of the Independents, I met Ian Rankin at the Vancouver Writers Fest. After his panel I asked him for advice. His answer was, “Remember, Sam, we’ve all been where you are now.”Nothing ever removes doubt, but other writers—every writer—has felt that same doubt. Maybe there’s some comfort to be found in that.
An ex-cop who navigates by a moral compass stubbornly jammed at true north, Dave Wakeland is a talented private investigator with next to zero business sense. And even though he finds himself with a fancy new office and a corporate-minded partner, he continues to be drawn to cases that are usually impossible to solve and frequently don't pay.
When Wakeland is hired by a terminally ill woman to discover the whereabouts of her adopted child-who disappeared as an adult more than a decade earlier-it seems like just another in a string of poor career decisions. But it turns out this case is worse than usual, even by his standards. With only an anonymous and vaguely worded tip to guide him, Wakeland interviews an imprisoned serial killer who seems to know nothing about the case, but who nonetheless steers him toward Vancouver's terrifying criminal underworld.
And it all goes downhill from there.
Whatever ghosts drive Wakeland, they seem to drive him inexorably toward danger-a journey he's content to take so long as it means finding out what happened to someone the rest of the world seems happy enough to forget. With nothing to protect him but his wit and his empathy for the downtrodden and disenfranchised, Wakeland is on the case.
Check out Sam's website here
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Where to Buy Invisible Dead
Evan Hundhausen received his MFA in Creative Writing at Naropa University. He writes blog posts at DirtyFilthyDiscoTrash.com and his self-published short story collection, "Accelerated LearningTechniques for a Budding Sociopath: A Bunch of Short Stories," can be found for sale on Amazon. Currently Evan spends his time writing for magazines, writing novels and even screenplays. See him DJ at djcola.net.
Thank you, Gatsby!
By Evan Hundhausen
Maybe you've had a similar experience as me. I went to grad school to get my MFA, wrote shorts stories, got critiqued, and then looked for journals I should send them to only to get rejected. After grad school I landed smack dab in the real world. I worked at a grocery store where I would see my former MFA professors shopping for organic milk in the dairy section. Basically, I stopped writing all the time and wrote only a "little" throughout the ensuing years like that was okay! But it wasn't. I was uninspired and it took me a long time to realize I needed to go find some more writing classes (say what?!) even though I had my MFA degree already.
It was one of best decisions I ever made and today I'm a proud member of two writers groups, which is where I get the inspiration I need for free!
I write blog posts, I self-publish my books on Amazon and I'm currently learning how to pitch screenplays to Hollywood. I'm not spending thousands of dollars like I did during Grad School. I spend much less and I learn a lot more in writing classes I've discovered around town and in the community I live. I'll mention that one of the most important things I ever learned on writing happened a long time ago at a reading in New York put on by one of my favorite authors.
Tangent starts now....
Now, you should know I'm not one of those bloggers who thinks it's okay to name drop without backing it up (It's not okay. You could get sued, so don't do it!), so I won't tell you who this author was. I waited in a long line to get this author's autograph and when I finally had my chance to stand in front of him, all nervous like, I said, "Your writing has inspired me so much!"He replied with a shrug, "Don't thank me. Thank The Great Gatsby!" I walked away embarrassed. What a weird thing to say to an adoring fan? Only after lots of time had passed did I realize the bomb he dropped on me. Often I will find myself in a used book shop and will buy an old, yellowing copy of "The Great Gatsby" by F. Scott Fitzgerald. I'll put it on my bookshelf or on my computer desk where I write, so I can be reminded how to write a great book. It's reference. I'll thumb through it. Maybe read a paragraph or two to see what I'm up against when I finally go to work on my own fiction. This author ultimately taught me you have to study the "classics" or risk looking like an amateur when it comes to your own writing. It sounds harsh, I know, but stick with me on this idea for a minute, will ya? Have you ever read "Moby Dick?" You probably don't remember this, but it was written in first person. It's like the narrator or main character Ishmael is talking just to you while you both sit at a bar together. "Moby Dick" has been made into umpteen movie versions. A common formula you will find every time you visit a Barnes and Noble; best sellers are advertised there on a table and on each book cover you see, Now a Major Motion Picture. If you read through one of these B&N books you'll most likely notice it's written in first person just like "The Great Gatsby" and "Moby Dick." Is this a coincidence? No way, dude! This is what people want to read today just like they wanted to read years and years ago, so technically nothing has changed when it comes to classic literature. I don't really want to argue with you about it, so keep writing in whatever style you want to, but honestly I can't see how rereading a book like the "The Great Gatsby" could hurt. We all took English classes in high school and college, so we already know what the classic titles are. Now, it's time for all us "aspiring writers" to go back and reread them. Get them at the library. Read them for free online. Get them at the used bookstore for cheap. The "classics" are the tools you want to put in your "tool belt" to make you look like a seasoned professional. For example, you wouldn't want a plumber without a tool belt on to fix your toilet would you? Not likely. Reread and imitate classic books. It's the best way to end up writing a good book yourself, but most importantly, in the end, thank "The Great Gatsby" and not me!
Accelerated Learning Techniques for a Budding Sociopath: A Bunch of Short Stories
If you came here because of "Realizing Magical"-- that was the old title. Me and a friend were sitting around talking and he came up with something like "Accelerated Learning Techniques for a Budding Sociopath" and I thought "That would make a great title for a short story collection!" so I changed the title because you can do that on Amazon. There's no story in the collection titled that. I don't know. It's just to sucker you in to reading my stories. That's it.
I self-publish and it's one of the biggest challenges I've ever had as a writer.
So if you buy one of my books and see a mistake... or don't like it and are thinking about getting a refund please don't return it. Keep it, so I can keep all the money that you spent. And don't troll. Because I will pull out "the whip" on y'all.
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Where to Buy Accelerated Learning Techniques for a Budding Sociopath: A Bunch of Short Stories
Award winning author Kathryn Mattingly has taught fine art, creative writing, and English literature at several private colleges. Aside from her short story collection and literary suspense novels with Winter Goose Publishing, Kathryn’s work can be found in numerous small press anthologies and various print magazines. Kathryn has been a professional editor for a small publishing house and at one time ran her own editing service. In addition to her fiction, she has over 30 nonfiction articles published. Kathryn lives in Historical Old Town Napa, where she shares a 116-year-old house with her husband, their cat Sophia, and a resident spirit named Genevieve.
As a writer I study the masters to perfect my skills. There are lots and lots of things you can do to become a better writer, but nothing trumps that. After years of reading the best fiction out there, I can name three things those bestselling authors have in common, regardless of their genre. They are all great storytellers, they all have a highly developed sense of imagination, and they all create characters we can relate to.
Think Stephen King. He is a master of all three, and because of that he is a legend in his own time. Think Donna Tartt and her Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Goldfinch. Despite all the varying opinions about her book, I love every word of it. It is art unfolded to me, like an Andy Warhol painting in its reflection of an unsettling societal picture, unraveled in a pure genius fashion.
Steven King’s use of imagination may be more flamboyant than the stark truth of what we experience with Theo’s point of view in The Goldfinch, until you consider how Tartt unraveled her entire story through the eyes of an adolescent boy. And like King, she manages to draw us into her characters by causing us to identify with them. That my friends, opens the door for the character’s world to become our world; their stakes in the game become our stakes in the game.
My books have been categorized as character driven suspense novels. They all have a central theme revolving around something puzzling that the main character is desperate to solve. People often ask which novel is my favorite, and the truth is that I love each of them for different reasons, based on the unique triumphs and challenges I had while writing them. I will say that for whatever reason, the first novel (Benjamin) seems to be a fan favorite. It also won an award as a manuscript. Somehow the pages are sprinkled with an extra scoop of magic, which is that elusive part of fiction we don’t realize we’ve created until our readers tell us. It is what makes readers think about the book long after the last page is read.
My main motivation for writing is how we as people view ourselves, and our world; how we solve personal challenges; how we grow as individuals. My settings are inspired by places I have lived or traveled to, because that’s what moves me emotionally and spiritually. I firmly believe that reading should engage all of your senses and knowledge about the world to date, and then it should mess with that. A good book should make you wonder, ponder, examine, doubt, fear, laugh, cry. A good book should deconstruct and reconstruct you on some level. It should be emotionally and intellectually comparable to the best ride you laid your ticket down on at the fair.
At one point I had a New York agent who encouraged me to get a resume of short fiction published while he worked on selling the books. So I began writing short stories and sending them off to anthologies soliciting submissions for their particular theme. Soon I was published in quite a few of them. This all happened during a time of tremendous change in the publishing industry. Self-publishing had come into being, and all types of boutique publishers appeared on the scene. Pieces of the publishing world fell out of neat order and into temporary chaos. My New York agent retired just as my personal world became equally chaotic.
For the next few years I ran the graphic art department at a private college where I also taught art and literature. When the college closed for financial reasons, my career evolved into being senior editor for Possibility Publishing. We put out a few wonderfully creative books before realizing (like many boutique publishers) that turning passion into profit was not that easy. It was during that time in my career where I once again considered getting my own novels published.
Of the publishers that wanted my work, I chose Winter Goose, because I loved the books they were putting out. I have been very happy with my Winter Goose family and all that they represent, which is a lot of great poetry and imaginative, gut wrenching fiction. They have published not only all of my fiction novels to date (Benjamin, Journey, Olivia’s Ghost, and coming next spring, The Tutor), but also a collection of my short stories (Fractured Hearts). A synopsis of each book can be found on my website: https://kathrynmattingly.com/ and on my Amazon page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00EILN6YE
Living in Napa, CA has been the inspiration for my next novel, Katia, which will take place here in wine country. I currently work for the Enthusiasts department at CIA Copia in Historical Old Town. Copia is the public facing half of the California campus for the Culinary Institute of America. I check guest registration for classes, run the cameras in the studio during our interactive cooking demonstrations, and give educational tours of the architecturally stunning facility.
I am having a love affair with Napa, where I am lavishing myself with knowledge about wine, food, and art in this richly diverse and creatively lush environment. My hope is that I can somehow sprinkle the pages of ‘Katia’ with a little of the magic so generously bestowed upon this valley of the grapes.
Jackson and Olivia Porter's daughter Ava is thrown overboard during a squall on Puget Sound. In a flash of lightning Livy sees someone on a nearby boat pull something from the water. No one comes forward with their child nor do they recover a body, yet Livy clings to the belief their daughter was rescued. Jackson believes his wife is mentally unstable and falls into dysfunctions of his own. Their marriage is torn apart and Livy flees to the Oregon Coast, where she encounters a legendary ghost-child in the lighthouse manned by her father. She begins to wonder if Jackson is right about her mental instability as she bonds with the ghost, who has a message about Ava. It is as if the squall from nowhere came to reside within each of them, as life unfolds into nightmares of their own making.
Check out Kathryn's Amazon Author Page here!
Where to Buy Olivia's Ghost
I am a single mother to a beautiful son, living and working in the Pacific Northwest. I am an Assistant Director of Career Development at a small, private liberal arts college, where I get to help my students pursue their career paths, whatever those may be. I was born and raised in the PNW, and have lived in Singapore and Mexico – which has shaped my world view and helped lead my career and life journey.
Through my “day job,” I conduct career counseling, work with community members, and develop career prep, networking and experiential programming to serve students and community. As my “other day job,” I am the founder of Montoya Media | Translations through which I serve individuals and business with translating, interpreting, and marketing in both English and Spanish.
Why I Write.
Why do I write? What a wonderful question. For whom are my words? For what are my words? I believe in vocation – that visceral calling towards finding meaning, an internal voice you were born with, and a journey through life that, through deviations, over hurdles, into the mist, guides you closer with each step, even before you know where you are even headed.
Through my position in career development, I get to help guide students through these ideas, and I also believe strongly that we are “natured” and “nurtured” into how we interact with the world, how we process our surroundings, and how we find meaning.
So, why do I write? I find that three reasons drive my writing:
I write to process. Writing is my reflection. My way of making sense of my world. The way I make cross-disciplinary “discoveries” and learn something from my own experiences. My blog is titled “What I Learn from my Son” because I learn so much from raising him. But if I don’t stop to ponder little moments, or to remember a vignette in my mind’s eye, or to just stay still and watch him be, the moments pass and I move on. It is through my blog posts, and through other writing, that I have realized some incredible life lessons, or that I take a step back to reflect on a hardship, or that I find strength and optimism in sometimes either painful, frustrating, or just plain annoying situations. I believe I am a better person for it, and I hope my writing helps me become more well-rounded, more grounded, more inspired, and more inspirational.
I write to share. I am a single mother of one 4-year-old son. I have a very strong family support system. My mom is my best friend, my brother and sister-in-law are my partners in crime. I have a couple close friends and supportive colleagues. This makes me feel loved, safe, and supported. They know most of my life.
But I feel alone. I often feel like all these wonderful things that my son does, and that we get to experience together, will evaporate into memories and no one will “know” us. Writing through my blog is my way of sharing “us” with the world, of sharing little moments, of funny blunders, of how he is growing and learning and becoming himself. Of how I am learning and growing as a mother. Of reinforcing that we are part of something outside of us. I write to connect with others and feel like I am connected with them.
I write because I have to. More specifically, because I am called to. It is part of my nature to use words and language and writing, no matter where and no matter what. Have you ever taken the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator analysis (MBTI) with someone who can help you process your results and the meanings of the types? Or perhaps have you tried to uncover your passions and core strengths through story-telling and reflection? This is what I do much of my time with my students, and of course I believe in this, myself. My MBTI profile partly reflects my way of “being” as an introverted thinker – as I reflect on these two facets I realize that, for me, thinking + introversion = writing to process, writing for peace, and writing to connect with others.
One of my core strengths and meditation activities is writing. I uncovered this realization through story-telling methods to dive to the core strengths (called the Dependable Strengths Articulation Process). I realized that I have always written. When I was in third grade I started writing my first chapter book. Yes, I still have five wide-ruled notebooks full of an 8-year-old’s handwriting about a girl mouse in 4th grade and her adventures with friends, school, and a new house.
When I was in eighth grade I won a writing contest for my poetry and got to spend a day at a local university in a clinic for budding writers.
When I was in ninth grade I read a poem and a short essay I had written in front of my church congregation, about my reflections from a two-week long service learning-based mission trip to northern British Columbia.
Now, I write through my work, and I write through my blog. I have shaped almost every job I have had so that I get to write as part of it. I have been told by countless students that I should “write a book on all of this.”
Writing is drawn out of me. I have to do it.
Maybe one day I will write and publish a book. Until that day –
This is why I write.
Where to See Donna
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.
Be My Guest!
#WhatsYourStory? Are you an author? I'd love to hear your story and so would my readers. Email me for more information.