Juggling the Creative Life? Kimberly interviews Virginia Woolf for some writerly advice

Virginia Woolf

When I officially became a writer and editor, formalizing the fact of my vocation on my business card, I kind of stopped writing. Of course, on the surface, my most cherished dream began to materialize all around me… I’d worked in the publishing world for over ten years, but now I was writing for a living.

I sculpted blurb copy, researched and composed feature articles, translated dense land-use policy and encyclopedic entries, ghostwrote business books, organized marketing and publicity plans, white papers and other specialty publications and countless other projects, all of which expanded my skill-base, which I took increasing pride in. But from the second I gave notice at my day job and pursued a freelance life, I hardly allowed myself to “write” so much as one innocent stanza of one measly poem, let alone freestyle prose.

Maybe because I knew that one line was enough to leave me staring all too intensely at a non-income-generating screen for days.

Dangerous! And I had a point to prove, success to demonstrate. I wanted to make a living “by my wits and my words” and as Virginia Woolf pointed out in A Room of One’s Own, “money dignifies what is frivolous if unpaid for.”

But…

But on a deliciously silent night, unpaid frivolity called me back, and I began to break my creative fast. In a hot blur, phrases, stories and words swooshed up and down my spine and billowed smoke-like into the six tiny layers of my cerebral cortex. I was…Back.

But dang it, if the creative force isn’t/wasn’t/ in my case, will always be: messy.

Beyond the subterranean portal of my computer and my journal, books everywhere and scattered notes, words filtered into my dreams, forced me to pull over while I was driving, distracted me while I was cooking, walking, talking, working out at the gym.

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Got Truth Hunger?

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr bookcover

“No matter how much you’re gunning for truth, the human ego is also a stealthy low crawling bastard and for pretty much everybody, getting used to who you are is a lifelong spiritual struggle. “The Art of Memoir, Mary Karr

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself.” Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Art of Memoir, Mary Karr’s how-to on memoir writing, should have come with a warning label.

As soon as I got a whiff of Karr’s no-nonsense loosely-organized, at times stream of consciousness, smack-down on memoir that the Washington Post called a “hodgepodge of a book,” I wanted to read it in one sitting.

When I finished, I circled right back to all of my underlined phrases, reread where I scribbled in the margins, all of which made me want to turn off my phone, hide in my office and write. Inspired by her pages, one of my tough-love self-prompts in the shape of an orange-sticky note read: “What would you write if you weren’t afraid,” which a Jesuit priest once asked Karr.

From there, new paragraphs looped in my mind while I was trying to get to sleep– sitting in traffic–helping my daughter with her homework–cooking breakfast. All becoming scattered piles of notes right next to my morning oatmeal and in growing stacks of paper on my office floor.

Despite mixed reviews, including two rather bracing New York Times reviews (Gregory Cowles and Janet Maslin) the latter of which warned away general-interest readers (And I will concede. This is a book most of all for hungry writers), The Art of Memoir fully delivered the attention-carrying quality that Karr herself calculates at 100% for any writer —a full bodied, crafted (“high-voltage”) voice.

“A great voice renders the dullest event remarkable,” notes Karr. Yes, and something else too–a truly great voice strums chords of the most highly desirable variety in me–the kind that wakes my ass up. And naturally makes me want to clear my throat, get up and sing, too.

In Carr’s case, a salty-tough, but warmly-timbered voice humbled with mea culpa that owns the complicated human being inside. So, the rest of us can nod our heads as we flip pages, quietly admit our own screw ups and inconsistencies, or wonder at our lack of experience in other places, and trail behind her cobble-stoned, toe-stubbed path to expanded perception.

And, that is the potent rocket-fuel that first brought me to my knees in the church I call writing.

church of writing

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Wondering about Kimberly’s work with Wild River Review and Wild River Consulting & Publishing?

Joy E. Stocke and Kimberly Nagy

December 27, 2014. It was 2007 when Joy Stocke and Kimberly Nagy did the unthinkable: They essentially converted the highly regarded literary magazine the Bucks County Writer – founded in 1998 and published by the Writers Room of Bucks County – to an online journal.

“We were told we were going to fail,” Stocke recalled.

In reality, failure was the likely outcome if the magazine reminded in print form, she said.
“We could no longer afford to distribute print,” said Stocke, 57, who, as a literary journalist, author, and community organizer of writers, took over the Doylestown-based nonprofit Bucks County Writer in May 2003, editing it until the winter of 2006. It had been funded through advertising, subscriptions, and donations.

Both the name “Bucks County Writer” and the printed edition are no more, succeeded by the online launch of Wild River Review. Within two years, Wild River Review (at www.wildriverreview.com) was being hailed in literary circles for its international reach and interesting interviews – and that still amuses Stocke.

“Afterwards, you’re called a visionary,’ she said, rejecting such highfalutin praise. “That was completely a business decision. For a successful business, you have to be practical.”

The Wild River Review, designed in part to get readers to think critically about social issues and leave them “nourished – they’re going to get some food out of it,” Stocke said, has attracted not only readers but potential book authors to Wild River’s publishing and consulting services.
Nagy, 48, honed her marketing and publicity-management skills at publishing houses in London and New York before becoming a work-at-home writer mom in 2003. That was prior to joining Stocke in the Wild River enterprise.

Going online was not a hard sell to the bookish Nagy.

“I love books. I am passionate about beautiful books,” she said. “But books alone aren’t enough anymore. Having an awareness of the digital world is mandatory for any author.”

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How a Literary Magazine Grew into a Publishing Business

Denise Petti,Raquel Pidal, Joy Stocke, Kimberly Nagy

Beyond the Glass Ceiling | Women, Collaboration and how two women grew a successful publishing company from grass roots

October, 2014: Princeton, NJ: When Wild River Consulting & Publishing, LLC, owners Joy Stocke and Kim Nagy first met for coffee in 2005, neither could have predicted how their futures would merge. Fueled by a passionate conversation about literature and more important, the power of stories to heal and transform, Stocke and Nagy—writers, editors, dedicated entrepreneurs and busy mothers—felt an instant kinship over the impact stories can make in every sector—and the craft it takes to tell them well.
They believed strongly in a nearly unheard-of approach at the time—the power of collaboration—a force slowly picking up speed with the growth of the Internet.

Stocke, a literary journalist with a degree in Radio-Broadcast Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was already a well-established author, community organizer of writers, and a founder of the Meridian Writers Collective reading series in Philadelphia (one of the first of its kind) and grass-roots publishing initiatives. In 2004, she brought her reputation for editorial direction and content curation to The Bucks County Writer literary magazine, situated in the heart of the “Genius belt”.

Fascinated with rapid technology developments (and possible cost-savings) Stocke was soon looking to bring the publication’s reputation and presence online to grow its demographic. She faced resistance. At the time, many publishers thumbed their noses at “online” magazines. But two years after Wild River Review (www.wildriverreview.com) launched its first issue in 2006, the Utne Reader named the website one of the “great” literary magazines, and praised its international literary flavor and “exceptionally interesting interviews”.

Groomed in the boardrooms of traditional publishers from London to New York City, Nagy came from the world of marketing and publicity management for houses such as Princeton University Press, Routledge UK and WW Norton. In 2003, shortly after the birth of her daughter, she left publishing to write as a work-at-home mom, focusing closely on content creation. But, Nagy never forgot her marketing and PR training, which relentlessly begged the question: “Who am I writing for?” for her clients. As passionate about promotion as she is about creation, Nagy stressed that without user-centric analysis and outreach, no creative or business initiative could ever connect with its core audience.

It was an approach the team at Wild River adopted and expanded as Stocke and Nagy rapidly grew their literary audience of creatives well beyond the mailing list of the Bucks County Writer to include international authors and journalists, publishers and TV-producers, academics and photographers, as well as non-profit leaders and entrepreneurs. In 2009, with a growing demand, Stocke and Nagy combined their talents under one roof to form Wild River Consulting & Publishing, LLC.

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