Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Social Work Alumni Book Club

I have not been keeping up to date on the blog, but I soon will be! I promise.

On Wednesday, September 16 I had the privilege of attending the Wright State University’s Social Work Alumni Book Club. They are a fairly new group—they’ve only met for three books, but Kindness of Strangers was their third meeting’s book.

I was a wee bit nervous attending this club because it was made up entirely of people involved in social work. I shouldn’t have been nervous, though—we met at the home of Sarah Twill (see June entry), who is one of the funniest, most laid-back people around. The reason for my butterflies was that these are people who would know if my research was “right” or not. I should still be worried about such things! After all, the book came out three years ago! But, because I care about the subject so, so much, there’s always that fear that I won’t have done the story justice, that someone somewhere will think I didn’t treat the subject with respect or responsibility.

Lighten up, right? But those are things that keep me up at night with ALL my books.

Much to my delight, the group was thrilled with my research. Libby Nicholson from CARE House was there (a wonderful, amazing organization that helped me immensely with my research) and it was great to see her again.

I can say that a gathering of all social workers concentrates on other aspects of the book than any other book club I’ve attended. It was a true pleasure to listen to them discuss Courtney’s suicide, Jordan’s recovery, Sarah’s parenting, Nate’s burden of guilt and on and on.

And if that wasn’t heaven enough, the food was amazing! I sure do love a book club with food. And bless Sarah Twill’s heart, she knows how these things work—the minute I arrived, she had me start eating since “you’ll be doing all the talking later.” I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heaped my plate with goodies at a book club...and the plate just remains heaped as the questions begin. I knew I loved this woman.

How could I not love her, when she sent me home with a bag full of her mother’s homemade cookies? And a ticket to a Social Work Alumni Society’s Wine Tasting Fundraiser at the Therapy Cafe. Many thanks!

But thanks, most of all, to all of you social workers everywhere for the important work you do every single day for people who are not fictional. I wish I could give you all much-deserved raises!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Teaching Fiction Classes

I am thrilled to be teaching two adult fiction classes this fall at the Word's Worth Writing Center in Oakwood, Ohio. This is the second fall I haven't been teaching full time, and while there are things I don't miss at AT ALL (grading, conferences, meetings), I do actually miss the act of interacting with a group of students while the creative energies sparkle. This will be perfect—teaching only fiction, without having to teach grammar, vocabulary, or Tom Sawyer!

The Word's Worth Writing Center offers many, many wonderful classes. I'll be teaching two—a Craft of Fiction class on Mondays (where we will delve into Character, Voice/Point of View, Dialogue, Plot, Description, Beginnings and Endings) where you can apply our exercises to a work-in-progress or use them to jumpstart a new project. I'll also lead a Workshop on Wednesdays where you can receive feedback on your work in a supportive, constructive environment.

You can check out dates, times, and registration info at the link above. If you're local, I'd love to have you join us!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Estates of Willow Creek Book Club

On Monday, August 31 I met with the lovely book club of the Estates of Willow Creek in Centerville, Ohio. This group meets once a month in the club house of the development, and for August, they read my novel The Kindness of Strangers. The group loves wine and had a wonderful spread of food! Whoever brought the pumpkin bread is a goddess in my opinion!

The group used my reading group guide from the Harper Collins website, and although a moderator moved us through those questions, several of the women had other questions as well. I absolutely LOVE listening to readers discuss certain points from the story. This always feels like a gift to me, since so much of writing happens in solitude. The most controversial point of discussion seemed to center around the character of Courtney—[spoiler alert!] was her suicide a gift to Jordan or just another selfish act? Was her friendship with Sarah genuine at all, or was she simply using Sarah? Was Courtney’s relationship with Jordan more or less damaging than Jordan’s relationship with his father, Mark? I was delighted, listening to intelligent women defend their various views!

I also loved that this book club maintains a library for the entire housing development. Anyone may come and borrow books. That’s impressive enough, but even better is the fact that whenever they have duplicate titles, they ship the books to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bravo, ladies!

I have to admit to being a little out of sorts, on my first night off from the play at the Dayton Theatre Guild and the night before my fourth novel was due! If I was a bit ADD or scatter-brained, this wonderful group didn’t let on and were nothing but gracious! Many thanks!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Costumeless in a Costume Drama

Okay, while I was working away on revisions this summer, I was also in a production. Not just any production, either, but the first production ever in the new Dayton Theatre Guild location—Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

First of all, everyone thought I was crazy auditioning for a show when I had the book due, but it actually turned out to be the perfect balance. I have a small, but juicy role, so it didn’t require too much extra time, and being a part of the cast kept me from being a total hermit when I got into the final push on the book. I could rise early, write all day, then shower and go interact with people in the evening. It was the perfect way to “get out of my head,” plus the cast is a great, fun group of people.

The Dayton Theatre Guild is an amazing organization. After having been in their rinky-dink location on Salem Avenue for years, they finally moved! They bought the Dayton Gym Club and began transforming it into a theatre. This made our production a little nervewracking. I’ve never been rehearsing a show while the theatre is being built around us (that is not an exaggeration).

More on that later, but first, a bit about my role...I’ve developed a bit of a reputation at the Guild, for appearing scantily clad. It happened slowly—a revealing pageant outfit in The Miss Firecracker Contest, a rush to answer a phone wrapped only in a towel in Belles, a leather dominatrix get up in Communicating got to the point that when I tell my sister I’m cast in something, she asks, “Do you keep your clothes on this time?”

When she asked me that about Liaisons, I had to answer, “Um, well, no I do not.” Here I am, cast in this magnificent costume drama...and my character doesn’t wear one! I play Emilie, a courtesan, and in my first scene, I wear only a bedsheet...and lots and lots of jewelry. The main character, Valmont, uses my bare back as a desk to write a letter to another woman.

I’m thrilled, though, that in my second scene I get the full 1780’s regalia, complete with custom-made corset and pannier.

A word about corsets. Oh my. No wonder those poor women fainted all the time! I have a love-hate relationship with my corset. It makes my waist look three inches around, it lifts my boobs up under my chin, and it makes my posture regal...but whew, it’s hard to draw deep breath and it wreaks havoc on your stomach. How we suffer for our beauty...

The panniers are another matter. They make a woman take up three times as much room as a man. They make it impossible to put your arms at your sides. And navigating a room of women backstage all wearing them makes me think of bumper cars.

So, as opening night approached, it became a daily discovery to walk in and see what state the building was in. We were navigating our enormous costumes through dry wall dust and wet paint, but I’m happy to report that all went well. We opened to wonderful reviews and receptive audiences. You can read our Dayton Daily News review, our City Paper review, and our Oakwood Register review. A few highlights: Russell Florence said of me, “...and the delightful Katrina Kittle whose portrayal of courtesan Emilie is so saucy that even her legs become a character all their own.”

Burt Saidel joked about my bedsheet scene being a “money saver” for the new building: “Perhaps one scene was meant to save money. Beautiful Katrina Kittle was a lively courtesan clothed only in a strategically placed bed sheet. How much more could have been saved by eliminating the sheet?” Only Burt could make that seem charming, instead of lecherous!

And my favorite “review” came from a patron on opening night who stopped me in the lobby and said, “Where can I get a desk like that?”

That made me smile...but I do wonder if I’ll ever be cast in a show that allows me to be fully costumed the entire running time?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Bodacious Book Babe Bounty

This is just a brief addendum to my Bodacious Book Babes entry of July. If those babes weren't bodacious enough, then get this: they later sent me a VERY generous gift certificate to the Zig Zag Gallery in Centerville, Ohio.

If you're local and you don't know about Zig Zag Gallery, do yourself a favor and check it out! It's in the Cross Pointe Center near 675 and Alex-Bell.

This bodacious gift was not at all necessary (it was honestly gift enough to spend time with such fun women...and savvy readers to boot), but will be greatly savored. Now that I've turned in the manuscript, I can't wait to get in to the store and treat myself to some celebratory purchase!

Thank you, babes!

The Manuscript Has Left the Building

I was a horrible blogger in the month of August. My apologies. I’m happy to report that, at long last, I finished the revisions! After a final push of working nose-to-the-grindstone, on the morning of September 1, I hit “send” and the book flew through cyber space off to my editor. It’s hard to know if this is the final or if more revisions will be needed. I should know soon. Keep the vibes coming!

The book has changed a great deal, more so at this late stage than any of my other novels. I’ve never had so much new material enter the book so close to “the finish,” but it was right for the story and the manuscript has finally become the book I envisioned.

I thank my wonderful, talented, insightful team of readers, who turned the book around within a week for me, delivering great feedback—Katy Yokum, Anne Griffith, Sharon Short, Dr. Kathy Joseph, Mom and Dad, and most especially Rachel Moulton (who was reading the manuscript for the fifth time in as many years, with a brand new baby and a new school year beginning).

I’ll keep you posted! I’m taking some days off, to catch up with my neglected garden, my neglected cat, and my neglected social life. I can read again! And see movies! But...after a week, I’ll settle in to begin book #5. I can hardly wait...