Wednesday, March 31, 2010

All Over But the Plantin'

Voila! The giant project I described in my previous post, "True Confessions," is now complete...well, this phase of it, anyway.

The beds are full of compost, the stone paths laid and mulched. Now "all" that's left is planting, and it's still a bit too early for that in Ohio. Soon, though. And now I'm ready!

This new bed will be a mix of perennial flowers and herbs, and edibles (tomatoes, peppers, beets, radishes, etc.). I like the idea of mixing edibles with perennials so that you're not left with a big blank muddy moonscape at the end of the growing season.

I am so happy puttering out there in the garden. It's been good incentive for the writing, actually. I tell myself I can "go out and play" when I hit whatever page limit I've set for myself for the day. I actually stick to it, too.

Ah, good medicine after that long winter...

I'll keep you posted when the plants go in the ground.

Monday, March 29, 2010

True Confessions

Forgive me, readers, for I have sinned. I have not written for two weeks!

I could give you lots of excuses—I've traveled for book events, I've prepared to teach a college creative writing class, I've done lots of book-related things...but the truth is, I could've had plenty of time to write. Why didn't I? Because the sun was out and it's gardening time.

It's still too early to plant most edibles, annuals, and perennials (but some cold crops can go in already), but the point is, after the longest, grayest, coldest, snowiest winter ever, I had to BE OUTSIDE!!!

As usual, in my enthusiasm, I took on a HUGE new project, creating a giant garden bed in one half of my back lawn. I've happily hauled compost and rocks for days and have made huge progress. I've included photos here, so you can see the changes. (The first photo was that half of the yard when I first saw the house, before I even owned it. Yep, that's the shed where I hide the bodies...). The second photo is what I did in that part of the yard my first summer—edibles in little triangular bed. Guests loved those beds, but eventually they became a pain in the butt to mow.

The third and fourth photo are of the project-in-progress. I'll keep the cute little shaped beds, but within one giant bed that doesn't have to be mowed. The shapes will be defined by stone paths throughout.

I think the appeal of this project has to do not only with being outside, but with how quickly I will see the end result. It's hard work, but it's work I love—quite like writing. Unlike writing, however, (especially writing a novel), I will see a final product take shape within mere weeks.

There's something highly satisfying in that. And all that mindless work with my hands is rich time for mulling plots and character motivations. As I turn the soil, I'm always turning a phrase and finding the perfect way to describe an image.

Compost is rich, after all. Writers use everything—the good, the bad, the interesting, the seemingly banal. Just like a compost pile eventually breaks down into luxurious treasure, so, too can all these collected observations, overheard bits of conversation, and half-baked ideas. It may take a long, long time where it appears nothing is happening...but slowly all that material heats up and is composted into a story.

So here it is. What I've been doing instead of facing the page. After that initial immersion into gardening season, I've found the balance now and can write and garden. I promise to keep you posted on both.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Treated Like a Rock Star in Altamont

I had the great pleasure of being the guest author at Altamont High School in Altamont, Illinois this week. It was such fun and I was so impressed with the classy, polite students. I had two class sessions with different groups of students, a “drop in” lunch session where I hung out in the library and students came in to ask questions, and an evening public reading in the town’s gorgeous Living Museum.

All of this was orchestrated by the wonderful Mrs. Terri Simpson. Those kids are lucky to have her! She’s one of those amazing people who is the backbone of a school community (and you can tell after watching her interact with the kids for just a few seconds).

A big bonus was being hosted by my Uncle Jim and Aunt Linda, and picking up my grandmother and spending a couple of days with her. At the public event, I even pulled my Nana up on stage to draw the raffle tickets for the book give-aways. She was a good sport about it!

The students treated me like a rock star. I hope they know THEY are the stars—with their insightful, thoughtful questions and their dreams that will lead them to great places. There are some up-and-coming writers there that we will be hearing from in the years to come.

Big love and thanks to everyone in Altamont. You’ve got a pretty wonderful principal, too (not that I’m biased or anything). :-)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Blessings for Blessings

The long march of a book going from manuscript to book-for-sale-in-a-store is galloping along now. Tour dates are being set in place, galleys are here, and blurbs are coming in. I feel so blessed (I know, I know, it’s so clich├ęd to say that, with this title, but it’s true!) at the generous blurbs some writers I greatly admire have given me. (See my January blog, “Will Work for Blurb” if you’re wondering what the heck I’m talking about).

I hope it’s not a tease to show you these blurbs. Hopefully they’ll have the effect of a movie trailer on you and will make you want to mark the release date on your calendars. :-)

Here are the kind words so far:

“The absolute, spot-on ease of Katrina Kittle's writing has long made her one of my favorite authors. The Blessing of the Animals is her first novel since The Kindness of Strangers, and once again I found myself thinking that, if I were telling this story, I'd tell it exactly the same way. Because when veterinarian Cami Anderson's husband of eighteen years walks out, you can literally feel her punch to the gut. Just like you can feel the bite an abused horse gives Cami's arm, the anguish she feels watching her teenaged daughter struggle, the tentative attraction she feels when new men arrive in her life, and the love she feels for the motley assortment of rescued animals, quirky life-long friends and complicated extended family that people her world and eventually pull her through. In this story of learning to stand on your own two feet, Kittle once again proves that she can stand up with the very best storytellers of our time."
—Jill Miner, independent bookstore owner extraordinnaire (Saturn Booksellers)
"The Blessings of the Animals is a marvelous page-turner, a story of an unexpected heartbreak and the unexpected blessings that result. Loveable, fallible characters (both two-legged and four) will have you cheering their explorations of love in all its many forms and life in all its messy glory. I didn't want to put this book down!"
Ellen Baker, author of Keeping the House
"Wonderfully poignant characters and a deeply satisfying exploration of love in its many incarnations, some of them a bit furrier than others, make this novel Katrina Kittle's most insightful yet. Don't miss it!"
Lesley Kagen, New York Times best selling author of Whistling in the Dark and Tomorrow River.
"In this beautifully crafted novel, Katrina Kittle deftly illustrates the devastation of betrayal and loss, the healing power of love and compassion, and the joy and comfort that comes from knowing—and relating to—animals. A must-read not only for animal lovers, but for anyone who has found the courage to come back from heartbreak and find love again, without reservation, without fear."
Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants
I am so honored to have these amazing writers praise my work. I hope they know how much their own work inspires me and keeps me going!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Judging a Book by its Cover

I have a cover for my forthcoming novel! And I’m totally smitten with it. I’m also smitten with my brilliant publisher, Carrie Kania, for finding it (after looking at a bazillion and one images of women with horses).

Often readers are surprised to learn that authors don’t select or create their own cover art. Young readers, especially, are dismayed to learn this fact. They think I should be dismayed, too, but really, a cover is considered a marketing tool and HarperCollins has lots of people employed in their marketing and art departments who know LOTS more than I do about marketing tools, so why shouldn’t I trust them?

Especially since people DO indeed judge books by their covers.

The cover—rather than 100% accurately depicting a character or place from the story—should evoke a certain emotional reaction. It’s not so important that a figure of a person look exactly like your main character as it is the image makes a shopper pause, feel something, and pick up the book to explore further.

An uninteresting cover doesn’t stop me from buying a book I already knew about and was going to buy anyway…but I know from experience that breathtaking, unusual, or intriguing cover art has often led me to discover new fiction I might otherwise have missed.

What I love about this cover for The Blessings of the Animals is that not only does it suggest (rightly) that a woman and a horse will be key players, but it speaks to me of love, of trust, of comfort (which one is comforting the other, or is it mutual?), and even hope (grass that shade of green can only be springtime). Combined with the title, hopefully it will compel potential readers to want to know more. That’s always the goal…and only time will tell!

We are now six months from the publication date (August 3) and it's really beginning to feel "real."