The Writer Mama Back-to-School Giveaway 2009, Day Fifteen

thirstyWelcome to week three of the Writer Mama Back-to-School Giveaway! I’m kicking this week off with a copy of Writers on the Rise columnist Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s debut novel Thirsty.

About Thirsty:

It is 1883, and all of Klara Bozic’s girlish dreams have come crashing down as she arrives in Thirsty, a gritty steel town carved into the slopes above the Monongahela River just outside of Pittsburgh. She has made a heartbreaking discovery. Her new husband, Drago, is as abusive as the father she left behind in Croatia.

In Kristin Bair O’Keeffe’s debut novel, Klara’s life unfolds over forty years as she struggles to find her place in a new country where her survival depends on the friends who nurture her: gutsy, funny Katherine Zupanovic, who isn’t afraid of Drago’s fist; BenJo, the only black man in Thirsty to have his own shop; and strangely enough, Old Man Rupert, the town drunk.

Thirsty follows a chain of unlikely events that keep Klara’s spirit aloft: a flock of angelic butterflies descends on Thirsty; Klara gives birth to her first child in Old Man Rupert’s pumpkin patch; and BenJo gives her a talking bird. When Klara’s daughter marries a man even more brutal than Drago, Klara is forced to act. If she doesn’t break the cycle of violence in her family, her granddaughters will one day walk the same road, broken and bruised. As the threads that hold her family together fray and come undone, Klara must decide whether she has the courage to carve out a peaceful spot in the world for herself and her girls.

Author Bio:

Born and raised in Pittsburgh’s steel-making milieu (before the crash of the industry in the 1980s), Kristin BairKristin O’Keeffe has always been enamored with steel, the Steel City, and the history of the immigrant families who settled there. Her interest led to her first published poem in the mid 1980s (“Crumbling Steeples”) and now her first novel Thirsty.

Over the past few years, Kristin has written for a variety of publications, including the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Poets & Writers Magazine, The Baltimore Review, San Diego Family Magazine, and The Gettysburg Review. Her column—The Fiction Writing Workshop—appears monthly in Writers on the Rise.

With a B.A. in English and journalism from Indiana University and an M.F.A. in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago, Kristin has always combined her love of writing with teaching. She is a passionate writing instructor with fifteen years of workshop experience at U.S. colleges and universities, including Boston College, Endicott College, Montserrat College of Art, University of New Hampshire, and Columbia College Chicago.

Currently Kristin lives in Shanghai, China, with her husband and daughter where she writes, teaches fiction and nonfiction writing, blogs about her adventures (and misadventures) around the world, and curates Out Loud! The Shanghai Writers Literary Salon. She’d love to hear from you on Twitter or Facebook.

If you are new to the giveaway, please read “Da Rules.”

Today you get to choose between two questions…

Kristin is a great example of perseverance and how it pays off in the long run. While not every literary pursuit is suited for publication, can you think of any projects you might be willing to work on for the long haul…maybe even for over a decade?  Tell us how you are (or aren’t) cut out for this kind of stick-with-it-ness.


Ever tried to write anything from a historical perspective? Tell us about your project and your process.

Answer one question in 50-200 words, please. 🙂

Before you go! WE HAVE A CAUSE TO RAISE MONEY FOR THIS YEAR! Please read the story about the Applin family here and consider making a small contribution at some point during the giveaway. We’re aiming for $100/day collectively. Please help us help the Applin family adopt two beautiful children from Russia. 🙂


31 Responses to “The Writer Mama Back-to-School Giveaway 2009, Day Fifteen”

  1. 1 Karrie Z Myton September 15, 2009 at 4:39 am

    Hmm. Well, I certainly hope that I am cut out for that kind of persistence. I am working on a book now (ok, I’m posting here instead of working like I should be). I got the idea for it about 10 years ago. I finished a rough draft last January. And I’m rewriting, rewriting, rewriting right now.

    All while I’m working on non-fiction, too, because I just can’t let that stuff go. Oh, yes. And teaching. And having a family. And…well doing all the same things that most everyone here is doing.

    May we all enjoy our long term projects:)

  2. 2 writethejourney September 15, 2009 at 6:08 am

    I’m the kind of person who naturally works on things over a long period of time. I do best when I let an idea marinate or the consequences of a decision unfold in my mind. Since I’m new to writing for pay, the specific subject/niche/project hasn’t surfaced yet, but I have had glimmers about what subject I could work on for the long haul.

    I could see myself honing in on one or two political issues, perhaps the death penalty or gun control (as mentioned yesterday). I’ve also thought about writing on my faith journey (a memoir?) or pursuing work as a columnist (although I’m not sure that’s the kind of “long-term” you mean here).

  3. 3 Cara Holman September 15, 2009 at 6:52 am

    Fiction writing, novels, short stories, poetry, haiku, creative nonfiction, flash fiction, anthologies, personal essay, memoir, slice-of-life vignettes, historical fiction… there’s so much out there to pick and choose from! But if I had to pinpoint one project today that I’d want to spend the next decade on, it would be compiling anthologies.

    I love what Chicken Soup for the Soul and Cup of Comfort are doing! There’s something so incredibly empowering about giving voice to ordinary people. Through involvement in two local community writing groups, I’ve come to learn first-hand just how much writing talent is out there. I’d love to tap into that, and help others make their dreams of becoming a published author come true!

  4. 4 Daree Allen September 15, 2009 at 8:38 am

    I’m feeling pretty determined to work on my project for a while, too. My book is for the older teen girl/young woman, and I need to build up more stories by mentoring and counseling my audience first.

  5. 5 Meryl Evans September 15, 2009 at 8:43 am

    I’m not cut out for a writing project that could last years. This isn’t the same thing as working for a client for years — but rather refers to a book or other long-term writing project. I don’t have the time or patience. While this type of project is more about the journey, this is just too long of one for me.

  6. 6 Joanna September 15, 2009 at 8:45 am

    The long term project has always felt a little intimidating to me, and so far I’ve been concentrating on personal essays and articles, the type of writing that can be completed in short amounts of time. But I find myself ruminating on what it would be like to chronicle the travels I did in my early twenties. I love travel writing and read a lot of it (and know how hard it is to sell it!). So far I haven’t dived in but it keeps percolating. The other genre I have recently become interested in is young adult fiction. I read it alongside my daughter and I keep thinking how fun it would be to read a book about a kid from the 70’s, my childhood era — specifically a child who came from the counter culture. It was a unique time. So we’ll see. Maybe these things will come clear.

  7. 7 Julie S September 15, 2009 at 8:49 am

    History? YES!

    I would love to write historical fiction using some very colorful characters from my family’s past. I have slowly been gathering information, talking with my parents and browsing through all of the fabulous research that they have done.

    I don’t know anything about writing fiction and I am not at that place in my life or my career right now; however, the idea stews and someday I hope I’ll have time to write some of the story–even if it is just for myself and my children.

  8. 8 Fantastic Forrest September 15, 2009 at 8:57 am

    I’ve been doing research for a historical novel, and have discovered some surprising challenges. Professional historians sometimes make mistakes. For example, when I consulted a history of Ft. Vancouver, there were factual errors about some of the people who lived there. I’d examined some census data which conflicted with the historian’s account. So I don’t trust secondhand sources.

    In a bizarre twist, I found that some firsthand accounts of a person’s life aren’t always accurate either. One of my novel’s characters is an officer at Ft. Vancouver. I’d read on a history professor’s website that this officer had traveled to a place with a famous naturalist. When I investigated the source of that statement, it was a speech the officer gave in the late 1800’s. But the naturalist did not, in fact, travel with him. His first visit to the place was extremely well documented, and it was after the officer made the journey.

    I’d be interested to read Thirsty, as it takes place during the same time period as the novel I’m writing.

    Ultimately, one does the best they can, but

  9. 9 Kris Lozano September 15, 2009 at 9:03 am

    One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I like new ideas. I don’t know that I have anything in my life I’d feel sufficiently passionate about to write for the long haul. Therefore, I am encouraged to start writing magazine articles. I like that they are current, relevant and have an expiration date, so to speak. I have yet to submit and I’m scared to death but I decided today that I’m going to seriously approach my writing as a new business and stop just messing around. I’m going to write a business plan and daily/weekly/monthly goals.

  10. 10 Beth Vogt September 15, 2009 at 9:44 am

    I think anyone walking the writing road now has to have perseverence. There’s no telling what the writing world is going to look like next year–or five years from now.

    And, yes, this avowed non-fiction writer has considered writing historical fiction. I’ve even started cataloguing my research. Every nugget I dig up makes me realize how much more digging I have to do if I want to get the history of the story right–and then there’s the characters and the dialogue and the conflict …
    and is historical fiction even selling?!

    One thing I’ve done is connect with another expert in the field. She keeps hooking me up with other experts, other books to read, other things to think about. It’s invaluable to have my narrow vision of the book –the world — broadened.

  11. 11 karen k September 15, 2009 at 9:47 am

    I am a long-haul sort of writer. When I began the journey of learning how to write, I jumped in thinking I would do everything all at once. I now know that I am growing into a writer. My long haul project is also something that I’m growing into, as I mature and gather more life experience, I pour it into my project. I think it will be worth the wait.

  12. 12 Susan Heim September 15, 2009 at 9:52 am

    When I was a teenager, I devoured historical fiction. I especially loved Victoria Holt’s books. As an adult, I loved Jane Austen, and still do. So, as a writer, I’ve attempted to write historical fiction, but it’s all convinced me that I just don’t know enough about life in previous centuries. It really takes a lot of research to write those kinds of books! I just picked up a copy of “What Jane Austen Ate and Charles Dickens Knew” in an effort to educate myself and, hopefully, write a historical novel some day.

  13. 13 Beth Cato September 15, 2009 at 9:56 am

    I love historical fiction, but I write very little because the details intimidate me. However, when I saw a call for stories that blended sci fi/fantasy and western, I immediately was struck by a concept based on an actual historical event (the Mussel Slough Tragedy) near my hometown in 1880. Using speculative fiction elements gave me some flexibility – such as adding some advanced technology from the Civil War – but I still needed the right feel for the time period. I read through several books I had on that time period in central California, and researched online. The end result was a 6,000-word story that blended historical fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, western, and a bit of steampunk.

    It paid off. “Promise in the Dust” was published in the May issue of Crossed Genres and is available in print form from Amazon, too.

  14. 14 Tonja September 15, 2009 at 10:05 am

    If ever there was a quality of mine that I deem very good and very bad at the same time, it would be my attention to detail. I have long desired to write a good fiction story that expands on historical references. This can be very difficult as a detail oriented writer to get the facts “just right” if I never experienced that part of history. The next best thing I can do is to choose events in history that I can relate to. For example, I grew up in West Virginia and have become fascinated with its coal mining heritage. While my family was not a coal mining family, I can relate to the story because I grew up surrounded by this way of life and knew generations of coal miners. This process solidifies the story and allows a connection that I wouldn’t otherwise get. I have excellent resources and the desire to present the best possible story about a heritage others never experienced. I can read about the events and imagine how they transpired. This personal connection is my greatest tool.

  15. 15 Liz September 15, 2009 at 10:48 am

    At one point in my life, I think I had it in me to work on a project for a long time. But in the last several years, maybe since having kids, I’ve found that I do well with instant gratification. That being said, it may be that as life slows down again at some point, I could get back into the groove of slower writing. But for now, I thrive on getting words on the page, sent off…and hopefully receiving a quick reply: YES!

  16. 16 Lisa S. September 15, 2009 at 11:22 am

    I think I am someone who could work on a project for a long time. Although at this point I can’t say that I have done that yet. But I’ve had a lot of different ideas percolating around my head for many years and have just begun work on one. I will work on it then walk away from it for months. It frees my mind to then come back with a clear head and fresh perspective. And hopefully some new ideas. I believe perserverence pays off. At least I hope it does.

  17. 17 Kathryn Lang September 15, 2009 at 11:46 am

    While not every literary pursuit is suited for publication, can you think of any projects you might be willing to work on for the long haul…maybe even for over a decade?

    I think that taking my family history that my grandmother spent most of her life putting together and putting it into story form would be worth the long haul. It is something that she always wanted to do herself but never had the opportunity and when she had the time she had less time than she realized.

    Tell us how you are (or aren’t) cut out for this kind of stick-with-it-ness.

    Sticking to something is not my problem – it’s being consistent along the way. I know that if I took the time to get her notes AND had them organized AND made time every day to work with the information that I could push through. Okay – consistency AND organization are the two things that help my stick with it.

  18. 18 Maribeth September 15, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    I have to say today especially I feel like I climbed a mountain. Eight years ago, I had an epiphany. I was searching for my purpose when a little witch at a Halloween stand gave me it. When I saw her, a story came to mind and I went home and wrote it. Writing down things was common for me but I never viewed it as more than a hobby. That day, I realized writing was and will always be my passion. I enrolled in a children’s writing course, joined a critique group and started writing every day.
    Four years ago, the idea for my first novel entered my mind and I began a journey. After four years, two courses,three Meet the Editors and hundreds of hours spent editing I have officially sent out the query and first three chapters of my middle-grade novel.
    I have always been a procrastinator. If I knew at the beginning how persistent you had to be in this business I may have talked myself out of it. I now know I have the will to keep going. Persistence is only achieved if what you are going after is something you are determined to get.

  19. 19 Lorraine Wilde September 15, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    Its so exciting to live through other authors vicariously! Spike days seem so festive and high energy!

    Can I work on something for the long-haul, for a decade? I think I could, as long as it was something with new aspects or avenues. I love to learn new things and over the years have tended to become bored with my job or a topic after about 2 years. So the subject would need to be broad and deep, to allow for my desire for new information and experience. Writing has been filling that role very well. At this point, if I actually get to write all the articles and books for which I have ideas, an entire decade will have past!

    Of course, timelines must be flexible and relative when we’re also trying to squeeze in full enjoyable lives that revolve around our children and spouses. I’m getting better at not worrying about the time ticking by, and just focusing on whether or not I’m making progress.


  20. 20 Joyce Lansky September 15, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    I wrote and queried a short story about life in Ireland in the 1400s. I tend to be a fiction writer but still had fun writing something historical. I got the idea by visiting Ross Castle in Killarney, Ireland. The lack of cleanliness was thoroughly disgusting but probably way cool for a kid. I filled in my memory gaps through great internet websites and am waiting to hear from Cricket Magazine.

  21. 21 Renee Roberson September 15, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    I will always love writing, and like Meryl, I have no problem with long-term clients, but I sometimes feel like I’m not focused enough for a long-term project. I hope to prove myself wrong! I have an idea for a novel that is near and dear to my heart, and I’m slowly working on it. The difficult thing is carving out time to work on it because it’s not like having a non-fiction book advance. I also have to work on my paying work first! I guess I’ll have to be persistent and just bank on surviving on little sleep so that I too can have an Amazon spike day just like Kristin!

  22. 22 Mar Junge, c3PR September 15, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    Considering that I’ve been working on two historical novels for at least five years, what’s another five? My first is a YA novel is about the plight of Gypsies in Europe. I have stacks of 3×5 cards with research notes categorized by subject that I’ve collected over the years. As the subject matter fascinates me, I devote time to this project when I can squeeze it in. The second is about a horrific train wreck in the late 1880s. For that project I’ve listed my research sources to pursue and read some period stuff, but not much more. Still, it’s a story waiting to be told and I’m convinced that I’ll be the one to tell it. I love historical fiction and have no problem building up my library of facts until I have time to craft the story, even if it takes several decades.

  23. 23 Carrie Ure September 15, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Stick-with-it-ness is my biggest challenge. Change has been adaptive for me, but it’s time to land the plane. I struggle to imagine staying with one topic, one job, one genre or one man. Yet after giving birth to a child almost 13 years ago, I have tried to stand still when I can. You could say that I have persevered at persevering. I have two dreams aside from raising my child to be an emotionally secure adult. One is to have a writing career, no matter what it takes. The second is to get married and have a lifelong companion in my sweetheart, Brian. I know that these goals will continue to challenge me and that I will want to give up. So I’m starting small. I promised myself to post every day on the back-to-school book giveaway and today I am halfway there!

  24. 24 Brianne A September 15, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    If I were to work on a writing project for the long haul, it would have to be something that I have a lot of lasting passion for. When I’m working on a long project that spans over a few years, there are times when I’m really into it, and then I get busy with other things, or I need a break. When this happens, I put the project away for a while and come back to it again when the mood strikes and I have a fresh perspective.

  25. 25 chloe September 15, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    I think the longest I have worked on a project was five years, and it was not writing.

    The memoir I am working on now takes place over the period of a year, and I anticipate working on it for at least two.

    I am working on short story fiction at the same time, for a little fun in between.

  26. 26 writerinspired September 15, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    Well, if you know me, you know my family motto: Never Give Up! The novel I’ve been writing and hiding and then writing again started back in the 90’s I think. Well, maybe not that far back. But, I do love my characters and their world. I feel that I need more writing experience to do their story justice, and I need a trip to Ghana West Africa where one main character is from. I’ve even been browsing a Twi language dictionary for Na’s character. Maybe someday, Christina, you’ll be posting my Amazon Spike Day! : ) Can’t wait to read Thirsty – even if I don’t win this one…

  27. 27 Laural September 15, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    I have to be in for the long-term, because in the day-to-day it sometimes feels like there is not much movement. Some days there is the accomplishment of a query sent or an editor reply, but mostly I have to focus on small steps, or look back at a month or season or year to say, yeah, progress.

    Perseverance required, oh yes. But writing for me is occurring in bursts of productivity between interludes of the busyness of everything else in life. Staying the course is rewarding though, and you never know what may come your way or spark a new direction.

  28. 28 Rene Eyerly September 15, 2009 at 8:49 pm

    Perseverence is my middle name. Even if I back off of a task or challenge for a bit, I don’t tend to give up. In my line of work, most successes come through slow, steady, sometimes almost imperceptible progress. I love the idea of writing a book some day. I’m not there yet. Working on articles and essays suits me better at this point. But in that work, I see building my portfolio as progress towards bigger things. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres to read. As a teenager, it was the only way I could tolerate my history classes. It put meat on the facts and presented a gateway to history (whether or not it is accurately recorded in textbooks).

  29. 29 Sarah Lindsey September 15, 2009 at 11:31 pm

    At this point in my literary pursuits, I have realized that practice and perseverance are essential if I plan to achieve my goals. While most of the projects that I am currently working on do not usually take more than a couple weeks to complete, I am working on a screenplay that is based loosely on the life of my great grandmother…so in a sense, I guess it is being written from a historical perspective. I really enjoy the time that I get to spend on my screenplay, but I am hoping to finish it within a year. The one project that I hope to maintain for many years to come is daily journaling…I love the ability to keep my most precious memories alive!

  1. 1 Day Fifteen: And the winner is… « The Writer Mama Riffs Trackback on September 16, 2009 at 9:26 am
  2. 2 The 2009 Giveaway List: The Writer Mama Back-To-School Giveaway Starts Tuesday, September 1st! « The Writer Mama Riffs Trackback on September 24, 2009 at 6:39 pm
Comments are currently closed.

Christina Katz's Facebook profile

Whatcha lookin’ for?

September 2009
« Aug   Oct »

My Latest Flickr Photos

Top Clicks

  • None

Blog Stats

  • 187,259 Visitors

%d bloggers like this: