Spring is finally here! Ahhh.The sunshine and warmer temperatures energize me, making want to wake up earlier and stay up later. More hours equal more writing time! Querying, submitting, critiquing and just plain creating! It’s been great getting more chapters in on my new YA paranormal romance – book three of the Whisper Trilogy. It’s also been amazing to keep in touch with and follow all of the amazing writers I met at the Algonkian NY Pitch conference.
This week, I would like to introduce the first person I met at the conference, the wonderful Kathy Ramsperger. I’ll never forget the first time I talked to Kathy, I thought to myself – Wow – this woman is the real deal. She’s a journalist, and she has her own communications company! I knew right away I had a lot to learn from her.
Kathryn Brown Ramsperger wrote her first story in fourth grade, but she began loving stories long before that. She grew up sitting on her grandparents' front porch swing, listening to her relatives weave their stories of the day. After receiving her B.A. at Hollins University, she felt a pull to see the world, so she became a journalist, and then a humanitarian worker with the Red Cross. She's lived and worked in Europe and Africa and has a special interest in the Middle East. Her most recent story will appear in the Spring 2015 issue of forgejournal.com. She's written one other novel that received the Hollins Fiction award. She also writes for online publications. Her writing, fiction and nonfiction, is about the connections between (often very different) people. She lives and writes in Maryland with her husband, two teens, and two cats.
1. What kind of writing do you do - novels, poetry, screenplays, etc.... When did you start writing and why?
Maybe I started writing by chance. I never remember not writing poems and songs.
I used to say, "Give me a subject. Give me a genre. And I'll write about it." I wrote my first story in fourth grade about a jack-o-lantern who came to life. A story I wrote in high school won an award, and so I majored in English instead of Music or Biology. I've never stopped writing because I simply can't. I've tried to run away from it, and I also do humanitarian work and life coaching. Yet writing feeds my soul.
I had to make money, and journalism fell into my lap through an internship. I published poetry and stories along the way. Once I published articles in National Geographic and Kiplinger publications, and I headed the International Red Cross publications department in Geneva, Switzerland, I knew writing would always be part of me. I also write online, with articles on Yahoo Parenting, yourtango.com and thegoodmenproject.com. I consider it a job, but I also consider it a meditation, a way to put two and two together to see the bigger picture.
These days I'm more selective about what I write, though. I write about how human connection can heal us. How we're more similar than different. I always wanted to get back to writing fiction - what I went to college to learn how to do. I won an award for a Young Adult novel in college, but I never tried to publish it because I was too perfectionistic at the time. Called Moments on the Edge, it's about the connections between two women, one coming of age in the Industrial Revolution, the other coming of age in the 1970s, during the Space Age, a revolution in technology and communication. Most people know this era as one of sex, drugs and rock and roll, but it was much more.
After surviving melanoma in 1999, and facing all sorts of terrorism in my neighborhood in 2001 and 2002, I decided I finally needed to write and try to publish a novel. I also wanted to write a novel that would heal the rifts between continents, many of them reverberating to this day. Writing and revising what I'm now calling The Shores of Our Souls was the easy part. Its road to publishing has been long. Yet those words I wrote, no matter what happens now, will leave a legacy and a goal accomplished. That's the message I'd like to leave all writers: Just write.
2. What are you currently working on?
My most recent story is published in the April issue of Forge. (forgejournal.com) It's called, "A Rug, A Piano, A Quilt, A Voice."
My current novel has a new title following Algonkian. The Shores of Our Souls, formerly Incongruent, tells the story of two people from opposite sides of the world, differing in culture, race, nation, gender, and age, and their journey together towards healing. Dianna meets Qasim and falls for his educated charm and adventure. Yet she has trouble trusting him, more because of her own past than because of his mercurial moods, which ebb and flow as civil war expands in his homeland - 1980s Lebanon. Dianna, immersed in her own challenges, doesn't realize that Qasim is as fractured by family and societal expectations as she. Her own secrets, which brought her to New York City, keep a wall between them, much more than their differences. Yet life continues to reunite them each time they run away from each other, Dianna ending up in Sudan's civil war and Qasim rising through the ranks at the U.N. Both caring for families back home. Can they sidestep society, tradition, and their own hearts to find love and peace?
By the way, the novel's title is derived from a Khalil Gibran quote: "Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls."
3. Do you outline, or do you write by the seat of your pants?
I fly by the seat of my pants in almost everything in life. I like adventure. In writing, I come back to earth after the first draft. I outline, then revise, then outline again. I also use Christopher Vogler's The Writer's Journey to help me plot once my major scenes are written. He wrote this Jungian-based how-to for screenwriters to use, and I usually see my books play out like a movie if I close my eyes, so it was perfect for me. It connected my right-brained writing approach to a logical plotting method - a marriage made in heaven. I also graph my stories if I get stuck to see if the action is rising and falling in the right places. If you connect voice, plot, and setting to the heartbeat of a story arc, you're on your way to a good story.
4. What was your impression of the Algonkian Pitch conference, and how did it specifically help you in your journey as a writer?
I'd been marketing my novel for quite some time, and I'd taken all the comments I'd received to heart. Some of these comments were objective and true; others were based on myth. The Algonkian Pitch conference separated fact from fiction and directed me forward. As Michael Neff explains in pre-conference exercises, "The pitch wags the novel." I’m now on my way again - not only to a better pitch but to a well-crafted, well-organized novel. While in New York City, I made connections I wouldn't otherwise have made, including our workshop leader, Susan Breen, one of the best teachers I've ever met. This conference gives writers a way to meet with the insiders in publishing and to learn from them face-to-face. I returned home with a plan for revision and, I hope, publication. And I want to express my gratitude to everyone who was there!
5. Top 5 favorite books?
Most books have transformed my life. These are the dog-eared books I carry around and re-read:
Middlemarch by George Eliot (pen name for Mary Ann Evans)
East of Eden by John Steinbeck
Letters to a Young Poet by Ranier Rilke
The Eye of the Story by Eudora Welty
Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott
Just one more? The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
6. Where can your readers find you?
You can find more about my novel at kathrynbrownramsperger.com.
You can also reach out to me here:
groundonecoaching.com (I coach Creatives.)