With a publishing industry that is ever in flux, it can be hard for an aspiring author to figure out what information is relevant and what she needs to do to be successful. Recognizing this, literary agent Andrea Hurst and writer and blogger Katie Flanagan present a series of weekly interviews with publishing industry specialists. The AUTHORNOMICS Series features literary agents, editors, authors, marketing experts and more talking about their opinions on the publishing industry, writing, and what a writer needs to know.
Interview with Bill Kenower, founder of Author Magazine
1. You are editor-in-chief and founder of Author magazine. What was your inspiration for starting the magazine?
My Hollywood pitch for Author would be: Writer’s Digest meets The Secret. I wanted to create a writing magazine that provided more than advice on craft and publishing. I felt there were lots of great magazines out there already providing that information. In my experience, it was not always so difficult to learn how to write a story or a query letter, but it was consistently challenging to cope with the fear and uncertainty that can and frequently do go hand-in-hand with this profession. My focus in the interviews, in my daily column, and in some of the articles I buy is: How do you learn not just to author your books, but become the author of your own life?
2. What are some of the benefits reading your magazine can offer writers?
Companionship. At Author you can watch and listen to established and first-time authors talk about the experience of becoming writers, of sitting down every day to a blank page, of being rejected, of not knowing how to finish a story, of hating the middle. Everyone goes through it, but at your desk you can sometimes forget this. Author, I hope, reminds you that you are not in fact alone.
3. You live in Seattle, Washington, as do a number of our guests. Can you tell us about the literary scene there?
Seattle is lousy with writers. I interview writers from all over the country, but I could easily limit myself just to Seattle and never run out of writers. Seattle also has a great reading population. We are always a part of book tours both nationally and internationally. Aside from New York, I can’t think of a better town for a writer to live in – and it’s lot cheaper here than in NY, and the winters are warmer!
4. You have also been a game writer, actor, playwright, sommelier, and bartender. How have those diverse experiences helped you as a writer and editor?
All those experiences taught me about life. Writing classes and magazine are great, reading books is great, but nothing will teach you more than life itself. Writing is just translating what I learned when not writing.
5. You often speak to groups about the writing life. What are some of the struggles people most often ask you for help with, and what is the best piece of advice you give?
People want to know how to be successful. That’s always the biggest question. How can I be a successful writer? The answer: Write what you love. The only question a writer should ever ask him or herself is not, “What do agents want?” or, “How can I get a big contract?” or, “What markets are hot right now?” but rather, “What do I most want to say?” If you answer that successfully, your job is done.
See above. Also, trust. I never really know what I’m going to write about every day, but I have found that if I trust myself, if I ask, “What’s the very best thing I can share today?” something comes. It’s a great discipline, writing a short column every day. There’s no time to doubt yourself.
7. You work in various capacities with Pacific Northwest Writers Association. How do you interact with them on a professional level?
The PNWA is great. Not only do they fund Author, they also provide all kinds of support for local writers. If you’re not a member, become one. Technically, I am a member of the board. In that capacity, I help mostly with rounding up writers for the yearly conference. In truth, the other board members are the ones who put the conference together, and put the monthly meetings together. I am amazed at how much this small and unpaid group of people gets done.
8. What are some of the most interesting interviews you have done for the magazine?
That’s a tough one, but here goes: Andre Dubus because he is so eloquent about the link between his life and his work; Henry Winkler because he spoke so compassionately about a subject near and dear to me; Geneen Roth because she is one of the wisest and most articulate people I have ever met; Sir Ken Robinson because he showed me how to talk about the things you love with humor and precision; Richard Bach because he showed how easy success should feel.
And finally, Somaly Mam. Of all the people I have met because of Author, none has affected me as profoundly as Somaly Mam. After thirty minutes with this woman I understood unquestionably that suffering is nothing and love is everything. It was a done deal after that.
9. For anyone interested in starting a writing-related magazine, what advice would you offer them?
Create the magazine you can’t find on the internet or the newsstand. Create the magazine you’ve been looking for.
10. Do you have any upcoming projects or events to keep an eye out for?
I am currently working on a memoir of sorts called No One Is Broken, about how raising a son on the autism spectrum taught the meaning of life. I will be sure to let everyone know once we have our publisher lined up!
Andrea Hurst has over 25 years experience as a published author, developmental editor for publishers, and skilled literary agent. She works with both major and regional publishing houses, and her client list includes emerging new voices and New York Times best-selling authors. Andrea represents high profile Adult Nonfiction and well crafted fiction. Her clients and their books have appeared on the Oprah Show, Ellen DeGeneres Show, Good Morning America, National Geographic network and in the New York Times.
Katie Flanagan is a fiction major at Northwestern University. She is currently an editor with Booktrope and a reader for Pink Fish Press. In the past, she has interned with Andrea Hurst Literary Management and the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts. Her favorite genre is women’s fiction, but she reads any fiction put in front of her. Check out her blog about the writing life at katieflanagan.wordpress.com and follow her on Twitter at @K_Flanagan.