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/blogger Cherise Hensley 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.
AUTHORNOMICS Interview with author, editor, and writing coach William Kenower
William Kenower is the Editor-in-Chief of Author magazine, an online magazine for writers and dedicated readers. He writes a popular daily blog for the magazine about the intersection of writing and our daily lives, and has interviewed hundreds of writers of every genre. He also hosts the online radio program Author2Author where every week he and a different guest discuss the books we write and the lives we lead. To learn more about William, go to williamkenower.com.
As a lecturer, writing coach, blogger, and Internet radio show host how do you still find the time to write? What keeps you motivated?
I set aside two to three hours every morning to work on non-Author writing projects, and then I spend about 30 minutes to an hour writing my daily blog/column. I do my best to keep the time commitment to Author under control. If it were to take over my life completely, I would begin to resent it.
As for motivation, I love what I do. I love to write, I love to write about writing, and I love to talk to writers
What types of books do you write? Do you have any new ones coming out in the near future?
I wrote fiction for many years, but I am currently finishing a memoir of sorts called No One Is Broken. I’ve been working with the agent Loretta Barrett on the project, and once it’s done – probably in six months or so – we’ll see where she sells it.
Also, I’ve assembled a collection of my essays (Write Within Yourself; An Author’s Companion), which I’ll be publishing soon, though I haven’t decided exactly when and with whom. All of that is being worked out.
Do you believe writing impacts our daily lives or is it vice versa? Why? Can you elaborate a bit more on why you think people write? Please share some of your insights on the joys and fears involved in being an author.
I could write an entire book on this subject – in fact, I have (see question 2). The central theme of my columns, my interviews, and my radio show is: “What it takes to write the book we most want to write is also what it takes to lead the life we most want to lead.” Life is creative. Every choice we make in life is creative, is another word on the blank page of our life. Writing has taught me that every single choice I make matters, that those choices ARE my life.
People write, in part, because they want to create deliberately instead of accidentally. Whether they understand it or not, they want the opportunity to ask, “What would I like to see more of in the world? How would I like to fill a blank page?”
The joys and the fears of writing have everything to do with that blank page. There is no right answer for how to fill it. The only right answer is what interests you most, what pleases you most, what inspires you most. No one can tell you if what you have written is correct or incorrect. Only you, the author, will ever know this. This is really true of our whole lives, but this fact is soon made overwhelming clear to a writer.
As a writing coach and lecturer, what are your go-to tips for aspiring writers?
Write the book you would want to read. You will find plenty of advice on the craft of writing out there, and most it will say the same things about active voice and showing and not telling and narrative arcs and so on. All of it is true and useful in its own way, but nothing will serve you better than writing the book you most want to write, the book you would most like to read. This connection to the work will provide the patience and curiosity necessary to write what we call “a good book.”
Your blog http://www.authormagazine.org/editors_blog/ is effective in both design and content. What tips do you have for authors or interviewers wanting to start or improve their blog?
As seen above, write the blog you would want to read. I wrote the column/blog I would want to read. I wasn’t reading this kind of advice anywhere, so I wrote it. What’s more, a lot of times I’m really writing to myself, writing what it is I long to hear. I know that if I share what I find most valuable there will be someone else who finds it valuable. This has proven to be so. The more I allow myself to share what I find valuable, the more the readership grows.
As Editor-in-Chief for Author magazine, what are your goals for publishing the magazine?
My goal is to create a place where writers can learn what it means to be an author – not just a writer, but an author. The writer writes the work, but the author is tasked with sharing it. The author gets the rejection letters and acceptance letters, read the reviews and deals with the editors and the agents. The author is the one who confronts the unknown that is other people’s opinions. Every author I interview is still learning how to live happily as an author. I hope the magazine provides a place where people can find support, encouragement, and a reminder that they are not alone in this journey.
In that capacity, you interact with and interview many interesting people in the publishing industry and beyond. How do you come up with interesting questions for them?
My approach is to not try to come up with any questions until I meet the person I will interview. The author provides all I need. My job is to listen closely to what they are saying and find what interests them and pursue this. Yes, I am frequently tempted to write some questions down ahead of time, but I have learned this does not improve the interviews at all. In fact, these kinds of questions often make the interviews worse, because they take us out of the natural flow that is already present.
Can you tell us more about Author2Author, your live Internet radio show? What made you choose radio and how has the radio format been rewarding for you? What are some of the challenges you have faced in doing a live show every week?
I wanted a format that was more of a conversation than a traditional interview. It’s still an interview show, technically, but I give myself more leeway to participate in the conversation. I also wanted it to be live so that listeners could join in if they were so inclined. It’s been a great experience so far. The conversations have gotten better and better. The greatest challenge is not to think about it during the day of the show. Just the fact that I’m going to be live gives me a bit of that performance anxiety.
Who are some of your favorite authors that you have interviewed and what have you learned from talking to them?
That’s a tough one. I would say Richard Bach for sure. He’s a very wise and relaxed man who understood and was very comfortable talking about the spiritual connection to writing. Also Geneen Roth, who wrote Women, Food, and God. She’s wise, funny, and felt like a friend as soon as I shook her hand. Andre Dubus III taught me many things during our two conversations, one of my favorites being we write with our bodies more than our minds.
But I feel funny distinguishing. It is always my goal, when I meet a new author, to make a friend of him or her. I learn something about myself and about life every time I make a friend, even in this small way. Everyone brings a distinct perspective, and to be friendly with that perspective is to be that much more open to life. It’s really a great opportunity, these interviews, these conversations. Because they’re so focused, we can dive right into what matters most to us, which is a great way to meet someone.
Do you have an upcoming projects or events that we can look out for? Will you be presenting next summer at the PNWA conference?
I’ve begun something called The Author’s Roundtable, which will meet the first Thursday of every month at East West Bookshop in Seattle. This will be a chance to talk to me and other writers about the unique challenges of being an author/writer. And yes, I will for sure be presenting again at the PNWA, most likely my Author’s Master Class. Hope to see you there!
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.
Cherise Hensley is an English/Marketing major at Whitworth University. She has interned with Andrea Hurst Literary Management as well as the Rock & Sling literary journal. She has been involved in the production of other print media such as newspapers, magazines, and yearbooks. Cherise is an editor and a writer, and loves discovering new books to distract her from everyday life.