The Writing Academy staff was pretty excited to have a face-to-face with Kimberly Cooper Griffin this week. On the one hand, we had a little trouble keeping up. (We think she might have accidentally dipped into the fully-caffeinated pot of coffee this morning.) On the other hand, we absolutely love her, even when she’s bouncing off the walls.
When Kimberly was in the WA, we could always count on her to be the one who would speak if the instructor asked for questions or comments. We always hope for at least one extrovert in every class. Do you know how awkward it is to ask for questions and hear nothing but heavy-breathing?
Luckily, we didn’t run out of things to say. Keep reading for the excellent interview.
What inspired you to sign up for the GCLS Writing Academy?
The first time I heard about the GCLS Writing Academy was at the Chicago Conference. I think it was in the opening presentation when the members of that year’s class were presented with their diplomas by the engaging, gorgeous, and charismatic director, Beth Burnett. (Ed. Note. We didn’t pay her to say that.) I saw their glowing faces and knew I wanted to be part of it.
Do you have any writing rituals? Anything you must have with you to have a good writing session? A ceramic frog planter, maybe?
Oh yeah! Absolutely. To be a good writer, one must have a ritual. First, I brew a cup of coffee in one of my favorite Been There Series Starbucks mugs. I know it will be a good writing day when the location printed on the mug matches the location I’m writing about in my WIP. Today, I’m drinking from a Boston mug and my scene is in New York, so I know it’s only going to be a moderately good writing day. Don’t ask me why I don’t just go get the New York mug. Suffice it to say, you just can’t force this kind of thing. I drink the first cup of coffee while hanging out with my dogs and thinking about the story I’m writing. Once the boys are sufficiently loved upon, I brew another cup, and while that’s going, I check Twitter and try to avoid political stuff while checking on some of my favorite writers. This always gives me inspiration. An hour or so later, I remember my coffee, which is now cold, and go heat it up. Then, I go to my office and get cracking on the writing. I open the doc and read a bit of the previous day’s work to get my juices flowing. More often than not, the juices are too judgey, so I take a break and go on Facebook to lift my spirits. An hour of that generally gets me going again, so I brew another cup of coffee and, avoiding the previous day’s work, I throw down some more words. My goal is at least two thousand words a day. That’s approximately three to four cups of coffee worth of work. Once I hit my goal, I reward myself with another cup of coffee and re-read what I wrote, editing a bit as I go. That’s pretty much my ritual. The rest of the day is spent peeing. Good thing I drink decaf!
If you could have written any book in existence, what would it be and why?
Definitely The Hours by Michael Cunningham. It was beautifully and smartly written. I couldn’t believe a man was able to evoke the beauty and texture of Virginia Wolff in a contemporary novel like that. He captured the angst she was so wonderful at and took a story I just love, Mrs. Dalloway, and mirrored it in a clever way without making it into a weird parody. I could go on and on about the relationships he portrayed, interweaving the harsh realities with the beauty of deep human connections. It’s just a beautiful book with so many layers.
Do you have any exciting writing news?
OMG! Yes! I just signed on with Bold Strokes Books and they will be publishing the book I wrote for the GCLS Writing Academy, No Experience Required. I am so excited about this opportunity, I can’t even stand it! (Ed. Note. We will provide a purchase link when the time comes.)
Is there anything about you that you think most people don’t know?
Anything that happened before February 2004. Everything else is chronicled on Facebook. Haha! I usually don’t like to talk about myself, unless I’ve been drinking, and since it’s only nine a.m. I haven’t cracked open the whiskey bottle yet. I know, boring! So, I’ll just throw it out there that I used to fly satellites in the Air Force. And yes, they can pick up license plates, but it’s a pain in the ass to orient them for any old thing, so don’t feel like you have to cover the skylight over your bed—unless your neighbors are sketchy.
Are you naturally charming or do you have to work at it?
If by “charming” you mean “dorky”, the answer is, “yes”.
What book(s) is currently on your nightstand?
(Ed. Note. Don’t think we didn’t notice the frog.)
We’re super excited to hear your news about Bold Strokes. You actually have a couple of books in the nearing publication status. Want to tell us about those?
I have two books coming out in 2019. The first one is coming out in June 2019 for my former publisher, (who I still adore!) Night River Press. The book is Without a Net and the story is about two women who think they have life figured out when everything seems to throw their certainty into chaos—and them into each other’s paths. The story has pregnancy, friendship, abandoned kittens, and lots of coffee. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll wish you had a kitten to cuddle.
No Experience Required, which I mentioned earlier, is coming out in the Fall with Bold Strokes Books. It started as a project for NaNoWriMo 2017 and became a novel during my stint in the GCLS Writing Academy. The story is very dear to me, as it is about a woman with bipolar disorder who gave up on love in college when a broken heart landed her in the hospital. Flash forward, she’s forty-seven years old, writing a book about love, of all things, and she finds herself falling in love again. As a mother with a daughter who has bipolar disorder, finding connection with others when you think you’re broken is a topic that cuts deep. I want everyone to know that people aren’t broken, some just have more nuanced experiences than others.
What is the best or worst piece of writing advice you have ever received?
Let’s just start with the worst advice. Something I’ve heard in different variations, from multiple people throughout my life— “Writing is hard and a waste of time since it won’t pay off unless you know someone or somehow produce a universal bestseller.” What a crock! I spent a huge part of my life either not writing out of fear, or trying to write something that would prove them wrong by being what everyone will love. It paralyzed me and I wasted a good chunk of time that I could have used for writing.
Now, the best advice. “Don’t try to write what you think others want. Write what’s in your heart and dying to come out.” You really can’t please everyone, so why not start with pleasing yourself? Your own passion will be the magic dust that brings whatever you write to life.
What were your main takeaways from the GCLS Writing Academy?
I can honestly say that everything I learned in the GCLS Writing Academy was valuable and I use it every day—from basic foundational concepts like grammar and sentence structure, to the concepts of scene layering and how to write compelling dialogue. The instructors were experienced writers with phenomenal teaching skills.
However, the one takeaway I will forever cherish is the sense of community it ignited in me. To many people, the writing experience is a solitary activity. It’s just the writer, their writing implement, and their imagination. There is so much more to it than that! And having a community brings it to life. When you are around others who live, breathe, and produce writing, it’s hard not to get inspired. And when you’re around other writers, you’re bound to pick up knowledge, which will make you a better writer.
Is there anything you want us to know that we haven’t asked?
To be honest, I am pretty disappointed I wasn’t asked what I like in my coffee. I like it with a little bit of half and half, the dearest little bit of agave, and in the company of wonderful friends. I hope everyone reading this it cradling their favorite beverage in their hand with a smile, because I am.
Thank you so much, Kimberly, for giving us some of your time and awesome energy today. We’re going to drink more coffee and try to keep up with you.
In the meantime, dear reader, if you are anxious to get your hands on KCG’s work and just can’t wait for the new releases (we can’t blame you) check out her other books on her webpage.