Learning to Juggle

Having just won the 2013 Maine Literary Award for Redemption

Kate Flora, here, reporting in from my desk, where I’m trying to set priorities and get my homework done. I will start out by stating that this is grossly unfair. It is summer in Maine. The air is too hot and the sea is deliciously cool and refreshing. My desk chair, despite the cushion, is hard, and my perennial gardens would like some attention. This weekend, my blueberry field will have turned a gorgeous blue and be ready for harvesting. I want to be out there, picking blueberries and staring down at Sennebec Pond. I will be inhaling the scents of the hot vegetation and be carried back to the summers of my childhood, anticipating the moment when I have done enough picking and can slide into my suit and jump in the water, as I’ve now been doing for more than sixty summers.

Instead, as part of the demands of sustaining a career where there is no boss but me, and few deadlines unless I set them, I am trying to keep a bunch of balls in the air. On the writing front, I am juggle the challenges of writing a new Thea Kozak mystery, Death Warmed Over, with the process of editing and reediting two old books–a true crime that took place in Canada and involved the Maine Warden Service called Death Dealer, and a retired Maine warden’s memoir of fish and game enforcement, search and rescue, and working cadaver dogs called A Good Man with a Dog.

New cover for Playing God

But these days, the old rhythm of write the book for nine months of the year and promote for three has changed. Those wonderful days of immersion in story, spending long, quiet months alone with my characters dancing in my head, is much harder to do. There are so many other demands on my time. In the new world of social media and e-books, writers do much more of their own promotion, and that part of the job never stops. I am working with one set of people on formatting and making the Joe Burgess series available as e-books. Working with a talented designer, Kim Drain, at Thumbtack Design, on a new website. I am working with another designer, Kathleen Valentine, at Valentine Designs, on a cover series for making the Burgess books available as trade paperbacks.

Along with the work that promotes my own writing, there is the work that’s involved in supporting and promoting the mystery community. There is creating the schedule and inviting guest bloggers to this blog, and trying to ensure a steady stream of content that will entertain our readers–a blend of all things Maine, all things mystery, and all things writing, including, as John Clark’s post yesterday showed, the events like a daughter’s wedding that impact a writer’s life in the real world. I’m recently back from a trip to Chicago to strategize about the future of Sisters in Crime. I’m on the committee that organizes and runs The New England Crime Bake, the region’s own mystery conference, held each November in Dedham, Massachusetts. That involves finding panelists and forensic speakers and working with other writers to put together a program that will interest both writers and readers alike. I’m putting together a one-day workshop on mystery writing for the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, which I’ll give in Rockland on August 24th.


All of that would be enough, but there are also public appearances. True, I complain about them, but these really are the fun times in my writing life, a great reason to leave my desk and go out and talk with readers. Last week, I had dinner in South Harpswell with a book group and we ate delicious food and drank wine and talked about Finding Amy.

Tonight, Lea Wait and I will be at the Wiscasset Library. In August, I’ll be at the Westbrook Library. In September, in Thomaston.

Yesterday I had lunch with my agent to make a plan for marketing my books. I think she must have left the table thinking I’m a total nutcase. In addition to figuring out where to send Detention, my thriller about a schoolteacher accused of misconduct with a student, there’s an editor who wants to see Death Dealer, so I’m up to my ears in a final tweak. And she really wants to take a look at Runaway, the romantic suspense “fairytale” that I wrote just for fun. There’s someone who might be interested in the warden book, and that one isn’t finished. So I’ve got to get cracking on a book proposal for that. And then, I ask, tentatively, would she like to take a look at Memorial Acts, the first book I’ve ever written that doesn’t revolve around the world of crime.

Yes. She would. So you all know where I’m going to be this summer while you’re hiking and biking and boating and picnicking and generally outside having fun. I’m going to be right here at my desk, trying to juggle writing and editing and promotion and getting my website more modern, and publishing and blogging and–oh yes–WRITING.

The only time I seriously tried to learn real juggling, I kept hitting myself in the head when I added in that third ball. So wish me luck.

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7 Responses to Learning to Juggle

  1. Gram says:

    You are wished all the luck in the world. I am looking forward to those books you mentioned. Dee

  2. Lea Wait says:

    Oh, yes! On all accounts. Nodding as I read. I haven’t got as many balls in the air as you do, Kate, but I have plenty of my own. I’m thankful for the ones you toss on behalf of the writing community. And I, too, look forward to reading all your projects on their completion. Summer? What’s a summer? (See you tonight in Wiscasset!)

  3. Wow, Kate, and I thought I juggled a lot! In fact my blog post last Thursday was on this very topic. My first book releases tomorrow from MuseItUp Publishing, a small Canadian e-press.It’s set in Vermont. I think I must’ve lived a former life in New England. 🙂
    I’m sorry, all of you up east are having such heat! In Texas, that’s the norm for us, but we’ve had a whole week of mild. We walk about wondering if we’ve fallen into some sort of parallel universe and ask, “Now where am I?” Enjoy your blueberries and be glad for all the work!

  4. MCWriTers says:

    Good luck with your launch, Marsha. The first book is so exciting…

    Yes, we are sweltering up here. Hopefully, a dip in the sea will reset my thermometer.


  5. sandy gardner says:

    Hi Kate,
    you are an incredible writer-juggler! and without hitting yourself in the head, too! Really looking forward to reading Death Warmed Over. And what are Detention and Death Dealer? Are they shorts?
    Wish I could get half the things done that you do– writing, promoting –especially the promoting (aarrggh).
    on another topic: would love to see a post about: how much backstory and character quirks, etc., do series writers put in after the first book?
    this is something I’d love to get feedback on. (working on #3 in “mother and me” series.)

  6. sandy gardner says:

    ps more than half-way through “Angel.” What a heartbreaker.
    It grabs you and won’t let you go. Poor Timmy. Poor Joe.

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