Bulletin from Writer’s Camp

photo 1
Kate Flora
here, writing from a cinderblock studio on a hilltop in rural Virginia. For two glorious weeks, I am in the writing chair at least ten hours a day, my only job to write, and write, and write. As you read this, I’ll be in my car, driving up to Bethesda, Maryland and the Malice Domestic conference. But for a few more glorious days, I’ll be in my writing studio at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, surrounded by composers and artists and other writers, breathing the rarified air of creativity.

Although I believe my job here is to be open to whatever stories want to come, my plan was to buckle down and finish a first draft of my next Joe Burgess book, And Led Them Thus Astray. I arrived with about 37,000 words. I will leave with a finished book at 94,000 words. If I was lucky enough to get the book done, I wanted to try and write a short story about my character, Gracie Christian, to submit to the Level Best Books crime story anthology. That story is now done and printed out, ready for a trip to the post office.

When we gather at breakfast and dinner here, fellows frequently talk about what is so special about photo 4this experience–the uninterrupted working time. Most of us who are writers have a writing practice, but our days are punctuated by the other routines of life–jobs, meal prep, bill paying, gardening, teaching, editing, speaking, interacting with family and others. Here it can be all about the work. All day, and even all night if the story is calling. I call it glorious obsession. My first time here, I had ten days and I wrote 167 pages of a story I’d never had time for. Two nights ago, stuck on a scene that just wouldn’t write, I suddenly had a breakthough, a character started talking, and I sat, grinning with delight, for two hours while the story unfolded.

Going to open studies and seeing what the artists are doing, listening to composers share their new works, and going to author’s readings–all are optional, but it’s an option most residents choose, because being exposed to new ways of seeing, and new ideas about process, is something that can change our own thinking, open our minds to new ideas, and sometimes just be inspiring because someone has taken something very ordinary and made it extraordinary. The experience of being here, we all agree, is such a gift. If only we could bottle it and bring it home.

Yet it will come home, in the fabulous one-liners over breakfast, in the way that we see and hear color and music intertwined. In the way a lifetime of reading is translated to very personal library cards. In the way other fellows remind that process, as well as product, is important.

So I’m only taking a small break here to write this, because the work is calling me back. But I wanted to share two new books that I have had a part in, that will be appearing in the months to come.


First is a book called Dead in Good Company, a collection of essays about Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts that is the brain-child of John Garp Harrison. I am honored that title of the essay I submitted has been chosen as the title for the collection. Here’s a link to a radio program discussing the book.


Second, and on a far lighter note, is a group novel produced by my other blog group, Thalia Press Authors’ Co-op, (Views from the Muse) by our fictitious author, Thalia Filbert. Here’s that cover, and some draft cover copy. For those curious about our cover fonts, we’ve used bacon, black pasta, and hot peppers. We’re aiming for a September debut.

beat-slay-love-cover-finalishLike your barbeque and sex spicy? Your murders saucy and well done? Lobster and bad guys boiled red hot and served with lemon and butter? Welcome to the fascinating and competitive world of celebrity chefs and food culture, in a wry, witty crime story where cutting edge takes on a new meaning when the chefs start dying.

Aspiring chef Anna Wendt has a multitude of talents–facility in the kitchen, in the bedroom, and, she discovers, for disposing of bothersome chefs. An adept sous chef and gifted food stylist, Anna would have worked her way up to become a head chef somewhere trendy, and her talents would have blossomed. But wronged by those who steal her recipes, ridicule her weight, and denigrate her talents, Anna turns her imagination and culinary savvy to satisfying her hunger for revenge.

The first time she exacts fatal recompense, she’s surprised at how easy is to stage a fabulous tableau, and at the peculiar excitement that killing brings. Hooked on how tasty revenge can be, she begins bumping off famous chefs in spectacular, cooking-related ways.

Anna is on a roll until chubby, nerdy food blogger Jason Bainbridge, looking for his big break, begins to see a pattern in the killings. Bainbridge forms an uneasy alliance with cool, bitchy, hard-charging FBI agent Kimberly Douglas as the search goes full throttle for the one who is killing celebrity chefs across America.

As the hunt for Anna closes in, our anti-heroine doubles down in a page-turner food fight that will leave you gasping, laughing, and applauding as it comes to a delicious climax.

Debut author Thalia Filbert’s darkly comic sendup of serial killers, food mysteries, chick lit, and the iconic Eat Pray Love, finds the sweet spot between appetizers and dessert in this rollicking trip from sea to shining sea. From color-themed dinners to Maine lobster pots, from barbeque to huckleberries, this mystery is stuffed to the gills with knives, mayhem, and laughs. Grab a fork and dig in.


Thalia Filbert’s lust for food, travel, and a good story is legendary. Now she’s combined it all in one delicious package. Her debut novel, Beat Slay Love, highlights her love of the underdog, American regional food, and that special dish best served cold: revenge. She attended culinary school at a posh Napa Valley academy and did the obligatory stint in European bistro kitchens. Although from a backwoods Midwestern town where she learned to make squirrel, woodchuck, and possum au vin, she escaped in the nick of time, leaving a hungry man at the altar. She’s never looked back. She’d like to thank her muses, veteran crime fiction writers Taffy Cannon, Kate Flora, Lise McClendon, Katy Munger and Gary Phillips, for everything.

GirlsNightOut-2-2Read this far? Well, here’s this week’s special offer: someone who comments on this post will get a free audible download of my novella, Girls’ Night Out.

This entry was posted in Kate's Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Bulletin from Writer’s Camp

  1. Jewel Hanley says:

    The writing retreat sounds fascinating. Love the idea of being surrounded by creative souls and getting my own creative juices sparked by the diversity. And, with that said, the description of ‘Beat, Slay, Love’ was a book hook extraordinaire. The book on its own is not one I would normally gravitate towards but your summary of it made me want to pick one up today.
    So, anyone out there who could teach a course on summarizing your book to hook an agent, editor, and/or reader—-I’m in.

  2. sandy neily says:

    Thanks again, Kate, for a posting full of ideas, inspiration, shared unique directions….and other things to read. Appreciated.

  3. dragons3 says:

    I’m behind on reading my email! “Beat, Slay,Love” sounds like my kind of book. Can’t wait until it’s out.

Leave a Reply