Monday, August 20, 2012

Carol Berg, RMFW Writer of the Year, and the Upcoming Great WOTY Event

Today Chiseled in Rock blog is pleased to feature our Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Writer of the Year Carol Berg and to spread the word about RMFW’s most excellent WOTY Event at Tattered Cover LoDo (Denver) this Thursday evening (August 23). All of the event details are at the bottom of this post.

Now let us tell you a little about our Writer of the Year and what she had to say about her writing life.

Former software engineer Carol Berg never expected to become an award-winning author. She grew up in Fort Worth, Texas reading, but enjoyed majoring in math at Rice University and computer science at the University of Colorado because she didn’t have to write papers.

Now her thirteen epic fantasy novels have won national and international awards, including multiple Colorado Book Awards and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature. She’s taught writing in the US, Canada, Scotland, and Israel, and received reader mail from the slopes of Denali to beneath the Mediterranean. Her novels of the Collegia Magica have received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews, using words like compelling and superbly realized. Learn more at Carol’s website.

CIR: Carol, when did you complete your very first novel, how long did it take, and did it get published?

Carol: The first real fiction writing I did was a game with a friend. We sent each other email letters in character back in 1989. By the time we finished this addictive little exercise, I was hooked on writing and started my own novel right away - sometime in 1991. That story took me about a year to write, in between full-time engineering job, three kids, and everything else in life. I never even tried to get that novel published, because I couldn't imagine anyone wanting to read something I wrote. I knew it wasn't as good as my favorite books. But the writing was so much fun, I kept on writing and rewriting, learning as I went until I could tell that what I was producing was much, much better.

Only then, about 8 years later, did I start thinking about getting published. Looking back at that first novel confirms that I made the right choice. The writing was, indeed, pretty awful, descriptions trite, and characterization fairly shallow. But the story had a lot of good twists, and one of the characters just wouldn't let go of me through all these years. As it happens, I have incorporated both that character--a brooding necromancer--and a few of the story elements into the novels of the Collegia Magica, including The Soul Mirror that just won the Colorado Book Award. I'm very glad I waited to pursue publishing until I had learned a lot more about writing!

CIR: What do you love most about being a writer?

Carol: Those days when I reread a piece of one of my stories--whether published or in development--and realize that it captures exactly what I want: the mood, the tension, a vivid character, flowing language, true emotion, all woven together with clarity. There is nothing to compare with that. When it is a reader who tells me that the particular scene is particularly meaningful, that's just the best. I wish I could hit that ace with every page. Gotta keep working on it.

CIR: What's the best writing advice anyone ever gave you?

Carol: I've heard lots of advice over the years. Much of it--the necessity of persistence, the requirement to keep writing, and keep reading and to write a million words before trying to get published--I already knew from other parts of my life or had come up with on my own (a benefit of starting to write after doing a lot of other things!) But one particular little gem I've only heard from one place. My first editor told me that when I needed to cut words, to start by removing just one sentence from each page. Now this sounds quite mundane. Uninspiring. But it taught me several very important things.

First, not to be afraid - that it is possible to remove words/sentences/paragraphs/scenes that have flowed out of my brain and never miss them. And to understand that if I didn't miss them, the reader certainly wasn't going to. It demonstrated clearly that revision not only does not ruin art, but enhances it.

Second, it taught me the value of looking at a manuscript through different lenses. Examining a sentence, a paragraph, a page, or a scene from such a close perspective reveals a great deal. I find other things to remove or enhance. It allows me to improve clarity, which is, after all, our fundamental goal as writers - to use our craft to communicate images, characters, and emotions to a reader.

It made me believe that art and craft go hand in hand, inseparable. And that has been invaluable.

CIR:  Thanks, Carol, and congratulations on becoming the 2012 WOTY.

Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers “Writer of the Year” Panel Discussion and Booksigning

Please consider attending the Writer of the Year Panel Discussion and Booksigning, at the Tattered Cover LoDo, on August 23 (next Thursday) at 7:30pm. Come support our 2012 WOTY and WOTY nominees: Carol Berg, Jeanne Stein, and Kay Bergstrom! Details below...

(Did we mention there are some amazing door prizes???)

Historic LoDo: Our guest panelists, including moderator Robin Owens (last year’s Writer of the Year winner), and this year’s Writer of the Year finalists—award-winning fantasy writer Carol Berg; bestselling romantic suspense writer Kay Bergstrom; and award-winning urban fantasy author Jeanne Stein—will present a discussion entitled “Ask an Author about Writing and Publishing.”

Door prizes, including one free RMFW conference registration; a one-year RMFW membership; books by WOTY nominees; and one-on-one breakfasts with an editor or agent at the conference, will be drawn throughout the evening.

When and Where:

Thursday, Aug 23, 2012 7:30 pm
Tattered Cover LoDo
1628 16th St.
Denver, Colorado

And door prizes. Don’t forget there will be door prizes. Big door prizes. Really big.


Jemi Fraser said...

That's great advice! I love when you hear something and you apply it and it changes the way you see things - awesome!

Marne Ann said...

Great interview, Carol! I cannot wait to see you, Robin, Jeanne, and Kay at the Tattered Cover. Each one of you always has such great wisdom!