Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ask away

People have never seemed to have any reservation about asking me for favors. Usually, I'm more than happy to help out and make the time. Meanwhile, I hate asking for favors myself. I'm a horribly busy person, and those I have to ask favors from are busy too, but I have swallowed my desire to say I don't want to be a bother him/her (lame desire), and have asked anyway because, quite frankly, I currently need help getting things done right now. This is a temporary situation, and it has taught me a lot.

One way I've been putting myself out there is in regards to After the Gazebo. When a book is about to come out, a writer needs to stand tall and own her work, put it out there and collect feedback, work with her publisher (mine, Rain Mountain Press, makes this part easy), and tell the world about the art she is going to share.  

We almost have a cover for After the Gazebo. The unveiling is forthcoming. The winners from my website will be announced. I am collecting encouraging blurbs (one of many things I've been asking for lately). In fact, here are a few to whet the appetite a bit:

“Jen Knox writes the healthy fiction equivalent of the detox smoothie you’d get if you poured half a cup of Mary Gaitskill, two tablespoons of Mary Robison, a teaspoonful of Raymond Carver, and some chilly Laura van den Berg, into a Tom Waits blender and hit puree. Here are twenty-four darkly fun stories populated by everyman and everywoman genetically predisposed to ‘tough luck but hopeful genes,’ and primed for fight or flight. And yet she has the uncanny ability to make you root for even her most unredeemed characters in all of their stressed out glory. All of them inhabitants of our lonely damaged universe, searching for connection in the daily grind of everyday losses.
—Richard Peabody, editor Gargoyle Magazine

 The perfect pitch, the flawless diction, and the aura of calm are all grace notes with which Jen Knox cloaks the troubled waters of the human heart. A Knox tale begins in a recognizable place, but in every one of these brilliant stories, she confounds the reader’s expectations and ends them in eerily beautiful, untrod territory. The stories in After the Gazebo seduce yet refuse what is coarse; they disdain the slipknot of the obscene, and still they electrify. Exquisite and edgy, they quietly shock. The reader bestows a rock solid trust in this narrator’s voice and is willing to linger with the energy drinks and flat-screen TVs, the 12 Steps, the cubicles and performance reviews, the bus rides and DMV’s eye tests. This author does not hide behind the exotic but with great skill and generosity braves the commonplace. These stories go fathoms deep—all the way to the shivery core, where the familiar heightens into the sublime, and then into the dazzling. The perceptible world has been sorely neglected in fiction, perhaps waiting for a writer with the craft and courage to take it on. Jen Knox is that writer. After the Gazebo is that book.
Stephanie Dickinson, author of Love Highway

Amazing blurbs from amazing writers, right? And there are more. I'm floored. I recently wrote a piece on fostering literary citizenship, as inspired by my trip to Otterbein University, and it appears in Fiction SoutheastIn it I mention the feedback loop that develops when a writer reads and a reader writes. I mention giving but also knowing when to nurture your own work. The balancing act can be tricky, but it is so incredibly gratifying when such kind words are offered by writers whose works I have long admired (check out The Richard Peabody Reader and Love Highway). 

Since I haven't posted in a while, I wanted to close by sharing one of the prompts I give my one-on-one writing students because I find it great for those who have trouble finishing stories:

Write a dynamite opening sentence. Write a dynamite closing sentence. Let them sit a few days, maybe a week, then when you have 20-30 minutes to write (after these two lines have cooled off and been churned around in your thoughts), fill in the blanks. 

Have a wonderful weekend. Love what and who you have to love. Do the work. Be proud of it. Ask for help. Stand tall. (I love this woman's hair.)

xo Jen

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