Kameron Hurley is a marvel.

The first thing I noticed about Kameron Hurley is how incredible her laugh is. She has a laugh that dares you not to join in, to enjoy the conversation and what she has to say. I hope you enjoy it, because I did- I absolutely adored it. Kameron is a two-time Hugo award winning writer and yet, she still holds a solid day job. This is the truth of a writing career, even one as well-awarded and Kameron Hurley’s.

I so enjoyed talking about what it was like to dive into the underpinnings of geek culture and write an essay about it, as well as what it does to your awareness to write about a society whose rules you have created entirely yourself, only to discover that you’re still playing into tropes and social expectations of your own world. Kameron and I dig deep into what being a feminist writer means and what the process of breaking down your writing does when you try to subvert convention. It was so fun to explore with such a self-aware guest. I know you’ll learn a ton from her. Happy listening!

Listen up on iTunes | Stars are Legion | Geek Feminist RevolutionKameron’s site | Twitter | Facebook

Discussed in Episode 61 with Kameron Hurley:

  • Wonder Woman
  • Sci-Fi’s ability to take us outside normal convention
  • ​“When it changed” by Joanna Russ
  • Tomboys & misogynists
  • Taking responsibility for the words on the page
  • getting started and the career path of a writer
  • Clarion West writers workshop
  • The garret life ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.
  • Winning awards yet keeping the day job
  • Her writing schedule
  • Weekend binge writing
  • Overshooting your goals to still hit something good
  • Having multiple projects
  • When to write non-fiction
  • The perspective of chronic illness
  • ​Samuel R. Delany on racism in SF
  • The tricks of dystopian fiction
  • Why you should not turn in a crappy book on time.
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Megan Hannum is about to help you face your first draft without fear.

Have you ever been writing away, actually building some momentum in your writing only to have these sorts of fears creep in: “Is there enough detail? I’m only writing plot, how is anyone going to know what anything looks like??” Or perhaps yours is “I need to do a LOT more research before I write this. I have no idea what the dating customs of medieval Mongolia actually are. Guess it’s back to the drawing board for the next six months.”

I have suffered from these fears, as have the members of the Coffeeshop Writer’s Group and when Megan joined us recently as a guest expert, we all started to feel a lot less freaked out by simply getting on with a draft knowing that everything will not be answered the first time around.

I had Megan on to talk about what you should worry about in the first, second, and final drafts of a project, and what you can set to the side for each of these drafts until the next time around. Finally, we talk about when it’s time to get an editor involved and what you should look for when seeking one.

This promises to be an episode you can return to again and again as you progress through your projects. I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. And… woohoo for 60 episodes! I cannot believe we’ve gotten to such a big number. Thank you all for listening and supporting the show. It means so much that this project makes you as happy as it makes me.

Listen up on iTunes | Whynottedit | Blog | Twitter | Instagram

Discussed in Episode 60 with Megan Hannum:

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J. Ryan Stradal’s hit novel Kitchens of the Great Midwest came out in 2015.

Most often, we hear from writers right when their book has just come out. They go on book tours and radio shows and NPR, if they are well-connected. I have been thrilled to talk to writers in this stage of the process, but the longer I work on this show, the more curious I am about the other parts of the writing journey- before the book is finished, or after it has gone out in the world and taken on a life of its own or, as in this case, when one book has sailed and the next has not yet fully formed.

J. Ryan and I talk about the impact of Kitchens and what it’s been like writing a new book. He’s still in the middle and making big decisions about structure and isn’t at the point of sending a finished manuscript off to the publisher. This next book is still becoming, and so the conversation is looser, more organic. I like that about this episode- we can’t talk in easy platitudes when the book is still a possibility and things could still change. For those of you mucking around in the messy middle, this episode will be right for you. It’s not an easy thing to write a book. What I learned from this talk was that, even if you’ve completed one book and done extremely well by it, the next book will still be an entirely new experience. I find this hopeful, since it’s easy to walk away from things that become predictable. After talking to J. Ryan, I’m even more confident that writing never will.

Listen up on iTunes | Kitchens of the Great Midwest | J. Ryan Stradal’s site | Twitter | Instagram

Discussed in Episode 59 with J. Ryan Stradal:

  • J. Ryans of the world
  • Writing about food and beer
  • The evolution of food culture
  • The seductive rabbit hole that is research
  • On writing a long version of a book and then deciding what to cut
  • Publishing excerpts from a longer piece
  • Books that exist as drafts of books the authors might not have intended to share. Mentioned: The Pale King, by David Foster Wallace | Go Set a Watchman, by Harper Lee
  • Seeing cut material as B sides
  • How Kitchens changed from agent submission to publication
  • The trouble with an easy first novel
  • Making changes between the hardcover and paperback editions and the shock that this is done
  • The politics of hardcover and paperback releases
  • Researching books
  • Lots of fun stuff about beer culture
  • How to know when you’re too deep in the weeds

This episode brought to you by The Story Intensive

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Dal Kular didn’t plan on becoming a novelist.

After recording nearly sixty episodes of The Secret Library, I realized I had a full catalogue of interviews with experts. People who were at the end of the writing journey, in some way. They had either published books as the writer, publisher, or had engaged in the process already and were looking back in order to discuss it.

This began to feel like a disconnect between the guests and the listeners I knew were out there taking the show in. So many people write in talking about the story they are working on now, the one they aren’t sure they’ll be able to figure out how to finish. I knew there was a different conversation that needed to happen on the show.

Dal Kular has been my noveling winglady for quite some time. She has been a social worker, a laughter yoga instructor, and an amazing blogger before a novel snuck up on her and has been pushing her to write it every since. We check in and talk about our writing regularly and share how it’s going as we inch our way along through our books. Recently, I managed to talk Dal into coming on the show so we could talk about this stage of the process- the one at the very beginning when you don’t know if that story you’re working hard on will ever turn out to be a real book. This conversation was such a relief to have, and I think many of you will relate to it. Enjoy listening. I felt such relief talking about the scary aspects of writing from inside the process. Here’s hoping it is of use to you. Plus, you get to listen to Dal’s lovely accent- a major perk this episode, I must say.

Listen up on iTunes | Dal’s Blog | Instagram

Discussed in Episode 58 with Dal Kular:

  • Coming to writing after another career
  • The healing elements of writing
  • How writing changes the way you see your life
  • What therapeutic writing is
  • The need to open to more types of writing and more voices
  • Working through life challenges in life with writing
  • How the novel came to her
  • What it’s like to work on a novel not knowing what will happen once it’s written
  • Writing in community
  • The role of criticism
  • The difference between an MFA and a Masters in Therapeutic writing
  • Why we each write

This episode brought to you by The Story Intensive. Learn more and sign up here.

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I had never thought about how dialogue was like jazz until I spoke with Wesley Brown.

Wesley Brown knows dialogue and he knows jazz. His latest collection of stories, Dance of the Infidels, brings the two together and I learned so much from talking about music and writing with him. In addition, Wesley is Professor Emeritus at Rutgers University and teaches literature and creative writing at Bard College. He is the author of plays, fiction, and nonfiction so there is something here for every genre of writer.

As someone who has long struggled with bringing scenes to life with dialogue, that topic was of particular interest to me. If this is a tricky point for you, or if you struggle with hearing a character’s voice come to life, this episode will help. We also hear about Wesley’s current collection of stories and its fascinating concept. I am happy to be the new owner of a copy and I know everyone listening will want to read it as well.

Listen up on iTunes | Dance of the Infidels | Wesley’s books

Discussed in Episode 57 with Wesley Brown:

  • Working in a variety of literary forms
  • A play about a subway murder
  • How different ideas manifest in different formats
  • The difference between writing and experiencing a play and a book
  • How it feels to watch your work performed
  • How performance is like jazz
  • Dialogue as a way for characters to define who they are
  • Potential problems with dialogue
  • Ways dialogue can work well- when characters say things that are unexpected yet truthful
  • Discussion of the stories in Dance of the Infidels
  • Why he can never write with music playing
  • How music is assimilated into the writing process
  • The decision to do a series of linked short stories instead of a novel
  • Writing about real-life characters and the challenges and gifts of this process
  • Why Wesley doesn’t outline, and how he writes stories instead

Music and Images referenced in this episode:

MaryEllen Mark’s photograph of Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen.


This episode brought to you by The Story Intensive. Learn more and sign up here.

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