The Twenty-First Century Writer: An Interview with Christina Katz, Author of The Writer’s Workout from Writer’s Digest Books
Q: Many of the writers you work with are moms and this seems to have been the case since your first book, Writer Mama came out. Why do you especially enjoy working with mom writers?
A: Because I decided to take my desire to become a professional writer more seriously once I realized that there would be a little pair of eyes watching me every day. I try to be true to who I am and set a good example for my daughter’s sake by doing what I love. Similarly I want my students to respect what they have to express, and let that lead.
Helping moms tap into their ideas so they can communicate them clearly is my specialty, but not everything I do. Although I have to say that nothing makes me happier than helping moms become more professionally empowered, confident, and resilient writers over time. They develop a trust in sounding their clear, authentic note in the cacophony—and I think that’s an important step for anyone right now. So I help others who are not moms, as well, through my books, articles, and presentations.
Q: The publishing world seems to be demanding a new kind of writer for the New Millennium. Does this seem true to you?
Yes. The brave new world of publishing demands a new kind of writer – a more evolved and aware writer – who is able to learn and flex more professional muscles over time. Authors have always been asked to do more than writers, but today writers are being asked to collectively up our game. Timing is an important consideration in the ongoing professional juggle writers face. This is why my latest book, The Writer’s Workout, weaves so many other considerations into the writing life. It’s not just about writing anymore, although excellent writing is just as important as ever.
Q: Many folks seem to think that asking writers to evolve is baloney. But I doubt you agree with this perspective.
A: Our forced evolution from writers waiting for good fortune to chance upon us into producers of our own career success assures the survival of more writers than the old system did. These days, most writers realize that they have to treat their writing like a business, write well enough to compete in the marketplace, sell themselves and their work on a daily basis, serve readers via their unique writer-reader dynamic, and cultivate a prosperous long-term platform that will keep them visible. All of the hard work and juggling that we are all doing pays off in the short run and the long run. For one thing, it requires us to take ownership. For another, it encourages us to partner wisely with others. Writers who can’t or won’t do these two things are going to be at a serious disadvantage.
Q: What are the most common stumbling blocks that writers, confronted by this need to evolve, face?
A: The three most common stumbling blocks for writers are: lack of confidence, lack of experience, and lack of willingness. In my mind, all three of these go together and can appear in the form of a stuck writer, who is scared, unwilling to learn new things, or resists hard work. Contrast this with my students, who understand that the journey is the destination and who want to learn and grow every day, whether those daily successes are big or small.
The willing, motivated, humble writer, who knows that there will always be new mountains to climb tomorrow, is the type of person most industry professionals hire. These writers will go on to achieve major milestones like landing a book deal, but it’s never Bing! Bang! Boom! Success is always the result of slow, steady, and consistent effort that results in a solid body of work that grows over time.
Q: Writers already struggle to find enough time for writing. How can writers balance writing with platform development and growth?
A: The reader rules. More specifically: your reader rules. When you do what’s best for the reader, you don’t have to worry about much else. Therefore don’t worry about platform until developing a platform makes sense. The appropriate time to launch your platform is when you are ready for readers. This is most likely when you start to have some publishing momentum. Once you do, gather up some helpful how-to resources on platform building (like my book, Get Known Before the Book Deal or my workbook, Build Your Author Platform) and get to work hammering out your identity, mission, audience, and dynamic. If you don’t know what you are writing or for whom you are writing or why the reader will care about what you are writing, don’t take steps to build your platform yet.
Q: What about social media? Can Facebook, Twitter and blogging help writers get our ebooks, short stories, and poetry published?
A: I see social media as an aspect of platform development that comes later, after the writing is done, or at least almost done, and the platform development work has been launched. So if you are in the process of forming a professional identity, don’t sweat social media until you understand your unique writer-reader dynamic.
If you are a professional writer, then writing goes at the center of your career. When I interviewed a dozen successful novelists for Writer’s Digest magazine on the topic of platform development, they all said the same thing: if the writing isn’t excellent, there is no career to talk about. So if writing isn’t at the center of your career, you’re career will suffer.
Q: In your latest book, The Writer’s Workout, you essentially offer writers 366 mental exercises. Why are mental workouts helpful for writers today?
A: All of the workouts in the book are designed to hold up a mirror to each writer so that his or her career strengths will be reflected back more clearly to him or her. Writers need to think about why they want to write in the first place. It’s so important that writers, who strive for publication and critical acclaim, know why they write, and mentally organize the writing they do based on the intended purpose and reader. This way a writer can put the writing that is for publication through the appropriate paces instead of sitting around hoping for the miracle of someday getting discovered. I’d say that the book helps a writer transform wishful thinking into professional progress.
Q: Could you give us a sneak peek at one or two of those 366 tips, tasks and techniques you talk about in your new book?
A: I sure can. Here is an excerpt of The Writer’s Workout on Scribd that contains twelve sample chapters. I think it will give you a pretty good idea of tone and scope of the book. Feel free to share the link with others and discuss the ideas. Hopefully, there are enough tidbits in there to spark some interesting self-discovery for any reader.
Any final comments you would like to make before closing?
Regardless of what you write, there are certain professional skills and aptitudes that are going to help you grow and thrive in the publishing realms. In The Writer’s Workout, I tried to address every single one of these considerations for the benefit of seasoned and unseasoned writers alike. You can go into any field blind and just kind of flail around until you find some kind of groove that works. But my hope is that The Writer’s Workout will save an awful lot of writers an awful of lot of trial by error, making way for more success sooner.
View the complete Writer’s Workout media kit here for a bio and/or images to accompany this Q&A:
Christina Katz is the author of three books from Writer’s Digest: The Writer’s Workout, Get Known Before the Book Deal, and Writer Mama. Her writing career tips and parenting advice appear regularly in national, regional, and online publications. A “gentle taskmaster” over the past decade to hundreds of writers, Christina’s students go from unpublished to published, build professional writing career skills, and increase their creative confidence over time. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago and a BA in English from Dartmouth College. A popular speaker on creative career growth, Christina presents for writing conferences, literary events, MFA writing programs, and libraries. She is the creator and host of the Northwest Author Series in Wilsonville, Oregon, where she lives with her husband, her daughter, and far too many pets. Learn more at ChristinaKatz.com.