Creative writing courses are always among our most popular offerings and none more so than the novel writing classes taught by New York Times best selling author Karleen Koen. Ms. Koen has written four historical novels, the most popular being "Through a Glass Darkly," a coming-of-age story set during of the reign of George I and the South Sea Bubble, 1715-1720.
In the fall, we offer a class to help you get started with your novel and in the spring, "Writing the Novel: Draft Stage" focuses on improving work that has already begun. As Ms. Koen says, "You must have 30,000 words or it will do either of us no good."
We asked Ms. Koen a few questions about the benefits of attending a class and her creative process.
What do you think is the advantage of taking a class for an aspiring writer?
It's helpful to be around other people who want to write, talking about some of the insecurities that come up in writing and/or creating, learning about craft and technique and learning from someone else's experience.
In your blog and in class you emphasize the nurturing of creativity. What are some of the ways you encourage writers to keep their creativity flowing?
Morning pages and artist's dates from Julia Cameron's Artist's Way are effective tools. Creativity doesn't always have a continual flow but rather is like waves with an ebb and a flow. Learning to live in the ebb is the trick for any one making a living creatively.
Why do you enjoy teaching and what is your philosophy of teaching?
I enjoy the energy, freshness and enthusiasm people who take my class bring.
I see teaching as a give and take between teacher and those in the class. I learn as much as the people in my class every time.
You’ve written four popular historical fiction books, what inspires you the most about that genre and the late 17th and early 18th centuries?
I learned to read by reading by my grandfather's historical paperbacks by Frank Yerby, Frank Slaughter and Zane Grey. I loved going to another time and place, and I never outgrew that love, so when I began writing fiction there was only one place to set it, in history. The time frame I use comes from my choosing the South Sea Bubble as backdrop for the first novel. All the novels are loosely tied together so I range around the events of 1720, backwards and forwards.
You’ve written that your first book, "Through a Glass Darkly" was such an innocent experience for you. Now that you’ve written and published more books, what do you see as the pros and cons of being new to the publishing process vs. being a veteran?
Being new means you write from an open, curious, exploring place. You are discovering on so many levels. Being new means you have to break into publishing, which can be hard, but there is such a thrill with finally pulling together a story into something that lives and moves.
Being a veteran means you can get tired of yourself and can pay too much attention to the marketplace, getting sidetracked by its ebb and flow. It can be harder to keep writing a process of discovery.
Are you currently working on a novel?
Yes. It's set in 1673 during Louis XIV's war on the Dutch and involves a character's search for love and justice, plus there is an interesting fact of what happened to Louis XIV's first love and mistress, and I want to use that.......at least, I think this is what it's about. I'm on the first draft, in the discovering the story part of writing.
Don't miss "Writing the Novel: Draft Stage" beginning March 2, 2013.
UPDATE: Ms. Koen teaches a course with us each semester. See our online catalog for the latest course.