Writer’s Digest Conference 2015!

WDvert_colorThe Writer’s Digest Conference in NYC is where my author career started and I’m thrilled to be returning again this year as a speaker! This weekend, July 31-Aug 2, I’ll be presenting “The New Era of Publishing: Combining Traditional & Partnership Publishing for Success” with my agent, April Eberhardt, “Beyond Bookstores: Selling Your Book in Unexpected Ways & Places” with author Anjali Mitter Duva, and I’ll be participating in the panel discussion of “Breaking In: First-time Novelists Share How They Got Their Books Published.” For more information and the session schedule, click here or follow #WDC15 and @WritersDigest on Twitter!

Fundraiser at Jimmy’s Southside Tavern in Darien!

Please join my family and me (and your friends in Darien) for dinner or apps at Jimmy’s Southside Tavern in Darien on Thursday night to help raise funds for the Fiorenza family, whose youngest son, Marcello, is battling leukemia for the second time. Click on the flyer link below for more info or to donate – and thank you!

May 14 Fundraiser for Marcello


Join me at Grub Street’s #Muse15 Next Weekend!


I’m excited to attend Grub Street’s Muse and the Marketplace conference in Boston next weekend! On Friday, May 1, publicist Sharon Bially and I will be presenting “Using Out-of-the-Box Author Promo to Connect with More Readers”! Click here to learn more or to register! It promises to be a fun and inspiring weekend – I hope to see you there!

Editing Advice from the Pulpwood Queens’ Book Club Authors!

As I’ve mentioned, I was thrilled to attend this year’s annual Pulpwood Queens‘ Girlfriend Weekend in Nacogdoches, TX. The PQs are the largest meeting and discussing book club in the world, led by book maven Kathy Murphy, with over 650 chapters. Not only was I able to connect with readers from all over the country, but I also met over thirty accomplished authors. As the “new kid on the block,” I thought it would be fun to solicit their best editing advice. Here are the pearls of wisdom they were kind enough to share!

PulpwoodQ“I had thirty people go over my book with a fine-tooth comb, looking for errors. You want to make your book as clean and neat as possible. Today, it’s up to the author to make sure everything is truly edited before publication, which is not the way it used to be. That is my advice: check, check, and double check. You will lose credibility if your book contains errors.”

–Kathy Murphy, author of The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life



catestoffaithRead your writing out loud. If it sounds clunky to you, it will to the reader.”

–Christa Allan, author of Test of Faith 







Engage the reader’s senses–sight, smell, sounds–as much as possible.”

–Holly Michael, author of Crooked Lines






book-copyGet a professional edit. Whatever it costs is money well spent. Do not have a friend, family member or your English teacher edit. You need a pro who can be objective.”

–Jennie Helderman, author of As the Sycamore Grows





Don’t become discouraged. Killing_Fields_Cover-210Most of us have been rejected at one time or another. It’s part of the writing life.”

–Kathryn Casey, author of Deliver Us






magnolia‘Only you can keep you from writing.’ This advice, from PQ author Kimberly Willis Holt, helped me quit making excuses and jump into fiction.”

–Judy Christie, author of Magnolia Market






thestorykeepercoverlr‘When you think it’s perfect, go back and cut ten percent,’ is the best advice I’ve ever received. Combing through the first version of the book with a goal of cutting ten percent makes you take a hard look at the fluff.”

–Lisa Wingate, author of The Story Keeper






Consider all your back-story as salt and sprinkle lightly through the entire book on a need-to-know basis. Too much in one spot spoils the spot – it’s the stuff readers will skip over because it’s passive and uninteresting until they love your character. And let it come out naturally in introspection or conversation — no info dumps!

–Caryl Lawrence McAdoo, author of Vow Unbroken




heart-wide-openDon’t get it right, get it written. Knock those words down and then scrutinize them!”

–Shellie Rushing Tomlinson, author of Heart Wide Open






lakehouse2First write with your eyes shut. Stare at a ceiling or out a window and ask: what is this scene about? Then close your eyes, dive into the setting, the emotions, the tastes, then sit back and listen. When you sense it all, begin to write.”

–Marci Nault, author of The Lake House





cuban-connection-m-l-malcolm-paperback-cover-artRead dialogue out loud. It’s the best way to test it for authenticity. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, the best thing I ever did to improve my writing was to take a short story class at a community college. Helped in the same way. Also, I often recommend the book Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne and King. Immensely helpful.”

–Mary Lee Wolfe Malcolm, author of The Cuban Connection




hatmakersheart“Good is better than fast. Take time to let the ideas/story marinate. And I often write with my eyes shut and picture/feel the scene before me.”

–Carla Stewart, author of The Hatmaker’s Heart






TheGravityofBirdsRead poetry while you’re working on your book. It reminds you of the power of brevity, and the importance of choosing each word carefully.”

–Tracy Guzeman, author of The Gravity of Birds







Don’t read your favorite authors while you’re writing. That’s like trying to lose weight while reading Vogue. You’ll die a death of comparison.”

–Jamie Ford, author of Songs of Willow Frost






The-Promise-Paperback-Cover-web“I read a poem every night before bedtime. The other thing I do is tell myself that each writer has his/her own process. Writing is not a contest to see who gets to the finish line first. It’s not a numbers game about who has written the most books. What’s important to me is that I’ve done my best. Whatever that might be!

–Ann Weisgarber, The Promise 




mrshydecropped“Writing poetry teaches you the discipline of editing which is a great tool to have when writing a novel. In a poem you are forced to distill your idea and thoughts into the most compact form to create a picture.” –Holly Joy Bowden, author of Mrs. Hyde


Thank you Copperfish Books!

Thank you so much, Cathy and Serena of Copperfish Books in Punta Gorda, Florida for hosting me on Tuesday night! These ladies are passionate about reading and learning and I was honored to hold a book talk and signing at Copperfish on Mardi Gras evening! We drank wine, ate cheese, and discussed reading, writing, and wine making with a full house of readers. Thanks for such a fun evening!!



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Love stories and wine pairings for Valentine’s Day!

Don’t have a valentine? So what? Pair these love stories with wine and you’ll have a ready-made date and an evening filled with laughter, romance and intrigue!

xo Kristen

Hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet

The Hatmaker’s Heart by Carla Stewart with 2012 SeaGlass Sauvignon Blanc

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford with 2010 Bouchaine Carneros Pinot Noir

Persuasion by Jane Austen with Donelan Wines’ 2012 Nancie Chardonnay

Somerset by Leila Meacham with 2012 Beringer Vineyards Pinot Grigio “Founders Estate”

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte with 2012 Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon

The Pulpwood Queens’ Texas Book Club Extravaganza!

PQ Stamp of Approval (1)I’m honored to announce that The Vintner’s Daughter has been selected by Kathy Murphy as a Pulpwood Queens bonus book selection for February! As many of you know, from my recent social media posts, I had the pleasure of spending the Jan 15-18 weekend with tiara-wearing Pulpwood Queen Book Club members and over thirty accomplished authors at the 15th Annual Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend in Nacogdoches, TX. Kathy Murphy started the Pulpwood Queens Book Club out of her beauty salon in East Texas fifteen years ago, and it has blossomed into the largest meeting and discussing book club ever, with over 650 chapters worldwide!

Girlfriend Weekend is a celebration of good books and friendship–with flashes of cheetah-print and pink feather boas–and a wonderful silent auction to support the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. Our hosts, Pulpwood Queen Kathy Murphy and NYT Bestselling Author Jamie Ford, guided us through an exciting weekend of Texas barbecque, author talks and signings, The Great Big Ball of Hair Ball (amazing costumes), and the announcement that Dreamworks is making Kathy’s autobiography, The Pulpwood Queen’s Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life, into a big-screen movie!

Thank you, Pulpwood Queens and my fellow authors, for a fabulous time! To join a Pulpwood Queens Book Club near you, to start your own, or to sign up for Girlfriend Weekend 2016, click here!

15th Annual Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend

15th Annual Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend
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Meet Audiobook Narrator, Writer and Director Tavia Gilbert

I had the pleasure of meeting Tavia Gilbert at a Darien Library audiobook event in late August. Struck by the beautiful tone of her voice, and her vivacious personality, I was eager to learn more from Tavia about possibly creating an audio version of The Vintner’s Daughter. Once she learned more about the novel, Tavia, in her generosity, introduced me to Blackstone Audio. After reading the galley, Blackstone made me an offer and naturally, I mentioned that I’d love for Tavia to narrate my novel. And that was before I knew she’d received six Audie nominations, four Earphones, a Publishers Weekly ListenUp Award, a long list of stand-out reviews, and consistent placement on Top Ten and Best Of lists! Thank you, Blackstone Audio, for providing a giveaway of the audiobook (enter below), and kudos to Tavia, for your dynamic read of The Vintner’s Daughter!

Listen to Tavia Gilbert read The Vintner’s Daughter


How did you become a voice actor/book narrator?
I specifically set out to become a narrator because I recognized the great opportunity in that career path. Working as a professional audiobook narrator would allow me to be a full-time actor, be engaged with story-telling and literature, connect to listeners and writers, have an independent business, and help me grow as an actor, writer, and artist. All those expectations have been more than fulfilled. I love my job, and feel incredibly fortunate to have made my living full-time as an audiobook narrator for the last seven years. It took a great deal of work — getting coaching specific to the craft of narration, setting up a home studio, cultivating relationships with publishers. I am still learning and growing as an actor, and hope and expect to do so for the rest of my life.
Why do you think audio books have become so popular?
Being told a story is a very intimate, tender experience, and no matter what age we are, we need that kind of deep, human connection. We’re wired for story. That’s how we make sense of the world around us, how we learn, how we develop culture and community. Shifts in technology — from analogue to digital — have made production much more efficient, affordable, and faster, so it’s easier than ever for an audiobook to be created and brought to market. I’ve been listening to audiobooks since the 1990’s, so I hardly remember a time when they weren’t part of my life. A wonderful audiobook is an absolute delight. The listener falls in love, in a way, with the story-teller and the story. Audiobooks comfort the lonely-hearted, the afflicted, the ill, the sightless. They keep busy lovers of language company when there’s little time available for the dedicated reading of a book in print. Human beings have been telling stories for thousands of years. It’s nothing new, just updated versions of technology.


Courtesy of Blackstone Audio

Courtesy of Blackstone Audio

Could you describe the process of creating an audio book, from the moment you receive the manuscript to the final production stages?
I’m sent a digital manuscript of the print book by an audiobook publisher, and I open the manuscript in iAnnotate on my iPad. I read the manuscript closely, marking the script carefully with various highlighters and underline tools; I mark every unfamiliar word or term I need to research in red. Every new character is highlighted in purple. Every bit of character description is marked in orange. Chapter headings are marked in yellow. In a scene with various characters in dialogue, especially those without attributions (“Jane said,” “Richard answered”), each character’s line of dialogue will be underlined in a different color, so I can visually track the flow of the back and forth of the conversation without missing a beat. Dialogue direction (“he growled,” “she hissed,” “she shouted”) is marked in green, so that I can deliver the dialogue with a touch of that suggestion. Character’s specific vocal qualities are marked in blue (“his textured baritone,” “her adenoidal squeak”), so that I know what the writer has offered for vocal characterizations. I research all the red terms, often in partnership with the writer. If the book has many characters, I’ll make a character chart where I break out different aspects of characterization, like attitude/emotion, tempo, pitch, placement (does the voice come from her chest? his throat? his stomach?), so that I can frequently refer to the chart throughout recording to ensure that the many characters are differentiated and consistent. The book I’m recording now — Sing in the Morning, Cry at Night — has taxed me more than any other project. I’ve recorded a series of lines in dialogue in Lithuanian dialect, researched the Welsh and Polish dialects, recorded native Welsh and Polish speakers voicing the foreign language phrases the writer included in the book, listened to several bird calls to include in the book (a young boy is an expert at bird calls, so I have to approximate a cardinal, a blue jay, and more), learned the Welsh national anthem — in Welsh, reacquainted myself with several old hymns…I’m recording very slowly and carefully, while preserving a fresh sense of discovery and using the technology to make my many, many stops and starts sound seamless. That’s more than most books require, but it does offer a glimpse into the challenges of an audiobook narration. I want my work to be excellent every time. Each project is different, but it’s great to really commit and make sure I’m doing everything I possibly can to make the most complete audio world I can. Once the recording of each chapter is complete, I upload it to my publisher. They edit and proof the recording, ensuring that my narration is word perfect to the script. They send a list of corrections, which I record and send, and then the book is ready to go out into the world!

How do you prepare yourself to successfully switch from one character to another while reading? What is the largest cast of characters you’ve brought to life in a single book narration?
I’d heard before of narrators underlining characters in dialogue, but until a recent project — The Memory Garden — in which three elderly women, two teen girls, and a young man were in conversation, I hadn’t ever used that technique. But it’s so helpful. When I see the blue underline, it’s a quick visual cue that character A is talking. Pink is character B, yellow character C, and so on. Even though it creates a good deal of work to prepare a script with that level of detail, it makes my job in the recording booth easier when I give myself a roadmap. Other than that, I just record the scene — acting and reacting character to character. The largest cast so far has been around 100 characters. One of my strengths is character differentiation, and I’m trying to get better and better at this all the time, because I love listening to virtuoso narrators play a huge cast of specific characters who sound, almost unbelievably, like 100 different people. I want to offer listeners the kind of performance I myself would want to spend 8 or 12 or 15 hours with.


Which accents have you used in your audio book narrations, and what do you do to perfect them?
I’ve done a lot — French, Russian, German, Hawaiian, Welsh, Australian, Cockney, upper crust Brit, Manchester, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican…and the truth is, they’re not perfect. Some are more fully realized than others. But the important thing — the imperative thing — is that the acting is good, meaning real, authentic, human in every bit of character dialogue. Not every native French speaker sounds the same. Not every native Spaniard sounds the same. But they all have to sound like real people, with needs, desires, motivations behind their speech. If I get that right first, the accent follows, but is always secondary. I use the International Dialects of English Archive daily, and Paul Meier’s dialect materials. I work with a great coach from time to time. I practice. I listen. But then I just act.
What steps do you take, i.e. sleep, diet, vocal exercises, etc. to get ready for a book narration?
I don’t do a lot of special stuff. This is what I do all day every day, so my voice is pretty ready to go and flexible. But I definitely take good care of my health — exercise 4-6 times a week, eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, use a humidifier in my bedroom at night, stay hydrated, don’t strain my voice, don’t smoke, drink moderately. The healthier and stronger I am, the healthier and stronger my voice will be. I also sing, which I think is really important, not only for my emotional/spiritual health, but for my vocal flexibility and stamina.


What advice would you give to someone who’d like to break into voice acting? 
I’d say that specific coaching is imperative. Seeking training specific to the genre in which you’re interested is a must. Find the right vocal coach for your desired goal — audiobooks, animation, corporate/medical/documentary narration, commercial work. Don’t believe that someone is the best coach in the world just because they say they are. Don’t spend thousands of dollars on coaching until you have affirmed that the coach is worth it. And then, if you’ve identified a great coach, be prepared to invest in their training. Don’t make a demo until you’re ready. Don’t think that things happen easily and quickly. Don’t ignore the business of your business. Being a voice actor is being an independent small business. Take yourself and your business seriously. Read everything you can about the business of voice acting. Get involved in voice acting communities. Ask a million questions. Get to know the culture you want to be a part of. And thank everyone, sincerely and meaningfully, for their help and support. Gratitude and humility go a long way.


What advice would you give to authors, like me, who read their books aloud at book signings?
What a great question! SLOW DOWN. Don’t be afraid to take time to breathe. You don’t have to read like a freight train hurtling down the tracks. You can pause for breath, to swallow, to allow a pregnant pause. SLOW DOWN. Imagine the thoughts as the character thinks them, in real time. See the scene playing out in your mind in real time. SLOW DOWN. Breathe. Pause. Enjoy the opportunity to tell your story!