Kristen Kemp

writer, blogger, author of the new book, Redemption

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Dear Family: Let’s Get Organized (Maybe)

January 22nd, 2013 · Blog

A new book says I should run my family like a business. That’s all good and well, but I don’t run a business, and if I did, I wouldn’t do it very well. Regardless, I still liked the book Family Inc. Now I have to do is convince Johan that we should start having family meetings to discuss the week’s to-dos. Hey, maybe someone else could buy–and wrap–all of those birthday presents.

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Be Brave, Be Vulnerable, Screw with Your Character

August 15th, 2012 · Blog, Writing Advice

This talk about vulnerability really got me thinking. So I learned that vulnerable people are joyous, creative and loving. WTF? I’m totally vulnerable and am in constant need of a Valium for which I have no prescription.

I can base a whole fictional protagonist on this talk. And on the researcher, Brene Brown

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Need August Downtime

August 9th, 2012 · Blog, Books, Clips, Websites

I’m the new books reviewer and blogger for Parents Magazine and Parents.com. If you’re not busy watching the Olympics, please check out my new column called Mom Must Read. The job is super cool. It requires a lot of reading. But the upside is that I get all of these free books. Who cares about the lottery?

Currently, I have 1,340 books to review. By Monday. But it’s all good. I still have time to catch up on Season 1 of Justified at night.

And Publisher’s Weekly has been running my YA reviews, too. Check out what I had to say about Over You and Smart Girls Get What They Want. I would call them adorbs, but using a word like adorbs is so not me.

I’m a lucky and busy girl. I considered myself blessed even though my eyes kind of hurt.

I’m also working on creating my own Tumblr account called Kristen Kemp Word Gangster. But I’m not really sure why. What’s Tumblr for again?

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How to Pitch a Story Idea

February 22nd, 2012 · Blog, Writing Advice

“Every writer I know has trouble writing.”
~Joseph Heller via Lisa Romeo

I recently received an email from a woman who pays me to edit her pitches and articles. Side note: I love to advise, edit and teach writers, so if your work needs help, encouragement or vodka, I’m your girl. A huge bonus is that I work for cheap! Anyway, she was freaking out after submitting three respectable story ideas to a website she had written for. Two weeks had passed, and she’d heard nothing back. The silence was distressing, disturbing and disheartening.

In her frantic email filled with run-on sentences and void of paragraph breaks, my client wrote to me: “I thought since I’d written 4 articles for them without incident that my editor contact would at least get back to me either way. I don’t know if my article ideas were too long or serious or what…Maybe my queries were just lousy.”

Lousy! No way! When McDonald’s forgets your fries, now that’s lousy.

Pitching Rule #1
: Never put down your own writing because in this business there are plenty of people who will do that for you. Stand up and defend your hard work. In this case, one of my client’s unique ideas had just sold to a different website–proof positive that she’s good.

Pitching Rule #2
: Follow up with your editor in two week’s time or less. Email to say, “I know you’re busy but I just wanted to make sure you received my pitches, which I’ve re-attached here. I’d love to hear from you.”

Pitching Rule #3
: You’ve sent the follow up email. You’ve waited a week. Still nada. Don’t waste another second wondering what you did wrong, instead acknowledge that the editor is an unorganized evil dictator. Then revise your pitches for another publication–online or in print–and hit the send button ASAP.

Pitching Rule #4
: If you still can’t sell those ideas, scrap them or save them for later. Write three new ones.

Pitching Rule #5
: Even though you won’t want to, pitch the silent editor three new story ideas. Maybe she’ll warm up to you again when she sees that you’re enthusiastic and determined. If she doesn’t, and you don’t hear back after another follow up, send those pitches somewhere else and forget about her. Did she ever exist? No, of course not.

Pitching Rule #6
: As I often remind myself, rejection is the name of the game in freelance writing. Do not be discouraged and do not take anything personally. Whatever you do, don’t give up. Once you give up, your chances of getting published go down to zero.

Lucky Rule #7
: Remind yourself that you try; you rock, and you totally don’t suck. Do that right now.
My client picked her chin up off her keyboard and started typing. She’s good, and she’s motivated, so something’s going to sell. I mean, have you seen some of the crap that gets published? Click on over to Rainbow Primates, and give yourself a self-confidence boost. Now even a monkey can write better than that.

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Back in Business

October 18th, 2011 · Blog

Writing is not like riding a bike. Even though my retro orange bicycle is covered in a year’s worth of garage dust and post-Irene mud, I can hop on that thing in five seconds flat. My butt might get dirty, but I’d fly through my driveway like I owned it. Wait, I do own it. I also co-own the house, a few Apple products, the landscaping and some kids. The kids say I don’t own them, but I do. All of these things cost money.

So this is why I must write. Oh, and I also need to do it because I dig it. I didn’t set out to become a writer in 1996 because I’m good at fixing cars. I wish. Instead, I am good at generating ideas and stringing sentences together. And I used to get paid for it, like up to $2.50 per word. That was before publishing companies fired their editors and slashed their freelancing budgets due to financial woes. That was also before people read blogs. Don’t get me wrong; I love Dooce, The HuffPo, The Bloggess and I Can Has Cheeseburger. The only problem is that it doesn’t cost anything to read them, so writers don’t get paid much—if anything—to write them. I love writing for CafeMom and Barista Kids, but those jobs don’t fund my Taco Bell addiction. [Read more →]

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Early Reviews for Redemption

March 15th, 2011 · Blog

Writing a book is like opening up my bathrobe in Target when it’s really crowded. I feel as if I’ve bared my soul through my latest work, Redemption. Along with Stacey Lannert, I’ve done my best to use language to convey her life’s story. It’s a grim tale of a childhood of sexual abuse that resulted in murder and 18 years in prison. But as the title suggests, there is a happy, freeing ending–as happy as an ending can be under such circumstances.

So when the reviews started coming out, I got that antsy feeling. I became all sensitive and vulnerable and judgy. But, of course, I read every critique. I’m happy and relieved to report that two were good this week. [Read more →]

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Redemption Comes Out Today

March 8th, 2011 · Blog

I’m honored to be the co-author of Stacey Lannert’s memoir, called Redemption, which comes out today. Today happens to be International Women’s Day, a most excellent time to promote awareness about child sexual abuse.

I met Stacey in 2002 when I wrote about her for Glamour magazine. She was still in prison then. When she was released in 2009, I was lucky that she still had my phone number and thought to call me. The rest was synergy.

I waited a few weeks for her to tell me what was on both of our minds: She wanted to write her book. Over the next two years, that’s exactly what we did. I interviewed her endlessly, and she patiently and emotionally answered many hard questions about her life. She held nothing back with one intention: She has a vision of ending the cycle of child abuse in America. She believes that if she shares her story, she can help others.

We’ve also created a non-profit organization and website called Healing Sisters to this end. If we talk about child abuse, we can bring the subject out of the darkness and into the light. If we communicate and educate ourselves, we can prevent tragic events from happening to our children. You can like us on Facebook here.

Listen to Stacey’s radio interview with Diane Rehm from NPR. She is scheduled to appear on CNN’s Piers Morgan tonight at 9 EST.

I’m proud–and again, honored–to be a part of this book project.

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Today is Gloriously Unproductive

February 16th, 2011 · Blog

This morning, my writing to-do list was full. I was going to finish two blog posts, wrap up a Facebook group project and work on a plot for this teen novel I’m cooking up. I felt rested and inspired. Today was going to be a good writing day.

Then I decided to go to yoga.

Nearly every morning after preschool drop offs, I head to one of the local gyms. Yoga is usually a precursor to thoughtful writing. But it wasn’t today. We had to pick a word to focus on at the beginning of class. I realized I was getting antsy just thinking about everything I wanted to accomplish. I decided to think of the word calm as we went through our vinyassas.

I think it got me a little too calm. After class, I got into a two-hour discussion with a friend about everything from Obama-care torte reform to preschool enrichment programs. As for writing, I didn’t do squat.

But I did clear my head. I did work out a few kinks in that plot while I was doing other seemingly mindless stuff. Sometimes the best writing days are when I’m not writing.

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