Writing Process: Obsessed by Tom Waits’s “Georgia Lee”

You know, I wrote THE ART OF FLOATING during the five years I lived in Shanghai, China. And while I wrote, I was obsessed with “Georgia Lee,” this haunting, beautiful song by Tom Waits. I had it on my iPod, and every day I’d take a walk through the old French Concession area, deep in writerhead, listening and absorbing.

Take a listen. Gorgeous, isn’t it?

(Once you’ve listened, if you’re so inclined, I’d love for you to pop over and “Like” my Facebook author page! Thx!)


Grant Application: The Artist Statement

Bubble_Morgue File FreeThis morning I am writing an artist statement for a grant application. For the past few weeks, I’ve tried and failed a gazillion times to get this damn thing on the page, but this morning, it popped out of my head like a perfectly formed bubble. Whew.





Shiny, Bright Blurb from the Fantabulous Hank Phillippi Ryan

9780425271483_large_The Art of Floating_HIGH RESA few weeks ago, after sending an ARC of THE ART OF FLOATING to the amazing author/human Hank Phillipi Ryan, I received an email from her that read, “I don’t know quite what to make of this unique and  enchanting novel, but I cannot put it down.”

A week later, after reading the whole book, Hank wrote again. This time she shared the following: “A triumph. A treasure. Tender, profound, and hilariously heartbreaking. A gorgeously magical story that will have you saying ‘my favorite!’ and then sharing it with everyone you know.”

I, of course, have been smiling ever since. Walking around with “Tender, profound, and hilariously heartbreaking” running through my head and heart. It means something when someone gets your book—really GETS it. You know what I mean?


Hank Phillippi Ryan_wrong-girl-240hIf you don’t know Hank’s work, check it out. Her latest novel, THE WRONG GIRL, is currently:

  • an AGATHA nominee for Best Contemporary Novel
  • a Left Coast Crime nominee for Best Mystery (set in the United States)
  • a nominee for Best Suspense/Thriller of 2013 (from the RT BookReviews Reviewers’ Choice Awards)

Hank rocks.




5 Galley Giveaway of THE ART OF FLOATING! Enter now!

9780425271483_large_The Art of Floating_HIGH RESIn honor of great love and Valentine’s Day, I’m giving away 5 galleys of my new novel THE ART OF FLOATING (which comes out on April 1, 2014)!

To enter the contest (Feb 12–18), pop on over to my author page on Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/KristinBairOKeeffeAuthor.

All (very easy) instructions for entering the giveaway are on my author page. I’ll select the lucky winners randomly on Tuesday, February 18, 2014. One galley can go to an overseas reader, so if you’re outside of the U.S., please enter!

Good luck! Whoop! Whoop!


My New Writing Partner…

About six months ago, our pup Gumper unexpectedly died. He was young…just 1 1/2 years old. It was one of those things that you can’t explain. And it was heartbreaking.

After that, we took a doggie break. Spent a lot of time talking with our five-year-old about death and the cycle of life (during which time she switched from unintentionally referring to all graveyards as “junk yards”). 🙂

Then, missing that dog energy from our home, I started stalking dog rescue groups online…looking for the right dog to follow in Gumper’s fine paw-steps.

Two weeks ago, we brought this guy home. 1/2 St. Bernard. 1/2 Great Pyrenees. About two years old. A rescue from Tennessee.

He’s a lovebug. And my daughter named him…BOINGA!

Here’s a good shot of Boinga getting ready to go to the bus stop with us in the morning. (Tully’s bus driver brings him biscuits…oh, this boy is spoiled.)

And, he’s a great writing partner. (Good thing, ’cause I’ve got a hell of a lot of writing to get done.)

Tully & Boinga 3

A Sneak Peek at the Cover of My Upcoming Novel THE ART OF FLOATING!

(drum roll, please)

Here it is! A big thanks to the cover designers at Berkley Books | Penguin Random House. The novel isn’t due in bookstores until April 2014, but until then, I’m going to enjoy the cover.


the cover for my new novel THE ART OF FLOATING (Berkley Books | Penguin Random House, April 2014)

the cover for my new novel THE ART OF FLOATING (Berkley Books | Penguin Random House, April 2014)

5 Tips for Authors on How to Engage Book Clubs from Midge Raymond

Hey, folks,everydaybookmarketing_high

The marvelous, brilliant, book savvy Midge Raymond is back at Writerhead. This time she’s written a terrific book about how to market your book!

Read, buy, share!


Book clubs are not only fun as a reader, they are an author’s dear friend. Having your book chosen by a book club is an honor, and it creates word of mouth that often keeps building. The big question is: How do you get your book chosen for a book club?

When my story collection, Forgetting English, was published, I was delighted to be invited to several book club meetings in my then-hometown of Seattle. Being a part of book clubs was something I’d wanted to do but wasn’t sure how to go about doing it—especially with a collection of short fiction, a genre that is less popular among book clubs than novels and memoirs.

I was fortunate to have writer friends in book clubs, and they got me started by suggesting my book to their own clubs. And in fact, when I talk to other authors about their experiences with book clubs, they all seem to start in the same way: Someone they know chooses their book and invites them to a meeting, and a club member who enjoys the experience tells someone in another book club—and everything grows from there.

So this leads to my first tip…

1. Tell your friends that you’d love to join their book clubs (either in person, or via phone, FaceTime, or Skype). This is the most important first step of all; from there, you’ll have readers who then tell their own friends about your book and how fun it was to discuss it with you at their meeting (and don’t be afraid to let them know you’d appreciate their sharing their experience—often readers don’t understand how helpful this is to writers, and they are usually so happy to help). Also, bring up your book club availability not only among friends but everyone you meet. So often we’re in a position to reach new readers—whether it’s when we go to a new hair stylist or when we meet people at a party—yet we don’t take advantage when we’re asked, “So what do you do?” You don’t have to shamelessly sell yourself; just mention your book, let people know that you love chatting with book clubs, and invite them to contact you (or visit your website) if they’d like to learn more.

2. Use social media. Facebook is a wonderful way to reach out to book clubs, as this is a national (or worldwide) network of your own friends and family, all of whom have an interest in you and your book and can then share whatever you post (and do encourage people to share links). Twitter and Goodreads are also great for letting readers know about your work with book clubs—remember to use social networks not only to offer your availability but to post photos and comments about past meetings, which will show your enthusiasm and generate interest from other readers and book clubs.

3. Be local. While there are many ways to join a book club long-distance, it’s always most special when you can be there in person—so take advantage of what your hometown has to offer. Visit local bookstores, your local library branches, and other organizations to let them know about your book and your availability for local book clubs. Create a flyer with all the relevant info (your book, your bio, reviews, testimonials from other book clubs, contact information) and ask folks to post it and/or share it with readers.

4. Create a reading guide for book clubs, and be sure this is easy to find on your website. (Note: If book clubs are a big part of your marketing plan, you might even want a special link on your website to a page devoted to book club info.) A reading guide not only provides a starting point for discussion with clubs you’re scheduled to meet with but it also generates interest among those who are considering choosing your book. Think about what is most “book clubby” about your book—i.e., what aspects of it make for good discussions, not only about the book but beyond it? Forgetting English, for example, is interesting for book clubs in part because its ten stories means there’s something for everyone, and among all those stories there are a lot of topics, characters, and settings to discuss. At the same time, its common themes—love, travel, life-work balance—allow for the conversation to expand beyond the book itself. Often the best book club meetings end up being more about the participants’ stories than about the book—but this is part of what makes it fun: seeing people respond to the book in ways that open them up to reflect on their own lives and experiences.

5. Offer incentives. If you can, offer a free copy of your book to book club hosts (if you don’t have a lot of spare copies, you can do this for a limited time or for a limited number of books). And find ways to bring something more than yourself to the meeting—for example, if your book features a chef, offer to bring your character’s signature dish to the meeting.

Most of all, enjoy the process—think of this aspect of marketing not as work but as a privilege. As bestselling author Jenna Blum tells us in Everyday Book Marketing about her first book club meeting for her first novel: “A chance to talk about my baby for three hours with kind strangers and drink all their wine? What writer wouldn’t go?” And remember that the more you reach out, and the more book clubs you meet with, the more readers connect not only with your book but with you as an author—and this can lead not only to new readers but to new friendships as well.


MidgeRaymondBIO: Midge Raymond is the author of the short story collection Forgetting English, which received the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction. She is also the author of two books for writers: Everyday Writing and Everyday Book Marketing. Her work has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, TriQuarterly, American Literary Review, the Los Angeles Times magazine, and many other publications. Visit her online at www.MidgeRaymond.com.


Redesigning the Traditional, Boring Reader’s Guide for The Art of Floating

Flüchtlingsfrau mit WägelchenA few weeks ago, I decided to write the reader’s guide to THE ART OF FLOATING myself. Sure, I could have handed off this task to the editorial team at Penguin Random House | Berkley Books, but who knows the book better than me, right?

Anyway, while working on the reader’s guide yesterday, I realized that most reader’s guides included in novels read like those terrible, boring, kill-me-if-I-really-have-to-answer-this-question literature guides teachers used to pass out in high school English class. Ugh! As I read through example after example, I tore most of my hair out.

Books rock! They’re fun, funny, heartbreaking, scary-as-shit, chock-full of words, energy, crazy-ass characters, unusual plot lines, death, birth, love, sex, and all kinds of great stuff. Right?

So why in the world are the reader’s guides that accompany them so damn boring? Most sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher reading obituaries out loud.

Therefore, I am writing a new kind of reader’s guide for THE ART OF FLOATING…one that matches the voice, tone, and verve of the book. I want book groups and classes and individual readers to have an f’in blast hashing out the whys and wherefores of this story I spent nearly 5 years writing…whether or not they love the book (fingers crossed) or hate it (inevitable for a few).


No idea whether my editor will buy into my creation, but fingers crossed for that, too.



Confession: I am officially THAT writer…

Confession: I am officially THAT writer…a strung-out mom who is working a fulfilling but demanding full-time job who has a book coming out and who is trying like hell to get the next one written.

But you know what? I love it. I’m loving my new daytime gig (director of publications & editor of the alumni magazine at Phillips Academy); I love (LOVE!) that Penguin Random House|Berkley Books is publishing my new novel (THE ART OF FLOATING) in April 2014; and despite the fact that writing another new novel is like venturing into the jungle without shoes, water, a match, a map, or moisturizer, I’m loving that, too.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, my hair looks like hell most days because, honestly, spending an hour taming my crazy locks is the thing that gives. And, no, I don’t sleep a whole lot (thus, the sizable bags I’m dragging around under my eyes). But you know, I wouldn’t trade a piece of it.

Raise your hand if you can relate!

(besides, I take a wee bit of comfort in the fact that on most days, despite horrid neglect, my hair looks slightly better than that of this poor woman)