Kate Morton Visits Kitchener

Yesterday evening, I attended “An Evening with Kate Morton” at the central branch of the Kitchener Public Library.

A packed auditorium and overflow room greeted the international best-selling author of The House of Riverton, The Forgotten Garden, The Distant Hours, The Secret Keeper, and The Lake House. Her latest release, The Clockmaker’s Daughter, is one of the Top 10 books of 2018 (Indigo).

After reading a short excerpt from The Clockmaker’s Daughter, Kate participated in an armchair conversation with Kitchener writer, Kayleigh Platz. The time flew quickly as Kate shared her writing journey and details about her novels.

One of three daughters, Kate was born and raised in Australia. A voracious reader, Kate lived inside her books but didn’t even consider writing as a career. In fact, it never occurred to her that real people wrote books.

At age twenty, Kate was inspired by a visit from her fourteen-year-old sister, who had written a sexy romance. The sisters bought notebooks and started brainstorming ideas for future novels.

As soon as Kate put pen to paper, she realized she had to write. She wrote two manuscripts that will never see the light of day. After the second manuscript was rejected, Kate researched what was selling and then made a list of what she wanted to see in her own books.

Two-thirds of the way through Book 3—The House of Riverton—she sent the manuscript to an agent who passed it on to a publisher. Intrigued, the publisher asked Kate how long it would take to complete the novel. The House of Riverton was one of the most successful UK debuts of all time.

Kate’s Writing Process

The first three to five months is a scribbling period, Kate’s favorite part of the process. Using pen and paper, she sorts through fragments of ideas and thoughts. A picture starts to form as Kate outlines the plot and becomes more acquainted with the characters.

As soon as the characters feel real, Kate starts writing on the computer. It takes nine to twelve months to complete the first draft which is really like an eighth draft. As Kate finishes writing each scene, she stops to make changes. Final editing takes another five to six months.

Asked about a sequel, Kate explained that each book is complete on its own. When it’s finished and shared with the reader, she is ready to focus on the next book.

A long-time fan of Kate Morton, I’m reading and thoroughly enjoying The Clockmaker’s Daughter. It is her most intricate book with multiple storylines alternating between the past and present.


James Frey Visits Kitchener

Friday evening, I attended “An Evening with James Frey” at the central branch of the Kitchener Public Library.

This Premiere Series event was well-attended by fans of the best-selling author of A Million Little Pieces, My Friend Leonard, Bright Shiny Morning, and The Final Testament of the Holy Bible.

His latest book, Katerina, was released last week.

Before starting to read, James warned us that parts of Katerina were extremely dirty and the book contained tons of profanity. In an interesting twist, he asked members of the audience, to suggest excerpts.

Afterward, Michael Patterson, Drugs Strategy Specialist for Waterloo Region, engaged James in conversation. It didn’t take too long before the conversation veered toward the controversy that had surrounded (and still surrounds) A Million Little Pieces.

A bit of history…

2003 – Random House released A Million Little Pieces, a memoir of drug abuse and redemption.

2005 – Oprah selected the book for her monthly book club. Over two million copies were sold within months of the announcement.

January 2006The Smoking Gun released a report discrediting James Frey and the book. The investigative website reported that much of the book had been fabricated, including critical details about Frey’s criminal record and rehab experiences.

At first, Frey defended the book, but as the accusations mounted, he was forced to make a televised apology on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Nan Talese of Random House admitted that the company failed to fact-check the manuscript. You can watch the entire show here.

February 2006 – Random House published and included a note from James Frey, apologizing for fabricating portions of the book, in later editions.

September 2006 – James Frey and Random House reached a tentative legal settlement. Readers who felt they had been defrauded by the book would be offered a refund.

Friday evening, James admitted that a brief unpleasant period followed the telecast of the Oprah show. He faced 17 class action suits and five lawsuits. After receiving death threats and dealing with constant harassment from the media, he left the country with his wife and one-year-old daughter.

In spite of the controversy and scandal, James has no regrets and wouldn’t do anything differently. A Million Little Pieces has changed many lives and given hope to addicts. Two audience members publically thanked James for writing the book.

During the Q & A period…

• James was inspired by Henry Miller’s controversial novel, Tropic of Cancer. After reading, James set himself the goal of becoming the most notorious author on the planet.

A Million Little Pieces was not an overnight success story. It took twelve years to write.

• James doesn’t fear failure. If something doesn’t work, he tries a different approach.

• While he finds much of contemporary literature boring, he did enjoy reading Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. He also reads thrillers.

• He believes that authors don’t take enough risks. Too many of them attend writing school (something that didn’t happen thirty years ago) and write what he calls “homogenized literature.”

• James advice to writers (and all creatives): “If you work hard and believe deeply enough, you can pull it off.”

• He gave the following advice to an audience member struggling with her memoir: “Call it a novel or hire a lawyer.”

• While James wasn’t involved in the filming of A Million Little Pieces, he thought it was awesome when he saw it last week at TIFF. The film stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Billy Bob Thornton, and Odessa Young.

At the DIY Festival in Kitchener

Yesterday, I attended the DIY Festival at Kitchener Public Library. Already in its third year of operation, this annual event showcases the passions and businesses of local creatives.

Here’s what captured my interest…

In operation for 42 years, Kitchener Kicks offers martial arts–Kung Fu, Karate, Kickboxing, Aikido–to fit everyone’s lifestyle. I’m considering taking advantage of their “Two Weeks Free” program.

Musicians Elsa Jayne and Jesse Maranger of Evergreen Arts believe the future of music is DIY. It is now easier than ever to create beautiful records at home.

Cabin + Cove offers modern knitting workshops, monthly socials, cozy knitwear, and instant downloading patterns. They are also the home of the CozyRiot Project, a group of knitters and crocheters who make items for those in need.

In operation since 2008, Tri-City Roller Derby is Waterloo Region’s premier not-for-profit contact roller derby organization. While visiting the booth, I met with the coach and one of the young athletes. Their goal: “We teach girls aged 9 to 17 to roller skate and play the sport of roller derby in a safe and nurturing environment.”

I could feel Alayne Kleser’s passion and commitment as she chatted about her hens and her business, Kitchener Urban Hens. She hopes to foster a feeling of community among current and future barnyard hen owners.

At the Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre booth, I chatted with an enthusiastic Sarah Spry, who demonstrated the following compact drone. Priced at $1500, it can fold and easily fit into a backpack. You can learn all about the do’s and don’ts of drones in their four-hour course ($49 + HST).