Thursday, January 27, 2011

Today's Q&A Author: Kathy Borrus

Did you think we were finished presenting Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart authors? Nope! Here is our interview with author Kathy Borrus. 

How long have you been writing essays?

When I went to summer camp near Tanglewood in western Massachusetts, we were forced to listen to a trio play classical music twice a week. Camped out on blankets under the evening summer sky, the only acceptable activities (other than listening) were reading and writing. That was my beginning--letters home to relatives and friends. Too bad I didn’t know then (from age 9 to 15) how lucky I was!
 When and where was your first essay published?
The Boston Globe picked up a travel essay I wrote about Guatemala and even published my photos (and paid me for them)! I think the editor took pity on me after I flubbed the negotiations for the essay fee.
 How did it feel when you discovered your essay had been chosen for inclusion in this book?
Happy and excited. I’ve written travel essays and wrote the book, The Fearless Shopper (published by Travelers Tales), which contains many travel essays about shopping as a way to explore cultures, but this is a first  unrelated to travel.
 Tell us a bit about the essay published Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart. What is it about and why did you write it?
I had been tutoring second graders in reading for a couple of years and I enjoyed working with the kids one at a time to improve their reading. It was also a way to fulfill a need I had to be around children. But then in the third year I tutored a little boy whom I was crazy about. The essay, One-on-One, just poured out of me from that experience. So, on one level it’s about tutoring kids in reading, but the essay is really about motherhood.
Had you tried the essay market before?
Yes, but trying to get an editor's attention remains a challenge. Are my submissions languishing on an unsolicited pile somewhere or are they just not worthy of publication?
What does it mean to you to be published in this anthology?
After several essay rejections I was wondering if I had anything worth saying. Having an essay in Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart gives me inspiration to keep trying.
  Do you have any words of wisdom to share with someone who says "I don't have anything to write about."?
Just start with something small and accessible. Then, keep writing!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Amy Pengra, author of the essay First Unlawful Carnal Knowledge, shares her thoughts with us about Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart, and essay writing.

How long have you been writing essays?

I’d say college when I studied a variety of writing styles and began keeping a journal, which has been a great tool for mining personal essays (and pointless rants for the blog market). But I didn’t fully understand or embrace the structure of personal essay until about five years ago after taking classes and working with my writing group.

When and where was your first essay published?

In 1994, Fate Magazine published a story I wrote in college about the ghost in our family lake house. Reading the story now makes me a little nauseous, but I was elated at the time. Fate is a small pub that prints “true reports of the strange and unknown.” After my story ran, I took a 12-year break to focus my career on less strange and unknown topics like advertising and marketing.

How did it feel when you discovered your essay had been chosen for inclusion in this book?

Amazing! I couldn’t believe it. A fellow FLX member and friend told me about the contest, but I’d forgotten. Then she reminded me again on the final day submissions were due, so I sent the story on a whim with very low expectations. I feel so fortunate to be the company of such well-established and talented writers. I was also excited that FLX chose my suggested title for the book – that was unexpected and very exciting, too!

Tell us a bit about the essay published Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart. What is it about and why did you write it?

The story is about my first love, first time and first heartbreak – all three milestones occurred together creating a neat little story package. I’d thought of writing about the experience many times because the memory was so vivid and it had a significant impact on my life. Plus, I believed the story would be relatable. But I did more thinking (read: watching television) than writing until I was inspired to write the piece for an essay-reading event that I attend (and read for) in LA where I live. Each month’s show has a specific theme, which prompt a variety of ideas. The themes that prompted this story were “Surprise!” and “Choices”.

Had you tried the essay market before?

Outside of this book and my post-college published story, no – but I plan to give it a try since I have several unfinished essays sitting on my computer looking for homes.

What does it mean to you to be published in this anthology? 

Like many writers, I’ve dreamed of being published since I was a kid sitting in front of my parents’ typewriter writing “my first book” (which was essentially a series of made up phone conversations with the boy I had a crush on in third grade.) So having a story of mine in this amazing book is truly a dream come true. To be included with such talented writers is validating and also a little frightening…because this means I could do more writing and doing more is scary! I’ve been writing essays as a hobby the last several years, but have been reluctant to try submitting any of my work without clips under my belt. I have to say that FLX and the fantastically supportive members have really inspired me to try despite my lack of experience – I would never have entered the contest without them. I couldn’t be more thrilled and grateful.

Do you have any words of wisdom to share with someone who says "I don't have anything to write about."?

All writers think that from time to time (or daily as the case may be). But the key is putting pen to paper and letting the words flow – no editing, no rereading – just go with whatever is on your mind even if it starts with your grocery list and turns into a rant about the economy and how kids today don’t appreciate life like you did when you were young. Don’t judge. Releasing your inner critic is tough, but just let those “this is terrible/you are terrible” thoughts (these are samples of mine) go and keep writing. I think the key to finding your voice and what you want to say is being honest and authentic on the page and then patient with the process. All writing requires re-writing. And more rewriting. Getting to the heart of your story can take several drafts, but it’s worth the process to dig out the truth. I love this quote about writing from E.M. Forster: “How do I know what I think until I see what I say?” It’s true, so go find out!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart 1 of 4 Featured Titles at Media Bistro's Book Club Party!

Great news! Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart is one of four featured titles for MediaBistro's next Book Club party. Contributor Emily Rogan will read her essay "All About the Hair," followed by drinks and mingling at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 17. Exact Midtown Manhattan location TBA.

This information is provided by Emma Johnson.

"This is a big deal for the book - these events bring out a lot (sometimes 100 or more) NYC media types. The biggest deal (IMO) is that Fits, Starts will get a mention in a party email invitation sent to more than 30,000 people, as well as on MB's website with a link to our Amazon page. PLUS, pics of the event will be posted via Flickr on MB's party page.

Authors featured in past MB Book Club parties include Emma McLaughlin (Nanny Diaries), David Farley (An Irreverent Curiosity), David Rushkoff (Life Inc.), and Alix Strauss (Based upon Availability)."

Fabulous news for Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart. Yay!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart Featured over at's NursingLink

It's always fun when someone recognizes that a book is good and worth promoting. It's even more fun when you're invited to write an article about it and your client will post it on their site for a week.

Check out what NursingLink, a nursing community part of, has posted for us: Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Lots of Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart Linking

Our book, Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart is getting notice in blogs and newspapers, and on the radio!

Check out these links:

CJAD Radio: Passions (scroll to Audio Highlights - "Authors Wendy Helfenbaum & Marijke Vroomen-Durning")

She Reads and Reads: Monday Mailbox

West End Times (Montreal): Scene

West Coast Families: New Book: Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart Fits, Starts, and Matters of the Heart--collection of relationship stories

Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism:  "Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart: 28 True Stories of Love, Loss & Everything In Between"

Friday, November 26, 2010

Montreal Book Launch and Signing Report: Success!

On Thursday, November 25, Wendy Helfenbaum and Marijke Vroomen-Durning presented the book Fits, Starts & Matters of the Heart. They were hosted by the lovely owners of Café 92, a local coffee shop in the western part of Montreal.

Wendy Helfenbaum & Marijke Vroomen-Durning
"Many people stopped by to meet us and to buy books and/or have them signed. We even had two writers who teach writing skills stop by with a couple of their students. That was a treat in itself.

We sold 29 books and we're sure the coffee shop owner sold a lot more coffee and hot chocolate than they usually do on a Thursday evening. It was a win-win situation - we had people come to see us and our hostess had people discover their little oasis.

We chose to do a "5 à 7" (cinq à sept), which is a traditional Montreal event. It's a time when people go to a bar or some other place on their way home from work. And that's exactly what many of our visitors did - some stopped in briefly, others stayed to chat and have supper."