Hello again. Hello!

Quote: Writers Block. When your imaginary friends refuse to talk to you.Stuff happens. We all know how that goes, don’t we? Moment-to-moment and in more ways than we can imagine, life happens. It gets in the way. And when it does, it interferes with our plans and progress, disrupts our connections, even limits our growth. There are lots of reasons, from daily routines to the demands of family and friends, to work and other commitments, to the unexpected: all those emergencies that can foul even our best intentions.

But rather than detailing excuses for all the months that have passed since my last post–way back in November, 2014! Yikes!–I’ll just say I’m sorry and take responsibility for my failure to follow through as promised. Fortunately, we can always begin again. So hello again. Hello!

Check your calendar! Martta Karol to read short stories!

Announcement: Martta Karol reading short stories.I’m so excited to be one of the writers starting off this season’s Oregon Writers Colony author reading series at Rain or Shine Coffeehouse. The free event is this Thursday evening, October 1st, starting at 7 PM. Address: 5941 S.E. Division, at 60th, in Portland. Everyone is invited!

I will be reading three “light literary” short stories: Irresistible, Waitin’ for Normal, and Loose Papers. Meant to be entertaining as well as convey a message about the importance of reserving quick assumptions or judgement and appreciating people for who they really are, the stories are written to make readers, and listeners, not only smile but chuckle, chuckle, chuckle–a tone far less serious than my novel-in-progress and much of my other writing. All three stories have a surprise twist at the end, and I can’t wait to see the listeners’ responses.

Reading as well, I’m delighted to say, is novelist Kate Dyer-Seeley, author of Scene of the Climb, the first in her Pacific Northwest Mystery series in which a twenty-something female heroine finds more than she bargained for–murder, anyone?–mixing intrigue and outdoor adventure, all set right here in the Portland region. I can’t wait to hear her read from her novel, and hope she brings lots of books to sign!

View of Rockaway Beach on the beautiful Oregon coast.The OWC is one of the Pacific Northwest’s most respected writers’ organizations, serving the literary community in Oregon and nearby Southwest Washington in multiple ways, from reading events to networking forums, workshops to annual conferences, and more. I have found membership highly rewarding, not only because of all the programs I’ve participated in, but because the community is full of really great people. One of these days I want to head out to Rockaway Beach to enjoy OWC’s charming writers’ retreat cabin on the Pacific. It sounds like a fabulous place to write!

Judge not . . . lest ye be wrong.

yellow tulips beneath blue skyI sometimes am asked about the kinds of subjects and characters I like to write about.

While I haven’t necessarily set out to do sonot consciously, anyway—it seems that, one way or another and more often than not, the underlying themes of both my fiction and non-fiction writing are rooted in certain needs central to the well-being of us all:

  • the need to be seen, heard, and understood;
  • the need to be respected and accepted without judgement;
  • the need to love and be loved for who we are.

Pretty basic stuff.

As you’ve probably noticed, people aren’t always what they seem. We make assumptions and think we know who others are, then find we have a lot to learn—hopefully, anyway, assuming we have a capacity for self-reflection. Misperceptions come easily, and many are quick to judge. Age, race, size, gender, religion, occupation, education level, liberal/conservative, married/single, gay/straightthe labeled lenses through which we view ourselves and others go on and on.

Maybe we try to deny we have our own pet prejudices, but they’re likely there, somewhere, tucked away in embarrassment or shame. Out of ignorance and fear, we needlessly, and often cruelly, separate ourselves and others into groups and categories, types of “we” and “they,” then look the other way. Continue reading

Standards be damned?

Write. Rewrite. When not writing or rewriting, read.                          I know of no shortcuts.                                                                                                                          — Larry L. King


When I first put pen to paper (or fingertips to keypad) and began filling the pages of my novel, the process was exhilarating. When I shared my initial draft with family and friends and they applauded my writing, I was encouraged. But as I said in my first post on this blog, I soon discovered there was more to this business of writing fiction than I had first imagined. It’s true; I could have believed the flattery I received was sufficient, patted myself on the back, and jumped on the self-publishing train so as to quickly launch my book and pin on a shiny badge of authorship, but I’ve never been inclined to proudly wear something I haven’t yet fully earned. I knew I had dues to pay before I could really call myself a novelist. A writer, yes, but still only aspiring to be the author of a debut novel I could be proud of. And so I’ve learned to write, and rewrite, and rewrite again.

Hemingway-first-draft-is-shit-quote. Hemingway didn’t mince words. Indeed, I do agree, and let me add: Shit don’t shine! And, you know, it might even stink a bit when fresh, making it especially important to clean up any boo-boos and polish things up well.

There are no shortcuts to becoming a successful, published author. One must learn the craft of writing, and then practice, practice, practice.

I take the craft of writing seriously, with pleasure, and with no small measure of patience. I think most writers feel the sameor at least they say they doand I have no doubt they mean it, but I have noticed that in the sometimes heady rush to be a published author, patienceeven the patience necessary to first learn the basic mechanics of writing, let alone refine the art of good storytelling—is often lacking.


Secure writers don’t sell first drafts. They patiently rewrite until the script is as director-ready, as actor-ready as possible. Unfinished work invites tampering, while polished, mature work seals its integrity.

                                                          ― Robert McKee, Story


The truth is, in this digital age, anyone can publish a novel, even if the language is jibberish. Being able to write is no longer requisite to publishing, nor will filling pages with content that is pure nonsense stop a literary imposter from producing a book. For better or for worse, in the world of self-publishing, the traditional gatekeepersprofessional agents, editors, and publishing housescan go home, and the relative pros and cons of their doing so depend on your perspective.
Continue reading

Fiction, not an autobiography

african-monarch-butterfly-on-flowersSome people have asked me if my novel is really a memoir. No, The Flying Girl isn’t the true story of a part of my life nor is it a full autobiography. It is fiction. But I won’t deny that, like most if not all novelists, I’ve drawn from my own experiences, particularly earlier in life and certainly including the times and places I was living in, to help me create my characters and conceptualize the plot. Of course I have! That’s the fodder that feeds a writer’s creative muse! But then I’ve mixed it all up with other sources of information, other approaches to the story. I’ve mined psychological case studies and poured through the professional literature related to my characters’ issues, read “pop” psychology books, and even other novels to gather research data and prompt inspiration. And then there are, of course, all the people I have known over the years, closely or in passing, at home, work and at play, as well as the familiar characters of stage and screen.


I don’t think writers ought ever to sit down and think they must write about some cause, or theme, or something. If they write about their own experience, something true is going to emerge.

                                                                                       ― Doris Lessing


There is nothing I enjoy more than people! So in the end, my characters are composites of all my sources of information about people, and my story is my imagination’s way of weaving it all together. You know, I think the best part of writing a novel is that moment when I wake up in the middle of the night, click on the light beside my bed, grab a pen and my notebook and start scribbling a line of dialogue, a scene, a character’s quirks. “Ah-ha! I’ll have the character do ………!” It’s just so darned much fun to make up the stuff! Where else can you do that every day, all day, without being considered diagnosable? It’s fiction, and it’s really fun!

I believe in flying.

Seagulls-over-water-orange-sunset-I-feel-free.I collect birds. Not live birds, but beautiful little birds of pottery and porcelain, glass and mirrors, bronze and silver, straw and paper mache. I keep most of them on a round, glass-topped table in my living room, graced by a window’s natural light by day and illuminated at night by the soft glow of a table lamp. I have a few more birds here and there throughout my home. My sweet and simple birds wouldn’t be found in the cabinets of serious collectors or gallery displays, but I treasure them. For me, their value is in their meaning.

Each one, both unique and universal, reminds me of an experience years ago that changed my life forever, a transformation that lifted me from the darkest night to sustaining light. I suffered terrible angst and despair during my teenage and young adult years—yes, I was one of those “at-risk” kids. I hid it, though, turning my pain inward and wrecking havoc on myself rather than acting-out and making trouble for others. In my parents’ and teachers’ eyes, I was a good girl, and a great student. Even so, I was unable to hold onto any confident thread of hope for a fulfilled life, desperately searching for answers to questions I couldn’t even clearly formulate.

Many-flying-seagulls-blue-sky. One day, exhausted by my struggle, I just stopped trying. In the days that followed, I felt a profound sense of anticipation, akin to an intense feeling of foreboding but oddly without threat, until finally sensations and light overtook me and a vision of an exquisite, translucent white bird lifted me up from my dark night of the soul, took me on a journey up and out of my limited self, and led me to the mountaintop and an opening to all eternity. Continue reading

People ask me why I write . . .

Featured

Like jazz, stories are meant to be heard, to strike resonant chords in our hearts or rumble down deep in our gut. Soul music. Melodies and words about what matters. When we tell our stories and they are listened to, and when we listen to other people’s stories, we build community, come closer. We grow in understanding of ourselves and others, and hopefully become more curious, suspend old ideas and assumptions … Read more about why I write.


 “I am a bud beginning to unfold, a story waiting to be told.”                                                                       –Sam Keen


Red-orange rosebud on dark background.The Flying Girl is my novel-in-progress, and much of this website is about my journey toward its completion. Throughout, I will share with you bits and pieces, questions and conclusions, about the story’s overall themes: dysfunctional parent-child bonds and their relevance to adult relationships and sexuality, coming of age in sexual terms, and the unconscious patterns that bind and blind so many struggling to achieve healthy adult intimacy.

As the story begins, the year is 1969, “the pill” has arrived, the Sexual Revolution is in full swing, and all the rules about relationships and sex have been turned upside down. Read more about The Flying Girlthe story and characters, the setting and times–as well as a brief excerpt from Chapter One.