Saturday, November 5, 2011

Whip Your Literary Ambitions into Shape at the MWG Conference with Writing Coach Christina Katz

This week’s conference preview features Christina Katz, the author of three books from Writer’s Digest: The Writer’s Workout, Get Known Before the Book Deal, and Writer Mama. Her writing career tips and parenting advice appear regularly in national, regional, and online publications. Christina is a popular speaker on career growth and presents at writing conferences such as AWP, ASJA, PNWA, OWFI, and Willamette Writers. She is also often featured at literary events, MFA writing programs, and libraries. Christina is the creator and host of the Northwest Author Series in Wilsonville, Oregon, where she lives with her husband, her daughter, and far too many pets.

Christina will be the Missouri Writers’ Guild’s keynote speaker for the Show Me Spotlight Awards Banquet on Saturday Night. After listening to her motivational speech called “Never a Better Time to be a Writer,” writers should expect to find that extra burst of willpower needed to help them to find the “Write Time, Write Place to Write Now!”

Christina will also present two breakout sessions, “Six Steps to Crafting Better Nonfiction Queries” and “The Five Workouts Every Empowered Writer Needs to Prosper in the Gig Economy.” On Sunday, she will teach a 3-hour long workshop called “Power Up Your Platform for the Internet Age.”

Christina, thank you for taking the time to answer some questions about your participation with the upcoming 2012 Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference. We’re looking forward to having you attend and help us get into writing shape.

Thank you! I’m happy to be here and I’m looking forward to the conference.

Question: To get us started, during the Saturday Night Show Me Spotlight Awards Banquet you will be giving the Keynote Speech titled “Never a Better Time to Be a Writer.” We’ve posted a brief description of your speech on our conference web page, but could you tell us a little bit more about it?

A: These days, most writers realize that they have to treat their writing like a business, write well enough to compete in the marketplace, sell themselves and their work on a daily basis, serve readers via their unique writer-reader dynamic, and cultivate a prosperous long-term platform that will keep them visible. I am going to attempt to convince everyone that all of the hard work and juggling that we are all doing is going to pay off for us in the short run and the long run. Our forced evolution from mere writers to career producers insures the survival and success of more writers than the old system ever did.

Q: You’ve helped hundreds of aspiring authors achieve their goals of becoming published authors and writers. What is one of the more common challenges that aspiring authors encounter and how do you help them face it?

A: The three most common stumbling blocks for writers are: lack of confidence, lack of experience, and lack of willingness. In my mind, all three of these go together and can appear in the form of a stuck writer, who is scared, unwilling to learn new things, or resists hard work. Contrast this with my typical student, who understands that the journey is the destination and who wants to learn and grow every day, whether those daily successes are big or small. The willing, motivated, humble writer, who knows that there will always be new mountains to climb tomorrow is the type most editors prefer. These writers go on to achieve major milestones like landing a book deal, but it’s never Bing! Bang! Boom! Success is always the result of slow, steady, and consistent effort that results in a solid body of work that grows over time.

Q: Your breakout session “The Five Workouts Every Empowered Writer Needs to Prosper in the Gig Economy” is a 75 minute presentation where attendees will undergo “five workouts that will stretch their minds and inspire their bottom lines.” What do you mean by workouts? We don’t need to wear comfy clothes and bring a water bottle, do we? J

A: Nope! All the workouts we will do are mental exercises designed to help me hold up a mirror to each writer in the hopes that his or her career strengths will be reflected back more clearly.

Maybe between now and April, writers can think about why they even want to write in the first place. It’s so important that writers, who strive for publication and critical acclaim, know why they write, and mentally organize the writing they do based on the intended purpose and reader. This way a writer can put the writing that is for publication through the appropriate paces instead of hoping for a miracle.

Q: You’ve written a detailed definition of author platform on your web site. Then you said you’ll have a lot more to say about platform in your upcoming book, The Writer’s Workout, 366 Tips, Tasks & Techniques From Your Writing Career Coach (Dec. 2011 – Click here to preorder.) Could you give us a sneak peek at one or two of those 366 tips, tasks and techniques?

A: I sure can. Here is an excerpt of The Writer’s Workout on Scribd that contains twelve sample chapters. I think this excerpt will give you a pretty good idea of tone and scope of the book. Feel free to share the link with your membership. Hopefully, there are a few helpful tidbits in there.

Q: You’ve written another book about building author platforms called Get Known Before the Book Deal. You’ve written an article here, which you’ve made available for others to post on their blogs, about why this important. My question, though, is do you have any tips for balancing our actual writing against the time it takes to build a platform?

A: Sure. The appropriate time to launch your platform is when you are ready for readers. This is most likely when you start to have some publishing momentum. Once you do, gather up some helpful how-to resources on platform building and get to work hammering out your identity, mission, audience, and dynamic. If you don’t know what you are writing or for whom you are writing or why the reader will care about what you are writing, don’t take steps to build your platform yet. The reader rules. More specifically: your reader rules. When you do what’s best for the reader, you don’t have to worry about much else.

Q: In a Q&A over at Tweet Magazine, you talked about how to be successful on Twitter. I’m curious about what you tell aspiring authors and writers who aren’t on social media. Should they be developing a Twitter and Facebook presence, or have their own blog? Should they get into social media before they’re published or wait until they have their book, short stories, poetry, etc. published. What do you think?

A: If you are a professional writer, then writing goes at the center of your career. When I interviewed a dozen successful novelists for Writer’s Digest magazine on the topic of platform development, they all said the same thing: if the writing isn’t excellent, there is no career to talk about. So if writing isn’t at the center of your career, you’re career will suffer.

I see social media as an aspect of platform development that comes later, after the writing is done, or at least almost done, and the platform development work has been launched. So if you are in the process of forming a professional identity, don’t sweat social media until you understand your unique writer-reader dynamic. We’ll discuss how to find your specific dynamic in my three-hour workshop on Sunday, if anyone is interested.

Q:  It’s obvious you have a special desire to help women and especially mothers. On your website,, you’ve compiled a list of books written by women. In addition, your first book, Writer Mama, is specifically targeted toward moms. Why is it important to you to help moms who are also working at building their writing careers?

A: I decided to take my desire to become a professional writer more seriously once I realized that there would be a little pair of eyes watching me every day. I decided to be true to who I am and set a good example for my daughter’s sake by doing what I love. Today my daughter is nine and she is a prolific artist, writer, dancer, singer, and actress. She’s still a typical tween, of course, and I can’t take all the credit for how she is, but I feel like I make the right decision every day to champion myself and other women in a world that seems incapable of respecting women in the first place.

Helping moms tap into their ideas so they can communicate them clearly is my specialty, but not everything I do. I think an outsider could try and dismiss my work as perpetuating the phenomenon of “housewife writers,” but that’s not what it’s about and the women who work with me over time know it. They become more professionally empowered, confident, and resilient writers over time. They develop a trust in sounding their clear, authentic note in the cacophony—and I think that’s an important step for anyone right now.

I want my students to respect what they have to express, and let that lead. To paraphrase Rumi—to let what they love be what they do—but in as grounded, and service-oriented a manner as possible. This is my great hope for every writer. And that’s where all the joy and satisfaction are, for me.

Christina, thank you again for taking the time to visit the Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference Blog. I hope what you’ve talked about today will help everyone get motivated to continue improving their writing career.

Great interview! Thanks so much for having me.

Christina’s new book, The Writer’s Workout, comes out in December so she has offered to give away one copy of each of her other Writer’s Digest Books, Get Known Before the Book Deal and Writer Mama.
Leave a comment below by November 18th, telling Tricia and me how you shared this blog and your name will be entered once for each way you shared. (Blog Comment below, 1 entry. Facebook post, 1 entry. Twitter with link, 1 entry, etc. Your own blog post with link, 1 entry).
If you’d like to learn more from Christina, you don’t have to wait until our “Write Time! Write Place! Write Now!” Conference. She offers a variety of classes and training groups through her web site,  Find her on Twitter @thewritermama or on her Facebook Page. Learn more about her upcoming book, The Writers Workout and her other motivational writing books.

Be sure to subscribe to the MWG conference blog so you don’t miss any of our upcoming interviews. Next week, we will be spotlighting our first agent in this space, Ann Behar with Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency.

Judging by the quality of interviews from Christina, Christy Craig, Claire Cooke and Susan McBride, this year’s Missouri Writers’ Guild annual conference will be an event anyone who wants to improve their craft will not want to miss. So, be sure to head over to because conference registration is now open!
Register before Dec. 31 to lock in the discounted conference rates of $135 for guild members, $145 for chapter members and $165 for the general public.
And in the mean time, remember that today is always the write time and write place to write now!


  1. Great interview, ladies.
    I appreciate the advice and wisdom Christine has shared. Her comment that success is the result of slow, steady, consistent effort is inspiring.
    I have Christine's book "Writer Mama" and can recommend it to Writer Mamas (and Writer Grandmas, like me).
    Oh,, I posted a link to this page on my blog, along with a link on my Facebook page so others can read Christina's interview.
    Donna V.

  2. What a great interview. I'd love to win Christine's book.

  3. Once again, another insightful interview. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Great interview! The "Five Workouts" breakout session sounds terrific. Can't wait for the conference.

  5. Donna, thanks for stopping by and posting about it.

    Sioux, nice to see you here.

    Hi Lynn, glad you enjoyed the interview.

    Amy, Christina is a great presenter. You'll love her sessions.


  6. I am super excited about this speaker. I've seen her name all over the Internet, and now she is going to be right here in St. Louis! YAY!