Tag Archives: Amy Kortuem

A writing family, part two

The best part of being in a writing group: celebrating publication.

The best part of being in a writing group: celebrating publication.

In yesterday’s post, members of my writing group responded to my question: What do they get from being part of a critique group? Three answers ran yesterday, and three more follow.

Amy Kortuem. Amy’s a singer and harpist who writes her own material. You can find her CDs and performance schedule at her web site. She writes professionally and recently decided to bring her own writing into the world. Look for her to publish soon. Also, Amy has the world’s best biceps from carrying her massive harp to gigs. Who needs weights?

I think what I love most is the companionship of people who are doing what I’m doing. I don’t have any harp friends, and have done everything in the space of my own head and heart. But in writing, I NEED companionship. I need to talk through ideas before I write. I need to read what others are writing and see that in all stages of drafting so I don’t put all that stupid pressure on myself to hang out with one paragraph for two weeks until it’s “good enough” before moving on. With writing, it’s hard to let anyone read something until I’m in a place where I think it hangs together. Maybe once I get used to the welcoming atmosphere and the genuine support of this group, I’ll be able to share more.

Rachael Hanel is the author of the memoir We’ll Be the Last Ones to Let You Down and an essayist. We worked together for six years at a newspaper. That’s where I discovered we shared so much – and so little – in common. Rachael loves winter, enjoys cemeteries, and is devoted to working out. Me? Not so much.

  • I need sets of eyes on my new work. You absolutely need to bounce work off others.
  • Sharing resources: magazine articles, books on writing, notes from workshops and conferences, tips we’ve learned, etc.
  • A group in which to brainstorm ideas.

Judith Angelique “Angie” Johnson is a published poet who also writes essays and fiction. Alas, we’ve been unable to bring Angie into the technical world, so there’s no web site or Facebook page. Angie looks sweet and fragile, but don’t let that fool you. She once hopped in her minivan and chased down a man who’d stolen a bike from her driveway. She raced down the street, yelling “drop the bike, mother****** or I’ll run you over.” And the guy, wisely, dropped the bike.

The group gives me confidence. I like criticism to see where I can improve as a writer and a thinker. The group keeps me balanced: to love the sound of words, but to love – even more – their meanings. Story first. Providing criticism for others has also made me a stronger writer. It forces me to think about audience, purpose, stance and so on, in order to provide feedback that is helpful for others, rather than feedback on how “Angie would do it.” I also know my writing can fall flat on its face and I won’t be judged. Our group is a safe place to fail, and fail hard, and then stand and tighten the belt again.

So there you have it. Six members; six viewpoints.

Tomorrow: what your writing group should not be.


Baby, it’s cold outside

If you’re a writer, then you’ve been found by the investigative arm of Writer’s Digest. WD is the best in the business, and I strongly recommend you contact them if you ever lose your dog.

This week’s WD flyer is for its annual writing competition. The marketing copying:


is the SINGLE MOST VALUABLE COMMODITY in the publishing world – and that’s what you’ll get if you win.

Actually, exposure is among the most valuable commodities in the art world. Artists will do almost anything to increase their exposure, which translates to paychecks and strangers waving at you in the grocery store.

Exposure is a box with lots of tools. Winning a respected contest is great exposure, whether you’re a painter or a writer. Other tools: media coverage, a popular blog, ads, public events, or, most importantly, good work.

Exposure also is code for “free.” Because people see art as a hobby, or they think art is too expensive, they offer exposure instead of money.

When I was working on my MFA, I took a creative nonfiction class. The students complained that David Sedaris was reading/speaking in Minneapolis and charging $50. We were outraged. Didn’t he realize his appearance would sell books? Didn’t he realize wannabe writers needed $50 for next semester’s groceries?

The professor, an extraordinary woman, writer, and teacher, said this: Writers deserve to get paid for what they do. If David Sedaris gets an auditorium full of people who paid $50 to see him, that speaks to his talent and brilliance. Good for him. Artists deserve to get paid for what we do, just like doctors or accountants or janitors.

Amen and thanks for that, Diana Joseph, author of I’m Sorry You Feel That Way. The Astonishing but True Story of a Daughter, Sister, Slut, Wife, Mother and Friend to Man and Dog.

The Frye: Joe Tougas (my X) and Ann Rosenquist Fee. They've played with the Indigo Girls, they've played in Memphis bars and, apparently, at construction sites.

The Frye: Joe Tougas (my X) and Ann Rosenquist Fee. They’ve played with the Indigo Girls, they’ve played in Memphis bars and, apparently, at construction sites.

Regardless, fine artists donate works of art to charity auctions. Some give workshops and donate the money to a cause. Writers read, for free, to near-empty bookstores. Writers visit classrooms and book clubs and writing groups, making a fan base one person at a time. That’s good strategy, and it’s fun, too.

But you can’t do it forever. You need to write. You need to eat.

Musicians get the most requests. My X is in a popular band, The Frye. At least once a month, if not more, The Frye is asked to play for a charitable event. They usually agree because they can’t say no to cancer research, political rallies, a family overwhelmed with medical bills from grandma’s treatments. Who could?

Diana would agree that artist donations – whether it’s a reading or a giveaway – are yes, exposure, and reasonable things to do from time to time. Decent people support charities. Some people write checks; some play banjo for free at a fundraiser. It’s called having a heart.

But there are borderline “causes,” the groups with real budgets that prefer to spend money on decorations instead of the band.

Frankly, artists get tired. Most have other jobs. They need to actually work at their art. Those acrylics aren’t paint-by-numbers. And, bottom line, they need a paycheck so their art can continue.

When you finally tell the organization, sorry, I can’t do it this time, maybe next year, what you hear is this: Consider it free marketing. It’s such good exposure!

My artist friend had a wonderful response: Did you know you can die from exposure? 

Amen and thanks for that Amy Kortuem, a musician, singer, and writer.