Kathy Fish and I are excited that fellow Denverite K.B. Jensen will be joining us in Casperia, Italy for our first European flash fiction retreat! I chat with K.B. here about books, bucket lists, and what it’s like to be bi-cultural, among other things:
Nancy Stohlman: The biggest challenge most writers have is finding the time to write. How do you “retreat” in your day-to-day life in order to honor your creativity?
K.B. Jensen: To tell you the truth, I suck at that lately, which is why I’m excited to jumpstart my writing this spring with the Italy retreat. I definitely struggle to find the time to write these days, and I want to get back into the routine.
Writing a book is like putting together a puzzle, you have to keep chipping at it. The easiest time I ever had of it was when I was a stay at home parent and my kid was a baby and took naps. I never knew if I’d have thirty minutes to write or two hours, so I wrote my first novel like mad during her naptime. But now she’s older, and I work as a professional editor, publishing consultant and ski instructor, as well, so the writing time has become scarcer. What has been helpful has been to give myself permission to write and to write early in the day while my eyes are fresh. I recently literally wrote myself a permission slip for writing one hour daily. Lately, it has been mostly journaling and poetry, but it feels good, and it’s like playing the scales on a piano.
I also enjoyed doing challenges like FlashNaNoWriMo, where you write a short story a day. That was really helpful, Nancy. I love your prompts. Thank you for sending them daily in November.
Nancy: You are so welcome! And I relate SO much to the writing-during-naptime and I LOVE the permission slip! Can you tell us about your relationship to flash fiction?
K.B. I’m not married to it. I play with all sorts of lengths and genres. But I do love flash. It’s fun and playful. I also like writing concisely. I was a journalist for fifteen years, so I love brevity and getting to the point quickly.
Nancy: So what piece of your own writing are you most proud of? Where could we read it (if it’s available)?
K.B. That’s like choosing between children. I’m really proud of my books. Painting With Fire is more popular generally since it’s a murder mystery, but A Storm of Stories is probably my favorite child of the two. Both represent different times in my life with Painting With Fire drawing from all the crime stories I wrote as a newspaper reporter, talking to all those cops, neighbors and family members of victims. It is fiction, but it’s true to life.
A Storm of Stories is definitely more literary, poetic and metaphorical. It’s a complex book. I didn’t even realize I was writing it the way I was, but the themes just fit together into a bigger story. It’s a novel full of short stories with two strangers trapped in a car in a whiteout storm telling each other stories to stay alive. The stories all have the themes of love, craziness and impossibility. And then there’s the story and mystery of the two storytellers, as well. The things our stories reveal about us, what’s real and what’s made up. Storytelling can be so intimate and revealing. These main characters don’t know each other, but they do.
I also have an award-winning short story that’s speculative fiction about a woman who turns into her grandmother overnight, but I haven’t actually published it yet. You can find samples of A Storm of Stories and Painting With Fire on Amazon, if you want to get a feel.
Nancy: Since you have published several books—what are some of the most important things you have learned from that process?
K.B. Don’t publish in a vacuum. Never publish alone. I didn’t make that mistake, thankfully. I had a lot of help. I know a ton about publishing now that I wish I knew when I first started. I could write a whole book on that question. To sum it up? Go big. Dream big. Market big. Have a team.
I also learned to not be so scared. Weirdly enough, even after working as a journalist for magazines and newspapers, I used to be terrified of people reading my fiction. When my first book came out, I told myself no one would read it and that made me feel better. It was comforting. After 70,000 people downloaded it, I freaked out a bit, then let that fear go. So I have learned not to be scared of sharing fiction. I am still nervous about sharing poetry though. I guess I have it weirdly compartmentalized. At my first live-lit event years ago, my hands shook so badly, you could see the paper flutter. Hard to imagine now.
Nancy: That is such amazing advice, especially about fear. I agree–fear only holds us back. So proud of you and looking forward to seeing more in Italy. Have you been to Italy before? What are you most looking forward to?
K.B. I have always wanted to go to Italy. It’s been on my bucket list, but this is a first for me. I’m looking forward to meeting some cool fellow writers, getting some writing done, refocusing and being inspired by a beautiful country.
Nancy: React to this quote by Richard Branson: “The most talented, thought-provoking, game-changing people are never normal.” Are you “normal”?
K.B. Hell no. I’m definitely not normal. That’s a nice quote in that it spins it so positively.
Maybe that was why I was so afraid of sharing my fiction for so long. I was afraid people would read it and think I was crazy or weird. Then I realized, I am a little crazy and fairly weird, and that’s okay. Who wants to be normal? I like weird people too. Interesting characters.
Nancy: I agree! Okay, finally: Tell us something we don’t know about you?
It’s strange, in America, I feel Danish. In Denmark, I feel American. My dad hails from Copenhagen. He didn’t teach me any Danish as a kid. Maybe he wanted me to be American. I rebelled and learned it in college. After I learned, I recorded my grandfather’s World War II memories on tape on long distance calls, but they are all in Danish. I’d like to do something with those stories, as well one of these days, but the prospect of translating all that Danish is intimidating. One day. Another item on the bucket list. Maybe it will be historical fiction or true vignettes about his experiences. I’m not sure.
Nancy: Thank you so much for chatting with me, K.B.! I’m counting the days until our Italian retreat! Until then, where can we find your books?
K.B. You can find my books at:
K.B. Jensen is an award-winning author, fiction editor, and publishing consultant with My Word Publishing. Her first book, Painting With Fire, an artistic murder mystery, hit the bestseller list for crime novels on Amazon and has been downloaded more than 70,000 times. Her second book, A Storm of Stories, veers into more literary territory with themes of love, craziness and impossibility. K.B. grew up in Minneapolis and moved from Chicago to Littleton, CO., with her husband, daughter and rescued border collie/lab mix. In her spare time, she enjoys teaching downhill skiing, writing poetry and traveling the world. For more information, visit www.kbjensenauthor.com.
P.S Our Springtime in Italy retreat is Sold Out, but we have room in our Flash Fiction Summer Camp (Colorado) and our just announced Writing Wild in Costa Rica 2020 retreats! Find out more: