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Day 24: 2012 Writer Mama Every-Day-In-May Book Giveaway: Kristina Riggle

I first crossed paths with Kristina Riggle at the AWP Conference in Chicago in 2009. She was there with a whole bunch of the Literary Mama gang, who are currently led by Caroline Grant.

In fact, if I’m remembering correctly, that was the time of the passing of the torch from former editor and co-founder, Amy Huddock to Caroline Grant. But don’t quote me on that.

Since then, Kristina Riggle has been busy writing novel after novel. In fact, she has come out with a novel a year for the past four years! Her fourth novel, Keepsake, comes out in June and Kristina was generous enough to offer a copy to one of our participants. Thank you for helping me welcome her!

About Kristina Riggle

Kristina Riggle lives and writes in West Michigan. Her debut novel, Real Life & Liars, was a Target “Breakout” pick and a “Great Lakes, Great Reads” selection by the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association. The Life You’ve Imagined was honored by independent booksellers as an IndieNext “Notable” book. Things We Didn’t Say was named a Midwest Connections pick of the Midwest Booksellers Association.

Kristina has published short stories in the Cimarron Review, Literary Mama, Espresso Fiction, and elsewhere, and she works as co-editor for fiction at Literary Mama. Kristina was a full-time newspaper reporter before turning her attention to creative writing. As well as writing, she enjoys reading, yoga, dabbling in (very) amateur musical theatre, and spending lots of time with her husband, two kids and dog.

Her latest novel, Keepsake, is about a compulsive hoarder and her estranged sister reluctantly joining forces to clean out the hoarded home when Child Protective Services comes calling, and much more than junk is uncovered. Learn more at http://www.kristinariggle.net.

About Keepsake, A Novel

From the critically acclaimed author of Real Life & Liars and Things We Didn’t Say comes a timely and provocative novel that asks, What happens when the things we own become more important than the people we love?

Trish isn’t perfect. She’s divorced, raising two kids — so of course her house isn’t pristine. But she’s got all the important things right and she’s convinced herself she has it all under control. That is, until the day her son gets hurt and Child Protective Services comes calling. It’s at that moment Trish is forced to consider the one thing she’s always hoped wasn’t true: that she’s living out her mother’s life as a compulsive hoarder.

The last person Trish ever wanted to turn to for help is her sister Mary — meticulous, perfect Mary whose house is always spotless … and who moved away from their mother to live somewhere else, just like Trish’s oldest child has done now. But now, working together to get Trish’s disaster of a home into livable shape, two very different sisters are about to uncover more than just piles of junk , as years of secrets, resentments, obsessions, and pain are finally brought into the light.

The Very Short Interview

When did you know for sure that you were a writer and that writing would be a major energy focus in your life?

I’ve always felt like a writer since I could read. My first career path was as a journalist, though the creative writing and fiction were always what I felt most passionate about. The birth of my first child upended everything I thought I wanted out of a career, so that marks the time I started trying to write fiction seriously, for publication.

Who has always been behind your writing career and who helped pull you up the ladder of success?

My husband has gone above and beyond the call of duty in supporting me, in every way possible. He has never, not once, complained, nor begrudged me a single sacrifice or expense for my writing career, even years before I’d ever earned a dime from my fiction. It’s astonishing, really.

What is the most frequent comment you hear about your book (or books) from readers? Tell us a little story about the response to your work.

This is a common comment and one of my favorites: “Your characters are so crazy, but you are so normal!” (One direct quote was “whackadoodle.”)

My response: “Maybe I only SEEM normal….”

And Now, Your Turn

Now it’s your turn. You remember how this works right?

I ask you a question. You answer in the comments for your chance to win a book each day.

Please just respond once, even if you make a typo. ;)

Answer in the comments in 50-200 words (no less and no more to qualify to win one of today’s books). Please read the complete rules at least once!

Thanks for participating in the Writer Mama Every-Day-In-May Book Giveaway! I hope to see you here every day this month. Bring your friends!

Kristina brings up a very interesting word: normal. Does being a writer ever make you feel like you are not “normal”? Do you think other people are “normal”? How about other writers? Is “normal” a word that is typically used to describe writer mamas or is there something “abnormal” about us?

Ready, set, comment!

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  • Krystyann Krywko May 23, 2012, 8:04 pm

    Interesting question! I prefer to think of myself as “super-normal” – meaning that as a writer mama I see things a little differently that others; I go deeper than that first layer that others see; I am able to make stories about ordinary objects and ordinary moments; I can take my life experiences and share them with others. I like to think that I have super powers of observation and interpretation – at least it helps me get through those times when my writing is stuck! 

  • Heidi Smith Luedtke May 23, 2012, 9:07 pm

    Love Krysty’s answer. As a psychologist, the word “normal” has lots of baggage for me. It depends so much on your frame of reference. In my current situation, I feel very abnormal. Only a couple of my neighbors work, most have older children, so they spend their time doing ladies’ leisure activities like sitting on the porch chatting for hours, decorating and playing Bunco. I *so* don’t relate to that. Locking yourself in a room and writing a book while your kids beg the babysitter for cookies at 9 a.m. isn’t normal…unless your reference group is a bunch of literary mamas. That’s why I come here — to feel a little bit normal for a while. 😉

  • Beth Fornauf May 24, 2012, 4:15 am

    I think as a mom I am constantly thinking about normal – along the lines of “Am I doing this mom thing right?” My decision to become a Writer Mama was based on wanting to create a life for my daughter that was normal for me growing up. My own mother (a poet!) was home with me. My mother is my hero to this day. As far as writing goes, I think one of the best things about being a writer is that there is no normal – yet there is so much support among writers. No other career I’ve tried has that going for it!

  • MLTCG May 23, 2012, 9:27 pm

    Great question, one I had to ask myself and struggled with-Why did all these things happen to me? What’s wrong with me? Just knowing I had to write, I felt like I wasn’t normal which was totally confirmed once I finished my first draft. It was an OMG moment- I can’t print this it is too weird, my family will never forgive me and my friends will think I grew up in a loony bin. I love today’s new word “whackadoodle” a little less cruel than abnormal but none the less true. I don’t think I know anyone who’s “normal”, do they exist? Writers lay it all out there whether it is a DIY book, a novel or a memoire you expose yourself in a very personal way by sharing your thoughts. It takes a different kind of courage to expose your beliefs, feelings and dreams- not everyone can or wants to take that risk. I finally accepted that for me and my situation-searching for a parent who abandoned me- this would be my normal. Those who aren’t like me may have trouble understanding my normal. So we may not be “normal” or abnormal but different degrees north or south of “normal”.

    Note: had to change my post name

  • Sandi Haustein May 23, 2012, 10:07 pm

    Although I’m not sure that anyone is “normal”, I do feel somewhat “abnormal” as a writer mama.  You see it in others’ faces when you say that you write…they almost don’t know how to respond.  I find that my being analytical and wanting to always explore more of who I am or who someone else is is abnormal (awkward sentence) and yet, I think that is what makes me a good writer.

  • Brit StClair May 23, 2012, 10:58 pm

    Considering the definition of “normal” as conforming to an expected standard, I’m thinking there are probably expected standards within the writing world itself. Compared to non-writers, writers could be considered abnormal – isolating themselves to write, obsessing over their craft and stories. But in the writing world, these things are expected. These things are normal. Compared to society in general, though, I think writers should be “abnormal” – it’s what allows them to develop the powers of observation necessary to share insights via writing.

  • Dee May 23, 2012, 11:20 pm

    Normal.  Hmmm….  I don’t think I’ve ever considered myself or thought about myself as “normal” or “not normal.”  Who I am is normal for me!  But “normal” does bring up a lot of issues for me.  My son struggles with ADHD, and when I (or other moms in similar situations) talk about (or write about) our situation, it’s very easy to compare him to “normal” kids.  We realize that “normal” is not the right word – our kids are who they are supposed to be.  But the alternate phrase, “neurotypical,” sound so clinical, so removed, so *not* part of our “normal” daily speech.   So “normal” is a loaded word, that means  so much.  And “abnormal” probably has as much or more baggage to go with it!

  • Sara May 24, 2012, 12:57 am

    Sitting at my desk or in the library or at a café and getting
    words out always seems normal. There are a lot of writers and artists in my
    neighborhood and a lot of people with atypical work schedules, so in some ways
    that is normal here. I know many writers from published and unpublished
    authors to people who write for business to bloggers. They are simply part of
    my world. It never occurred to me to question whether any of us were normal.
    Sometimes there may be a perception that we aren’t really working or that the
    time we spend writing isn’t important (I’m guilty of doing this to myself when
    it comes to creative work or something that I don’t know I’ll
    get paid for), but the question of normal doesn’t really come up.

  • Gayla Grace May 24, 2012, 2:11 am

    I love this question because I do  notice when I tell people I’m a writer, they don’t know what to say. And most of my friends either don’t work at all or work outside the home with a typical workday schedule, so they can’t relate to the flexibility of my routine. But it doesn’t concern me whether I’m considered normal or not. I believe this is my calling for now and  am passionate about putting words together to inspire others.

  • Lisa S. May 24, 2012, 2:35 am

    I don’t think there is anything “abnormal” about writer mamas, but then I’m one of them and I don’t necessarily see myself as not normal. But I think that is because with age and acceptance I’ve realized I’m a writer and I’m going to write whether or not people think that is normal or not, because at this point in my life I really don’t care. However, I don’t like to talk about being a writer or my writing with people who don’t write because often times they just don’t get it. I think people would consider me very normal in everyday life, however I have written one short story that is very bizarre, (and it was sooo much fun to write!) I think it is fun to experiment and be abnormal in my writing.

  • Carol J. Alexander May 24, 2012, 2:50 am

    One of my favorite sayings is, “Normal is just a setting on the washing machine.”  For me, normal is how I compare myself with myself. Typical, would be how I describe how I compare with others. I am definitely not your typical 49 year old woman; and yet for myself, I’m perfectly normal. Further, my atypical-ness covers my entire life; I don’t think that being a writer necessarily makes me so. We do not have a television, for example, so if that is “atypical” then count me in. Most of my friends are finishing up raising their children and getting on with their personal pursuits (whether hobby or outside work) but I still have two young children that I homeschool and I work at writing part-time at home. Abnormal? For me, no. Comparatively speaking? I pick atypical.

  • Cara Holman May 24, 2012, 3:25 am

    This is something that I think
    about a lot. Does that already make me not “normal”? I prefer to think of
    myself as “different”. I read a lot. I think a lot. I daydream a lot. I like to
    write a lot, and even when I’m not writing on a piece of paper or using my
    keyboard, I’m composing in my head. Last month, I interviewed 34 poets for my
    blog, and guess what? I discovered that pretty much all of them discovered
    their calling early on in life. So I think a writer is born that way, with
    fine-tuned sensibilities to both the natural world and human nature. If that
    makes us writers different from most other folks, then I like being different!

  • Edith May 24, 2012, 4:06 am

    Interesting word that ‘normal’. I used to think it
    meant that if I could just be normal then I would be just like everybody else.
    But recently I’ve realized that normal does not mean cool, confident,
    got-it-all-together. Actually I’ll let you in on a secret…it means the
    opposite. ‘Normal’ means a little, or a lot, neurotic.  It means putting a smile on your face when
    you meet people outside and losing the head at home. It means that the chances
    are that if we swop places for a while, you will find that my crazy house and
    family are just like yours!

    As for writer mamas, well they  are ‘normal’ in the sense that just like all
    mamas they have a lot of wisdom to share. And just like them too, they are
    anything but ‘normal’!

  • Jackie DiGiovanni May 24, 2012, 11:07 am

    I am beside normal, or at least near by. I tag people I know as benchmarks: this one is well adjusted, that one is childish and spoiled, the other one is dangerous and destructive, the next one is too frightened of everything to make a decision, and so on. I see how I’m doing relative to my benchmarks. I also gage my characters. I prefer normal-more and normal-less characters. If a character is becoming a stereotype, I add layers, dimensions, neuroses, and emotional baggage. My character becomes a sterotype-plus. I have not killed the people I spend time trying to murder in creative ways at the keyboard. I have not visited all the homes I design in my head. But I have felt the highs and lows, the joy and sorrow, the glee and revulsion, the fear and loneliness, the love and rejection. I am a multicultured normal, with the ability to transmutate.

  • Linda Hofke May 24, 2012, 8:30 am

     The answer all depends on how you define normal. Normal is the “norm” and as a writer I think you need to be outside the norm, to think differently, be more creative, individual. As a writer, that is a plus.

    As I age I find that practically no one I know is normal in every aspect of their lives. Even the most seemingly “perfect” person has their quirks. But those quirks are just one of the things that define us. In the broad picture, we are all a mix of normal/abnormal, all human.

    Writer mamas? They are the worst kid of crazy.( Just joking.) Writer mamas are amazing because they are constantly working at mastering two crafts they are passionate about–parenting and writing. It’s not always an easy task.

  • WillowRose May 24, 2012, 9:50 am

    I consider myself an out of the box person anyway, but is there something generally abnormal about writers? Sure there is. I think normal is as normal does but if you consider working a nine to five job five days a week as normal, then being a writer certainly is quote unquote quite abnormal. 

  • Renee May 24, 2012, 12:52 pm

    Yes, unfortunately, being a writer has always made me feel slightly “abnormal.” I felt that way when I was younger because all the time I spent reading and writing was not conducive to what most other people in my peer group were doing. Now I still feel somewhat abnormal because my passion for writing has prevented me for holding down a “normal” steady paying job ever since I became a parent and discovered the flexibility of freelancing. 

  • Deb May 24, 2012, 2:10 pm

    After acknowledging and accepting the need to write, I think I feel abnormal during any extended absense from writing, but not abnormal for being a writer. It is others that can make me feel abnormal, and maybe rightly so. They wonder why I sometimes don’t leave the house for days at a time, what exactly, if anything, I do all day (and well into the night), and why I’m sometimes seen in the yard looking like I just woke up, at noon. It’s a shame that “different” is so often called “abnormal,” and wouldn’t it be great if following your dream and doing what you love to do could be the “normal” for everyone, whatever their passion?

  • Mar Junge May 24, 2012, 2:25 pm

    Coincidentally, I was discussing normality with my hairstylist today. Pari has known me for 20 years. She’s listened to my stories of raising three kids while managing a writing career and c3PR. She knows that like me, my oldest daughter and son are writers and super-driven overachievers. My middle child, on the other hand, is a reader, but she’s definitely not a writer.

    This afternoon I told Pari how I’ve been on my middle daughter’s case as she enters her senior year in college to decide exactly what area of psychology she wants to go into so she can select the best grad school, or start networking now with professionals in whatever field she chooses so she has several good job offers by the time she graduates.

    “Good grief, Mar,” Pari said. “You are not normal. Your oldest is not normal. Your youngest is not normal. Your middle child is the only normal one of the bunch. Stop comparing them and stopping pushing already!”
    She has a point. Normal people make good decisions. Crazy people make great art!

  • Mar Junge May 24, 2012, 9:29 pm

    Carol, your favorite saying is priceless. It’s now one of my favorite sayings too . . . right along with, “Crazy people make great art.”