Kimberly Stuart

Kimberly Stuart is the author of Operation Bonnet, Stretch Marks, and Act Two (David C Cook), as well as the Heidi Elliott Books (NavPress). She writes comedic fiction from the home she shares with a ridiculously patient husband and three wild offspring. Stuart holds degrees from St. Olaf College and the University of Iowa and acknowledges that said degrees in no way prepared her for either of her jobs: stay-at-home parenting and writing. She’d love to hear from you. Visit and drop her a line.

Truth in Advertising

I want to be clear from the start: I love my job. I really do. I can’t believe I get to make stuff up and get paid for it. Very few professions offer this luxury. Bernie Madoff, for example, might wish today that he’d had a healthier respect for keeping fiction in its proper place. We novelists, though, have the great privilege of creating pretend people, living with them in our heads for months on end, and then telling their fake stories to real people. What a coup! I hardly dare utter a discouraging word.

But can we be honest? Just for one, weak moment? The writer’s life does have its allotment of surprises (good days) and fatal flaws (throw-the-laptop-at-the-innocent-FedEx-man days). Have you had Poor FedEx Man Days? If not, I wish you Godspeed and just a little bit of ill will. If you have, however, felt a healthy confusion about what, exactly, you were thinking when you signed up for this, I present to you my list. Think of it as free therapy.

Ten Things No One Told Me About the Glamorous Life of a Writer

1. Put away the ascot. Prior to writing my first novel, I’d envisioned a writer’s day spent in a plush chair by a roaring fire, swirling a glass of sherry while I typed away under dormered ceilings with a view of a lake. In this writerly vision, I also spoke with a British accent. Alas, five books in and I still speak with a flat Midwestern cadence and have never donned an ascot, unless you count a polar fleece scarf in February. The only roaring fire would mean my children are playing with a flame thrower, which brings me to . . .

2. The Muse hates children. In fact, the Muse is fickle, high-maintenance, and must live only at John Grisham’s house. (Does he wear ascots?) I have three young children who don’t seem to respond to “Mommy needs some quiet time to think and to write.” If I wait for the Muse to hit, I might as well reneg on my contracts and take up macramé.

3. Macramé might pay better. In any case, don’t quit your day job, and consider adding a third. I’ve heard Krispy Kreme is hiring and you might even get an employee discount on doughnuts! Doughnuts are hearty fare for long editing sessions! We must always think of the glass half full, writer friends.

4. No biggie. Though you have had the patience and literary fortitude to write an entire novel without resorting to self-flagellation, your feat will be entirely unimpressive to your children and to a surprising number of blood relatives. Try not to take it personally.

5. If you can do it, anyone can. Aren’t you the same person who got a C in high school English and once fainted on the risers during the chorus program? And you wrote a book? Be prepared, then, to field six e-mails per week that look like this:

Kimberly, I would like to write a book, too, though I just haven’t taken the time yet because I’m super busy. You should give me your agent’s cell phone number so I can get this show on the road.
                                        ~Love, Sally

P.S. I haven’t had the chance to read your book yet because I’m so busy.
P.P.S. Didn’t you faint during the chorus concert one year?

6. Speech! Speech! General wisdom dictates that people who write books are smart, erudite, and a tad annoying but always great public speakers. Expect invitations to speak at Mother’s Day brunches, even if your books have nothing to do with brunches or mothers. Deathly fears of public speaking or the desire to keep to one’s own roaring fire and write in peace are in no way adequate excuses to opt out of such invitations.

7. We welcome your feedback! Writing in the age of information overload means that Betty Jo from Wichita can, in twenty-five paltry and misspelled words, pummel your book on Amazon, while all you can do is watch, cry, and reach for more chocolate. “Thick skin” won’t cut it. Think more in the vein of Teflon and chain mail.

8. Close the sale. I have an author friend who says that when her first title released twenty-some years ago, her publisher politely requested that she keep out of the marketing effort. All she was employed to do, they said, was write a good book. The rest was up to the publisher. (Does that story fill you with longing? I AUDIBLY SIGHED when I wrote those words.) If you write a book in 2011, Marketing for Dummies is your new curl-up book for the nightstand. Embrace your new identity as a literary floozie, but in the most CBA-appropriate way.

9. Work what your momma gave you. Self-promotion, while detestable in most aspects of a Christ follower’s life, is completely acceptable and recommended for all Christian authors. To that end, find clever ways to plug your newest project in articles and interviews, like mentioning that your novel, Operation Bonnet (David C Cook), releases this month and is not your grandmother’s Amish fiction. Try to work in that it’s a story that will have a reader laughing, crying, and raving about it to all her friends, but don’t be too obvious. No one likes a person who can only talk about herself.

10. Grace in its various forms. Nothing will prepare you for the deep rush of joy and head-shaking humility that comes when a reader tells you that words you strung together have moved her, awakened her, made her laugh, educed a prayer, or tugged her closer to our God of grace. Early on in my writing, I received an e-mail from a young woman who said my novel, my crazy, imperfect novel, had made her stop and think about her marriage. She’d committed to loving her husband with more intention, she said, and she wanted to thank me for my words. I remember the way I wept in front of my computer that day, marveling anew at the way God uses all our “filthy rags” and turns them into beautiful things while we stand by and shake our heads in the wonder of Him. Writing books can make you crazy, but it can change you and floor you and bring you to your knees when a young woman tells you she heard your heart loud and clear. It’s okay if you get emotional when she tells you these things. You’re prepared, remember? You have a brand-new unused ascot at the ready.


Operation Bonnet