Seeing hard-working, talented authors receive their due gives me tremendous satisfaction.
Two years ago, I joined the Washington Independent Review of Books as a reviewer. See my book reviews of The Silver Star, by Jeannette Walls (author of The Glass Castle), Once Upon a River, by Bonnie Jo Campbell, Perla, by Carolina de Robertis, and Beyond the Ties of Blood, by Florencia Mallon.
To my editor, Herta B. Feely, I owe special thanks for her sensibility and ability to transform into flowing English my Hungarian way of thinking and writing without altering what I intended to say. I appreciate her thoroughness and patience, sorting out nearly six hundred pages to 340. It was exciting working with her. She did a superb job.
Anna Koczak (memoir, A Single Yellow Rose, Tate Publishing)
As a Writer
Though I’ve written in one form or another for much of my life, I didn’t begin to submit short fiction and memoir for publication until 2005.
After wall-papering my bathroom with rejections, my first acceptance was an immensely satisfying victory. One story I sent off in late 2005, “The Visitor” didn’t find a home until 2007, when it was published in Emory University’s Lullwater Review.
So don’t despair, learn to treat rejection as part of the process and know that “perseverance furthers.”
Once you do get published, win a contest, or receive a writing grant or fellowship, you will find it not only serves as affirmation of your work, but also provides the stimulus to keep churning out stories.
The Strange Shape of Love
I’ve just finished a novel, The Strange Shape of Love, and am working on a memoir, as well as assorted short stories and essays (see Herta’s Work). I’m also currently ghostwriting a memoir to be published in 2015 by Skyhorse Publishing. One of my short stories, “The Wall,” one of my memoir pieces, received the American Independent Writer’s Award for Best Personal Published Essay in 2010. A number of my other memoir and short fiction stories have appeared in literary journals and anthologies, including The Sun, The Potomac Review, Hurricane Review, The Griffin, Big Muddy, Enhanced Gravity, and Confessions: Fact or Fiction?
James Jones First Novel Fellowship
A few years ago I was awarded the James Jones First Novel Fellowship and an Artist Fellowship in Literature from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities for a novel in progress. A previous grant from the DCCAH funded travel to Peru, enabling me to complete the research for my novel, Serra Blue, an excerpt of which was featured in Provincetown Arts Magazine, but was never otherwise published.
I look forward to working with you…send me your thoughts, problems, manuscript issues, agent and publishing questions…I’m happy to help.
In My Previous Life
After attending UC Berkeley’s graduate journalism school, I worked as a reporter, editor, and press secretary. I’ve published numerous articles, particularly about human rights violations and childhood injuries (the leading killer of children in the US) and also produced videos and publicized those and other issues. I co-founded and then was executive director of the National Safe Kids Campaign (now Safe Kids Worldwide). I also taught English at Montgomery College, and was a consultant for the Maternal and Child Health Bureau at DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services).
I have a BA in Latin American History from UC Berkeley and attended graduate school there in the field of journalism. I also have a Master of Arts in Writing from Johns Hopkins University.
Workshops (Recommended for Aspiring Writers)
About once a year, I attend a writing workshop, and have been to Bread Loaf, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, the Iowa Summer Writing Workshops, Southampton Arts, and Key West Literary Seminar. I highly recommend the occasional workshop for aspiring writers. At these (and also at Johns Hopkins) I worked and studied with some terrific authors: Wayne Johnson, Ursula Hegi, Mary Morris, Howard Norman, Percival Everett, Ann Hood, Margaret Meyers, and Claire Messud.
I was born in Yugoslavia (when there was a Yugoslavia), immigrated to Germany when I was three, and left there for the US on a ship at the age of seven (with my parents and other relatives). I grew up in St. Louis, left there at 18, and moved to California, where I spent the next decade. Now, I live (quite happily) in Washington, DC, with my husband and two cats. We have two grown sons. At all times, in all those places, including on the Atlantic Ocean, books have kept me company.
Senior Editor, Literary Agent
I have been working with Herta for three years. In that time I’ve enjoyed helping a wide variety of authors with their novels, short stories, essays and memoir. It’s always an interesting and gratifying process, and I often draw lessons and inspiration from our clients as well. My specialties are manuscript critiques, literary representation, publishing advice, developmental editing/ghostwriting, and query letter writing.
Like many of us, I started writing when I was a kid. After reading Call of the Wild by Jack London I remember proudly announcing to my mother that I had begun a book of my own about dogs. To my horror, she shared this with my fifth grade teacher, who then asked me about my budding novel in class. It was terrifying explaining my book in front of everyone. That childhood fear of sharing with the world my private writing is one I think many authors can probably relate to at all stages of their careers, and at any age. But getting your work out there for feedback is one of the most important parts of the process, and one of the most rewarding. My critiques, like Herta’s, are sensitive to the fact that an author is taking a big step in putting their work out there for review. But I won’t coddle you. In my experience with Chrysalis I’ve found that writers appreciate an honest, constructive critique, and this helps to enjoy the process of revision. It’s a great pleasure seeing authors successfully improve their skills, gain confidence in their writing, and achieve their goals.
As an agent I tend to prefer literary fiction, but I also represent commercial fiction and have been interested in acquiring more YA novels. I love stories that combine beautiful writing with a great plot. I have always been a fan of good science fiction, too. Some of my favorite writers are: Graham Greene, Barbara Kingsolver, Colin Thubron, Orhan Pamuk, Barry Hannah, Mark Richard, Michael Griffith, Flannery O’Connor, Diane Ackerman, Jasper Fforde, Michael Crichton, Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury. See our Chrysalis Literary page for more…
I’ve been working on new short stories and I am still in the early stages of writing a novel. It’s a work of historical fiction about the mysterious disappearance of a set of fossil remains dubbed Peking Man, which were lost in the early 20th century.
Although I’ve been accumulating my fair share of nicely penned rejections, I’ve also had some encouraging successes. My short story “Stoney Creek” will be appearing in the spring issue of Blackbird in May of 2014. Another story, “The Difficulties of Time Travel” was a finalist in Glimmer Train’s Fiction Open in September of 2012. And a poem of mine called “Twitter” (a villanelle poking fun at the phenomenon) was published in the January 2013 issue of The Waterhouse Review.
I am a refugee from another career. I have a BA in anthropology and spent 13 years as a professional archaeologist. While the job was always unusual, and it afforded me the opportunity to travel quite a bit, I eventually returned to that nagging urge to write and decided to make it my vocation. The way I use my writing and editing skills today extends back into my former life. As Field Director and environmental consultant for a small firm in western Wyoming I edited hundreds of technical documents and reports. Although I mostly edit fiction now, I welcome the opportunity to work on non-fiction/technical pieces as well. My knowledge in that area is pretty solid.
I have a Master of Arts in Writing from the Johns Hopkins University in 2012 and a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from American University, which I earned in 1997.
I was born and raised in New Jersey (no, I don’t have an exit number for you). I’ve lived in Illinois, Florida, and Virginia, and have spent much of my former career “out west,” mostly in Wyoming and Montana. I currently live in Baltimore, Maryland with my husband, Greg Williamson and our blue-eyed border collie, Arlo. Although I haven’t written that Jack London-style novel about dogs yet, dogs do seem to appear in a lot of my stories.