The Artist’s Corner – Visionary Editor, Kori Frazier Morgan

Prior to meeting Kori Frazier Morgan, I heard her name mentioned several times by fellow writer, Don Ake. Then I had the pleasure of hearing her speak at the writing group Don facilitates, The Write Stuff. She was quite professional and pleasant. I, however, wasn’t in the right place to receive what she talked about. Finally, at the annual Christmas party hosted by The Write Stuff, Don insisted that I sit down next to Kori and talk with her. He even cleared a chair beside her so we could speak uninterrupted face to face. Well, all I know is that I can only avoid so many divine appointments before the lightning bolt successfully strikes through my thick skull. Kori was exactly what my novel needed, and I am so thankful to God for her. She’s also what I needed, and she came along at just the right time. Take a moment to meet this marvelous woman through her interview.

Welcome to the Artist’s Corner. Tell me a little bit about yourself.

I’m Kori Frazier Morgan. I grew up in Kent, Ohio and now live in rural northeast Ohio with my husband, Curtis, who is a machinist and craftsman. We have three pets—two cats, Anastasia and Moe, and Gus, a basset/beagle mix. I hold a B.A. in creative writing and professional writing from Ohio Northern University and a Master of Fine Arts in fiction writing from West Virginia University. Aside from reading and writing, I enjoy long-distance cycling, watching movies, seeing live theatre, and listening to vinyl.

How did your work experience contribute to your desire to write?

I have been blessed to pretty much work in some area of the writing field since graduating from college in 2007. I have created educational content, taught writing classes, and worked as a copywriter and content developer. Even when I worked in retail, it was at a bookstore, so I was still operating within the writing world. All my jobs have helped me get better at writing and learn new things.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? When did you develop your love of writing?

I have enjoyed making up stories and writing them down since I was a kid, but I didn’t start to really think seriously about writing as a career until eighth grade, when I found out that creative writing was something you could study in college. Up until then, I just thought it was a cool hobby. I was blessed to have some wonderful teachers in middle school and high school who helped me develop my talents. I worked on the newspaper staff, took acting and communications classes, and loved being in AP English and history courses, where writing essays was a big part of the class.

Have you ever worked as a freelance writer?

All the time. Every day. In 2012, I left academia to pursue freelance writing full time. I returned to the classroom for a few years to teach at a career college and later worked in marketing, but I can’t say I’ve ever totally left the freelance world. Now I run a small business (more on that later) and freelancing is a big part of my life.

What genre do you write?

I have primarily written fiction in the past, but I am now working on a collection of flash nonfiction essays. I also run a weekly blog, Creativity Matters, as part of my business, Inkling Creative Strategies.

To which writing communities do you belong?

I am a member of The Habit, a worldwide community of Christian writers. We work together to study writing, encourage each other, and help each other to become proficient in our craft. The fellowship at The Habit is extraordinary. People care not just about helping you write excellent work, but about you as an individual. We take writing classes, share our writing on a forum, and have virtual writing time on Zoom, where we hang out and work on our projects.

More in our immediate area, I’m part of A Writer’s Life NEO and The Write Stuff, groups based in the Akron/Canton area that meet monthly to critique members’ work. You can either bring something to share or just read and comment. It’s a very low-key, informal way to get some feedback on your writing and The Write Stuff goes out to eat afterward.

Who or what influences your writing?

I am a big fan of music and film. I listen to music while I write and try to put together playlists that help shape what I’m working on. My novel-in-stories, The Goodbye-Love Generation, is heavily based on my dad’s experiences as a member of the Northeast Ohio music scene around the time of the Kent State shootings in 1970, and I have a whole Spotify playlist devoted to the songs that are in the background of the story. When I’m not writing, I enjoy listening to everything from classical to classic country to hymns to Metallica.

My favorite movie is The Shawshank Redemption, which I’ve seen an obscene number of times. I think it is the perfect film for writers to study to learn about narration, character development, foreshadowing, and just how to deliver a satisfying story in general.

How have your favorite authors and/or books shaped your writing?

My favorite author is Flannery O’Connor, and my favorite book is her novel, Wise Blood. I love that she is a Christian author who is not afraid to look at the darkness of the human heart. All of her characters have to face the question of what we are to do with Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection on our behalf, but she does so in a way that resists sentimentality. Many of the stories conclude in a way that is open-ended, leaving room to speculate about what their answer might be. I’m not sure exactly how her work has directly impacted my writing. I just know it has.

What’s your dream goal as a writer?

I want my books to get to as many people as possible whose lives will be impacted by them.

Which authors/genres do you enjoy reading?

I like literary fiction, memoir, and books about theology and spirituality that will help me grow in my faith. I also love studying the Bible. It is God’s inspired Word and contains everything I need to learn more about Him and receive His direction for my life.

What are you reading right now?

I am reading The Door on Half-Bald Hill, a novel by Helena Sorensen. Helena is a member of The Rabbit Room, an organization I support that provides encouragement and edification for Christian artists of all kinds.

What have you published and where?

I have published two books: Bone China Girls, a poetry chapbook, and The Goodbye-Love Generation, both through my independent imprint, Bezalel Media. Numerous individual pieces have also appeared in literary journals such as Shenandoah, SN Review, Switchback, Rubbertop Review, Blanket Sea, Up the Staircase Quarterly, and more.

Describe your journey to publication.

I have been writing professionally for more than 15 years, and the landscape of publishing has changed tremendously in that time. I am an independent author and do the majority of the work to publish and promote my work. During my MFA program in the late ‘00s, we were told that self-publishing was not a legitimate way to publishing a book and that going that route would destroy your credibility. As a result, even as time passed and it became more accepted and prevalent, I was reluctant to pursue publishing my own work.

Things changed after my chapbook, Bone China Girls, was still being rejected after five years. The book recounts the true story of the tragic death of a sixteen-year-old girl in the mid-’60s at the hands of teens and children in her neighborhood, and I felt that it commented on issues such as sexual abuse, bullying, and violence against women that were widely discussed and that I could provide insight into. I decided to publish the chapbook myself because I saw it as an urgent matter. The book’s message was important, and I simply couldn’t wait around for the gatekeepers to tell me I could share it.

I am an independent author and I enjoy publishing my own books. As a marketer and editor with a desktop publishing background, I have the majority of the skills necessary to do the work on my own. I would certainly not recommend this path to everyone—there are some truly hideous books out there that have resulted from authors taking on the responsibility when they are not equipped to handle being the entirety of their publication team. You have to be able to do it professionally in order to be taken seriously.

Have you faced any challenges with writing and/or publishing?

I have struggled with superimposing my own will on my work—trying to make my writing do something that, within the context of a particular project, it is simply not able to do. The Goodbye-Love Generation was like this. I had an agent turn it down when I was finishing grad school because it was a novel composed of short stories and not a traditional novel. As a result, I assumed there was something wrong with that format and spent ten years trying to make it work as a novel or abandoning it for periods of time because I was so frustrated.

Eventually, I realized that I had it right the first time. It was supposed to be a collection of interconnected stories. The fragmented nature of the story fits the characters’ own fragmented perception of the world and themselves. No other format would work to tell this story. Instead of just working with what I had, I let one person’s opinion dictate what I did with my book for ten years. You have to believe in your vision for your writing even if it isn’t what the powers that be seem to want.

Are there any comparative titles to your work(s)?

I am a big fan of two other authors who have written fiction about the Kent State tragedy. Sabrina Fedel has a book called Leaving Kent State that addresses the year leading up to the shootings from the perspective of a high school senior dealing with a friend who returns from Vietnam with PTSD and a debilitating injury. I was also thrilled to receive an endorsement for my book from the fabulous Rita Dragonette, whose novel The Fourteenth of September impacted my revisions. The book is about a college student in the ROTC nursing program who secretly becomes involved with an anti-war group on campus and is caught between her family’s traditional conservative values and her growing feelings that the Vietnam War is wrong.

Describe your research process.

I like to get immersed in places. When I was researching The Goodbye-Love Generation, I felt it was necessary to get the reader out of Kent for some of the stories and move away from the politically charged narrative of the shootings. I can’t remember exactly how it happened, but some thread or another of my Google searching led me to Chippewa Lake Park, a now-defunct amusement park that played an active role in giving local musicians exposure back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. It found its way into two stories in the book. That wasn’t something I planned on, but I think it brought an element of innocence to a story that is otherwise very violent and full of loss.

I also wrote some of the book at a cafe in downtown Kent across the street from the former site of J.B.’s, the bar where my fictional band, The Purple Orange, performs in the book. Downtown Kent is very different now than it was in the ‘70s but being able to imagine the characters there really informed how I described the setting.

Tell me about your newest business venture.

Inkling Creative Strategies is an author services company that offers editing, project development, consulting, typesetting and interior book design, mentorship, and more. My inspiration is the Inklings, the writing society that J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and other writers at Oxford started to encourage each other in their work. My goal is to help writers reach their full creative potential so they can impact and inspire readers. We have been in operation for almost two years, and in that time, authors have released books, completed manuscripts, developed short stories, and started blogs. It’s been awesome to see how it’s developed!

Where can one find you on the Internet?

You can visit my website to learn more about Inkling Creative Strategies. On my website, I offer free writing tools, including workbooks and checklists, as well as the opportunity to schedule a free Zoom consultation.

For more information about my book, visit The Goodbye-Love Generation.

You can also find me on Instagram @inklingcreativestrategies.

What advice can you offer for someone seeking an editor?

I think an ideal editor balances being knowledgeable about the English language and creative writing with understanding the author’s vision. It isn’t about being correct all the time—it’s about collaborating with the writer to make their work exactly what they want it to be. Editing has to be an ego-free process, and you can’t be married to the rules. You need to show the author grace in terms of helping them execute their ideas. I would strongly advise writers to not take on an editor who is rigid and not willing to collaborate.

What’s your dream job as an editor?

I would love to see an author I work with just totally blow up with their work—get tons of readers and attention, and maybe even become a hit nationally. Not because Inkling might get some credit for that, or that even I would, but because I would have accomplished my mission of helping someone reach their full creative potential.

Where do you see yourself in the world of writing in ten years?

I would love to see Inkling grow enough that I can partner with other editors who share my vision. I also, of course, hope that I will continue to write and publish work that will make an impact on readers, whatever that looks like. I also fantasize about The Goodbye-Love Generation being made into an Amazon or Netflix limited series.

Those are great goals and dreams. Wishing you all the best in your pursuits!

To Struggle With Forgiveness

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In a previous blog post involving my protagonist, Dr. John Welles, and his two Jewish friends, Reuben and Hannah Wise, I mentioned that the three were divided on the issue of forgiveness as it related to the Holocaust. For reasons that I’ll save for the publication of my novel, The Secrets of Dr. John Welles, each of them comes to the table with a different perspective on how the situation should be handled.

When I first wrote the storyline involving the Wises and Dr. Welles, everyone ended up forgiving everyone else with hugs and smiles all around. I admit that I wrote these scenes fast and furiously for NaNoWriMo without having done my research and because I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted the storyline to take.

Then two of my aunts attended a program on women Holocaust survivors and brought me some information on the subject. After reading the materials they gave me, I knew the scenes I wrote concerning the Wises and Dr. Welles were completely inaccurate, and therefore, unbelievable. I had to step back for a moment to analyze where my perspective of forgiveness came from and examine my knowledge of the Holocaust.

Everything I learned about the Holocaust came during my school years, and I can tell you that for the purposes of writing a novel, the knowledge was slim compared to what I found when I conducted my research. I realized I was too far removed from the facts because I was too young to have experienced it firsthand and didn’t have a relative who either perished or survived the concentration camps. My original scenes were trashed, and I set about rewriting the story.

Once the details of time and place were corrected, I worked on an aspect of my story that took me by surprise: the concept of forgiveness as understood by Jewish people who practice Judaism. My experience with forgiveness as I was taught might have influenced Dr. Welles but would seem ridiculous to Reuben and Hannah Wise. By applying my faith based instruction to the overall story, I denied my Jewish characters a single ounce of reality.

The questions that kept going through my head, those that drove my characters, included 1) Do we forgive but not forget? 2) Can only God truly forgive? 3) Must the perpetrators of the crime repent and ask for forgiveness before it can be bestowed? 4) If the criminals are dead, can forgiveness take place? 5) Should we forgive no matter what for every offense committed against us?

There are many articles on the internet about forgiveness written from many different perspectives. I chose to draw on those based in Christianity and Judaism when writing my novel and peppered the views found there with heavy dashes of my characters’ own attitudes and viewpoints.

The following article, “Can You Forgive Hitler?” written by Stewart Ain, September 22, 2006, for The Jewish Week, is the article that helped me the most when deciding how to have my characters react to the difficult questions and trying situation with which they struggled.

It’s easy to say what I would do until faced with the death of my loved ones at the hands of evil people. Still, I wonder about Holocaust survivors who do forgive and maintain their faith regardless of the hell they endured versus those who refuse to forgive and lose their faith because of the hell they endured. It scares me to know that because of the condition of our world today, many are challenged with these same questions.

Onward, Christian Ire… Or Not

untitled (11)I’m obviously rather late coming in on the debate of the Russell Crowe version of Noah. In my defense, I wasn’t going to pay to watch that piece of tripe. (Sneak peek on my opinion of the movie.) I had to wait until my turn at the library came up so I could watch it for free. There goes two hours of my life I’ll never get back.

Where do I begin? With the armadillo dog, perhaps? (Snort.) How about the shiny magic rocks or glowing, charmed snakeskin? There are always the Watchers to debate. Don’t even get me started on the hideous CGI, animatronics, or whatever it was they used.

Using a few Biblical names and borrowing the history of the world being destroyed by water were the only things remotely familiar in this farce of a movie. Nothing else was recognizable. To rewrite the facts then present them so pathetically reflects poorly on everyone associated with the film.

In short, dystopian universe Noah is so unbelievable, there is absolutely no way any Christian could be offended, myself included. The movie it utter laughable nonsense.

On the other hand, if the intent of the film was to create yet another divisive, pseudo-Christian religion, the movie presents the perfect shaky foundation for this to occur. Going green seems to be the underlying message. No doubt, Al Gore will be on board as a prophet.

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