Kelly Butterbaugh is a freelance writer and teacher whose list of publications include Hey! History Isn't Boring Anymore!, Images of America: Upper Saucon Township and Coopersburg, and Then & Now Lehigh County. Her work has also appeared in publications like Keystone Country, Back Home, Next Step, History, and Piecework, among others, and she will be speaking on Marketing Yourself as a Writer and Stepping Over the Writer's Block at the Write It Right Conference. Here, Kelly talks to our Gary Blake about the writing life.
BDWN: I like history so I'm intrigued by your book title. How did you get started as a writer?
KELLY: Hi, Gary! I remember writing stories on an old typewriter when I was just a girl, dreaming of becoming a writer. I saw the movie Crosscreek, and I wanted to be Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. But then, as I tell my students “life got in the way” and I became a teacher. Once my son was born, I had some down time to sit and be creative while he napped. Pulling out written pieces I’d done over the years, I reintroduced myself to writing and spent some time learning the business of writing for profit.
BDWN: Did you teach history in school?
KELLY: No, I teach English in the public school and writing in college. History is my passion, but not my job J
BDWN: How long have you been a writer?
KELLY: I guess I’ve been a writer all my life, but I’ve been a professional writer for 6 years.
BDWN: What are your favorite genre's of writing?
KELLY: I am most definitely a non-fiction writer with creative non-fiction and historical fiction pieces to my credit. I enjoy fiction writing, but I don’t pursue it on a professional basis. I like the personal style of non-fiction writing that makes readers feel as if I am talking directly to them; this is why I enjoy writing for specialized magazines.
BDWN: Have you published any books?
KELLY: Yes, my first book was released with White Mane Kids in 2008 titled Hey, History Isn’t Boring Anymore! A Creative Approach to Teaching the Civil War. A sequel is pending with White Mane possibly late this year or next. I also have a two local history books published with Arcadia Publishing. Images of America: Upper Saucon Township and Coopersburg was released with them last year, and Then & Now Lehigh County will be released in March 2011. I am currently working with them on two more upcoming titles.
BDWN: Switching to the BDWN conference, how will your programs help me as a writer?
KELLY: All writers fear the dreaded writer’s block. Stubborn as I am, I refuse to allow it to enter my world. Pulling what I’ve learned during my years as a writer and more importantly as my years teaching college writing, I can give writers an arsenal of information to arm themselves against the invasive block. My college students are notorious for succumbing to writer’s block, and those who follow my suggestions admit that the problem solves itself.
As for marketing, no one should feel the let down that new writers feel when they realize that work doesn’t come flooding their inboxes all on its own. A writer works quietly alone, so “selling” oneself as a writer isn’t an easy task for most. Likewise, a book contract is great but few publishing houses market their writers aggressively. Part of acquiring a book contract depends upon the writer’s ability to write advertising text for the book as well as rationales for marketing. This is something few expect, and the less surprises the better. The best part about having self-marketing skills is that this business can be catered to your individual needs. Gather more work when you have time and need, and lighten your workload when you have personal demands. With the proper marketing skills you can achieve this perfect balance in your work schedule.
BDWN: Do you use humor in your writing?
KELLY: I think the title of my first book with White Mane answers that question! Once my editor got to know me and read over my rationale for writing the book she commissioned a comic artist to draw the cover. There’s not a lot of room in history writing for humor, but I try to instill my personality into my writing whenever I can. It’s easy for me to laugh at myself, so when I write humor that’s usually what I do. I like to laugh and I like to make people smile, and that comes out when I talk to people.