The last post…

This will be the last post here at kathychung.com, at least for now.

I’m pleased to introduce my pen name, Kathy Kenzie, and my brand new blog site at http://www.kathykenzie.com. And with any luck, soon you’ll be able to read books, not just blog posts, written in that name. 🙂 Please join me there, and if you’re following my blog, please remember to switch over to the new location. Thanks to everyone for your support.

See you there!


What I’ve Been Reading

For my birthday this year, I got this Moleskine book journal as a present.
IMG_0779 I’ve decided to use it to keep track of memorable reads, the ones that stay with me long after I’ve finished the book, ones that make me wish I’d thought to mark the passages that touched me, because I can’t find them again, ones that made me wish I’d been the one to write them. I’m not going to bother with the meh, the forgettable, or the awful. Well, maybe the ones bad enough to make me want to throw the book against a wall. Could be fun to rant about those, at least privately. We’ll see.

If a book is worthy of a spot in the Moleskine, I figure it’s worth sharing with you. I’ve had the journal for a month, and already it has two entries. Not bad at all, after a run of books I can’t even remember reading.

The husbands secretFirst up is The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. Liane first grabbed my attention with her What Alice Forgot. I’ve not yet read any of her other titles, but I thoroughly enjoyed Alice, and when I saw this new one in the bookstore on my birthday, I treated myself to the hardcover. It took me a little longer to get into this one than I’d hoped, because there are a number of POV characters and it took me awhile to get them all sorted out. But it was worthwhile persevering. Moriarty is very good at creating seriously flawed characters and making me care about them. Her books don’t shy away from the sometimes ugly truth of the choices we make and the things we’ll do to protect our families, and her characters are all the more real for it.

Letters from SkyeThe best book I’ve read in a long time came to me as a recommendation from Nephele Tempest. I took it out of the library, and as soon as I finished it, knew I’d have to go and buy it to have it on my keeper shelves. Letters from Skye, by Jessica Brockmole, left me in tears. It’s a lovely epistolary novel set in both world wars, by turns lyrical, touching, and very real. I wish I’d written it. It’s definitely my favourite epistolary novel since I read Helene Hanff’s 84 Charing Cross Road a couple of decades ago.

Happy Friday. Heading into the craziness that is SiWC next week. See you on the other side!


I’m very pleased (she said, understating the case terribly) to announce that I have signed with Nephele Tempest of The Knight Agency. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Nephele through SiWC for several years, and I couldn’t imagine a better fit for me. I’m thrilled to be working with her.

Needless to say, this has been a rather exciting few days.

I find I’m at rather a loss for words about this, probably because it’s difficult to get my head around the idea that after working towards this step in my writing life for such a long time, it’s finally a reality. Weird. 🙂

Reading Romance

It’s been a heck of a summer here, filled with family and friends and travel and very, very little time online. Today, it’s absolutely pouring rain, a morning designed to remind me of the coming fall and the need to spend some time inside, catching up. So here I am.

As a tiny little start, I’ll simply say hello here and suggest that you go immediately to read this excellent post on reading romance fiction from the brilliant and delightful Susanna Kearsley.

Back soon!

Agent Questions

In my day job as coordinator of the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, I get a LOT of questions in my email inbox. While many of the queries are conference-related, an amazing number are about the writing business. More and more, it seems, the questions focus on finding an agent.

I’m not sure I qualify as an expert, but I have learned a lot about the industry over the years, both as a writer and in working with and attending the conference. So I thought I’d address some of the very frequently asked questions I receive, mostly from people who are brand new to the process and who’re stressing out about it. If any agents or agented authors are reading this, please feel free to correct my assumptions or add your thoughts in the comments. This post is entirely my own opinions, for what they’re worth. Please always check the websites of agents you’re considering for their specific preferences and go with those.

That being said, here are the top five things I end up repeating in my answers to emails about agents:

1. This is a BUSINESS. I know you put your heart and soul into creating the baby you’re sending out into the world. It wouldn’t be worth trying to find an agent if you hadn’t. But once you’re ready to send it out, you need to separate your emotional connection to your book from the business of getting published. Easier said than done? Of course! It’s a lot like sending your kid off to school and then going to a parent-teacher conference to hear a stranger’s assessment of his skills and personality. It can be brutal. But if you don’t want to be seen as the crazy parent no one wants to deal with, you stay polite and have a reasonable conversation, even if you drive home privately convinced the teacher has no clue about your child. As personal as your manuscript is to you, to a potential agent, your book is a business prospect. Do they believe in it enough to sell it? And if they do, have you shown them that you’re going to be easy to work with, professional, and able to respond reasonably to criticism and editorial comments?

2. On a related note, a query letter is a business letter. Inject your personality, give a sense of the voice of your book, sure, but don’t let it go out full of errors, don’t tell agents how fabulous your book is or how it’s going to be the next big thing (again, the kid analogy applies. You polish ‘em up and send ‘em out in the world; it’s up to those they meet to form their own impressions). DO be clear and grammatically correct and interesting and let your story sell itself by writing a great blurb.

3. Agents are people. For the time they have our manuscripts on submission, they hold our dreams in their hands, so it can be really easy to be intimidated or see them as somehow different, scarier, maybe. But they’re human beings like the rest of us. Remember this when you write to them or meet them at a conference.

4. Don’t get caught up in the idea of a dream agent. You’ve researched her inside and out and you just KNOW she’s The One. You hang all your hopes on her. And then she rejects you because your work isn’t right for her. I’ve seen a lot of people react to that by saying, “But I know she’s the perfect agent for me!” Guess what? If she doesn’t love your work, she’s not the right agent for you, no matter what your research told you. Assuming you’re only querying reputable agents who actually sell books, the perfect agent for you is the one who gets it, the one who cares about your book as much as you do and with whom you can have a great working relationship. And just like finding a partner in life, chances are she might not be the one you thought she was going to be when you started looking.

5. This can be a SLOW process. Your manuscript is the focus of your attention, the one submission you have to think about, and every day that goes by without news can feel like an eternity. But for agents, reading your submission is just one thing on a VERY long to-do list that has to lean in favour of existing clients if they’re going to succeed. You’ll expect them to work hard for you if you become a client, so trust that they’re busy doing that for their current ones, too, and may take much longer than you’d like to get to your submission. In the meantime, query widely and keep working on the next book.

Do you have tips to add, especially for those dipping their toes in the querying pool for the first time?


My baby girl became a teenager last week. I am ever more aware of the truth of something author Linda Grimes said to me once: mothers have long days and short years. 

Today brought another milestone, one my girl has been working toward since she was four years old, including adding a conditioning class for the last two years to get ready for exactly this:


This afternoon, we met her teacher and her pointe class at the local ballet store to get the girls fitted for their first pointe shoes. It was a special hour, filled with laughter and kids who clearly wanted to be nowhere else. So much fun.


Blue Monday

Apparently today is the blue-est day of the year, in terms of people’s moods, at least here where it was a story on the news tonight. I’m not sure how wide-reaching this idea of the most depressing day of the year is; one assumes it’s a cheerier time in the southern hemisphere and in sunnier climes than it is here in the fog and the grey.

On this blue day — as it seems to be for more people I’ve talked to than not — I wanted to think about something that touches my soul instead of the giant pile of stuff on my desk or the fact that there are simply too few hours in the day, or any of the frustrating things it can be easy to focus on and get wrapped up in if we let ourselves.

What are some of the things you’re lucky to have in your life or in your thoughts or in your heart? My list, thankfully, is long, a truth for which I’m abundantly grateful. But for the sake of this blog, I’m going to tell you about one tiny, wonderful memory I realized recently is one I cherish, something special that means a lot to me. Here it is:

Thanks to a keynote address at the Surrey International Writers’ Conference one year (I don’t remember which), I am lucky enough to have James Elroy Flecker’s “To a Poet a Thousand Years Hence” in my head, recited in Anne Perry’s voice. If you’ve never been lucky enough to hear Anne Perry talk, I highly recommend it (she’ll be back at SiWC this year). She’s a gifted speaker, and there is little that reminds me of the enduring gift of words and the connections they can forge through space and time than the memory of her reciting this poem:

I who am dead a thousand years,
And wrote this sweet archaic song,
Send you my words for messengers
The way I shall not pass along.

I care not if you bridge the seas,
Or ride secure the cruel sky,
Or build consummate palaces
Of metal or of masonry.

But have you wine and music still,
And statues and a bright-eyed love,
And foolish thoughts of good and ill,
And prayers to them who sit above?

How shall we conquer? Like a wind
That falls at eve our fancies blow,
And old Moeonides the blind
Said it three thousand years ago.

O friend unseen, unborn, unknown,
Student of our sweet English tongue,
Read out my words at night, alone:
I was a poet, I was young.

Since I can never see your face,
And never shake you by the hand,
I send my soul through time and space
To greet you. You will understand.

Isn’t that lovely? Please feel free to share some of your own special, small memories in the comments. I’d love to hear them.

(To the best of my knowledge, this poem is in the public domain in both Canada and the US. If you know otherwise, please let me know!)

Rod Stewart on Writing

Happy new year! The fact that I’m saying so on the 14th of January should give you some idea how busy the first two weeks of 2013 have turned out to be.

I’m currently researching my next WIP, reading whatever and wherever my subconscious takes me to try to make sense of the hints of a story it sends up every once in awhile for my conscious mind to chew on. Consequently, I’m reading stuff I would probably never otherwise pick up, from pictorial and written histories of Vancouver in the last five decades to biographies of musicians and lots in between. At the moment, that includes reading Rod: The Autobiography, the un-mysteriously titled autobiography of Rod Stewart.

I’m a writer who doesn’t outline, but has to feel her way into and through the story. So when I read something Rod said about the writing process, it made me smile both because I related to it and because I’m reading the book to help me do precisely that. For all my writer readers, and anyone else who doesn’t quite know where they’re going until they get there, I give you Rod Stewart on writing:

“The whole process is a mystery to me, in any case. When we wrote ‘Maggie May’ and the song was in its formative stages, just a sequence of chords that needed some words and melody to fit, I hadn’t got a clue what the number was going to be about. I was just mouthing away and making noises, some of them words, in the spaces where the vocal was supposed to be. And suddenly ‘Wake up’ snapped into my mind — not even ‘Wake up, Maggie,’ just ‘Wake up.’ And where that came from, or why, I have no idea. You just have to think ‘Thank fuck,’ and allow yourself to set off after it, down the path to the rest of the story.”

Ain’t that the truth?

Back soon!

(Oh, and for the sake of proper attribution, that quote, used for commentary/review, appears on page 124 of the hardcover edition of Rod: The Autobiography by Rod Stewart, Crown Archetype 2012)

A Few Good Reads

With eleven days to go in 2012, it’s entirely likely this list may change or at least grow before the end of the year. But I got thinking today about some of the best books I read this year.

I’m extremely lucky to have a number of good friends who are writers and who are generous enough to share their not-yet-published works with me, and some of those were my most memorable reads of the year so far, but for this post, I’m including only published books.

I glanced at my bookshelves before I sat down to write this post in case I was overlooking anything great. But in the end, I decided to stick with the handful that came to mind first. It’s a good sign that I remembered them off the top of my head, I think.

I have a TBR pile that includes books that are years old that I’ve only recently discovered, new books, books I’ve been meaning to read but have never quite been in the right mood for and ones I buy because I have to read them Right Now, so often what I read is not newly in print, and that is certainly true of some of this year’s favourites.

last letter from your lover I talked about this one in the summer, and all these months later, it’s the first book that comes to mind when I think about recent reads. Lovely, lovely book, beautifully written.





the rose garden This is the third Susanna Kearsley book to feature on my blog. ’nuff said.





my husbands sweethearts This book’s unusual premise caught my interest. In it, a wife whose husband is dying figures she shared her husband’s good years with other women, so they can bloody well take a turn at his deathbed, too. It had the potential to be vindictive or perhaps voyeuristic on her part, but it’s neither of those. It’s about finding support and creating a family out of unlikely circumstances, and I enjoyed it.



renegade This is the second in Jack Whyte’s Guardians trilogy, (The Forest Laird is the first) and focusses on the young life of Robert the Bruce. I feel like I know young Robert after reading this book, and am looking forward to the next installment.

What were some of your favourite reads this year?

Who are we?

The grey, drippy skies of a West Coast December invite reflection. It’s a time for philosophical discussions over warm beverages and taking personal inventory. At the moment, I’m also mulling bits and pieces of a new novel that have been infiltrating my consciousness. I’m not at the point yet where I can look straight at the ideas without chasing them away into the dark, but the sense of them is there, the hint of what’s forming beneath the surface. And that makes me slow down and listen to whatever my subconscious reveals.

One of the themes that’s been nagging at me lately, connected somehow to that new story I can’t yet put my finger on, is the question of what defines us.

I think when this subject arises, people are often quick to trot out labels or name the various “hats” they wear. In my case, I am, among other things, a writer, a mother, a conference coordinator, a wife, a friend…. We can all count these off on our fingers, and possibly our toes, too, depending on how much we try to pack into this life. But do they define us?

Certainly they are easy, these labels, and their obligations fill our days. But alone when no one else is around, with time to really think and simply be, are they the things that make us who we are? I think not. I think maybe we come to those things because of who we are and not the other way around.

So what, then, truly defines us? Does it take everything – those labels, the things we enjoy doing, our backgrounds, the way we think about the world, the side we take on contentious issues, what we eat for breakfast, whether we cheat on our taxes or at board games, and any/every other measuring stick we can think of – to truly express who we are?

Or is it as simple as knowing whom and how and what and why we love?

I don’t know. But I like this stage of a new book, where I don’t have any idea what it is or where it’s going or even if it’ll become anything at all, but my mind turns over impossible questions, looking for the ones that resonate with the story hidden behind the curtain.

How do you define yourself?