Karen Bjorneby is able to glean a writer’s intentions and help that writer say what she or he wants to say. She gives little if any credibility to the idea of natural talent. Karen sees writing as a craft that develops with courage, effort, and constructive feedback. Under her tutelage, I’ve grown and improved as a writer in ways I’d never imagined possible. In 2011, I sold my first novel, which received the Best Debut Novel award from the Golden Crown Literary Society and a Lavender Certificate for Excellent First Work from the Alice B Awards. In addition, my book was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Society Award, Best Mystery, and an excerpt received a Pushcart Prize nomination.
Karen was with me from inception to final edits. She held the story in her mind when I couldn’t, reminded me of where I’d intended to go, and loved my characters like they were her own. Amazingly, she is able to do this for all of her students and clients. My story never would have been written without her.
Karen has helped me enormously and, as part of a weekly workshop, I’ve witnessed the way she’s helped many writers of a variety of skill levels working on writing projects in several different genres. Karen consistently helps writers better their work because she is a truly astounding reader. The combination of heart and intellect she brings to the page when she reads and edits is rich with clarity, generosity, and a clear-eyed and hard-hitting intellect. This is a rare combination in a reader/editor. She has a craftsman’s mastery of the mechanics of storytelling and the power of language, but she also has the experience and knowledge to understand deeply where a piece of writing is going or needs to go. Finally, Karen has the people-smarts and wisdom to find a way to advise the writer on a course of action that will better the piece and that is within the writer’s grasp and aesthetic. In this way, she is also a tremendously effective teacher. I will continue to consult Karen as long as she’ll have me, and I thank my lucky stars every day that I found her.
I had an idea for a novel, and Karen helped see it from concept to completion. Her feedback at every point helped the story stay true to its characters (and vice versa), and she was able to critique at every level, from word choice to a much-needed 10,000-foot view that is almost impossible for a writer to see for his/her own story. She (very often) saw things I couldn’t, and her feedback at every step helped keep the story on course rather than drifting into tangents I’d have to cut later. She is precise, generous, incredibly intuitive, and astoundingly versatile; I think she could take any story idea, any page, any narrative, any style, and make it better while remaining completely in touch with the author’s voice and intent.
Karen is a wonderful teacher – supportive, a deep listener, willing to meet you wherever you are in the process of learning your craft with patience and a well of experience. She helped me with the building blocks of fiction, teaching me to ask questions like “why is the character doing what she’s doing right now and not earlier?” She urged me to ground my characters in their emotions and to make their physical reactions more present on the page. And I was touched by her commitment to my fantasy manuscript – not every literary writer would let you bring your human/elf love story to class!
Karen’s “Starting Your Novel” class was the push I needed to take Finally Home from idea to reality. I admit, I was nervous coming to her with a “genre” project among a “literary” crowd, but she treated my work with respect and understood its unique circumstances. Her teaching style is clear and informative, and I still turn to the worksheets she handed out whenever I start a new project. She’s an encouraging and approachable teacher who definitely knows her craft.