Writing Tips from our April Featured Member, Karma Bennett

Editor’s note: Today we start a new series that presents interviews with Berkeley CWC members who are to be featured at our events. These interviews are presented by Jason Yiu. Our first featured member is Karma Bennett, who is not only the featured member at this Sunday’s meeting, she’s also our Berkeley branch president. Now I turn it over to Jason. 
SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAKarma Bennett has experience in many fields of writing: poetry, writing content for businesses, novels, even in publishing and publicity. She has been working in publicity and marketing since 2007, specifically in book publicity and digital marketing, and now she runs her own business in that field, at www.karmabennett.com. Bennett’s forte is in increasing publicity in social media, creating Google search keywords for blogs, and overall making sure her clients get more attention online. She enjoys writing about music, politics, feminism, and philosophy, and she blogs about them in www.futureisfiction.com. She is one of the top ten most-popular blogger on blip.fm, with over 42,000 followers. Although she has no published work yet, in the past decade, she has been working on a novel.
Bennett’s intention for writing is unequivocal: writing is what fulfills her the most. “It’s natural. It’s what I’m good at,” she said. “It’s the question of ‘What did you do while you’re on Earth?’ Writing’s the only answer that makes me satisfied.”  She started off writing poetry, but realized that poetry can’t build a career, so she pivoted into writing novels. 

JY: Can you tell me a little about the novel you’ve been working on?

KB: The novel is about an artist who has recurring dreams about the Garden of Eden. She is trapped within the ambiguity of whether she is going insane, or if she is in fact called to save the world.

Bennett compares the novel to Pan’s Labyrinth, by Mar Diestro‑Dópido, where the ending could be interpreted in different ways, depending on the perspective of the reader. While writing, Bennett had the objective to construct this ambiguous ending, empowering the reader to perceive an ending in his or her own head. Is it fantastical, or is it real?
JY: As an experienced writer, are there any tips you would like to give to other writers?

KB: Don’t self publish.

As someone who worked in marketing and publicity for many years, the first suggestion Bennett would give to other writers is a practical one: don’t self-publish. She’s talked to many writers over the years who are gung-ho about self-publishing in order to put their work out there, but she doesn’t recommend it if the author wants to get their books in the bookstores. From her experience, “buyers will only look at books from traditional publishers,” she said.

KB: Join a writer’s group!

Bennett has been part of three writer’s groups, and she says that it helps her grow as a writer. She learns from the critiques they give her on her writing and absorb their point of view. She also mentioned the essentiality for writers to collaborate, especially for blogs. Speaking from her own blogging experience, she knows what the readers want is more content in the blogs. Being the only blogger on her website, she was only able to post monthly posts given her time restraints with her business. To tackle this issue, Bennett has been thinking about collaborating with a few other writers so they could each contribute to the blog to drive more frequent content.

KB: Most importantly, write everyday.

This was the last point Bennett added, but stressed with most gravity. “If you look at runners, they don’t hit their best times every practice. Writers have to be like runners and basketball players, to continue practicing,” she said, “Even if it’s writing journal entries that won’t be seen by anybody else.” Bennett emphasized the importance of keeping up with the daily writing, and, comparing writers to athletes once more, “don’t be too hard on yourself if your writing doesn’t meet your standard. Keep writing.”
JY: What motivates you in writing?
“The news, and ignorance,” she answered, but clarifies that she doesn’t mean that in a judgmental way. There would be instances where she comes across people saying things that are politically incorrect that makes her perplexed. She, then, realized that it’s because many people don’t have the a background or frequent exposure to politics and sociology. Thus, one of her strongest objectives in writing would be to raise awareness for views she doesn’t think are talked about enough, or to edify her readers on political views that are often misunderstood from an unbiased point of view.  
JY: Lastly, do you want to leave us with some of your favorite authors and books?
Bennett has recently been reading Joseph Campbell’s work as well, on account of her research for her recent novel. Referring to The Hero with a Thousand Faces, she is intrigued by his theory of monomyths, how he pointed out the common denominator for all religions share archetypal similarities. Although Bennett had her qualms with many religious practices in the past, she said Joseph Campbell made her understand what we see a lot of times are results of culture changes, but not in the idea of the religion itself.
Bennett has read numerous books in her life, but the two authors she could think of from the top of her head were Kurt Vonnegut and Catherynne M. Valente. She indicates that she likes how Kurt Vonnegut triggered the question of “am I who I am, or am I who I pretend to be?” She referenced her favorite book by Vonnegut, Mother Night, and explained that the split identity of the protagonist, and the conflict of those two identities, shifted her perspective on who we really are. Bennett likes Valente for her imaginative fantasy novels. “[Her] descriptions are so engaging, she creates a world that only exists in her own head,” Bennett said.
Karma Bennett will be reading a short passage from her work at our meeting this Sunday. Come out and say hello, and be sure to look out for the hidden Easter eggs! They contain a coupons for discounts from publishing professionals in our club, including several from Bennett too. 

Jason Yiu

1 Comment

  • comment-avatar
    Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte April 22, 2017 (5:24 pm)

    I have thought about how to fashion this reply for days now. And since it has not left my thoughts I am compelled to respond.
    The comment made in Karma’s interview regarding self-publishing has me confused and annoyed. Confused because I thought all writers, regardless of how they publish their works are just that, writers like any other writer. The comment seems to place self-published writers (I am one) in the world of “the other”; at least that’s my take on the club president saying this,
    ” KB: Don’t self publish.
    As someone who worked in marketing and publicity for many years, the first suggestion Bennett would give to other writers is a practical one: don’t self-publish. She’s talked to many writers over the years who are gung-ho about self-publishing in order to put their work out there, but she doesn’t recommend it if the author wants to get their books in the bookstores. From her experience, “buyers will only look at books from traditional publishers,” she said.”
    And annoyed because there are indications that what she cited as the reasons may not be factual. According to the April/May issue of “AARP Magazine’s” Perspective column:
    “So you want to write a book? Do it for the creative joy. If you’re lucky, you’ll hit the big time. Self-published books (2015) 700,000. Traditionally published print books (2013) 300,000. Chance of a book being stocked by a bookstore <1%"
    In addition, I know several self-published writers whose works are in indie bookstores, and many "brick and mortar" bookstores have given way to on-line offerings which may be just fine with some who want to share their work with others. The facts seem to point to writing and publishing as being highly competitive, with major success only touching the select few. And that is why many of us write for the joy of it. And why many of us self-publish.
    As a club member, I am happy for the success of any member or fellow writer regardless of their publishing pedigree. And as a self-published indie writer I know that talented writers can be found on any of today's platforms. Writers share a bond of creativity, openness and courage that can't be limited to one path of travel. We are free to determine what works best for our writing journey, and should not be made to feel that we have chosen the wrong road. And quite frankly, all writers may not have the resources to seek traditional publishing services. Some even worry that the traditional path may take away or alter their writing "voice."
    The California Writer's Club-Berkeley Branch should set the tone for welcoming all writers.
    As a writer, I want to know that whether I arrive in a chauffeured limo (which could happen, you never know), or by bicycle (which could also happen), that I am welcomed and supported at CWC-BB.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: