Kim Ablon Whitney had this question for Karen:
Running a training stable and competing yourself is incredibly time consuming and all encompassing … What inspired you to write fiction and how do you fit your writing into your busy horse life?
Part of my mid-life crisis was to get off the labor intensive treadmill of running a training / boarding barn and create my ideal life of blending riding and writing. I no longer board horses, so I just have a handful of students. I have a young horse that I am training every day, and another horse that hacks over each morning for me to ride, and / or teach his owner.
Each day begins with my terriers and me stepping out my back door to the barn where I put on the pot of coffee, turn out my horse and do the Sudoku puzzle! Then I do barn chores, drag the arena, ride a couple horses and teach any comers. It’s important to me to always ride my own horse early in the day so that nothing crowds that out. No matter what comes up later, I have fed my soul, and my horse and I have both been exercised.
Then it’s lunch and the keyboard. I write critiques for a website called judgemyride.net and work on my novel, and sometimes I write articles for USDF Connection magazine or our local dressage club newsletter.
Like most writers, I am an avid reader. I went to Sweet Briar College and graduated with a degree in English and Creative Writing, and although I never taught, I did earn my certificate to teach high school English.
I was motivated to write The Dressage Chronicles because I felt that by teaching through storytelling I could add something unique to the catalogue of dressage books available. I’ve always loved historical fiction, and when it is done well, I find it the most palatable way to learn history. Why not apply the same concept to writing about dressage?
The other wonderful thing about fiction is that it gives me the opportunity to “speak the truth” as I see it about all sorts of things without getting myself into hot water! I create the characters and I put words in their mouths. Sometimes the characters come alive and take over the story … which is the best feeling ever as a writer. When that happens it is magical and my fingers have trouble keeping up with the dialogue. I sometimes have to go back and censor them though!
But just like training horses, passion is not enough. I am jealous of those writers who seem to be able to crank out a book or more a year. For me, training horses or writing a book is an act of discipline. To see a long term project all the way to completion is a huge commitment and sometimes feels like a burden. With horses it’s tough in the cold or wet or windy weather when the horses want to spin and buck or bolt. When writing it’s forcing yourself to concentrate and think and scribble something even when you know it is terrible and will probably end up in the garbage.
But, when I go into the show arena, or when I finish the final edit, I have to feel that I have done all the work necessary to please the judges. I want to break 70 per cent. On the other hand, I have come to understand that for many reasons, I simply will not please everyone. If I have pleased myself, (not an easy critic), then some days I tell myself “that’ll do.”
The external rewards in both businesses are long delayed and short lived, but the internal satisfaction of tackling a big project and seeing it through to completion is great.
Learn more about The Dressage Chronicles here.
Karen is a USDF Certified dressage instructor and is offering a “virtual lesson” via video clip. She is happy to work on dressage, eventing, or flatwork for hunters, as well as give basic seat and position feedback. Or she can offer help with a particular issue / challenge you’re having with your horse.
Email Karen to have your name entered for the draw.
ETA – We have a winner! Courtney Argue can e-mail Karen a video or photo for critique, or ask a training question. Lucky Courtney!
Come back tomorrow when Barbara Morgenroth talks about writing with no age boundaries.