Our members have published individually in various forms: a novel, poetry collections, newsletters, and newspaper columns, as well as individual stories, poems, essays, and articles. We have earned advanced degrees, worked in support of arts organizations, raised children, nurtured grandchildren, held jobs, and upheld our community, all while holding fast to our creative lives—if sometimes by our fingernails.
We formed KaBooM, or the Kentucky Book Mafia, in response to the challenge of introducing the quality work of Kentucky writers to a wider audience. In our early days we made a point of asking booksellers to stock the work of the writers we admired, and weren’t above moving some of those titles we found to a more prominent position in the store.
Since January 1998, when we held our first meeting, the structure of deadlines, critiques, weekly goal-setting, and discussions of life- and work-in-progress has held steadfast through individual crises, accomplishments, life changes, endings and beginnings. Within the safety and consistency of our ongoing commitment to one another and to our work, we have found nurture and inspiration for the creative spirit in both our individual and collective efforts. We have also found a place where community thrives at Third Street Stuff & Coffee, where Pat Gerhard and Hendrick Floyd serve the finest brew of coffee and friendship.
We meet weekly, usually discussing a manuscript distributed the previous week. We work in a variety of forms including short fiction, poetry, essay, and novel, and gain enrichment from the cross-genre study. The “turn-in schedule” is made about every two months—a practice that gives each member a deadline to meet as well as the encouragement of an immediate audience for her writing. We cultivate a climate of trust in which the writer receives criticism that is informed, professional, and given in the spirit of mutual commitment to excellent writing. Yet the group offers not only a critique, but support for the difficult work of producing art, and maintaining a connection and commitment to it, amidst endless quotidian pressures on our time.
We have benefited from studying several texts, ranging from Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction to Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. We engage in writing exercises to tap into new pools of creativity. We brainstorm together on issues that arise in the writing life, and we track the professional goals we set for ourselves, holding one another accountable for making progress toward them.
The goal of the KaBooM Writing Collective is to sustain the artistic lives of its members and to work on behalf of the arts in the larger community. The group has presented panels at the Kentucky Women Writers Conference, given public readings, and has been featured in a Louisville Courier-Journal article by Mark Coomes, and in The Writing Group Book, edited by Lisa Rosenthal, in an essay by Lynn Pruett entitled “KaBooM! The Kentucky Book Mafia: Secrets of Successful Marketeers.”