If writing a book is on your bucket list, help is available to make your dream come true. Minnesota author Jessica Lourey is teaching two writing classes on Saturday, Nov. 9.
The first is “Turn Your Idea Into a Book in 7 Easy Steps,” 10 a.m.-noon at the Glencoe Public Library.
“Both of my workshops are for anyone,” she said in a phone interview. “It’s just the Glencoe one is for a very beginning person who doesn’t have a clear idea yet.”
She recommended bringing a laptop or scratch paper and a pen. The library will provide handouts.
“Just show up and be ready to write,” she said.
The second class is “Write Cleaner, Faster, Better: The Pyramid on a Point Method,” 1-3 p.m., at the Hutchinson Center for the Arts.
Lourey is teaching a writing method she developed. This class is about organizing and planning your writing before you start. She will focus on the enjoyment of writing, so you don’t write yourself into a corner or start writing something you can’t finish. The goal is to make the writing process less stressful.
In case you’re wondering what makes Lourey an expert, all you have to do is type her name into Google and you’ll quickly discover she’s an accomplished writer with 20 published books in a variety of genres. Plus she has been teaching for 20 years, currently English and sociology at St. Cloud Tech. For the past 10 years, she’s been teaching writing workshops. Two years ago she went international, so she shares her knowledge with people around the globe.
The timing is worth noting because November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short.
“We wanted to give local writers an opportunity to learn more about the craft of writing and also provide them with encouragement and inspiration,” said Katy Hiltner, head librarian at Hutchinson Public Library.
Hiltner, who helped organize the workshops, heard about Lourey from a fellow librarian.
“When I checked out the author’s webpage, I was impressed with the variety of workshops she offers,” Hiltner said. “Jackee (Fountain, Glencoe head librarian) and I thought this would be a great program opportunity for our communities.”
While the Glencoe workshop is at the Glencoe library, the Hutchinson workshop is at the Hutchinson Center for the Arts. Hiltner opted for this site because she thought it would be a fun venue to inspire creativity.
MORE ABOUT LOUREY
The Minneapolis resident comes by her love of books naturally.
“I grew up in Paynesville,” Lourey said. “My mom was an English teacher and my parents read all the time. I love stories. I’m self-taught. I have a master’s degree in English, but they don’t teach you how to write a novel. I figured out how to write a book and getting a book published. I want to share what I know.”
While Lourey’s interest leans toward crime fiction, she’s written books in several genres.
“I tell the story,” she said. “I don’t worry about the genre.”
Lourey said she knows what the genre will be after 10-20 pages into the writing. Her agent takes it from there to sell the book.
And if you think getting an agent is easy, think again.
“I was living in Battle Lake (Minnesota),” she said. “I had dial-up internet. I figured out how to reach out to agents in New York. I got 423 rejections. I finally landed an agent.”
Just because you land an agent doesn’t mean it’s all hearts and flowers. It was her second agent who sold “May Day,” the first novel in her humorous mystery series in 2006.
“I was green about the business,” Lourey said. “She dropped me. My third agent couldn’t sell my stuff. My fourth agent is the second-ranked agent in the United States. She edits. She returns my calls right away. She’s the real deal. She doesn’t get paid unless she makes a sale. She gets 15 percent of whatever I get. She’s good at it. She’s a nice woman and lives in California.”
Lourey typically has one or two books published each year. She said the book contract drives the story.
“I come up with a concept that fits the contract,” she said. “I’ll spend a couple of weeks outlining and it takes me three to six months to write. When I’m full-on writing, it’s 2,000 words a day. After that, it’s a lot of editing.”
Lourey’s characters are composites of people she knows. Sometimes her characters spring up to fit the story.
In addition to writing, she also spends time on marketing and promoting her books, plus she’s teaching workshops.
Lourey said writing is people watching.
“I’m the biggest eavesdropper,” she said. “My favorite happened at the grocery store. I was behind a sweet old couple who were in their 90s and clearly in love. The husband is putting stuff on the belt and he put the wrong thing on it. She said, ‘You know Harold, you’re as sharp as a marble.’ I loved that so much. I used that in a book.”
READING AS A PASTIME
It’s not surprising Lourey reads widely.
“I read two or three books a week,” she said, “otherwise my creative well gets empty. The last three or four years, I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction, too.”
Favorite authors include Margaret Atwood, Barbara Kingsolver, Isabelle Allende and William Kent Krueger.
“William Kent Krueger is a fantastic person and writer,” she said. “I road-tripped with him to Muncie (Indiana). It was eight hours there and back. (I thought) oh my god, I’m in my car with one of my favorite writers.”
Lourey is looking forward to the release of her 20th book, “Unspeakable Things,” Jan. 1, 2020. It will be published by Thomas & Mercer, an imprint of Amazon Publishing. Many people know Amazon as a place for self-publishing, but the company also has a traditional publishing house, which it launched in 2009 with 15 imprints.
The novel is inspired by the true story of eight assaults that took place in Paynesville in the late 1980s within a mile of Danny Heinrich’s home. In 1989, Heinrich kidnapped and killed 11-year-old Joseph Wetterling
In 2016, Lourey invited people she had graduated with from Paynesville and asked them what they remembered about the assaults.
“There was so much in this group, so much community pain and secrets,” she said. “I had my own, too. It was a story that needed to be told. I used all of our secrets and pain to create a healing story with some justice.”
Lourey said it was hard to write.
“I’m a mother,” she said. “I have two kids, so to write, I had to put myself back in my experience. It was extremely difficult. I ultimately dropped back into my experience as a 12-year-old. Writing is healing for those who write and for those who read it, that was my compass. I’m really proud of it. I hope I honored the victims and the childhood innocence we all lost in the ’80s.”
Lourey is working on the second book of a two-book contract for Thomas & Mercer. The working title is “Missing.” It’s based on another true story about a boy in a sailor suit who went missing on Sept. 5, 1944. He was never found.
The author turns 50 in May. In two years, she plans to retire from teaching and write full time.
“I’m living my dream as a small-town girl,” Lourey said. “I’m living my dream. There’s a lot going on.”