Roberta F. King – an author who wrote her first epic tale in third grade, is working on her first novel for middle schoolers and just might be Jim Harrison’s number one fan.
King works as the Vice President of PR & Marketing at Grand Rapids Community Foundation. Outside of her professional public relations writing, her articles and essays have been published in Atticus Review, Brain, Child: The Magazine for Thinking Mothers; The Boiler, Hippocampus, Lifelines (The Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College) and in The Rapidian. She graduated from Valparaiso University and has a Masters degree in Communication from Grand Valley State University. She is presently completing a certificate in nonfiction through the writers program at UCLA Extension.
He Plays a Harp is her first book. She and her husband Mike Miesch live on the channel between Muskegon Lake and Lake Michigan in Muskegon.
How did you become a writer?
I wrote my first illustrated story in the third grade, an epic tale titled, “The Big Trip.” It was about twins, a boy and a girl named Francis and Frances. They traveled to Montana with their parents to visit their grandmother. To ensure they had enough funding for their souvenir habit, they shined shoes at rest areas along the way.
Many years later, Mr. Schelhaas my high school English teacher at Western Michigan Christian High School liked my essays and encouraged me to write.
How do you write? What is your process?
Much of my present writing springs from prompts or free writing. I’m halfway through a certificate in creative nonfiction through the UCLA Extension, a three-year program. The classes keep me writing every day for the most part. I write fast and sloppy (on my MacBook Pro) and then revise over and over. I enjoy fixing as much as writing.
Who are your favorite authors?
What authors have inspired you?
Jim Harrison, everything he’s ever written is magical, timeless and real.
Christine Kehl O’Hagen, who wrote about the death of her son Jamie in Book of Kehls. I “met” her when she was a visiting author in one of my UCLA classes and she’s a wonderful writer and kind person.
Adam Schuitema, who wrote Freshwater Boys is a beautiful writer and caring teacher. He pre-read my memoir and I worked hard to make it good for him.
What books are on your bedside table?
I subscribe to literary journals and love to find new authors there. Glimmer Train, The Sun, Prairie Schooner and Midwestern Gothic are favorites. On my Kindle I just finished The Goldfinch.
What writing projects do you have planned next?
I have a 1/8 finished middle grade novel and am working on an essay about my failure as a foster/adoptive parent.
What advice do you have for young writers?
Spend as much time reading as you do writing. You’ll learn much from reading good writing. Read your work out loud and you’ll learn where the strengths and weaknesses are.
Aim big, hobnob (write to, or meet) with some authors, they’re probably more willing to help you than you might think.
Her latest book information:
He Plays a Harp (Principia Media, softcover, $14.95) is a memoir about the life and death of her son Noah. Noah passed away at the age of seventeen from a lung infection, even though the book is about his death and their grief, it is mostly about life. “I like to say it’s a book of love stories told from a slightly different point of view,” says King. The stories of Noah’s life are surprisingly light-hearted and fun, but offer a view into the complexities of parenting a child with a disability. They include a shocking three-day suspension from elementary school for pulling a fire alarm, the family’s therapeutic horseback riding lessons and the mysterious de-pantsing of Noah in Appleton, Wisconsin, (possibly by Harry Houdini). The illness and afterlife pieces are written with an unsentimental observer’s eye, but with the intensity of maternal grief and unrealized dreams. They include reflections on a few sacred pieces of dirty clothes, feet that never touched the earth, writing a child’s obituary just hours after his death and the realization that there is no word to describe parents who have lost a child.
It is available at most local bookstores (Schuler Books in Grand Rapids; Horizon Books in Traverse City; Book Nook & Java Shop in Montague and Bookman in Grand Haven) either in stock or by order, Amazon or B&N online.
You can learn more about the author by visiting robertafking.com.