There was a field…

There was a field before the tracks came

Where the mama bird fed her babes.

When the trains rolled in

She moved her nest

To a tree not so far away.

In that tree there lived a coon

Who was

Used to

Having his way.

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Filed under Bullies Suck, Writing

Book Giveaway!

Over at Chapters and Chats, I’m giving away two signed copies of my book, In the Fool’s Footsteps. Check out the contest details here.

While you’re there, make sure to follow this book blog – it’s insightful, well-written and diverse.

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On Bullies

Five years ago, a father and son who lived on my quiet, dead-end street launched a campaign against their neighbours: slashed tires, keyed cars, broken windows, sleepless nights. You may have heard about it while it was going on.

I’ve often sat down to write about my surreal experience with these bullies, the neighbourhood, the media, but I always hesitate. It was a very negative time in my life that a large part of me would rather forget.

Recently, however, there has been a perfect storm of misogynistic bullying and its astounding repercussions: 15-year-old Amanda Todd’s tragic story, 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai’s attempted assassination, and the chilling antics and outing of Reddit moderator Violentacrez.

My writer’s block with my own story, I think, stems from being a parent: I don’t have a solution to this epidemic and that bothers me when I look at my 5-year-old son.

I now find myself on a quest to understand bullying from a perspective other than the victim. (I’ve got the victim part down and it’s actually supremely unhelpful.) Bullies superimpose their world view on their targets. Their torment leaves the victim unable to think about anything else, unable to do anything but get through another day, and it skews the victim’s perspective of real-life events, often with unthinkable consequences.

But why do bullies do it? What step got missed in their early childhood development? What part of real life is skewed for them and how did it get that way?

Bullies are everywhere, from kindergarten to the workplace. I wasn’t brutally bullied as a child, though there are a handful of memories that I’m still smarting from. I encountered the worst bullies of my life as an adult.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Escalating to violence improves nothing about the situation.
  • Self-empowerment and patience are key. (Neither is as easy as a bullet point suggests.)
  • There is no shame in asking for help.

As I work on my book, I hope to blog about my progress and breakthroughs, as well as gather information on bullying to inform my work. My happy ending may or may not arrive by the time I finish the book, and the odds seem stacked against finding any real solutions to the epidemic, but it’s important to have the conversation, whatever the outcome of real-life events.

Because life goes on, and that’s the most beautiful part. Recognize and embrace joy when it presents itself. That is the step to take.

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Upcoming Author Appearance

Saturday, October 13, 2012

7:30 p.m.

All Saints Church

2850 Bloor St. West, Toronto (east of Royal York)

I have another appearance coming up – this one completely out of the blue. I was at a house party a few weeks ago, where I met the lovely and talented Tonia Szkurhan, a friend of the hosts. Our shared affinity for the arts got us to talking, and eventually she sang a song for those gathered around. Wow! What a voice. She told me about this upcoming concert and invited me to do a reading from my book as part of the show.

Just like that.

I just love it when artists support each other – everybody wins.

Here are the details…

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Filed under Author appearance, In The Fool's Footsteps, Reading

Lessons Learned (so far)

Sometime around the beginning of 2012, I decided to release my first book. A friend urged me to self-publish, so I did some research and decided to go for it. Since then, I’ve learned a thing or two that would have been good to know going in. I’ve had a triumph or two, I’ve fallen on my face once or twice, but I’ve never looked back. I’m proud of my book and what I’ve accomplished to date.

  1. If you’re a Canadian author and you’ve decided to publish with an American outlet such as CreateSpace or Kindle, start the process of getting your U.S. Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) early. You need that number to apply for tax-exemption. Canada and the U.S. have a treaty whereas Canadians do not have to pay tax on money earned in the States because we pay income tax to Revenue Canada. And let me tell you, the IRS is every bit as fun to deal with as RevCan. There is a phone number you can call listed on their website, but it’s always busy. I’ve never once heard it ring at the other end. If you don’t complete this process, Amazon will whithold a whopping 30% of your share of the royalties.
  2. Another note to Canadian indie authors: be aware that Chapters will not carry your book unless you publish with them. This was a tough one for me to swallow since their packages cost $2-3K and Amazon is, well, free. However, you should also be aware that Amazon will not place your book on, so Canadian readers are forced to pay high shipping charges. Feels like a catch-22 and is supremely frustrating. (If anyone has more information about this, please comment below.)
  3. Start soliciting reviews well before your launch date. Go to Google to get a list of book blogs. Read their submission guidelines carefully. Many of them will not review self-published books. Don’t get upset – just move on. You’re too busy to waste time ranting. Make sure that your book falls within the genres that they are accepting. Write a short, yet professional email that outlines your book and clearly states its category. If you don’t receive an answer, leave it and move on. If you do receive an answer, do not visit the reviewer’s blog every day looking for your book review. They will contact you when it’s up.
  4. Join Goodreads and participate in discussions. Once your book is published, set up an author page. Please don’t spam by mentioning your book in every note you post. There are some great forums for self-published authors where you can solicit reviews.
  5. Social networking has been a slippery slope for me, I will admit. I’m not shy about tooting my own horn, but I do have a problem with bombarding friends and family with my sales pitch. I set up a separate Facebook page for my book. As for Twitter, I’m slowly but surely building a network and I am not shy to say that I quickly unfollow those authors who fill my feed with ‘buy my book’ tweets. If I’m interested in your book, I will find the link on your profile. Be entertaining and informative, not annoying. I don’t know if I’ve made any sales through Twitter, but I have bought a handful of books from authors I enjoy following. Honestly, Twitter may very well be a huge time-waster for me, but I’ve also learned a lot by following links to blogs about self-publishing.

It’s been an exhiliarating several months, and all in all, not a bad way to spend the spring and summer. The biggest challenge for me has been finding the time to work on my next book when I’m so busy marketing and promoting (and smacking my head from time to time – damn that learning curve!). At the end of the day, the first one is out and I’m really proud of it. When the next one is ready, I can use what I’ve learned to start the process sooner and build more hype before I launch. My new mantra is ‘Keep moving forward’ and so far, it seems to be working.

Happy writing!

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Filed under ePublishing, Self-publishing

Some more reviews…

From Cannibal Cutie:

In the Fool’s Footsteps, a new indie book that I just read, is definitely hard to put down. Karen Hoffman’s complex structure of books within a book and a-million-characters set up is an innovative collection of writings.”

Read more …

From a 5-star review on Amazon:

“Toronto novelist Karen Hoffman has written a deeply engaging story which is best described as part fiction, part mystery and all entertainment!”

Read more …

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Filed under In The Fool's Footsteps, Reviews

Book Signing at Pandemonium Books & Discs

Just a quick note to let you know about my upcoming reading and book signing. The event is being held at my local used bookstore on September 8. So excited and looking forward to seeing some familiar faces!


I’m pleased with the poster, which I D-I-mYself. I just recently discovered, downloaded it for free and used it to create this poster from my book cover. The internet simply rocks. Not sure what I would do without it – hmm…probably get a lot more writing done, actually.

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Filed under Author appearance, ePublishing, In The Fool's Footsteps