[00:00:00] Jenny Kate: Today’s podcast is sponsored by author Jamie Farrell, the author of 11 books. Her misfit bride series is some seriously funny romance. Number six in the series titled spice is set to have a cover reveal later this fall. So I got the Misfit Brides and all of Jamie’s books on her website at jamieferalbooks.com.
You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and good reads.
Welcome to the writer nation podcast.
Hey everybody. Welcome to the rider nation podcast. I’m your host, Jenny Kate. For my first episode, I am chatting with Ms. Keely Thrall. She’s a good friend of mine, and she’s a former president of Washington romance writers, which is one of the largest chapters of romance writers of America in the United States.
[00:01:00] He’s also a finalist in the golden heart award, which is a contest. It’s a national contest for an unpublished manuscript. She’s a recent recipient of the WRW above and beyond award, which is recognition for someone who was very supportive of other writers. And finally, she’s the founder of Tuesday night writes.
It’s a weekly writer’s group that meets in the Washington DC area. So we did record this episode a couple of weeks ago when I was in the DC area on a visit. But I hope you find it as inspiring and motivating as I did because the point here is to help you keep writing your novel. So with that peace and prose and I give you ms Keely Thrall.
Hey girl. So we’re here in your condo. Northeast DC,
Keely Thrall: Northwest.
Jenny Kate: Northwest. I did it. I can’t figure out where I am. I have the worst direction. My husband would agree with that assessment. So we’re on the 10th floor, and I’m looking at this fantastic view of trees, and so I can understand why you would choose this location.
I don’t know. This is [00:02:00] Tinley town or friendship Heights, or where are we?
Keely Thrall: I don’t actually know the name of this neighborhood. I’ve heard it called a couple of different things. Um, we’re about a mile, uh, from Washington national cathedra
Jenny Kate: Which is where you work.
Keely Thrall: Which is where I work. And then, um, we’re about a five minute walk to American university.
Jenny Kate: And that’s North?
Keely Thrall: It’s just a little bit North up the street.
Jenny Kate: So I drove up here yesterday and came across the key bridge and then drove through, I guess, beside Georgetown university and then at Wisconsin. And um, so I was under the impression that this is where the Obama’s live too, or no?
Keely Thrall: My understanding is they live in the Colorama neighborhood, which is New York, Connecticut Avenue.
Which was where all the fancy dancing, not that they’re aren’t fancy dancing here.
Jenny Kate: I was going to say there’s some pretty good houses. There were some good houses in this neighborhood too. But so, so that is, but it’s clear. It’s on this side of town, like Northeast, West, West quadrant, [00:03:00] Northwest. I will get it right. It’s Northwest quadrant of DC.
Yeah. So I don’t live in this area. When we live in DC, we live in, um, North Alexandria. And so I don’t get ever here too often. But you and I did go to, uh, the physicians committee for responsible medicine over here, which is right up the road. So that’s dr Neil Bernard’s, um, outfit there. They’re plant-based doctors, nutritionists and dieticians.
Um, they stick it to Congress quite a bit and do a lot of, you know, they really do. Right. Um, so we’ll talk about that though later. Um, cause I want to get into a little bit of what you’re doing up there. But you moved here when? 20 years ago.
Keely Thrall: Yeah. Yeah. Uh, I guess in, um. 2018 it might be 22 years. 22 years ago.
Jenny Kate: So, cause we graduated college right about the same time. And you grew up in Michigan. Ann Arbor. Yes. So it’s just so everybody knows. Michigan did beat Florida last [00:04:00] weekend, the first weekend of our football. So I’m an sec girl. Right. So, um, but I can’t pull for Florida. Yeah. Sorry. Um. you grew up in Ann Arbor and writing. Did you do any writing when you’re a kid or?
Keely Thrall: Not really? Nothing beyond, uh, assignments or whatever, um, you know, writing assignments at school or whatever, but, um, I, uh, I did start reading and, um, I, I did start making stories up in my head, uh, the way one does when one is a writer, even if one doesn’t think one is a writer.
Yeah. Um, but I, um, I read my first two romance novels, uh, I think maybe in seventh grade or something like that.
Jenny Kate: Seventh grade? Wow
Keely Thrall: Yeah. We were on a , we were on a trip up in the U P the upper peninsula of Michigan. And, um, I had run out of reading materials. I went to the IGA.
Jenny Kate: The IGA, like the grocery store?
Keely Thrall: And they had one [00:05:00] of those racks that turns in a circle and makes that horrible noise. Right. Um, and I just randomly picked two books.
Jenny Kate: Based on the cover, right?
Keely Thrall: Based on the cover, you know, like, Oh, this looks interesting. Two people are embracing.
Jenny Kate: One of them doesn’t have a shirt on.
Keely Thrall: Well it was Harlequin presents, so they had a shirt on. But there was sex in the book.
Jenny Kate: Oh. I Bet mom liked that.
Keely Thrall: Well, mom didn’t know.
Jenny Kate: Well, what’s funny about that is my grandmother gave me my first romance book and my mom’s like, whenever it’s a free book. And you’re reading.
Keely Thrall: Right. Right. And more, we’re interested in the fact that you’re reading. So, uh, the, the one was Harlequin presents, one was a Cygnet Regency. I still have both of them.
And, um, I really got into the Regency, the historical romances. And, uh, so for a lot of my high school years, I, um, I read them and then my mom and I started talking about it, how [00:06:00] we could write one. We’d come up with character names and like, what was she wearing? And that’s about as far as I got like her ballgown.
Jenny Kate: But then you went to college at Mount Holyoke?
Keely Thrall: I went to college at Mount Holyoke and I majored in history and minored in Italian.
Jenny Kate: And what do you do with a major in history and a minor in Italian when you graduate, right?
Keely Thrall: Yeah. Hang out for a couple of years. Figure out what your next step is.
Jenny Kate: What was your next step?
Keely Thrall: What you, um, so I, uh, went back to Michigan for a couple of years, just did various temp jobs and then I, um, applied to grad school at American university. Um,
Jenny Kate: So that’s how you ended up here. You went to American. Ok I see. And what did you do there?
Keely Thrall: Um, my degree was in, um, MFA in film and electronic media.
Jenny Kate: So you, you got a degree in film and electronic media and, and what did you do with a degree in film and like this, cause you had a history degree, right? History degree, and now you’ve got like, are you thinking [00:07:00] Hollywood or are you thinking, what are you thinking?
Keely Thrall: Actually the reason. Hmm. The, the, the, the part of film that I like is the film history, right?
Jenny Kate: Are you kidding? That is outst-. So let’s let everybody know. If you look around your condo, there are some really awesome posters of like. You know, Hollywood, like, you know, back in the day, I hayday Hollywood Jean Harlow’s right behind me over here. I mean, it’s beautiful stuff and yes, it looks exactly like what we’re thinking when you think old Hollywood with Marilyn Monroe and you know, my Humphrey Bogart is one of my father’s favorites.
North by Northwest was one of our growing up, I watched all of that stuff. Yes. So I’m looking around and I always wondered why I identified so well with what you do now. I know. That’s very cool. And yeah. So are you thinking, okay, I’m just kind of piddling around and I really like history, so [00:08:00] this sounds cool. Let’s do that. Because you had a plan or because you’re like, no, that’s fine.
Keely Thrall: Well, I come from a family of academics, so I kind of always figured out that, so what’s your next step while you get a PhD? And, um. I applied to two grad schools, uh, one accepted me. I went there and it turned out to be a film production instead of a film history, which I knew, but I thought, well, okay, I like film enough.
It’ll be interesting to figure out. You know, how do you make them, why do I like putting it together? That’s probably what my first, what I should have kind of gotten a clue. I actually like figuring out how things are put together. So different kinds of storytelling, but it’s definitely still storytelling.
Jenny Kate: So not writing.
Keely Thrall: So not writing.
Jenny Kate: Okay. So now what do you, because this is when you moved and went to Alexandria.
Keely Thrall: Yeah. I didn’t move down there I just commuted down there.
Jenny Kate: And by the way, a commute in DC, I don’t care where you’re coming from and where you’re going. It’s horrific.
Keely Thrall: Well, this was [00:09:00] 17 years ago. It was less horrific then.
Jenny Kate: Oh really? So it wasn’t too bad?
Keely Thrall: You know, it was about a half an hour to get there and a half an hour to get back.
Jenny Kate: That’s not terrible. And it’s just so people understand that that’s like six miles. It’s like six miles. It takes her half an hour. One way. Yeah. Okay. So, so you graduated, took this job in Alexandria. Right. And with who I understand to be a very nasty human being.
Keely Thrall: He was troublesome. Yeah. I think he got out of the army, but the army never got out of him. And I don’t think he realized that none of us had signed up.
Jenny Kate: Ok gotcha. There are those types. There are those types.
Keely Thrall: And I just, you know, he was a small business owner and. You think okay? There’s a reason why you went out on your own. It’s because you can’t get along with anybody else, you have to be the boss. And that’s the type of person, you know.
Jenny Kate: What was he doing? He was pretty seeing, um, uh,
Keely Thrall: Training videos, um, mostly [00:10:00] for, uh the army and clients of the army didn’t fall very far away from his roots. Um, and, uh, one of my favorite projects, in fact, the last project that I worked on, um, so maybe favorite isn’t the right bittersweet project was, um, right after 9/11. Um, we were commissioned to do a, an inspiration. Um, video for army generals on leadership.
Um, I learned like there was one of general Shinseki sort of right hand men. I’m sure you have 15 million of them. I can’t remember
Jenny Kate: On that t level they have a few.
Keely Thrall: I can’t remember now. Uh, what his name was and I’m sorry for that, but he, um. He said something that has stuck with me today that is like our driving force in my life, which is, it’s not where you end up, it’s where the people who were under you, that, that is the mark of your leadership. [00:11:00] And so that’s how I kind of think of leadership.
Jenny Kate: Right. That’s a great way to think of leadership.
Keely Thrall: Yeah. Cause it’s really, it’s not about you, right?
Jenny Kate: I mean, people know that, you know, I’m mean, I’m in the military and I’m in the air force and, um, it really is. And people tend to forget, cause you know, you get in a position and you’re like, Oh, like I get to be in charge. But what you’re in charge of are human beings and they need support and resources and motivation and inspiration and all of that stuff. So where do they go when you leave?
Keely Thrall: Right, right, right. And if you’ve done a job right, then they’re fully actualized and they’re doing the same thing though.
Jenny Kate: Right. So that’s good. So you did that for a couple of years. And so now though, this is when. Somehow you find Washington or the romance writers of America, which I want everybody to know, and I’ll say this kind of in every podcast, it’s the largest professional organization for fiction writers in the United States.
Regardless of the fact that it’s, I mean, it promotes the romance genre. [00:12:00] That’s what it does. It the, what it does, lobbying for good contracts and fair pay and that sort of thing. It benefits all genres. So it’s very important, I believe, and I don’t write, you know, a lot of romance. I write spy thrillers. Um, it’s just an important professional organization.
So tell us how you found this. Cause I, I like this. This is the fun story.
Keely Thrall: So, um, this was actually, um. This might’ve been right before I graduated from, uh, you know, or got my degree from AAU. I was doing an internship at an editing house down on Wisconsin. And, um, w uh, we were doing a pro bono, um, uh, ad, I guess for this guy who, I think he was the, the answer man.
And so he used to have suits that had these question marks all over him, and he was a goofy guy, you know, kind of guy who would be on late night TV selling you make up, except for he was selling this big kind of phone book, uh, sized, if anyone [00:13:00] knows what a phone book is, um, sized, um, you know, uh, I guess book filled with, um, everything you needed to know about getting free money.
Right? So any kind of grant, any kind of program, like it would have the address, it would have the phone number. This was sort of. Yes. Websites were available, but no, they weren’t a big thing yet.
Jenny Kate: This would have been like ’99 to 2000ish?
Keely Thrall: Yeah, 99 I guess.
Jenny Kate: So he’s selling information.
Keely Thrall: So he’s selling information in book form.
Jenny Kate: With a uniform that looks like a big question mark. And you bought this book, didn’t you?
Keely Thrall: No. No. He brought it in right. And I, um, . Yeah, no, this is actually, I’m sort of remembering the timeline now, so I looked through it. So I learned about RWA, uh, their work, Romance writers of America there. Um, uh, but I didn’t take action on it.
Jenny Kate: Um, so there’s a [00:14:00] blurb in this book that says romance writers of America, and it has an address and a phone.
Keely Thrall: Yes. Yes. So, Ooh, yeah. So I don’t know now that if I copied down the phone number or if I just like, okay, I know it exists or whatever. I think I went to one sponsored talk at a library with romance writers cause I was thinking that I would do like my, um. My thesis, my video thesis, a master’s thesis on romance writing or romance readers.
Jenny Kate: No kidding.
Keely Thrall: No kidding. I knew I’d forgotten some of the lessons. And, um, I ended up doing a different project, a more of a biographical piece on my grandmother. Um, but it was always kind of stuck in my head. And then somehow, uh, I’ve got this job out in Alexandra has somehow I learned that, um, the national annual RWA conference was going to be in D C well, where in D C the conference was going to be like two miles from my house.
Jenny Kate: Wait, wait, so how did you find out about that conference? That’s where you made the [00:15:00] phone call, the phone call story is a good story
Keely Thrall: No, it is a neat story, and I’ll get to that story just a second. But, um, so I don’t know whether at that point I started looking at things online or like, somehow it surfaced to me.
Right. Um, so then I finally kind of screwed up my courage, um, to, to become a member. So I call RWA.
Jenny Kate: And they’re like, she called, let’s make this very clear. She picks up the telephone and she calls RWA right out of the blue.
Keely Thrall: Out of the blue, right? I mean, there’s the number.
Jenny Kate: Sure. Okay. Because there’s no website listed. There’s an address where you could have written a letter or you make a phone call. So you make a phone call.
Keely Thrall: So I make a phone call, and they’re like, okay, this is how you apply. And, um, and your local chapter is Washington romance writers. And here’s the president’s phone number.
Jenny Kate: So they give you the president of Washington romance writers telephone number. and you call her.
Keely Thrall: And so I call her and a man answers the phone and I hung up. I [00:16:00] was like shoot this is the wrong number.
Jenny Kate: There’s no way that dude is writing romance. So you hang up the phone.
Keely Thrall: So I hang up the phone. I’m like, okay, cause I’m nervous right. This is a huge thing to be a part of this organization that I’ve never written anything before know. Um, do I belong? Um, so I call again and the guy answers, he says, don’t hang up. And I’m like Okay.
Jenny Kate: I love that.
Keely Thrall: Let me get my wife. Okay. Cause I’m expecting, I don’t know why, but I wasn’t expecting somebody home. I thought it’d be a business right. Oh, I had no idea how this worked. And so, um, then, um, Michelle Mone, who, who was president of Romance, uh, of Washington Romanc writers at that point came on and she was just so sweet, so affirming.
And I just, um, like I glommed onto her like she [00:17:00] is my president, you know? Um,
Jenny Kate: So I’m going to interject for just a minute. So when I came to my first Washington romance writers, um, meeting, I think it’s been. We moved here in 13 so it’s probably been four or five years since I went. Candy was president at the time, and so I sent her an email and I sent her an email. I’m like, Hey, I see you need a volunteer for communications. This is what I do for a living. Do you want me to help? No idea that this woman, no idea what she was, and I was not familiar with pen names because I had come from a writing unit down in Colorado. The writers don’t use pen names. I did not understand that was a big deal with romance writers.
A lot of them use pen names. So I didn’t realize who I was talking to cause I met other people through different names and I had no idea that that’s it. So that was my first, you know, WRW president. But that’s how I did it. Didn’t have to make a phone call, but I sent an email to somebody not knowing that I knew this person.
All right, so you go to your first meeting .
Keely Thrall: And so [00:18:00] no, I, I actually, um. The way our programming year works. I think I called too late, uh, for regular programming. Um, but I was going to go to the national conference.
Jenny Kate: So the way the programming works here is we have a big meeting in September, which is kind of why I’m in town. And then we go through the year and then June kind of caps off the year with really cool two day craft workshop.
Keely Thrall: We didn’t do two days last, like two day workshops is actually kind of new in the last five years or something. I mean I have been in the organization for 17 years. We’ve gone through some permutations.
Jenny Kate: But the reason why though July is always romance writers of America, big conference, national conference.
Keely Thrall: Nobody’s around in August.
Jenny Kate: Cause DC, nobody’s ever here in August
Keely Thrall: um, so I go to my first RWA conference and I’m so new, I know nobody I talk to nobody. I feel [00:19:00] intimidated and like I just. But I’m also just so turned on, like the first session I ever went to was April Kihlstrom, whom I had read as a Sig-Signet Regency romance version. Right. Um, she was doing a book in a week. Oh, that sounds awesome. Did I ever end up doing that? No. And you know, I do a spotlight on. Uh, Susan, Elizabeth Phillips, or I, uh, go to, um, you know, this thing on how to make your grammar better. Oh, that’s so neat. I just lit me up. It was great. And in fact, I, I’m working for my, my bad boss.
Um, I said, I’m gonna go to this. I’ve signed up for this conference. And he’s like, well, you don’t get vacation for a year. And I said, that’s okay. You don’t have to pay me.
And at that point, I think I’d been working for him for like. Five months [00:20:00] ended up working for him for two years and I was ready to quit after two weeks.
Jenny Kate: Oh no, but you stuck it out for two years.
Keely Thrall: I know. Because I, at that point, I had issues around the job, whether it was well job, but also like, am I a quitter or not?
I’m not a quitter, but I don’t need to stay here.
Jenny Kate: Well sometimes you have to understand it’s not about quitting. It’s about making a better situation for yourself because it’s just not going to work out. I mean, chemistry is not there and the situation’s not healthy. You know, that that needs to change. Um, and we’ll get into some of that, you know, with you too.
So, so you go to a conference and you’re still working for this guy, cause eventually you move over to the cathedral.
Keely Thrall: Right. And then, yeah.
Jenny Kate: And you’ve been there ever since. Yes. Yeah. Okay. So three days of conference, you don’t speak to anybody?
Keely Thrall: Well, there’s one guy in the hotel bar. Uh, who I think was just trying to pick people up, right?
And he was like, well, if you were a little older, I’d take you out to my room. [00:21:00] That was his pickup line. And I was like, well, I’m old enough to know that. I’d say, no
Jenny Kate: Guys, don’t try that line.
Keely Thrall: It’s not a good line. Do you think you’re doing me a favor? No. You’re old.
Jenny Kate: That’s awesome. All right, so the one guy you talked to, clearly never spoken to him again, but when did you go to the next meet? Did you go to the next meeting?
Keely Thrall: I think I must’ve gone to the September meeting. Um, and I, you know, I didn’t know anybody.
And then I got my first friend and then I got my second friend, just, um, then a couple of, later, that second friend said, Hey, help, uh, you know, help me volunteer for this. Uh. For our contest and then I started volunteering and I kind of never looked back.
Jenny Kate: So five years though, you were with Washington romance writers, and you were volunteering and you were showing up to meetings and not writing a thing.
Keely Thrall: I, you know, I would write like a scene or a part of a scene or something like that, and I show it to the one friend. She’s like, yeah, you’ve got a really good voice, write [00:22:00] more. Then I’d be like, yeah, and not do it.
Jenny Kate: So your three sentences are awesome.
Keely Thrall: I’ve gotten a page, maybe a page.
Jenny Kate: Okay, so that’s 250 words.
Keely Thrall: They were really good words.
Jenny Kate: I’m sure they were excellent. I am sure on that. So yeah, you’re volunteering for what’s called the Marlene’s and that’s the contest here for WRW hosts this every year. Yes. And they’re getting ready to do a big overhaul and kind of a push for the Marlene’s and so we’ll have more information out about about that later.
Um, but that was your first volunteer positions?
Keely Thrall: Yes, yes. I was a category coordinator, and I don’t remember which category it was, historical or paranormal or whatever. That’s a pain in the butt because it was all snail mail. Yeah, receive the entries and then do stuff or whatever. So, um, it was just, you know, and then take them to the post office.
And then with the changes for 9/11, you had to, um, actually take them to the post office. You can [00:23:00] just, yeah. It was a nightmare. so I was actually, um, I ended up coordinating the contest for a couple of years, and I was responsible for moving it over into an electronic .
Jenny Kate: Um, I think the world, thanks you for moving into electronic.
Keely Thrall: Well, we weren’t the first ones to do it, but I was like, wow, that makes a lot of sense. Let’s do it this way.
Jenny Kate: Nice. So WRW Washington romance writers is one of the largest chapters in RWA. It’s not the largest, and I don’t know which one is.
Keely Thrall: Do you think it’s orange County for some reason?
Jenny Kate: It would make sense that it would be, LA would be a big one. I went to, um. I went to a meeting last month with the music city romance writers, and that was a pretty large group of writers too.
I was pretty impressed with the, with um, with their numbers. Um, and the, and actually, as a matter of fact, I’m going back next weekend because, uh, Deb Dixon is coming to town, so she’s going to do her goal, motivation, conflict workshop all day. And so, yeah, I’m really looking forward to that. I saw it for the first time out in Colorado [00:24:00] and my very first writer’s conference in 2012.
And she gave it. And I’m like, I have no idea what she’s talking about. Goal of what? Motivation for what? You know, cause I had been writing stories since the second grade and just write stories. Never even thought about structure. And I remember in the seventh grade we wrote, me and my friend Marie Maria wrote a story that was about a girl who went all over Europe and we called it re and friends in Europe.
And there’s a page in that book that I still have, by the way, that is listing all of the places that she’s going in order, and it’s just a big page of locations and like, and she did this and it was so cool and she did it in this place. The whole page is like every city, you know, in Europe, and that’s where she goes in like a 10 minute period.
Keely Thrall: Right, right.
Jenny Kate: It’s so awful.
Keely Thrall: A little bit of telling there.
Jenny Kate: Oh, a lot of telling there. Yes. I think that book was like 12 pages of. How cool is that? She got to go to here, you know? Um, but so I didn’t understand the whole [00:25:00] motivation conflict at all. So I’m really excited about that next weekend. But, um, so anyway, so WRW is one of the largest chapters in RWA, and we have 200, about 230 members. Last time I looked, um
Keely Thrall: I think, uh. Ron Bruce was saying that we’re maybe up to 270.
Jenny Kate: Are we up to 270? That’s been a little bit, cause I haven’t had to update much in the last couple of weeks, but two 270’s fantastic. And it makes my newsletter longer and longer and the newsletter for the chapter, um, we do it typically once a month and once in the summer, and I think there are 400 people in that newsletter because we don’t take you off when you leave.
It’s a public newsletter. You can sign up for it on the website. And it talks about upcoming meetings and notes and you know, just kind of interesting notes in it and announcements or whatever for not just the chapter, but other things that are, that are going on in the book world. And then I know there are 400 members on that, on that newsletter, and now we’ll tell [00:26:00] you, I also know how many of those people actually open the newsletter.
And that would be closer to about the 250, 300 range.
Keely Thrall: It’s relevant to some people.
Jenny Kate: I hope so right? Okay. So you did the Marlene’s. And you made an electronic, thank God for that. And at this point, have you moved over to the cathedral yet?
Keely Thrall: Um, yes.
Jenny Kate: So you are the executive assistant to the Bishop, the national bish- so what’s the title?.
Keely Thrall: I actually worked for the Episcopal diocese of Washington. So we’re located on the grounds of Washington national cathedral. But they’re separate entities, their day to day lives are separate.
Jenny Kate: So the diocese owns the cha, that cathedral, is that because they own all the churches or whatever?
Keely Thrall: No.
Jenny Kate: Okay. So I’m Catholic. I’m not episcopalian. So explain this. How did you get the job and what do you, you know, why did you choose this job?
Keely Thrall: So, [00:27:00] um, after 9/11, a lot of people did their like gaze up through naval. Oh, I have to make a change in my life. And I realized I don’t want to work not only for this gentleman anymore, but in this industry.
I wasn’t interested in going to New York or to LA. And, um, really the only thing, uh, that is video related, uh, the only things that are video related here in, in the area are news. And I knew I didn’t want to be beholden to the news cycle. Right. Cause your time is never your own
or training videos. Stultifying right. So, um, I took some time off, I thought, well maybe I’ll go back and get a teaching certificate. But I knew what I would want to teach is English, and I don’t have an English degree. So that would take more, you know? And I didn’t want to go into debt, so I was like, I, maybe school isn’t the right answer.
And, um, [00:28:00] so I signed up the temp agency, I temped before I knew I could, you know, I knew it was hireable through that. And, um, one of my first or second placements was at the cathedral as a temp or at the diocese. So, um, about a month in. Uh, they’d had a happy hour,
Jenny Kate: The diocese had a happy hour?
Keely Thrall: They did, yeah.
Jenny Kate: Happy hours all the time.
Keely Thrall: Um, and then were something else and, you know, some food and those or that or whatever. And at that point, I lived a five minute walk from the cathedral. And, um. They said, Hey, we like you, you like us? I said, yeah, I like you. I like your paycheck. And they offered me the job. So I worked as a receptionist for about a year, and then I moved into the Bishop’s office.
Jenny Kate: So in the Bishop’s office, what do you, what do you do?
Keely Thrall: So, a standard executive assistant type things. You know, I triage a calendar and, [00:29:00] um, correspondence. Those are sort of my two big things.
Jenny Kate: Um, but the bottom line is the Bishop doesn’t do Jack until she knows where the, what’s going on in her calendar, and you’re in charge of all of that and logistics of her travel and that sort of thing.
Okay. So, um, so before it’s, I’m trying to figure out in the five year period where you’re not writing, but you’re going to WRW meetings and then you pick up this job. Is that, are they, are they, uh, at the same time, is that this kind of happening?
Keely Thrall: Yeah, I think, um, so it was two years of the, um. So if I, if I signed up, I signed up for RWA in 2000.
I was working at bad boss from 2000 to like early 20. -02 or 2002, so about two years there. Um, so I was in RWA WRW for that time, but there were a lot of sessions that I had to miss because I had to work on the weekends. Um, then I hung out for, you know, a year kind of [00:30:00] futsing around temp, you know, temping as a substitute teacher, blah, blah, blah, whatever.
Before I said, okay, I need to actually get steady money. Yeah. And then, um, Oh, I also signed up as a Mary Kay consultant during that time, so I started my own business and, um, that was actually a really good thing for my life. But, um. So, yes, I was still a member, but I think I had so much stress in my life that just writing was not a thing.
So just showing up to meetings was, um, was great. And then, um, slowly working my way into the volunteer stuff. Um, I did get invited to be part of a critique group up in West Virginia. We met like once a month. And so I, I wrote. You know, sort of three chapters and then got stuck cause I didn’t know where to go.
Jenny Kate: I mean you’re writing fantasy at the time and you still do, that’s what you specialize in.
Keely Thrall: Paranormal romance. Yep. Werewolves R us.
Jenny Kate: Okay. So at some [00:31:00] point though, you become the WRW president.
Keely Thrall: Yeah.
Jenny Kate: And you’re a golden heart finalist.
Keely Thrall: Yes.
Jenny Kate: Okay, let’s get to that. So yeah, so you, you kind of go in where you’re not writing a thing and you’re sort of writing maybe a page or two here or there.
You volunteer with the help with the c-the contests, I mean, get a new job, which you really like because now you’ve been there forever and you’re, now you’re starting to write some things and you feel like you need to get more involved. So. In WRW, uh, there’s sort of a, there’s sort of a shadow kind of process to becoming the president.
I mean, there doesn’t have to be, but that’s just kind of how it’s been working out. Um, because it is a huge responsibility. And it’s funny, we were just talking to the treasurer yesterday, you know, he shadowed for a year, then was the treasurer for two years. And now, you know, needs, need somebody to shadow at him because it’s a big job.
And so having that sort of, I wouldn’t say it’s a training program, but it’s sort of the idea, [00:32:00] um, cause it’s not creative, right? This is the business part of it, right side of the house. You have to make the professional organization grow and be effective. Um, and so you need that kind of training program, if you will.
Uh, and so you were vice president at first?
Keely Thrall: Right. I was vice president for a year. And, um. And it was great. You know, uh, lots of lots of, uh, learning going on. Not a lot of responsibility.
Jenny Kate: Which is what you were learning.
Keely Thrall: Which is what I was learning.
Jenny Kate: Okay. That’s good. And then, um, this is, this is about the time you’re now actually writing all that.
Keely Thrall: Um, I, uh, pushed my way into a, uh, budding critique group by, um, the West Virginia one sort of disbanded. So, um, I got a new critique group and, um. I showed them my, my three chapters and they said, well, you know, why does this guy have to die? And this is all backstory. So I started rewriting and, um, we made a pact that we would all finish our books in time [00:33:00] to enter the golden heart.
And, uh, so we did, and I paid the idiot tax. Right. I was done like the last day printing out at the Kinko’s and I had to pay $50 to get it overnighted down to Houston where the national office is, because it was not electronic.
Jenny Kate: And this was in 2009, 10. Right? Yeah. This was, it wasn’t electronic in 2009, 10.
Keely Thrall: Yeah. No. Crazy. So, um, I, uh, in. The golden heart announcements. The nominated announcements happen at the end of March and the day that they were announced, we happened to have a critique group meeting just scheduled. So we were going to go out to dinner and either celebrate or commiserate, and I was the only one in the group that got the nomination.
Jenny Kate: No kidding.
Keely Thrall: Yeah.
Jenny Kate: And you were like, yay. Oh, I’m so sorry.
Keely Thrall: Yes. It was one of the [00:34:00] most difficult evenings because I hurt because they hurt. You know, and I, I think, I know they were all happy for me. They were harder for me to accept that than to feel like, well, crap, you know.
Jenny Kate: Did you get over it and was like, okay, I can write now. There’s some validation in that for you.
Keely Thrall: Yeah, yeah. No, yeah, definitely. Can I? Yes, I can write. But, you know, um. One of my critique partners, uh, said, you know what, you have a problem with, you have a problem with success.
Jenny Kate: Well, you know, some people do. So here’s what’s funny about that. Um, and one of the reasons why I wanted to make sure that you were on is because you are very inspiring and motivating for a lot of people.
So the fact that you’re hurting because they didn’t make it and you did, is just, I mean, that shows exactly the kind of people that you need to be around you, right? Because you’re going to be that, you know, that back door for them. You’re going to pat them on the back and kick them in the butt, whatever you need to do to get them motivated because, um, and we’ll [00:35:00] get into here in just a minute , um, how you started Tuesday night write, um, here in DC and that has just exploded into all kinds of, there’s a Southern edition and there’s a Wednesday night writes and there’s a Northern edition and people are meeting all over the place because you decided you need to get set up in get read on a Tuesday one night. That’s fantastic. Right. So you, you final in the golden heart.
Keely Thrall: Yeah.
Jenny Kate: Um, and is this the year you became president or?
Keely Thrall: I, you know, it’s a little unclear to me. I can’t remember. I might’ve been president at that time. Um, I did have two years as the president. Um, so I, I definitely was president. I just don’t remember whether it was, yeah. So I guess it was my first year, my president.
Jenny Kate: So what people need to know about the golden heart and their Rita, a lot of people don’t know what the readout and the golden heart are. This is RWA, like national competition. Um, and they, it’s the Rita is for published work. and golden heart is for unpublished work. [00:36:00] So this is about as prestigious as you can get in the, in the romance writer, field writers, genre.
And this, just talk about validation because I mean, this is the largest, again, professional organization for writers in the United States. And the industry is looking, the industry will snap up a lot of golden hearts because. I mean, they have to have a theater system somewhere. So this is your, I don’t want to say it’s your ticket, but it’s pretty darn close if there, if there is one.
Keely Thrall: Yeah. You can defintely leverage it. And a lot of people have.
Jenny Kate: And well, you know, when you’re a small business owner, because that’s what we are as writers, you have to have, we talk about the fact that there’s no training program, you know, inherent in being a writer. So professional organizations help you do that. And this is one of the ways that they can help, help you do that. So submitting was the big step for you because, yes. You mentioned.
Keely Thrall: Yup. Huge step. I’m just finishing the book was a huge step. Um, I had won a contest, um, with this man, well, with, you know, the first 30 pages of this manuscript earlier, maybe like a year before or [00:37:00] something like that. Um, so I had a hint that it was a good opening.
Um, and, uh, the golden heart judges, the first 50 pages. Um, so I think my first 50 pages were good. About midway, i, my story kind of ran off the rails.
Jenny Kate: So this is something Keela does about her work quite often. This whole fear of success thing that people are talking about, she does do this. And, um, and so I think it’s important for you also to be around writers to help you be a little more, um, confident in your work.
Keely Thrall: Well, you know, my confidence in my work took a huge, my, my confidence and my work took a huge, uh, step forward with this. Um, with this last book that I finished, um, took me a long time to write. It took me a long time to revise it, but I, um, made a choice, very deliberate choice to, um, to do the work that needed to do, to get it to a publishable standard.
And, um, [00:38:00] again, one of my former critique partners, um, she’s the one who was able to, um, sort of move the spotlight onto me. Um, cause I’m very good at deflecting.
Jenny Kate: I know. You are.
Keely Thrall: How about this over here? And I, you know, I’m only sort of realizing that that’s what I do and that maybe I don’t need to do that. Um, but she said. You know, she, she and I went to Panera’s on our own several times over the course of months. And I, you know, over dinner I’d be like, well, this is what I’m going to do now.
And I talk about this passive of revision or what I want to do to this scene to make it more better this, that, yeah. Restructure it, that sort of thing. And several times throughout that process, she said, Keely, I’m, I’m in awe of your revision process. And I’m like, I haven’t seems pretty organic. And off the cuff to me, if you edit it down, it would be called the [00:39:00] process in your brain.
Still a process. But, um, but it took, she probably said it half a dozen times, and by the last time I was like, you know what? I’m really proud of what I did.
Jenny Kate: Good for you.
Keely Thrall: Really was. I, um, I had, I think I won a contest that got me a full request from entangled publishing and I submitted whatever, I guess I submitted the whole thing and the editor there said, Hey, this is great.
Here’s a page of notes that I want you to take, you know, six months to revise. Um.
Jenny Kate: Just a page?
Keely Thrall: Yes. I guess.
Jenny Kate: An entire page. Okay.
Keely Thrall: And, um, and that was a huge opportunity, clearly, right. If you want to get your work published through, uh, you know, sort of traditional thing, you want to work with an editor at a house.
Um, so I, I took her, um, [00:40:00] her advice under. Or her guidelines under, you know, advise, whatever,
Jenny Kate: You know, just because an editor or an agent sends you a big whole page of notes doesn’t mean that you are obligated to make all of those changes now. Right? That means you may not be published with them, but you know, I want to make sure that particularly new writers understand.
Yeah. It’s validating. It is absolutely validating when somebody wants your work, but that doesn’t mean the fit might be for you. And so when you say you’re taking the notes under advisement, I want to make sure people understand that. That’s absolutely okay. cause it’s your work.
Keely Thrall: And one of the coolest things about having had such a long gestation period is that I’ve heard that message a lot, right? I don’t have to jump.
Jenny Kate: Right, right. If people get eager and they get, you know, of course they do. And it’s, you know, it’s exciting and it’s fun and it’s validating. Um, but sometimes. You, I mean, you make mistakes because that’s not what I wanted my story to be. Or, Hey, outstanding. These are really actually very good comments and I agree with them.
And you know, you have to build that [00:41:00] relationship with whoever you’re working with. So, okay. So you took the notes under advisement and, um, and?
Keely Thrall: I at first I thought, Oh my God, there’s I, it’s a hermetically sealed story. There’s no way I can do this. And then I was like, Oh, but I could do something here and I could do something here.
And it was about pacing, right? My pace was just sort of, um, breathless. Like there was no pause for the reader to like process what was going on between these two characters or whatever. And so I was like, well, I can, I can go here and I can. And I added about 15% to the word count, which is kind of huge.
And, um, I, you know, I turned it back in and, um, you know, took her a while for her to get back to me. And, um, and how this is bittersweet, but it’s like the best bittersweet. Right? She said it pains me to say that I cannot buy this. I [00:42:00] love everything you did to change this book. Um, but for our reasons, we know that our readers won’t buy it.
Jenny Kate: Okay. So what are you going to do?
Keely Thrall: Uh, well, so I submitted to other contests and now it’s on a full submission to somewhere else.
Jenny Kate: Um, you know, so keeping at it, it’s the point keeping up.
Keely Thrall: Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So, so we’re going to move off that for just a minute. So, so part of the part of writing for you in particular too, is what you do when you’re not writing.
Right, right. So you are the executive assistant to the Bishop in the cathedral. And by the way, she did get us a really cool tour into the terrace of the, of the cathedral, and talk about an amazing phasing view. Um, so you’ve been doing that now for how long?
Uh, 14 years. Yeah. 14,15 years. Yeah.
Jenny Kate: Okay. So in the meantime, you also, you are so, um, go to PCRN.
[00:43:00] Oh, well, we’ll just have to edit that out. I hate that. I can’t, I’ve got to pay attention to that. So from like 40 to 42 we got to, alright. Mmm. So you’re PCRN, you’re, you’re, it’s a plant based, um, physician’s office. Dr Neil Bernard is huge in the plant base community. Um.
Keely Thrall: He’s rock star.
Jenny Kate: He is a rock star. He is absolutely a rock star.
And you did a, their 12 week program that teaches you about nutrition and protein and fiber and all this kind of stuff. Right? And now you’re doing?
Keely Thrall: So he is running a study, um, sort of multiple. Um, I think there are multiple classes of it. Um, but uh, he’s running a 14 week study. Uh, basically the premise is, um, if you eat a plant based diet, will you, uh, lose weight? Will you, will [00:44:00] your, um. Uh, insulin sensitivity go up, which, which is a good thing, which is a good thing. You know, it sounds counterintuitive to me, but it’s a good thing. Um, and then, um, basically a couple of other things, but those, that’s the main part of the study. They have a couple of sub studies.
Jenny Kate: And you’re two weeks into that, right?
Keely Thrall: Two weeks into that, and it’s going great. You know, one of the nice things about this is because I have taken their courses before. Um, it’s not new to me. This is sort of refresher and, um, anything that you pay attention to and that you tend to, um, becomes a little easier.
So having this, uh, kind of weekly accountability, we go in and get weighed, we say, Hey, I did this well, I had a challenge here. Here’s a recipe, here’s a new products, here’s whatever. Um, so it’s a huge amount of fun.
Jenny Kate: Um, cause we did. We did a six week program two or three years ago. Um, where it’s the, it’s the healthy food? It’s [00:45:00] the cooking class. Every week we would come in and they would teach us a little bit more about plant based diet and then the girl would teach us the recipe or whatever. Right. And the idea is this is for your health. You know, that whatever issues are going on in the United States, the, you know, the top 10 killers of Americans in the United States are generally preventable based on the crap in your system.
And so diabetes, heart disease, obesity, you know, all of that, um, can be. So, yeah, there are some people argue it can be absolutely reversed by nutrition, and that’s kind of what Dr. Bernard and that crew is trying to prove and they have and double blind studies for years. Um, but it’s a difficult thing to break into because you know, you’re fighting against culture.
You’re fighting against a big food industry. You’re fighting against big farms, you’re fighting againstnCongress, you know, it’s a huge undertaking.
Keely Thrall: And on a personal level I’m lucky that this doesn’t occur too much in my life, but it [00:46:00] does where like when you make a decision to change your life in a positive way, it is as though you are making judgment on other people who are not choosing that and they push back.
Jenny Kate: Isn’t that funny? It isn’t about them. It’s about you making choices for yourself. Yeah, I get that too. Whenever I’m like, Hey, I’m vegan and you know, I don’t eat meat, although everybody knows that I’m about 90% vegan cause I will go eat, you know, from time to time, particularly when I’m back home down South, you know?
Keely Thrall: So for this study where I’m completely vegan. And the low fat vegan. Um, I like to say I’m mostly vegan most of the time.
Jenny Kate: Yeah. I think that’s a good way to put it, right. Cause it is difficult, particularly when you grow up with just mounds of meat. And frankly, we don’t have bad medical issues. So I have a feeling that when I finally get my bad medical issue, that will turn something in my brain and I’ll be totally plant placed.
No, I do not need a pulled pork sandwich. I’m not there quite yet. Point. But, but I, I feel that plant based eating is one of [00:47:00] the healthiest for me in particular.
Keely Thrall: I find it really easy to, I’ve never been, uh, particularly interested in cooking meat. I don’t keep it in the house. Um, but, uh, you know, I’ve been able to, um, to make a home routine.
So that I have a few recipes I go to and, um, you know, I don’t think of food necessarily as entertainment.
Jenny Kate: That’s a hard one to do. I think that’s a hard one.
Keely Thrall: Um, but there’s now out there, there are so many options, uh, of restaurants to go to where you can really eat a vegan diet. You know, there’s so many salad places and you know, there’s cava. Panera Bread I actually find a little bit tricky, but even they have a quinoa, you know, I can sub out the chicken and put on the quinoa.
Jenny Kate: Well, I think we’re, you know, we’re in a, we’re in a time period where the [00:48:00] restaurants are becoming more flexible about cooking. And if you have it on the menu, I’m just asking you to take it from that to this and sometimes that’s annoying, but for the most part, yes, I can get a baked potato and a salad. Or like last night it was noodles and you know, whatever. But, um, but the reason why I bring up, I always bring up people’s hobbies cause I think it’s important for, you know, other people who are trying to write or readers who you’re paying attention to know that, first of all, we’re not just writers. You know, there’s a whole life that comes along with being a writer and being part of PCRs in my mind, has provoked a lot of really interesting characters for me. You know, and it’s just a whole different lifestyle that I wasn’t used to before that I can incorporate into spy thrillers.
And not in a heavy handed way, but in a, Hey, you know, normal way. Because being vegan is now, it’s normal. It’s not weird. And it’s not, I don’t wear Birkenstocks. I’m not hugging trees, you know, I’m, I just eating a lot of fricking vegetables, and that’s okay that you don’t. Yeah. But I will. So [00:49:00] I think it’s important because writers, I mean, you have to get inspiration and ideas from somewhere because the well is not unlimited, you know?
Keely Thrall: Like where do you go for your inspiration? Well, I kind of walk out the door sometimes. It’s interesting to walk out the door into something new.
Jenny Kate: Yes. Yes. And so I think this is what is your favorite is, has there been a favorite recipe that you’ve had while you’ve been down there? Or your go to or something like that.
Keely Thrall: Well. I have two. Right. Um, one is, uh, new to me. I haven’t tried it yet, like to make it on my own, but I think I’m going to, so that I can maybe make it at Thanksgiving. These were, um, perogis. Yeah. So it was a like a whole wheat, you know, crust, or whatever.
Jenny Kate: The dumpling like thing? I’m not sure it’s a dumpling until you folded it either. So I don’t know what it’s called when it’s flat. So that thing.
Keely Thrall: The casing.
Jenny Kate: We’re writers. We write with words.
Keely Thrall: It’s
[00:50:00] Jenny Kate: important
Keely Thrall: that we get the communication. Do you understand what I’m saying?
Jenny Kate: I do. All right, so we got a casing.
Keely Thrall: Um, and then I think the, the filling was, um, you know, onion and potato and, you know, probably whatever else you want to cook.
Jenny Kate: I think spinach and mushroom would be good in it too.
Keely Thrall: Yeah. Spinach and mushroom.
Jenny Kate: So when you make, do you steam them, uh, or pan fry.
Keely Thrall: I think pan fry or bake or something like that, you know, I have to look at the recipe again, but they, they’ve been doing a really fun thing, which is just a feed us, like a little snack. And then give us the recipe of it. Each week we’ve gone. So one of the weeks was this.
They also had a fabulous, um, vegan cheese cake that was just, It like had pear. It had like vegan chocolate. It was. Oh my God delicious.
Jenny Kate: Yeah, so we have not had any coffee yet. This morning we got straight up and did the podcast, and I’m sitting here thinking, Oh my God, I need coffee and that. Is it made [00:51:00] with cashews I guess?
Keely Thrall: I, you know, I don’t have to look at the recipe again, but it might’ve been, yeah. For this diet, you don’t want to eat very much nuts because of the low fat part.
Jenny Kate: And my husband hates it when I make all these desserts when always daggum cashews cause you take, they’re so good and I don’t want to eat all this, but it’s so yummy. It’s like I don’t care. Yeah, you can’t do just one bite there.
Keely Thrall: Right. I mean we had like this one inch square that’s like where’s the second piece?
Jenny Kate: That’s all you get.
Keely Thrall: Where’s the, where’s the pie piece of that?
Jenny Kate: So you’re going to make that for the perogis for Thanksgiving.
Keely Thrall: So maybe even the, um, maybe even the chart because man, it was so good.
Jenny Kate: So I want those recipes and I will put them in the show notes.
Keely Thrall: Oh, great. That’d be great. And then the other thing that I’ve made a couple of times, it’s basically just a smoothie, but they call it vegan ice cream, which is, um, you know, a couple of frozen, um, berries. Um, a couple of bananas. [00:52:00] A cup of almond milk. And it just makes it really like smooth and thick.
Jenny Kate: what we do too. We did the same thing. Sometimes we’ll do berries, sometimes we won’t. And you’ll put a little bit of vanilla in there with it unless you use the vanilla, you know, almond milk or whatever.
Um, and so what’s funny about that is we do that quite a bit, but I haven’t, I love ice cream and I have had to really watch the amount of intake of Ben and Jerry’s nondairy because I know that’s, I love that it’s non-dairy cause my stomach won’t be upset. But because it meant someone gets upset on dairy, um still not good for you.
It’s right, but I didn’t really only need to have a spoonful or none and just go with that ice cream.
Keely Thrall: I think that’s one of the things that, um, that people maybe don’t always understand about vegan, it’s not a low calorie diet. it’s not like you’re not going to lose weight fast on this diet.
You’ll, you’ll change your gut biome. You’ll get healthier numbers. Um, but, um, [00:53:00] but you can be a really, um, unhealthy vegan.
Jenny Kate: With all that garbage that’s out there. Here’s your fake sausage, and your fake bologna and your fake all this crap. And that is so not good.
Keely Thrall: I saw a picture of, uh, post Harvey picture or whatever, where. It was the like,
Jenny Kate: Oh yeah, I’ve seen this.
Keely Thrall: The refrigerator section. and the only thing left in it was all the vegan products.
Jenny Kate: People will starve because its only vegan. Yeah. That’s so funny.
Keely Thrall: I, uh, I’m just like score.
Jenny Kate: Well, so I, you know, I tell people all the time that it’s really not hard to eat vegan. And it doesn’t mean you have to eat a salad every day, but if you are really, if you’re transitioning over those foods, while not healthy, are a good transition food to get you over to eating more whole foods. It’s the whole foods that increase your liquid panel and lower your cholesterol levels and help you lose weight. And, you know, we talk about calorie density and all that sort of stuff and, and, um, you know, my family comes, we have a history of cancer and [00:54:00] diabetes and I’ve got aunts and uncles who’ve just had strokes and they’re all on pills.
And, you know, um, there are a lot of doctors who would argue that that’s just life. And when you get older, that happens. But Neil Bernard’s group and all of those folks would tell you that doesn’t have to be the case. And if you would stop eating crap. And I don’t want this to get into a lecture about plant based, but you know, it, it’s for me because I come from that sort of background and my father died very young from heart disease.
Um, I’m more motivated to eat a heck of a lot of vegetables than I am to eat a pulled pork sandwich. Of course, I watch, you know what I mean? So, and I always tell people, I don’t care if you eat meat just don’t eat crap meat, and do you have to have so much of it? Have a baked potato.
Keely Thrall: Right. I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis about two years ago now, a year and a half, something like that.
And, um, you know, it’s, uh, it’s an inflammatory, uh, you know, autoimmune disease and eating a plant based diet will help with that.
Jenny Kate: Yes, it will.
Keely Thrall: So, yeah, why not do it?
Jenny Kate: Yeah. Well again, a lot of [00:55:00] that is, you know, if you know something’s coming, you know why not be a little more preventative because the vegetables will boost your immune system.
So I said, okay. Done with the lecture on plant based eating, cause I could do this all day.
So, but something new you’ve gotten into recently is improv. That’s the coolest thing ever. Tell us.
Keely Thrall: Well, so one of our, um, WRW members, um, gosh, maybe about seven or eight years ago, um, or her, her husband was, um. Was told that he needed to get a hobby. Right. He needed to get some stress release. No, no, no. I mean, it was like a doctor left, like he needed to have an outlet or whatever.
And so, uh, for whatever reason, they found the D C improv, um, um, comedy improv, I should know the name of it, but DC brought, right. It’s on Connecticut Avenue. And, um. And so she was [00:56:00] taking it with him and, um, she realized that there were a lot of good things about doing like the improv, um, warm up exercises, uh, that made you, um.
Kind of live in the moment and not anticipate, you know, you have to like do active listening and turn off the internal editor. And she said, ah, internal editor, I know something about that. I’m a writer. And so she led, uh, uh, several workshops over the next couple of years, um, for WRW members where we’d get together and do some of the stuff.
And, um, she, uh, said that the. The thing about improv is, um, there’s only one way to move the story forward. There are three or four ways to stop it in its place, right? You can stop it by saying, no, you can say it. Uh, no, but, [00:57:00] and you can say, um, no, and furthermore, no way.
Jenny Kate: That’s provoking the next thought?
Keely Thrall: Well, that just stops, shuts the scene down.
So the one way you get to, um, continuing, you know, say you have someone on stage, uh, next to you, and they’re like, and then aliens came down and you’re like, no, they didn’t like that might be funny for one line done. Um, but if you say yes, yes, they came down and they. Walked all the dogs, right. And then someone says they walked all the dogs.
And um, so I took that. I actually have a little card that says yes and I have it on my shelf there and it just reminded me, and that actually broke through something for me. That’s how I started writing. That’s how I finished my first book, was like, yes, I just had that, like, I can do this.
Jenny Kate: And now you’re on second book.
Keely Thrall: Now I’m on the [00:58:00] second book. I have some other projects in there or whatever. But I’m going to yes and my way through to the end of them And then like, so I finally said, I’ve been talking about taking an improv class for years. I have a little, uh, birthday money. I’m going to take a class.
So I took the improv one over the summer and this afternoon I will take the first, uh, session of the improv two class.
Jenny Kate: That is fantastic. And you take that, you take it in American or where do you take that?
Keely Thrall: The DC improv. Yeah.
Jenny Kate: Okay. So let’s get that website for that too, and we can put that in the show notes.
So if you are having writer’s block, what an outstanding way to get through that.
Keely Thrall: Well, it’s a lot of fun too. They make it a very safe space. To explore. And they say, um, you know, our teachers like the, um, the funny is in the mistake, right? So we actually want to make mistakes, and I’m doing the air quotes here because they’re not, right.
Because that’s where you get to the funny, right? And [00:59:00] so it’s just a really supportive environment. Um, and you know, I like groups.
Jenny Kate: Let’s talk about groups there real quick, because one of the things that you have done. And I don’t know when you started this, but, uh, on Tuesday night you would go sit at Panera bread to right.
And somehow other people started joining you. And then that has gotten much bigger here in D C so, so talk about the origins of that and where it’s gone. And we can talk about kind of people in the area if they want to, if they want to get involved with it, can certainly talk to us on the website and they can, so they all go to communications at WRWDC, which I’ll also put in the show notes actually gets you directly to me.
Well, you can go to our Facebook page, which will also get you to me and a couple other folks. So if you’re interested in what you’re getting ready to talk about, feel free to get ahold of us and we can hook you up with apparently one of several groups. Cause when I left, I left a year ago. They just come up with the second one like we had been doing Tuesday night wr.
And I’ll shut up and let you [01:00:00] tell the story, but it’s in just a year. I’m amazed at how much bigger that has become. So tell us how that got started.
Keely Thrall: Well, it got started because I had a friend who had a baby and she was, um, she was actually, I guess at that point, not a baby anymore. She was homeschooling and she had no adult time, right?
Yeah, she was, she. She just had her child, you know, 24/7, um, which, you know, she loved and she’s continuing. You still need adult time. And you know, if you’re a writer and you don’t have any time to write, you go a little crazy. And, um, I needed, uh, I’m really, I wish I could say I was different, but I need outside accountability.
And so I thought, well, why don’t we meet, we’ll have a little dinner, we’ll get a writing session done. Um, and let’s just do it every week because at least we will know that we have once a week where we’re doing some writing. And, um, so it started just us, and then because I [01:01:00] can’t,
Jenny Kate: And how long ago?
Keely Thrall: Oh, uh, maybe 20, 11, 2012 or something like that. Um, and then, because I can’t keep my mouth shut, I said, Hey. Why don’t you come, you live out in Alexandria or you live close to Arlington or Boston or wherever we were. And it’s just sort of started growing. And then you and a couple of other people came into our, uh, to WRW and I, you know, Hey look,
Jenny Kate: Cause Jessica Snyder asked me and I’m like, sure, I’ll come cause I love people and I will be happy to not write it just yak for two hours.
Keely Thrall: Right. It was actually the critical moment when I . It went from having just a couple, like maybe four people or whatever. I think we doubled in size. Um, and then it’s just sort of organically grown. Um, we’ve, we had to switch locations in Ballston, but we still meet in, in Ballston at a, um, I’ll get you the restaurant [01:02:00] name.
Jenny Kate: Because the mall there was under construction.
Keely Thrall: Um, but, uh, but that’s been really, really great, uh, because of, uh, your suggestion once a month we do what we call industry chat night, and I usually send out a little agenda, you know, what was your success over those last month? You know, what’s a piece of industry news that you want to share? Um. What’s a writing hack, you know, that’s been working for you, something like that.
Jenny Kate: Yes. So that, that actually generated from Pike’s peak writers on Colorado, I were once a month, they all get together and have what’s called writer’s night. And so there’s usually about maybe 20 people that show up to that thing, and they go around the room and who has questions about what.
And sometimes it’s craft, sometimes it’s marketing, sometimes it’s, you know. How do you get in the big five agents, whatever. It’s not a critique group at this point, and it’s not, we’re going to talk about your story is because they have other stuff for that. This is [01:03:00] specifically about questions on building your small business and how do you kind of work in that in that world.
And so when we came here and we weren’t talking kind of anyway, and I thought, well, if we’re going to write three days, three times, maybe this will actually keep us writing on these occasions and then we can focus on traveling. Yeah. On the other, um, I know that didn’t work out from time to time cause we get in there and start talking.
Um, but I think industry chat night, um,here and in Colorado is absolutely vital and beneficial to folks because, you know, we all work and we have regular jobs and we have lives outside of writing and sometimes just don’t have time to do the research or have time to see what’s new. And so that kind of gives us a focus, um, to do that. And I think, have you found that it’s gone well? I read the year.
Keely Thrall: Yeah. I think it’s gone. Uh, very well. Uh, we did actually do, um, two or three times where it was a little more, um, craft for this. I had people, uh, download samples of, [01:04:00] you know, to a romantic suspense. But very different kinds of romantic suspense.
What about the first page caught you? Would you keep reading? Did you read to the end of the chapter? You know, like, what about that first chapter, that sort of thing? Um, just for, um, sort of market purposes or whatever, but also craft, like, yeah. Would you keep reading?
Jenny Kate: If not, let’s talk about why not. And are you doing that in your own book? Right? hat’s good stuff. I mean, yeah. Whatever it takes.
Keely Thrall: No. Cause you know, the Tuesday night writes serves a lot of people at different points in their career, but we can all use a sharpening of the saw. Right.
Jenny Kate: So, so when, so after that though, was there a Wednesday night writes that happened first.
I think it is. He’s a tuesday night Southern addition. So that was done at Richmond, Fredericksburg?
Keely Thrall: Um, I think more like Fredericksburg, not Richmond. Yeah. Um, yeah. You know, [01:05:00] I, because I wasn’t in charge of any of the other satellites, I don’t know which came first, but, uh, one of our Tuesday night writes people, um, just couldn’t make it like it was too far for her to commute. And she’s like, I’d like to start one in DC. And I said, could you start it on a night that wasn’t Tuesday, because we live in DC. I’d love to do it. Yeah. And um, so there’s a Tuesday night writes, there was one up in, um, sort of a German town area. I don’t know how active that one is. Um, I think there are a couple out in Fairfax.
Jenny Kate: So to that one in DC though, ended up being a Wednesday night writes?
Keely Thrall: Wednesday night writes yeah. So, uh, you can search for Tuesday night writes and Wednesday night writes, I think DC edition on Facebook and, um, and find us, they are, uh, groups on Facebook. Um, they’re closed, but not private or secret or whatever.
Jenny Kate: So you can find a group, you can find the group.
Keely Thrall: Yeah. And I pretty much, okay everybody.
[01:06:00] Jenny Kate: So the idea though, it’s when, so generally you get there around six ish and kind of everybody’s sorts kind of floating in and eating dinner and then between seven and nine as, um, while it tries to be everybody’s stop and write what tends to, I think worked better is, Hey, 20 minute sprints and let’s see how much we can do. And then you can chat for a couple minutes and then you do another however you guys do it. But the point is you’re getting writers together to actually get some more work done.
Keely Thrall: Yeah. Yeah. And it’s been a huge benefit, I think, for a lot of people because writing is a lonely business.
You know, we’re living in our heads. We may have a lot of characters, but there wasn’t like all of us, you know, um, or so. Um, so it’s a way to, to keep in relation with your tribe. Um, but you’re doing it in a productive way. And that’s where I’m always searching like. How’s, what’s my most productive use of time?
And, um, you know, you could argue that Tuesday writes is maybe less productive. Um, [01:07:00] but then you have to say, what does production mean? What does success mean? Right. And if it means that I’ve got to lift into the rest of the week, because I’ve been around people who are actively pursuing their goals, I’m all for it.
Jenny Kate: And I absolutely agree with that because I wouldn’t get too much writing done, but I would get a heck of a lot of inspiration out of it, you know, just to be able to talk about whatever you’re writing. I’d love talking about writing, writing all the time.
Keely Thrall: You say, Hey, you have any hobbies, writing, or reading or talking about writing.
Jenny Kate: Me too.
So, so this is a good source of inspiration for you too as well. And I know you wanted to get into a little bit of. So you had a drought for five years and it’s not really even a drought. You just weren’t, you didn’t even started writing, um, cause you were battling some depression. And so tell us, tell us kinda how that worked in your life and what you have done to kind of get out of that.
Keely Thrall: Right. Um, so I think I just, I live with depression. Um, I’ve tried [01:08:00] different drugs and they have enough side effects that like, yeah, that doesn’t work for me. Um, but what does work is, um. Sort of staying active and making sure I like keep a clean house and, um, make enough dates outside my house that I’m around, people, people booing me up, that sort of thing.
Um, so that gap between college and grad school, I had a severe depression. Um, you know, not necessarily life threatening, but just, you know, could not. Function on my own. Yeah. Um, and then I kinda got like, I went into therapy, uh, got a little more on the gray scale, a little lighter gray, and said, okay, I like school.
Let me go back to school. So I went to school. That helped. Um, but I had to have therapy again. Right. Um, bad boss. [01:09:00] Oh my God. You know, I knew I had to quit that. Um, so getting into a sort of a stable job where I could, um, you know, start saving money, pay off some debt, um, getting into a tribe of people who like, I didn’t know I was missing that, but I needed to be around writers.
That helped. Um, because there, some of those years were overlapping with the bad boss and all that. Um, it was okay for me to just sit and learn. I didn’t put pressure on myself or I probably did, but right now I’m thinking I haven’t put pressure on myself. Um, and then, um, it took a while for me to take it seriously.
Like, now I take it seriously. Now I’m really focused on, um, you know, I’ve got one book, it’s good. Um, I, I’m working on the second book. I had to jettison, you know, 90 pages of it because it wasn’t good. But I knew that, um, not only, like I knew [01:10:00] early that it wasn’t going to work. But I also knew that, um, it was okay to let go if those 90 pages, cause I could get 90 more.
You know, there’s that confidence of like, well, I’ve done it once, I can do it again. Um, I want to do it again. I want to do it a little faster than, you know, write for four or five years on the same book. Right. Cause I, I know. Um, but, uh, so this next sort of season of my life, I really see, uh, I see myself, I’m continuing to set myself up for success. And, um, that means being very aware of what my depression triggers are. Right. So one of my depression triggers is around food. The first six months of this year, I ate like a teenager. I ate like two teenage boys. You know, it was just awful. Binge eating and this and that, just not good choices.
So, okay, what’s one of the things I need to do for that? Change my [01:11:00] diet. This study came up. I said, Hey, I want to be part of your study.
Jenny Kate: And the universe said hey, we agree with you, right?
Keely Thrall: Yeah. Right. And, you know, flip the coin and I got to be part of the test and sort of the control. Thank God. Um, uh, other things I’ve been doing, I’m, I’m starting a mastermind group that for me, it’s going to be about accountability.
So every two weeks or twice a month or whatever. I’m going to sit down at a video chat and say, this is what I did. This is what I had trouble with. This is what I’m thinking to do, to, um, to get out of that trouble or, or whatever.
Jenny Kate: And this is with your writing.
Keely Thrall: This, this is my writing .
Jenny Kate: And this is a way that you have identified to help battle some of this depression that you have.
Keely Thrall: To do battle some of the depression and be active, right. To actively engage in what my goals are. Um, so, um. Very exciting to me.
Jenny Kate: The mastermind group. Yeah. You were telling me about it last night. Yeah. So I think that it’s, cause you, you’ve cultivated this group of, it’s only about five or six, five. Oh, right, yup. And you are, you, [01:12:00] it’s an accountability for goals and what you want to do and, and you’re all having to report in. Is that how-
Keely Thrall: It’s sort of a peer to peer? I think the way the structure will end up being is, um. There’ll be, um, sort of a two minute recap for each person at the beginning where we just say, Hey, you know, um, I made three of my five goals out of this week, or, you know, whatever. Um, I got 20 pages of writing done, or 50 pages or whatever, you know.
Um, and then, uh, we’ll move into sort of a 10 minute spotlight on each person. Um. Where we can drill down on like, I, I want to get a new agent. I’m thinking about this, okay, that, you know, blah, blah, whatever. We’ll morph. It’ll like, because we haven’t done it yet, we’ll make it our own. But that’s sort of the, the idea of right now.
Um, so if you’re having a problem, it’s not about, like, I have a specific brainstorming in my plot problem, although it could be, [01:13:00] this is really supposed to be more like. Um, I want to finish writing this book, um, by the next golden heart deadline, and I think I need to write a hundred pages a week for that, or, you know, whatever.
Um, so chunk it down and people say, well, I think that might be a little ambitious based on, you know, what you’ve said before, so maybe moderate it this way, or modify it this way, you know, so that you’re doing some peer to peer accountability and, uh, inspiration and support.
Jenny Kate: So let me get this straight. So you volunteer for RWR, you have a full time job with cathedral, you do improv classes, you do Tuesday night writes, and you’re doing PCRN study, and now you’re doing mastermind program.
And all of this is fantastic stuff because it’s very inspiring, not just for you, but for so many other people to keep motivated in their writing.
Keely Thrall: I also volunteer on a different board.
Jenny Kate: That is . Of course you do. Of course you do that. I mean [01:14:00] your life. So it’s funny. People tell me all the time, what do you mean you’re not busy?
You got like a thousand things going on at once. So you, you really do. But that seems to work for you. And that works for, you know, the life that you’ve decided to lead in, the goals that you wanna that you wanna that you have for yourself and that you want to accomplish for yourself. And so what I found in, and, um.
The reason that I want to make sure that you got on podcast is that you do all of this stuff and it’s not just about you, it’s about the people. It’s that whole leadership thing that you were talking about earlier. It is, I mean, because people are affected by the idea that we all have goals. We all have issues we have to deal with.
We all have ways we can get through that together. Right, right. I mean I talk about it all the time. Writing takes a village, it takes the whole team. And you, my friend have been one of the captains of this team for years. Regardless of what you’ve done in your writing career where it is, you know, a scale from one to 10 you know, whatever, you still motivate and inspire so many writers with all this stuff that you do.
And so yet [01:15:00] I’m bragging here for just a few minutes cause cause Keely does this stuff and yes, it’s beneficial to you because. Anytime we work with people, right? I mean, the benefit usually comes to yourself more than the people you’re helping. But I would argue in this case, it helps everybody, which is why I know Angela McQuade puts you in for the mentor award for WRW a couple of years ago.
And then that award is typically for a published author and what they bring to kind of motivate, motivate new writers or whoever. Um, and so unfortunately for the by-lines, they couldn’t give you that, but instead they gave you. I think it’s outstanding. No, it’s just above and beyond words. So that’s what you got last year as the above and beyond award.
Um, because people recognize that what you’re doing for the chapter and not just for the chapter, but for the community is important. And it’s very good stuff. And I know you’re here. She’s funny. She’s over here, smile and is blushing with a little bit, but the bottom line is you gotta have people like this in your life.
And so I thank you for being one of those people, [01:16:00] you know? And so, um. So is there anything else that you want to add to, you know, the podcast and how, what do you want to say to a new writer? Like you say, lots of new writers tell us a thing you would say to a new writer sitting right now.
Keely Thrall: Oh, I, you know, I might say, um, welcome.
You know, welcome aboard. We’re glad you’re here. And, um, uh. Maybe activate yourself a little faster than me, but be kind to yourself. Yes. You know, this is a industry with a lot of projection involved in a lot of hard work. If you’re doing it right, then you are going to, um, have, you’re going to put yourself in a place where your work will be critiqued.
That is a hard place to be. Yeah. Cause it’s hard to differentiate yourself from the work that you put out. Those are two different things. Um, uh, but if [01:17:00] you, if you learn that you will be rewarded and if you stick around and you make the connections in this industry, you will be rewarded. Ah, that’s such a good line.
That’s such a good line. So with that, I think we’ll, I think we’ll wrap it up. So thank you very much for being on podcast. I really appreciate it. This is Writer Nation.