A Creature Called “The Author Questionnaire”

I am departing from my usual format this week, because I was interrupted last week by a life-altering event: my book was accepted for publication! (I will announce the publisher as soon as the ink of the signatures of both parties on the contract is completely dry.) The working title is Encountering the Edge: A Hospice Chaplain’s Memoir. On the heels of receiving the contract, the publisher mailed me an “author questionnaire” and gave me a two-week deadline to fill it out. It has the customary questions about my education, affiliations, current and past jobs and whatnot. But a portion of it in effect says, “Go outside and play.” This is the part I reproduce here for your amusement, giving you all a well-deserved break from facing death.
Hobbies: Singing at the slightest provocation, strolling through botanic gardens, speaking Spanish, Tweeting wisecracks to comedians on Twitter and reading compassionate science fiction (no swords or murderous robots).

Dream Dinner Guests: Sting, Stephen Hawking, Ruth Ozeki (author of My Year of Meats), and any actor or writer connected with Star Trek.

Which of my characters I’d like to dine with and why: One of the central characters in my compassionate science fiction story, ­Upward Spiral, is a sculptor named Clara. She says things like, “Your hair style is refreshingly unconventional.” She in part represents a more mature and wiser version of me in the future, so it would be great to get her advice ahead of time and save myself a lot of heartache.  http://www.bewilderingstories.com/issue484/upward_spiral1a.html

Book I’m reading now: Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (I’m not bragging; I’m reading it in translation.)

Favorite job: Interim rabbi for Temple Beth Am in Manhattan, where I could write provocative sermons and spend most of my time visiting the sick and dying, all without worrying about the Board of Trustees renewing my contract.

Favorite summer job: Security Guard for an all-girl’s dormitory at the University of Texas at Austin. My employer said it was the first time he decided to hire a woman for this job because I had “experience of the world” from having lived in El Salvador, Colombia and Japan.

Writing mantra/inspiring quote/best advice to beginning writers:

(1) Write the first several drafts for yourself. Then write all the subsequent drafts for the audience.

(2) After you think of a “bright” idea or a way to express something, don’t stop there. Ask yourself, “How can I take this one step further than anybody else with the same idea and make it more precise, more unusual, more beautifully put, more convincing or more moving?”


A question for my blog readers: How might YOU answer one of the questions in the author questionnaire?


9 thoughts on “A Creature Called “The Author Questionnaire”

  1. Dia says:

    Congratulations Karen and well done!


  2. Laurie Dinerstein-Kurs says:

    Karen – Mazal Tov on your fabulous accomplishment…
    Laurie Your up at this hour also??? 🙂


    • Who could sleep after such news? I find that both extremely good and extremely bad news have similar effects: shock, disbelief, difficulties sleeping, and loss of appetite. I might write about that sometime. Thanks for your praise.


  3. Consuelo says:

    Rabbi, Congratulations! About the author questionnaire: so many people who I have lost through untimely deaths: all of them should be at dinner, and U2. Thank u so much for your insights. You’re a great writer.


    • Your suggestion about bringing people back to life for the fantasy dinner must reflect one of our deepest and ongoing longings. I’ll take U2, as long as they get along with all the other guests! Thanks for your lavish praise, and just call me Karen.


  4. Consuelo M Beck-Sague, MD says:

    Delayed reaction! I didn’t mean that U2 the group would be at the dream dinner party. I meant, you, too! You, Rabbi Kaplan!


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