Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Interview with Sarah Kohnle: Reporter, Editor, Cyclist, Humanitarian, and Author of "Shifting Gears"

I'm pleased to have Sarah Kohnle as my guest today. I met Sarah a couple years ago when I was a speaker at the Columbia Chapter of the Missouri Writers guild conference, and she invited me to give a writing workshop at the annual Missouri State Teachers' Association retreat along the Jacks Fork River in the Ozarks. During the retreat I met so many teachers who are also writers, which was an inspiring experience. When Sarah told me about her book, I invited her to be interviewed on my blog, and she graciously agreed to do it! 

Sarah has been a reporter/editor for many years and has multiple publishing credits to her name in newspapers, trade magazines, and corporate newsletters. A native of North Dakota, she earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and a master’s degree in communication from the University of Illinois. Currently, she is managing editor for a state association for teachers.



For Shifting Gears, she put her professional skills to work, interviewing numerous professionals including those associated with cycling and exercise, law enforcement, and funeral homes. Additionally, she conducted first-hand research while bicycling on roads across Kansas and Idaho, and on bicycle trails in Illinois and Missouri.


Thank you, Sarah, for taking time from your busy schedule to visit, and congratulations on the release of your novel, Shifting Gears  You are an accomplished writer, reporter, photographer, editor --- and now a published novelist. What (or who) inspired you to become a writer?            
Sarah: My journalism career started early; I recall publishing a newspaper in elementary school with a classmate. I have no idea where the inspiration came from, however, I do know one of my relatives was a newspaper columnist in the 1800s. It’s a real treat to have some of her articles. 
 It seems like you were destined to become a reporter! One of your passions is long-distance cycling. How did long-distance cycling spark your idea for Shifting Gears, and what kind of research did you perform while writing your novel?          

Sarah: I had ridden across Iowa years ago. When this idea came along, as a former newspaper reporter, I wanted to do some firsthand research, so I signed up for a ride across Kansas. To train, I logged many hours on a bike trail in Illinois. My love of long-distance cycling was rekindled. So far, Idaho was my favorite state to ride. Next spring, my husband and I hope to go on a bike and barge trip in Holland.

 Traveling to Holland for a bike and barge trip sounds so exciting! Shifting Gears has been described as a relational novel, written in the style of Anne Tyler. What can you tell us about the characters and story line of Shifting Gears?         

Sarah: A reviewer really nailed it: “I enjoyed the writer's clear voice, the consistency of the book's purpose and progress as Meg and Josh traversed life together -- but not quite together. This was a careful drawing of the changing relationship of a mother transcending her care-worn past and navigating new realities with her ever more independent son. The author thoroughly explored the power and presence of the absent husband-father. The supporting characters were well drawn and the description rich and visceral as the two travel together through thick and thin across America.”  That is an impressive review! Now, onto the business end of your book. Shifting Gears was published by Astraea Press. Why did you choose Astraea to publish your novel, and how was your experience with them?          

Sarah: I discovered Astraea Press last summer and was intrigued by their concept of publishing clean fiction. They were exceptional to work with. The editors were wonderful and pushed me in a good way. Working on the cover with a lot of fun as the artist and I tried various approaches. I love the cover; it is colorful and inviting. You and the artists did a wonderful job. So, where can readers find Shifting Gears?

Sarah: It is available online through Astraea Press, Amazon, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble. In your full-time job, you are managing editor of the MSTA magazine. Will you please discuss submission guidelines for the magazine—who is eligible to submit, what kinds of submissions you’re looking for, etc.

Sarah: Our quarterly magazine is mailed to approximately 44,000 educators. I am always looking for good pitches from writers on a variety of education topics. For MSTA questions, please contact me at skohnle@msta.org

You also are coordinator of the annual MSTA retreat at Bunker Hill. What can you tell us about the annual creative retreat—how did it get started, where is Bunker Hill located, when is the retreat held, who is eligible to attend, what kinds of speakers or workshop leaders are involved, etc.? 

Sarah: When I first started at MSTA, I spent a weekend at Bunker Hill, a rustic property that has a fascinating history and has been part of the organization since 1947. The tranquil property sits along the Jacks Fork River in the Ozarks. I was inspired during my first weekend and thought other writers could benefit as well. From there I started the annual fall Creative Retreat. This year it is for writers and photographers Oct. 3-5. Enrollment is limited and more information at www.bunkerhillretreat.com. This year, I am excited to welcome you and Lou Turner back to meet with aspiring writers. It will be a weekend to create and to learn.
 Another of your other passions is mission trips to Central America. How did you get involved in these service trips, and what can you tell us about your experiences?          

Sarah: This spring was my fourth trip to Honduras. We work with World Gospel Outreach, an organization that has been in Honduras for 30 years. We provide medical, dental, optical services and children’s ministry to neighborhoods. One of the aspects I like about the organization is how it partners with local churches and professionals to provide on-going physical and spiritual care. That is a worthy cause, and I'm certain it is also gratifying to make a difference in the lives of so many children. I do have another writing question: What are you working on now, and what’s the best way for readers to contact you to find more about your writing?     

Sarah: I have another fun story I am working on. Readers can find me at sarahkohnle.com. I'm looking forward to learning more about your next book. Any final thoughts or anything else you would like to add?

 Sarah: Donna, thanks for this opportunity. I am really looking forward to our fall weekend, when the air has a slight crispness to it and the leaves begin to change.

Thank you, Sarah, for your answers to my questions, and I look forward to seeing you at Bunker Hill again this fall!

If anyone has a question or comment for Sarah, please feel free to leave them.

18 comments:

  1. Wow, what a great interview. This sounds like a book I would like and would not have known about it unless I saw it here. I will put it on my HTR list (Hope To Read) right now. Writing event sounds good too. Thanks, Donna, for introducing us to Sarah!!!

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    1. Hi Claudia,
      Thanks for your kind words. It would be great if you could make it to the retreat in October. Hope you enjoy Sarah's book.

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    2. Hope you enjoy the ride! We'd love to see you at the retreat this fall -- it's a marvelous time to be near the river. I guarantee you will be inspired!

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  2. Shifting Gears sounds like a great read! Donna, thank you so much for introducing us to Sarah. As always, your posts are so generous and filled with wonderful information. And Sarah, so nice to "meet" you -- good luck on what sounds to be a lovely debut novel. I will look for it!

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    1. Hi Theresa: Nice to "meet" you as well. I hope you get a chance to read the book -- I certainly had fun working on it.

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  3. I love that it sounds like the characters have complex relationships, which is something I look for. Thank you, Donna, for a great interview. Best of luck, Sarah, and I'll be on the lookout for your book!

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  4. Sounds like a book I would enjoy. I'll definitely check it out. The writing retreat sounds pretty awesome, too, especially in the beauty of fall!

    Pat
    Critter Alley

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    1. Hi Pat - hope you enjoy the read! And the retreat is really awesome and economical. Check it out!

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  5. Thanks for this interview. It is chocked full of great information, and I will check out MSTA writing as I have a background in education! :) The book sounds amazing, too. Best of luck to you!

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    1. Hi Margo: I hope to see a proposal from you!

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  6. Great interview Donna and to Sarah - your book sounds great!

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    1. Hi Lynn: I agree with you - Donna does a beautiful job with her interviews! Hope you pick up & enjoy the book.

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  7. Sarah's book sounds interesting and so does her biking adventures. Thanks, Donna.

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    1. Linda, thanks for the comments. Hope you have an opportunity to curl up with the book.

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  8. Intriguing! Thanks for sharing this great interview, Donna.

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  9. A bike and barge trip in Holland? Sign me up! (And maybe do the riding part for me...) :-) Very interesting book and good to hear about your experience w/ Astraea Press!

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    1. Hi Cathy- thanks for the comments. I would be happy to tell you more about Astraea- they were great!

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