The Writers’ Program is excited to welcome our newest staff member, Kate Sipples. Kate recently finished her novel, and, as our official new Tweeter, @KateofGoodHope, she’ll be sharing all things literary–including her adventures on the road to publication.
WP: You lived and worked in South Africa for some time and your novel, Cape of Good Hope, is set in Cape Town. Can you tell us more about it?
Kate: Cape of Good Hope is a women’s fiction adventure with a social conscience and, hopefully, a good deal of humor. It tells the story of Ruby Dean, a twenty-eight-year old Bostonian who is a last minute replacement to direct a women’s craft shop in Cape Town’s oldest township. She’s driven to help her new community, to honor her deceased father’s memory, and, though she won’t admit it, to find friendship and love. Of course, nothing goes as planned and she’s soon learning more from those she’s come to help than they’re learning from her.
WP: Were your travels the impetus for you to begin writing your novel?
Kate: South Africa has provided the richest life experience I’ve had to date. Cape of Good Hope is both a love note and a thank you letter to the country. With any luck, Ruby and the colorful South Africans she meets will one day reach a wider audience and pique readers’ interest in learning more about the region for themselves.
WP: You’ve reached the point with your book that I think a lot of writers would be envious of—a completed manuscript! What did that feel like when you knew you were finished?
Kate: “Finished” is an interesting word. I don’t presume to consider the manuscript finished in the sense that it’s ready to go to print, but it’s as good as I can get it without further help from an agent and/or editor. But, to answer your question, it feels wonderful! I’m grateful for three years of critiques from dozens of workshop partners, three writing instructors, and five beta readers.
WP: What has the process of searching for an agent been like?
Kate: I have to credit the 2010 Guide to Literary Agents for the line, “Above all remember the following: 1. You will be rejected. 2. You will be rejected.” I’ve definitely racked up my share of rejection letters, but, first of all, they make me feel like part of the publishing world and, secondly, they make the requests for partials and fulls that much sweeter. I’ve also found the advice to start a new project while you wait to be helpful.
WP: I know that you’ve taken a lot of writing classes with the wonderful Linda Palmer. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve learned from her classes?
Kate: Linda is a tireless champion for her students. She’s graced us with so many gems, but if I had to choose one, it would be her response to a student who mentioned he had bought the domain name for his novel. Linda praised him and said, “Too often in life we feel the need to prepare for the worst. When it comes to your writing, I encourage you all to prepare for the best.”
WP: Are you an everyday-kind-of-writer or when-the-inspiration-strikes-kind-of-writer?
Kate: I’m a dealmaker. I write when I’ve struck a good deal with myself. One side of the bargain is draft pages and the other side tends to have something to do with chocolate. Or cooking programs. Sometimes both.
WP: Favorite piece of writing advice?
Kate: Has to be Vonnegut’s “Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that they will not feel the time was wasted.”
WP: Is there anything else you’d like students to know before we all become your Twitter followers?!
Kate: First of all, thanks so much for your time! A shopkeeper in Cape Town who was recently interviewed about the World Cup said, “I hope people will see there’s a lot more to South Africa than all the doom and gloom you hear about in the news overseas.” Cape of Good Hope is my way of sharing the more enchanting aspects of the country and the diverse, funny, inspiring people who live there.
Mae Respicio is the Program Representative in Creative Writing (Onsite).
Kate Sipples is the Program Assistant in Creative Writing (Onsite).