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What’s the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?

Updated: Jan 17

Canvas Rebel Magazine: We recently connected with KJ Fieler and have shared our conversation below.

Hi KJ, thanks for joining us today. What’s the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?

This is a remarkably difficult question to answer because I’ve been the recipient of more acts of goodwill than any person deserves. One stands out because I cannot pay the man back, or have the last word.

Frank Armstrong Green, founder/director of The Bard Society in Jacksonville, Florida declared me “an undiscovered talent” based on an unsanctioned peek at my personal journal. He asked me to get us some coffee–which I was happy to do–but the errand was a ruse. He just wanted me out of the room. He’d heard me read from my notebook in his critique group, and he had decided I wasn’t sharing the best bits.

I shrieked and almost dropped both cups when I saw what he was doing. He sniggered and kept reading. The more I protested, the more he dug in. I parked our coffee and tried to snatch the notebook, but he stood and threatened to take it with him. So, I sat and sulked and sipped my cafeteria coffee.

Enough time passed that I had finished his coffee as well as my own and was wondering where the ladies’ room might be when he finally spoke. “You’re an unrefined Eudora Welty,” he said. I told him he was absolutely crazy and I quit The Bard Society then and there. He handed me the journal and said, “Your membership is nonrefundable, and your attendance is nonnegotiable. See you next week.”

I’d never read Southern literature before Frank arranged my “reeducation” as he put it. “Pablum for the masses,” he called my reading list. He set up a one-student curriculum. I did the assignments: at first to avoid his fits of disappointment when I didn’t turn them in; then later because I’d learned a thing or two.

Frank passed away six months before I landed a publishing contract on my first book. Part of me wishes he knew that, after only three decades of uninterrupted nagging, he finally turned me into an author. He’d hate the genre though: an unholy marriage of Steampunk, historical fiction, and dark fantasy. I can see his eyes rolling all the way from the pearly gates.

Every conversation we ever had, he led with, “With all the resources at your disposal, why don’t you have a book yet?” Now, I wish I could quote Welty to him: “It doesn’t matter if it takes a long time getting there; the point is to have a destination.”

Perhaps he would forgive the time and the genre, because I’d finally quoted his favorite author.

As always, we appreciate you sharing your insights and we’ve got a few more questions for you, but before we get to all of that can you take a minute to introduce yourself and give our readers some of your back background and context?

All of my educational career, teachers and professors encouraged me to write. It seemed that my chiefest talent, besides having nice hair, was a gift for storytelling. Unfortunately, both my parents considered writing a hobby.

So I got a “real” job, a soul-sucking career working for a bank, listening to the company complain about customers and customers complain about my employer. Eventually I stumbled into a job as stringer to newspapers and magazines, and discovered that a byline fed me in ways food never could.

That led to an accidental stint as a publicist to an author. I had no idea what I was doing, but my friend, Kevin Robinson, needed a publicist and had just enough money to train one.

A job well done became a referral, and another and another… Eventually I had business cards printed, which we all know is what makes you real. So, for a couple of decades, I got paid to brag about my author friends.

In the mean time, the worst thing that can happen to an aspiring writer happened to me. I married well. When I say well, I mean I married a man who wanted me to be happy no matter what, even if that meant staring out the window all day, promising I had a manuscript. Just a few more edits. Any day now.

Sooner or later, though, people expect you to do an actual thing. Even Ric. He and and my author-friend, Lenore Hart, conspired to get at least one of my stories out of the file cabinet. She landed me a scholarship to a writers’ retreat and Ric paid whatever it took to get me there. I tried to get out of it, but they were resolute. It was at that retreat that I wrote the first six chapters of SHADOW RUNNER, and no one has let me laze about since.

PR has been a siren song though and I recently started a little side-project on YouTube. Yes, there is a book two and three… in fact there are at least twenty more in the file cabinet. But I’m back to promoting other authors and loving it, Writer 2 Writer–a true author spotlight channel–is my passion. As it turns out, promoting others is a way better strategy than my sad attempts at self-promotion. SHADOW RUNNER is selling just fine, but mostly sales have come from passive PR. It turns out, if you help people, they can’t wait to help you back.

Any fun sales or marketing stories?

Author Kevin Robinson needed a publicist, specifically one who lived in Florida. His books all took place in Florida and he was planning a book tour, but his publisher was being stingy. So Kevin asked me to give it a shot. I confessed I had no experience, and he confessed that he knew that from the start. What he saw in me was that I have never believed in the word, “no.”

No is a yes in stasis.

Also, when I’m helping other people, I’m fearless. What’s the worst that can happen? Someone will say “no” which… see above. So I signed on.

Wow, was he happy. I’ve never seen anyone so happy to pay a bill. All these years later, he still talks about that book tour. I got him on television, on the front page of the Lifestyles section in several newspapers, on NPR… I shocked us both. Almost no one said no.

So, I may not have had the training, but I did and still do have the heart for PR.

Any resources you can share with us that might be helpful to other creatives?

I wish I’d been encouraged to do what makes me happy. I know my parents came from another time, another generation, but I spent a huge chunk of my life trying to find a career they’d approve. It took me a while to figure out that my mother was grooming me for my MRS degree. In that regard, she was super proud of me. Given permission, I would have studied journalism or psychology or medicine… things my family thought of as a man’s profession. I’m glad we as a society are past that nonsense, or at least I hope we are.

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