Written by Steve Mosco, email@example.com Wednesday, 05 February 2014 00:00
Most writers tend to proclaim a love/hate relationship with their chosen profession; teetering between madness and glory, writers often feel the stress of each word as they search for the eventual gratification of a finished piece.
Stephanie Kepke of Plainview is no stranger to such an existence. With a writer’s spirit seething inside of her from a very young age, the mother of three exercises her talents with blog posts, essays and an ever-evolving work of fiction entitled Goddess of Suburbia. The novel, her first, is currently on submission with a major publishing company as she works through the arduous revision process.
“The biggest stress is getting the piece into the right hands,” said Kepke, whose novel features a strong female lead in a work of fiction with romantic elements. “The trick is to get it out of the pile and in front of the right eyes.”
The pile she refers to — known as a slush pile, or a set of letters and manuscripts sent to publishing companies — is an easy place for any written work to disappear. Trying to avoid such a fate for her work, Kepke joined the Long Island Romance Writers last year in an effort to meet agents and other industry members with muscle.
Now working on what she hopes is the tail-end of multiple revisions to Goddess, Kepke satisfies her addiction to writing with a blog that airs the personal side of her everyday life.
“I don’t think I’m good at anything else,” she said, her tone tinged with the gallow’s humor. “I’ve been a writer for as long as I can remember. If I’m not writing, I feel like I’m dying. It’s connecting with readers’ emotions that keeps me going.”
Kepke began connecting with readers long before her blog, www.stephaniekepke.wordpress.com, notched more than 4,000 hits. She worked as a journalist for many years and wrote everything from mundane analytical articles to fascinating pieces on musicians for art publications. A few years ago, a piece she wrote titled “Kicking Superwoman to the Curb” appeared in Long Island Parent Magazine before she posted the full-length version on her blog last fall. The article is about coming to grips with the realization that attempting to be everything to everyone is the first step on the road to ruin.
The article struck a nerve with moms across the island and beyond, leaving Kepke with a feeling of satisfaction — an emotion not easy to come by as a writer.
“My sister heard someone quote the article in a pediatrician’s office,” she said. “It was great to hear that. All the stresses are worth it when what you’re writing comes out exactly as you envisioned it.”
But envisioning essays and doing one’s homework on journalistic articles differs from exploring the far-flung corners of one’s mind while writing fiction. Where a journalist might pore over pages and pages of notes culled from a phone interview or a series of assignments, the fiction writer is often left merely with their own mind.
“A lot of times I just sit down and let a character or a theme play itself out,” she said. “Fiction can be a totally intuitive process. Journalism is very structured. But personal essays, those just flow. It can be very hard to share that kind of information about yourself, but it is the easiest type of writing to get out of one’s head.”
Many of Kepke’s personal musings are influenced by her time in the Plainview-Old Bethpage area. She grew up in Old Bethpage before trekking out to Boston when she was 23 for nine year period. She returned to Plainview where she now resides with her husband and three sons.
She returned for the feeling of community that permeates around the neighborhood; somethat that was auspiciously absent in Boston.
“I lived in the same town in Boston for years and I hardly knew anyone,” she said. “A lot of people come back to Plainview because of the sense of community. The schools are excellent and many people rally to help other families.”
And that local flavor has a tendancy to pepper Kepke’s writing. Even if her work is not outwardly about Plainview, her home town is a major influence on her words. And because of that, Kepke sometimes finds herself assuring family and friends that certain characters in Goddess of Suburbia are not based on real people.
“It is not in any way autobiographical,” she said about Goddess, a story about a PTA mom whose life suddenly explodes. “But if you are from here and you read it, you will definitely feel that local flavor.”
Kepke said a writer’s life will shape and mold their work, fictional or not. She believes in order for a written piece to have the type of impact a writer craves, a balance must be struck.
A balance between real and unreal. A balance between love and hate.
“You have to use real life emotions or else the writing might not sound authentic,” she said. “If you are authentic and true, you’ll end up with something extra special in the end, despite all the stress of writing.”