Book Reviews

How To Walk Away

Sometimes a person needs a story to help forget their worries. How to Walk Away by Katherine Center is a prescription for getting lost in a story, realizing that things could be worse. I enjoyed the character development, unraveling personalities like a box in a box as the story went deeper with complex issues. A memorable story.

NEW YORK TIMES Bestselling Author Katherine Center wrote her first novel in the sixth grade (fan fiction about Duran Duran) and got hooked. From then on, she was doomed to want to be a writer—obsessively working on poems, essays, and stories, as well as memorizing lyrics, keeping countless journals, and reading constantly.

Katherine won a creative writing scholarship in high school, and then went on to major in creative writing at Vassar College, where she won the Vassar College Fiction Prize. At 22, she won a fellowship to the University of Houston’s Creative Writing Program and moved home to Texas with plans to become Jane Austen ASAP.

It didn’t happen quite that way. Of course. Instead, she began a decade of struggling, agonizing, and questioning the meaning of life before finally finding a fairy-godmother-like agent and getting a dream-come-true book deal for her debut novel, The Bright Side of Disaster.

 A total happy ending. And also, just the beginning.

 Katherine firmly believes that our struggles lead us to our strengths, and the years of not getting published, she’s decided, were good for her. They forced her to define who she is and what she cares about. They forced her to figure out why she writes at all. They forced her to clarify for herself what she loves in stories as a reader—to create her own definition of “good writing” from the inside out.

She is constantly thinking about craft, and looking for stories to admire, and working to get better at storytelling—but she’s very careful about what “better” means. For her, getting better as a writer means getting clearer and clearer about what she, herself, loves and looks for in stories—and using everything she knows about writing to do those things in the spirit of service for others.

Katherine believes the single most inspiring thing about the human race is the way life knocks us down over and over and over, but we just keep on getting back up.

She believes the best stories let you get so lost, you forget you’re reading at all—and then you find your way back out a little bit changed.

Katherine also believes joy is just as important as sorrow.

That’s why her stories are always about resilience and struggle and finding ways to savor life’s moments of grace. That’s why her characters joke around so much, even in the shadow of hardship. And that’s why Katherine will never, ever, run the main character over with a bus in the final chapter.

That’s a promise.

Katherine is always looking for reasons to be hopeful, and opportunities to laugh, and ways of getting inspired—both in real life and in fiction. She believes that the only compass you can follow as a writer is to write the story you, yourself, long to read.

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