Monday, February 13, 2012

When We Was Fab

by Kris Kahrs

I’m always getting asked how the Pen & Inkers got together. I usually smile and beg off because it’s a long story with a lot of twists and turns and a lot of water under the bridge now. Our rise to fame and fortune was a story to rival any group’s. It all started in a hipster joint in Seattle back in the late nineties. I was slinging java at the counter. Hilde and Sue were just regular writers that came, working the daily grind. Hilde sometimes played in a band on the weekends with her boyfriend, Dave. 

One rainy Saturday, Lupe showed up buying Lattes for everyone. We were impressed. We thought anyone who could spend that kinda money must have some good ideas, so we listened hard. He blew our minds. He proposed we form a critique group, the four of us! That made us think, “hey maybe we got somethin’ here. Maybe we are good enough”.

So, we went on the road, yup, we went to the land of sunshine and money. We went to El Ay. Of course, we were writing constantly back then. We never stopped. Lupe wrote a lot of Middle Grade. Hilde did Middle Grade and YA. Sue had a lot of success with Picture Books. Me? I did anything I could get my hands on: Picture Books, blog posts, scripts, even freelanced a bit. Oh yeah, I was crazy in those days.

When the big time hit, we celebrated with a weekend across the border. We blew all of Sue’s latest advance just buying books! We went to any store we wanted; we ordered from Amazon, we even bought e-books. There was one little coffee house where we spent most of the night just listening to grunge poets recite poetry. That’s where Sue got that tat on her ankle. I don’t remember a lot of it, but I bet Hilde does.

When we got back up north, our faces were everywhere. There wasn’t a conference, schmooze or book launch we weren’t invited to. Yeah, things got tense once in awhile. There’d be artistic differences, but show me a group that‘s read as many books as we have that doesn’t use a ‘first person’ voice once in awhile. I think it came down to our different genres. We couldn’t agree on one. One person would want to write fiction then we’d hear that blogging was hot, so we’d do that and then creative non-fiction was a sure thing and we’d all jump on that.

Don’t get me wrong, we’re still tight as any group. We have other interests now. Sue hangs in Hawaii. Hilde’s super busy doing everything and Lupe hangs with his fans. We called them “Lupe’s groupies.” As for me, you can find me anytime you want, down at The Java Jockey. Anyway, we’re still rockin’ it after all these years and all you bright and shiny kidlit writers new to this gig, do yourself a favor and get a critique group.


  1. Here here Kris, well done! From Hilde

  2. "One rainy Saturday, Lupe showed up buying Lattes for everyone."
    I deny the accusation that the Lattes were spiked with mescaline.
    Dropped Out

  3. It's all true except Sue's now hanging out in Michigan.

  4. This would make a great movie in the '90s . . . but on the street, I have heard a different origin story . . .

  5. Hi Laurie-- Ignore the idle gossip. Y'know how the tabloids are--anything to make a coupla bucks. *smile*

  6. Yep, I agree crit groups are pretty cool, although I've found it often takes a fairly skilled or strong moderator as the glue. Who be de glue fo' you? Here's to power from the group to the group.

    Neat tat, by the way---I just figured it was foot notes about the rest of your story....

  7. Hi Bill! Ha! The tat is on Sue's ankle. Y'know how hard core she is!

  8. What a fun group - loved the way you told it too. I always wondered, and now I KNOW!! Thanks mates. You ALL rock in my book (children's of course!)

    BOOKS for Kids - Manuscript Critiques


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