Brandi Willis Schreiber

Sensual, Southern Romance

"Forget Second-Guessing" - How Author Kerri Carpenter Balances Writing and Work

In case you’ve missed all the excitement, Romance Writers of America is publishing their second short-story anthology on September 12, and my story, “The Family Tree,” made the cut.

Trust me, you could have knocked me over with a feather when I found out. But more about that later.

Being a part of this anthology has allowed me to connect with some amazing writers who are successful, smart, savvy, and talented: individuals from whom I am learning a lot.

Kerri Carpenter is one such author.

Kerri and I met for the first time at the RWA 2017 national conference during a Facebook Live interview in which contributors got together and talked about their stories. And in typical Romancelandia fashion, Kerri was unbelievably sweet and generous. I got to visit with her several times during the conference, where I picked up her book, FALLING FOR THE RIGHT BROTHER on a swag table (and which I devoured in less than a week, I might add). I quickly discovered that in addition to her personality, her writing is also full of sparkle.

Kerri also works a full-time day job in the D.C. area. I'm always curious about how writers do this work (the writing bits) in addition to the day job (the work bits that tend to pay the bills), so I picked Kerri’s brain on how she balances working full-time with book contracts, and she graciously shared her insight with me. If you work full time and write in-between, I hope her advice will help you.

I am so honored to share pages with Kerri, so to celebrate her upcoming releases and our shared SECOND CHANCES: A ROMANCE WRITERS OF AMERICA COLLECTION, I’m giving away a copy of FALLING FOR THE RIGHT BROTHER to one of my newsletter subscribers on Monday, September 18!  Go to to sign up!

AND Kerri is graciously giving away a Kindle copy of FALLING FOR THE RIGHT BROTHER to someone who comments on this blog post! (Comment below!)

Kerri with her sweet dog, Harry!

Kerri with her sweet dog, Harry!


Kerri, I am excited to share a little bit about you and your writing on my website! For folks who may be unfamiliar with your work, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you write.

Hi, Brandi! Thanks for having me on your blog today! My name is Kerri Carpenter and I live in Northern Virginia with my super-adorable dog, Harry. Besides being one of Brandi’s co-anthology-authors in SECOND CHANCES: A ROMANCE WRITERS OF AMERICA COLLECTION, I write contemporary romances that are sweet, sexy, and sparkly. Currently, I am right in the middle of a three-book series with Harlequin Special Edition. The series is called Saved by the Blog and the second book, BIDDING ON THE BACHELOR, is out in paperback on September 19 and e-book on October 1!


You've written for several houses and lines: Harlequin Special Edition; Entangled Publishing, Lovestruck; and Soul Mate Publishing. Tell us about your writing path to these opportunities! Have you always written books, or did you start writing something else? How long did it take you to finish your first book and get a contract? What has your writing journey been like?

Whoa! This is a big question. Ha-ha! I’ve wanted to be a writer from a very early age, but it took quite some time to find my niche. I used to write a lot of plays and angsty teenage girl poetry. In college, my mom handed me my first romance novel (it was a Nora Roberts book) and that was that. I knew I would write romance novels.

However, the journey to get published took about 13 years from that point. I can’t even remember how many manuscripts I attempted leading up to selling my first book. I did everything I could to educate myself about the industry and romance writing.

At the end of 2013, everything seemed to come together. I had been submitting a couple different manuscripts to publishers, as well as looking for an agent. I signed with my agent (the lovely and amazing Nicole Resciniti of The Seymour Agency who I signed with due to winning a contest) the same month I was offered a contract from Soul Mate Publishing. The month after that, my agent got me another contract with Entangled Publishing. My first book, FLIRTING WITH THE COMPETITION, came out in October 2014.

I was beyond thrilled to sign with Harlequin Special Edition in early 2016. My first book, FALLING FOR THE RIGHT BROTHER, was one of the June 2017 releases.


FALLING FOR THE RIGHT BROTHER is a "combination of Gossip Girl and Sabrina."  What is it about Gossip Girl and Sabrina that created the perfect inspiration for this series?  How does another old favorite, Saved by the Bell, factor into this series, as well?

It’s funny actually. I hadn’t seen Sabrina or Gossip Girl in years! Then, one day I was walking my dog, Harry, and all of a sudden, this idea popped into my head:  Sabrina meets Gossip Girl. I can tell you exactly where I was standing. And then I could see the two main characters and the entire town of Bayside as if I’d actually been there. (Yes, Bayside is an homage to my favorite TV show of all time, Saved by the Bell.)

But honestly, I have no idea where these ideas came from. Although, my theory is that I am the most at peace when I’m walking my dog. I think being calm and happy opens up the creativity passages. That still doesn’t explain why Sabrina and Gossip Girl entered my mind. But that may be a mystery for a whole different blog!


I have to mention that Sabrina (1995) is one of my favorite movies of all time. The setting is beautiful, the music is moving, and its theme about finding beauty and seeing people for who they really are (if one only looks close enough) is classic. Plus, it's got a humor that never gets old! When I need a reminder in my writing that it's the way that people change that creates stories, I watch Sabrina.  I'm curious:  where do you find your writing inspiration?  What do you do to help connect you to your characters? Anything special that you do to "refill the well"?

I LOVE Sabrina as well! Both versions. I used to watch the 90s version with Harrison Ford all the time in high school. I loved the part when she went to Paris and found herself. In fact, that’s why I chose to study abroad in Florence. (If you’ve read my first book, you know that Elle studies abroad in Florence as well.)

In terms of connecting with my characters, I don’t write any that I haven’t connected with from the start. I find it too difficult to write them otherwise. And I refill the well (as well as find my inspiration) by spending time with my dog and some of my non-writer friends. Occasionally, I turn to coloring to clear my mind. Also, I find that bubble baths help. And manicures and pedicures. And shopping. And long walks. And pie. Lots of peach pie!


Tell me a little bit about your writing process, Kerri. What does a typical writing day (or hour) look like for you?  How do you get started, and when do you know to put down the pen or turn off the computer?  Any tips, tricks, or rituals that keep you writing?

Since I have a day job and a fairly active life, it’s really, really difficult to find time for writing. I try to utilize whatever time I can eke out: lunch breaks, nighttime, and definitely my weekends. The Crock-Pot is my friend!

A trick that I’ve learned is to challenge myself to small sprints. On the weekend, I’ll give myself 20 minutes and see how many words I can get out. Then I’ll do a load of laundry or clean something. Then I’ll challenge myself to write more. Once I start daydreaming and/or getting on social media, I know I’m tapped out.


Speaking about a "typical day," you have a full time job in addition to your writing career. So many authors work full time jobs while writing, and so many aspiring authors struggle with this! How do you balance working full time with your writing time and still manage to produce books? What advice would you offer to other writers who also have to balance the stories in their head with full time jobs?

I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It’s tough!!!!!! But I have a couple tips and tricks to offer.

Set your priorities – Day job comes first because it pays the bills. Creating amazing stories is more important than participating in every Facebook party; therefore, writing comes before marketing.

Invest in a Crock-Pot. Seriously. I already stated this once and I can’t relay how much time this can save you.

Ask for help. This is really hard for me. If you have the extra money laying around, get a cleaning person, have your groceries delivered, etc. If not, ask your friends and family to lend a hand. You might be surprised how many people will step forward to assist.

On the flipside, the good part about not having an ample amount of time to write is that I never second guess myself. I don’t agonize over every word and phrase. I just sit down and get it done. Because there’s no extra time for more than that.




Tell us about your latest releases and what readers have to look forward to over the next year, including your story in SECOND CHANCES!

My latest release is BIDDING ON THE BACHELOR, book 2 in the Saved by the Blog series. The gossipy and all-knowing Bayside Blogger is back and this time she’s hounding Jasper Dumont, who readers will remember from book 1. Book 3, BAYSIDE’S MOST UNEXPECTED BRIDE, will come out in December. After that, I will have a whole new series for Harlequin about modern weddings and six friends who are dealing with them.

Not to mention, that both of us were featured in the Romance Writers of America’s second anthology, SECOND CHANCES, which releases September 12! My story is a sweet new adult story about two lifelong best friends who have just graduated from college and return to their hometown for one last party before they depart for their lives as adults. The heroine thinks she’s going to get a second chance with her high school crush. But the hero might just have someone else in mind for her…him!


Lastly, a fun question:  Sabrina said, "Paris is always a good idea." What one place in the world would you like to visit, live in, write in if time, money, and transportation were no object? Why?

My family has been going to the same beach in North Carolina since before I was born. My dream is to someday live at that beach, take long walks with Harry, and write write write!


Kerri, it’s been so much fun picking your brain and learning about what – and how – you write!  Thank you for taking the time to answer all my questions and sharing with readers!

Thank you so much for having me today, Brandi! I’m so glad we got to meet each other at RWA’s annual conference in Orlando. For all the readers out there, I hope you enjoy my stories. Please connect with me on social media. I love hearing from you. For all the writers, don’t ever, ever, ever give up. You CAN do it!




Connect with Kerri!








Click HERE to sign up for Kerri’s Newsletter!


About Kerri’s next release: BIDDING ON THE BACHELOR

Another roll of the dice

Big news, fair readers! Bayside High's favorite It Girl is back. Would you have bet Carissa Blackwell would ever return? Ten years ago, she crushed Jasper Dumont’s heart under her Jimmy Choos and left town for a bigger, better life. Her return raises one question: What is she running from (or is it to) now?

Perhaps Jasper knows? One look at Carissa and he fell in the bay! (Rich, single and devastatingly handsome, Jasper’s our catch of the day.) That icy plunge should have brought him to his senses, yet “Casper” has been spotted together all over town. Does this mean Bayside’s legendary couple may reunite? The stakes are high, but the Bayside Blogger’s money is riding on love!


Buy Links





Harlequin Page:


"Perfect Is the Enemy of Done" - An Interview with Author and Writing Coach, Deb Norton

Late last fall, my writing came to a screeching halt, the kind of halt that gives you whiplash. Things had been going well, or so I thought.  After weeks of planning and plotting a story, I had a writing desk full of notes, outlines, Post-Its, printed Google docs, research articles, calendars, and a good amount of words written.

I had a vision and a plan, and I was going to do this thing right.

But then things didn’t work quite the way I wanted. My story hit some snags, so I tightened my grip on it. There was no messing up here. After all, I’d had an embarrassing critique on a different story at a workshop a year prior, and I certainly wasn’t going to go through that again.

But the scenes started snagging some more, and the words didn’t come out right. Knowing that wasn’t going to work, I got serious. I replotted, replanned, re-researched.

Then fearing I wasn’t doing ANY of it right, I worked myself into a black hole of inactivity whose gravity even the Starship Enterprise couldn’t escape. Writing felt impossible because NOTHING was right, and my story started to feel more like labor than love.


In frustration, I do what I normally do when I get stuck. I take a walk, and I turn to books on craft in hopes of illumination from others who are wiser than I. I wandered to the writing section at my local Barnes & Noble and came across a book:  PART WILD: A WRITER’S GUIDE TO HARNESSING THE CREATIVE POWER OF RESISTANCE, by Deb Norton.

Well, I was certainly experiencing resistance, so maybe this could help. I purchased it on a whim and started reading it in the mornings before work.

I realized very quickly that I wasn’t trying to write.

I was trying to write perfectly.

And nothing will give a writer whiplash faster than trying to lay down a perfect line.

Perfectionism is an ugly beast, and as Deb Norton sagely points out in her book, “it goads you into rewriting before you’ve even written” (39).


I was working so hard not to make any mistakes that I wasn’t making anything except myself miserable. Worse, I was holding my story hostage and demanding that it be what I wanted, fully formed, before it even made it to the page.

I managed, without writing a word, to destroy the joy and wonder of my story, and to deny my characters – whom I sincerely hope you get to meet someday – the experience of being in this beautiful world I’d created, which was the whole reason I started writing in the first place.

Writing is as much a psychological endeavor as it is a skillful one, and Deb’s book reminded me that I have the skill.  I just have to recognize the resistance I experience, in whatever form it takes, and work with it so that I can get back to the page.

(And, I’m happy to report, that has definitely happened, more wondrously and joyfully than before.)

Today I am thrilled to introduce you to author and writing coach, Deb Norton, whose book, PART WILD: A WRITER'S GUIDE TO HARNESSING THE CREATIVE POWER OF RESISTANCE, has both inspired and challenged me to reevaluate the resistance I experience in my own writing.  Read on for her FANTASTIC thoughts on perfectionism and how you can work around (and with) it.

AND to win a signed copy of her book, sign up for my newsletter here: I’ll be giving out a copy to a random newsletter subscriber this spring!


Deb, would you mind introducing yourself to folks who may be unfamiliar with your writing and your work?

I’m an actor by training and a writer and teacher by profession. I’m often referred to as a writing midwife and much of my work centers around helping writers who need help releasing, developing or refining their work. I love and admire people who are willing to engage with the creative process, so it’s a gross understatement to say that I enjoy my work. What else? I live with my husband and two dogs in a tiny town, at the edge of the Tahoe wilderness that can only be found as a result of being very lost or very determined.


Tell us a little bit about PART WILD and how this book came to be.

Well, frankly, writing a book, writing anything was never my intention. I knew from very early on that I would be an actor. That was always the plan and there was no plan B, which is why it was so difficult to graduate from acting conservatory and discover that I hated the acting business – auditioning, networking, marketing myself, waiting to be chosen. So, in an attempt to bypass all the smutty bits of my trade, I sat down to write myself a vehicle. Brilliant, right? I was so proud of myself for not being deterred from my path.

But, the minute I picked up the pen, I was attacked from the inside by a host of internal critics that I never even knew I had. That was when I first tangled with creative resistance and the only advice I could find was just to be tough and disciplined and push through it. Well, I’m not tough or disciplined and by the way, neither are 99% of creative people, so I started digging around in my acting and improv toolbox, I researched, I read, I grilled my writer friends, I experimented and eventually, VERY eventually I’m afraid, I wrote a play. The play did great and so many wonderful things came out of it, but the most important things were the processes I’d outfitted myself with to deal with any form of resistance. I started sharing those processes with other writers and that turned into a workshop and that turned into my book.


Deb, you and I have been emailing back and forth about this idea of perfectionism and how it is "the enemy of done."  I find that thought really profound, because as I wrote to you, my own perfectionism has not just been the enemy of my writing, but pretty much the Supreme Adversary Extraordinaire of my creativity AND my spirit.  Why is perfectionism so dang detrimental to writers and artists?

The answer is simple, but not easy. Perfectionism is dangerous because it’s a moving goalpost. Nothing in nature is perfect – that’s how we know it’s natural! And this is meant to remind us that perfection is not achievable, nor is it desirable. Perfection is a mirage and it will always reset to being just out of reach no matter how close you get to it. It’s the same with potential. Once your reach it, the bar gets even higher because the greater you get, the greater your potential for greatness. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.


You told a great story in your chapter, "Perfectionism - Picking and Polishing," about learning to rollerblade and how every small pebble and stone originally took you down. It wasn't until a friend pointed out that you needed to "go faster!" that you learned how to do it. How does this idea of "blowing by the pebbles" relate to perfectionism?

Right, the slower I went, the easier it was for the tiniest rock to stop my wheels cold.

The practical problem with perfection is that it goads you into stopping to examine every idea, every sentence, every word. Perfection looks over your shoulder as you polish and buff everything to a high shine, and then, in a fit of hysteria, points out an adverb that could tarnish the whole thing. Meanwhile, you’ve been working on the opening three paragraphs for two years and there are cobwebs growing from your hair to your pen.

Momentum is key to breaking this spell. If I find myself staring at a blinking cursor until I’ve picked my nails clean of polish, it’s because I’m trying to perfect an idea or a sentence before even writing it down. As though just writing it down and moving forward to see where it will take me is an act of reckless abandon that could get me killed.

If you’re picking you’re way along, clinging to the safety rail, then you’re not going to reach speeds that will allow you to stumble onto something new and fresh. We like to be safe, but safe keeps us in known territory and as a creative person, you’re not reaching for what you already know. You’re reaching for the discovery. So, the thought is, instead of slowing down to a “safer” speed, put on your helmet, wrist and knee guards so you can “safely” flirt with the edge of your next breakthrough.

Speed not only to snaps perfection’s hold, but it can lead to discoveries and improvements in your writing and, of course, it also increases your word count.


I remember rollerblading as a kid, too.  But I remember being completely self-consciousness-LESS.  There I was, flying down the sidewalks of Olton, Texas, in jean shorts and my purple and neon green rollerblades, and when the sidewalk ran out, I simply hopped from the grass onto the bumpy pavement and just kept going until another sidewalk appeared. Oh, to regain such a sense of possibility and courage! If I tried to do that as an adult today, I'd be terrified.  What is it about adulthood - and this great big F-word you mention in your book - that crushes this ability in us?

Oh, that’s a great observation, great point! The older we get, the higher the stakes. Our margin for error seems to decrease as our responsibilities and our nearness to mortality increases. Falling hurts more as we get older and have less natural resiliency and bounce, but more to lose and less time to gain it back.

But, on the positive side, I think the natural process is to go from being unconscious to self-conscious to just… conscious. The first two just happen, but that last phase is one that we have to take on through awareness and practice and that’s the gift of aging, I suppose – we begin to process life into wisdom.


You have some wonderful advice about overcoming - or perhaps rollerblading around - perfectionism.  One thing you mention is that writers and artists need to "create an environment that celebrates failures for the progress they [have] made."  Tell us more about that.  What are some ways that we could create those environments? What would they look like? What have you done to cultivate that kind of environment and mindset?

First and foremost, I’ve learned to recognize and embrace that awkward, wobbling, windmilling feeling that comes of flirting with my edge. That’s the mindset part of it.

As for environment, I think first and foremost about tools and equipment – the pen needs to blaze, so no skipping ink and no snaggy paper. A timer is essential – I can get more useful and surprising writing on the page in a six minute burst than I can in an hour of pressuring my muse for the perfect words.

And here’s the thing that many of us forget in terms of creating an environment that celebrates risk – surround yourself with objects, sounds, sights and people that “make you burn brighter.” Whatever it is that sears away self-consciousness and makes you feel expansive, delighted or awake… pull it in into your space. Music, nature, toys, colors, crayons, clay, healthy, life-filled foods, people who champion your creativity and the mess that the process makes of you… And of course, remove any objects, sounds, sights and people that make you feel like you need tidy up your flaws and fly right-er.


As a writer, I struggle in the middle ground between wanting to write RIGHT (whatever that means) and the paralyzing fear that I don't know what the heck I am doing.  What advice could you give other writers who are stuck in this netherworld?

My friend and teaching partner, Dara Marks, often says, “You can’t analyze a dream until you’ve dreamed it.” I think the first stage of writing needs to be at least a little bit unconscious and groping. You need to be in partnership with your story, not in control of it. This is the stage where you’re not “writing what you know” but rather, you’re writing toward the next thing you’re trying to know. It’s the stage of listening, mirroring, dancing and channeling.

Only after you’ve done you’re exploring, can you start mapping. I mean, of course it’s hair-tearingly frustrating to try and map before you’ve explored, right?

So come at that first part with curiosity, integrity, intention and some amount of abandon and it will feel so much better. At the end, you’ll have something you can interpret and analyze and make decisions about. That’s when you can start structuring – otherwise you’re sculpting before you have clay.   


You also had some lovely advice on another way to "blow by the pebbles":  LEARN TO FALL WELL. I absolutely love this because although not all writing days will be awesome and rejection IS going to happen, failing is not the end of the world.  Talk a bit about what learning to fall well means to you. What are some ways that you've learned to fall well?

I wouldn’t say I’ve learned it fully yet – like every human, I instinctually resist falling and the resisting makes falling more awkward. On my best days, though, I can successfully inhabit the understanding that if I’m operating at the outer edge of my skill, i.e. pushing to improve and innovate, I’m going to fall and that’s fine, because in this context, falling is an indicator of progress.

Imagine a gymnast or ice skater standing, stock still and staring at the beam or the ice, trying to work out all the ways this could go wrong. Or imagine them refusing to do anything that risks a fall. No, athletes know they will fall and the falling is as important to the process as the succeeding.

Or how about scientists? Any researcher will tell you that the failures are as important as the successes. They provide crucial data, without which, success could only happen by accident.

So, while I can’t say I’m in a state of release that allows me to fall and fail with ecstatic joy, I can say that being in positive relationship with falling softens my landing and allows me to bounce up more quickly. Additionally, having this perspective encourages me to “fail faster” which leads to more progress.


I love your Facebook page because it's so positive. You also post writing prompts that are easy to do but have surprised me with their depth.  What are some writing prompts you'd recommend to the perfectionist?

Any prompt is good for shorting out perfectionism if you go fast enough! That’s the goal at the most fundamental level – short out perfection’s control over you by refusing to stop and tidy and polish as you go.

That said, I would recommend these sentence starters:

My perfectionism…

Perfect is…

If I let myself go…

I could never…

But, remember, these are only effective if you move your pen as fast as it will go, throw grammar and spelling out the window, refuse to cross anything out (try circling it instead), find your willingness to write very unperfect dreck.

In fact, one of my favorite prompts for perfectionism is, “Write as badly as you can for six minutes.” Seriously, choose a topic and explore it in the most clichéd, trite, purple, immature, saggy, wandering, digressive, ungrammatical, incoherent way you can.


Deb, what final words of encouragement could you give to the fellow writer who is dealing with resistance?

Okay, so perfectionism is a form of internal critic. It’s there to slow you down and reduce your risk tolerance. Its mission is to keep you safe, keep you from getting hurt. But, of course this assumes that without perfectionism and all the other mean internal critical voices, you would forget to strive, lose all common sense and start submitting your rough drafts and high school poetry to agents. I promise you, perfectionism is not the only thing standing between you and moral decrepitude. It’s not the only thing keeping you safe from mortification and destitution. You can let go, make a mess, experiment, bark up the wrong tree, go down a rabbit hole, fail fifty ways and STILL write your book, but you will write it sooner and you’ll write it better than if you partner with perfectionism.

And remember, perfection, like all inner critics, is the guardian at the gate. And what do guards protect…? Something valuable! A castle, a treasure, a hostage, a weapon, a secret, a game-changing technology! So, if you think about it, any time your perfection flairs, it’s a sign that you’re getting close to something valuable and instead of stopping, you want to go at it with more energy. The more red in the face and fearful your inner critics get, the closer you are to something of value.


What is next for you in the author and writing coach world that readers might want to know about?

Well, I’ve taken a big chunk of time off from teaching in order to launch my book and I can’t wait to get back to leading workshops and retreats. I expect to get some things on the calendar for spring and summer in the coming days.

On the writing side of things, I’m finishing up a proposal for a book about creative shame – I think I have a new way of looking at it that could be very helpful. And I’ve just finished my stage play, a modern adaptation of the Persephone myth, and will be sending it out.


So many thanks to Deb for sharing her time and insight with me.

If you’d like more information or to connect with Deb, visit the following:

For free prompts, tips and encouragement, like the Deb Norton Writing Facebook page:

Or if Instagram is your jam:

Or you can also get them in your Twitter feed: @partwild

For news about events and offerings, sign up for Deb’s newsletter (and get a free 30-Day Memoir and Journaling Jumpstart Kit):

Deb Norton is a writer, actress, workshop leader, and story analyst. She is a master teacher at Hedgebrook and a former Co-Artistic Director at Theater 150 in Ojai, California. She believes that unleashing creativity is a matter of teaching our wild and civilized parts to play well together, and has developed a series of techniques to break through artistic blocks. She is the author of Part Wild: A Writer's Guide to Harnessing the Creative Power of Resistance (Enliven Books/Simon & Schuster). Deb lives in the Northern Sierra Nevada Mountains in California.