Meet An Author Friday: Karen Cotton

I am an award-winning journalist and photographer. I worked for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle newspaper in Cheyenne, Wyoming for 12 years as an entertainment/features reporter. My collection of audio interviews is at my alumni school, the University of Wyoming’s American Heritage Center. Here is the link to the collection:

I’m an National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship recipient. I’ve received three Individual Professional Development grants from the Wyoming Arts Council. I have self-published two non-fiction children’s picture books that were published using those grant funds. Both of my books are available at Barnes and Noble in stores and online, as well as on Amazon. They’re also in independent bookstores.

The first book, “Vedauwoo: Hidden Faces in Mysterious Places,” was published in 2014. Sierra Trading Post, now owned by TJX Inc., bought 300 copies of my Vedauwoo book and sold out of those copies. “Vedauwoo: Hidden Faces in Mysterious Places,” is about Vedauwoo, Wyoming, the animals, history, geology and recreation there.

My second book is “K-9 and Deputy Heroes of the Laramie County Sheriff’s Department.” It’s about the heroic acts that the dogs and deputies have done in Laramie County Wyoming.

I also am the editor and owner of an online entertainment magazine I’ve appeared on KGWN TV, Wyoming Public Radio, and KGAB radio and in newspapers.

My third manuscript, a children’s chapter book fiction story, Carol and Santa, was completed in October 2017.

What works/authors have had an impact on you professionally or personally? How? 
This is so difficult to answer. It’s going to be long and I’m apologizing now. I have been reading all my life. I say that because even as a baby my family read to me. As a mom I started that same tradition in with my daughter when she was in the NICU. We got her first book at Colorado Children’s Hospital from the March of Dimes and Raising Readers.

I worked for a newspaper for 12 years as an entertainment reporter. I was fortunate to be able to interview a lot of authors that I admired. I’d say Linda Lael Miller writes incredible romances. She has hundreds of books under her belt. She has an element of mystery in her books. Not only is she a mentor, but she’s also been an incredible friend ever since I met her over the phone and later in person. She’s gotten me out of dark times with writer’s block. She has given me hope in the difficult world of publishing.

I’d also say C.J. Box has had quite an impact on me. He has incredible characters, especially Joe Pickett, that he has created in his mysteries. He was once a journalist, like me, and he has given me some good advice over the years. He became a family friend. He goes hunting and fishing with grandpa Don Johnson. He got grandpa to delve into reading. Something that has helped fill the void of grandma’s loss. He’s even dedicated one of his books to him.

Craig Johnson of Ucross, Wyoming is a great friend, too. I’ve been reading his Walt Longmire books ever since he started writing them. My first interview that I did with him was about Cold Dish. I try to go to his signings when he is in town to say hello. He’s a busy guy. He has given me a lot of advice about writing over e-mail back and forth and in person.

I interviewed Nicholas Sparks, and Nicholas writes about loss. He is known for his tear jerker novels and movies that are based on his books. I was inspired to interview him for the newspaper because I watched “Nights of Rodanthe” in the theater. I just cried my eyes out. I hate feeling sad. So, I asked him, why? Why do your books have to have to be so damn sad? He told me he has lost a lot of loved ones and it’s something that resonates with him. He writes what he knows. His books are based in towns where he lives by, or has lived in. But, I don’t read his books anymore because like I said, I don’t like feeling sad.

Michael Connelly is an acquaintance of mine. I’ve met him several times in person and every time he had a new book come out I got an advance reading copy of it. I soaked it up. He writes clean and crisp. He wrote a book called Crime Beat that details the stories that he covered on the crime beat at the newspapers he once worked at. Many of those stories wound up into the plots of his books. That fascinated me. Now I’m excited because he has a female detective lead character, Renee Ballard. He debuted her in “The Late Show.” I couldn’t see him when he had a signing in Colorado recently. I kick myself often for missing that one. I first met him when he came to Cheyenne, where I live. He signed my book, “Thanks for making me a star in Cheyenne.” He’s a quiet guy and he told me he likes writing more than doing book tours and traveling. I listened to Trunk Music on a car ride from Wyoming to Georgia and it’s almost more fun to hear someone read his books than to read them yourself. But, he throws some romance into his plots and I like that, too. I also like tweeting him and that’s how I keep in touch with him now.

I’m not going to lie that I have all those authors’ books. I honestly only “collect” and buy books of authors that I know, mainly. Weird I know. But, I like supporting their careers.

Now, I’ve also gotten into some newer authors. I’ve purchased their books for Christmas at a Barnes and Noble Black Friday sale. They were all signed books and I couldn’t turn them down.

I like a lot of non-fiction books, too. My favorites are about writing, cooking, memoirs, and how to do things like draw, paint and garden.

My favorite children’s book authors are Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary. I’ve read all their books growing up. I also loved “Blueberries for Sal” by Robert McCloskey, all of Shel Silverstein’s poetry books, and “A Pocket for Corduroy,” by Don Freeman. I checked them out every chance I could get at my school library. I also recited Silverstein’s poetry for talent shows because I was a geek to the core.

I was always good at reading, writing and spelling. I was even in spelling bees. Math I hated.

I need to add that I first knew I wanted to be an author when I went to a Scholastic Book Fair in Kindergarten at Harrison Elementary School. My parents let me choose three books on the flyers they handed out. Now that I have my own daughter, who is in kindergarten, I can admit that I easily drop about $100 at Scholastic book fairs each time they roll around because I’m a sucker for good books and so is she. We can’t choose just one. We also try to go to the library more often than a book store for the same reason. It’s bad when the book sellers at Barnes and Noble have your phone number memorized for your membership card. To both of us, my daughter and I, books are like candy and we’re addicted to books and reading.

I will say that I read so many children’s books, too, because of my daughter, that authors and books run together. I belong to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and I’ve met some very talented authors, illustrators and author/illustrators and I’ve read a lot of their books, too. The two that stand out are Luke Flowers and Matt de la Pena. I admire J. K. Rowling. I mean who doesn’t want to be as successful as her? I have watched the Harry Potter movies. I haven’t read her books because I want to have my own voice when I write my books. I own her books, so someday my daughter can read them with me once I have my career established.

Now that my daughter is in kindergarten I miss our mornings when she was in preschool and we’d just sit in my bed and read about ten books before she went to school at noon. We had breakfast in between that time.

I like writing and illustrating children’s books because I like educating kids with my non-fiction books. I also like sparking imagination with the fiction books that I write. I haven’t released a fiction book, yet, but my first fiction book is in the submission process right now. I don’t want to jinx it, but it’s got some excitement building around it and that’s all that I want to say. Fingers, toes and everything is crossed. I am one big bundle of nerves.

Last, but not least, if you want to get into the classics; Alexandre Dumas is one of my favorite authors. My favorite book of his is, “The Count of Monte Cristo.” The next fave is “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,’ By Washington Irving. (I’ve been in his home/museum in Sleepy Hollow, New York and that’s fascinating. His library of his books was just nothing I’ll ever forget). Of course, I love Charles Dickens. My favorite book is “A Christmas Carol,” and in second place, Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”

If you could be a famous person (living or dead) for a day, who would you be and why?
I’d be Oprah Winfrey. Why? Because she is goal oriented, she is very successful, she seems to be down to earth and honest, and she started out as a journalist and even though I’m not a minority, I have a disability, and that has always caused me some self-confidence issues. She overcame so much and is so successful, yet humble.

She is about empowerment, especially of women. She is very generous with her wealth and she’d be amazing to meet. I remember in high school we had to draw this map of things we wanted for our future. I went to college, I got a degree in journalism (back then it was going to be English, or journalism), I wanted to be just like Oprah. So, when I got my dream job at the newspaper in Cheyenne, I was an entertainment/features reporter. I was able to meet celebrities like she did and people from all walks of life. I learned about so many topics. I loved doing research. I watched her TV show and I’ve read her O magazine. It’s very difficult being a female journalist. There’s a lot of adversity that you deal with, competition and backstabbing. I always told the truth in my articles just like she did on TV and in her magazine. She’s just an inspiring person. Even though I voted for Hillary for president. I really wished Oprah was running instead and I honestly think she’d make an amazing president.

What is the oldest thing in your fridge and how old is it?
It’s a box of baking soda. It’s from 2000. Definitely nothing exciting. However, I do have a hot dog that’s been cooked. It’s in a Tupperware container and has mold on it, so yeah, I will toss that in the morning. EW!

Dessert or no dessert? Why? If dessert, what is your fave?
Dessert of course. Anything chocolate. Probably why I have Type II diabetes now, but there’s such a thing as sugar-free chocolate. It’s awful that Lent is on Valentine’s Day this year because I always give up chocolate. So, no chocolate dipped strawberries for me. Bummer.

But, yes chocolate everything. Plus, didn’t you know that desserts are stressed spelled backwards? LOL.

What is your favorite motivational quote?
I have two and can’t choose between either:

“The pen is mightier than the sword,” coined by Edward Bulwer-Lytton for his play Richelieu, Or the Conspiracy 1839. And “Many friends will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints on your heart.” Eleanor Roosevelt

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