Wendy Kunkle wins writing award 2010.09.01

Written by David Green.

ann_charles.jpgBy DAVID GREEN

It’s common to hear writers talk about how they wanted to write way back when they were kids.

They talk about the stories they wrote as a child and how they long dreamed of publishing books.

Hold it right there. That wasn’t Wendy Kunkle’s childhood. She’s a writer now, but that wasn’t the case back then.

“That wasn’t me,” she wrote in a promotional piece. “I was a reader. I used to get in trouble for reading too much and not going outside to help out on the farm.”

Wendy started her life like many babies in this area: She was born at Morenci Area Hospital. She grew up on a farm north of Fayette where her help with the chores was less than desirable.

“When I did go out, I wasn’t worth a darn, too busy dressing up our dogs in my jackets and pants and daydreaming about scenes for them to act out.”

Fayette village administrator Amy Metz remembers picking strawberries with Wendy, her neighbor—something that brings back unpleasant memories.

“The never-ending strawberry picking, in the heat of June,” Wendy said. “One year my dad [Dale Kunkle] told R&H Restaurant that I’d pick eight quarts of strawberries for them and he’d have them up there every morning by 7 a.m.”

Dale wanted them to be fresh so Wendy was out in the patch at the break of day.

“Slugs on my arms, sweating in the humidity,” she says.

But her experiences growing up near Fayette were not lost. Everything became fodder for the future when she moved from reader to writer.

Last July, Wendy hit an important mark in her career as an author when she was awarded the Daphe du Maurier Award for excellence in mystery and suspense writing.

She wrote the book “Nearly Departed in Deadwood”—drawing elements from summer visits to Deadwood, S.D., to visit her mother—and then hit the publishing wall.

“In today’s publishing climate, landing a book contract is extremely difficult, especially for ‘new’ authors,” Wendy said.

She’s taken her book through the editorial process at a New York publishing house only to have it rejected due to “a lack of audience and marketability.”

After similar rejections, she decided to enter the work in the annual Daphne competition. She chose the Mainstream Mystery/Suspense division in the unpublished category.

Among 500-some entries, the top five works in each of six divisions are judged by an editor from a New York publishing house and an accredited agent. Wendy’s novel amassed the most points to be declared the overall winner.

She said that placing first in her division was enough of a shock, but to win it all left her speechless—not a good situation at the time.

“Winning both of them made my head spin,” she said. “You can imagine my shocked state when I stood at the podium in front of more than 150 authors, agents and editors to give an acceptance speech.”

Writing under the pseudonym Ann Charles, Wendy describes the book as a contemporary humorous mystery with romantic and paranormal elements.

The story tells of a single mother, Violet Parker, who is trying to make ends meet in a new real estate career in Deadwood. Children are being abducted in the area—the same age as her own daughter—and her amateur sleuthing could leave her as one of Deadwood’s dearly departed.

She’s hoping the Daphne award—with a label to place on the book’s cover—will help lead to a publishing contract. It’s no guarantee, she says, but it does show merit to the tale.

‘It shows I’m serious about being a writer,” she said. “It moves me from  ‘wanna-be’ author status to ‘up-and-coming’.”

Wendy lives in the Seattle area with husband and children. She has a day job as a technical writer and she also leads workshops and mentors other authors in marketing efforts. She co-owns several websites and maintains her own.

How does it all get accomplished?

“I am very good at multi-tasking, which I call ‘plate-spinning’,” she said. “I’m also determined to succeed, motivated by my love for telling stories.”

She refers to the publishing of “Deadwood” as a Kunkle and Kunkle production because her brother, Charles, is providing the artwork for the cover.

Charles always enjoyed drawing “creepy monsters,” Wendy said, and he also made sure she was on high alert for trouble when it was her turn to feed the animals on a dark, winter night.

His efforts, along with the stories of ghosts and murderers roaming Goll Woods near Archbold, have helped give her writing a dark side that goes along with the characteristic humor.

There’s much from her childhood that leads to her tales of suspense.

“My sense of humor and determination come from the people and experiences that filled my youth—my family, my friends and great teachers at Fayette.”

She’s hoping the sheath of pages that make up her story will someday be bound and published and available for purchase.

She’s learned that writing the book is just half the battle.

“You have to be able to write an incredible story and then turn around and sell and promote it to the world.”

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