dreamer

Only So Many Hours

Lately, Billy Joel’s “Vienna” has been the song that gets me through. It all feels a little too true. Specifically the line “You got so much to do any only so many hours in the day.” Because there really is more to do than hours each day, and still, I try to accomplish what I can. This is probably why the latest round of edits on DREAM CATCHERS is taking much longer than anticipated. But it’s also that I want to do right by these characters and story before heading back into the query trenches.

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With the updated query letter and recent epiphanies, it feels like representation is on the horizon. After five years working on this novel, it feels like the perfect time to fix what’s broken, kill some darlings, and send a better version of this story than I previously knew existed within my mind.

To go about this round of edits, it took too many hours, endless patience, and a bit of preparation. And in doing so, I realized I could not do any of this without updating the Series Bible for the Dreamer Duology. There were still too many questions that needed answers, too many character motivations that needed to be fulfilled. Such is the life of a writer, even one stuck in the same world for too many years.

So how did I manage?

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With limited hours most days, I knew I would need to have tangible evidence of what required fixing. So began my read through in the printed proof version of the manuscript that I had bound by Createspace. There’s something about seeing words outside of a computer screen that suddenly brings about all the glaring errors that were previously missed. I took an orange highlighter to lines and sections I loved, yellow to ones that needed more work. And once I’d finished the entire book, had some new ideas, talked them through with my fabulous critique partner, I made a spreadsheet.

Maybe for some writers out there this seems a bit like overkill since the line edits were already in the manuscript. But since so many things had come up, I needed a better way to organize, to see trends in the edits, and to come up with solutions before actually diving back into the manuscript. The spreadsheet created on Google Sheets breaks the edits down by: Part, Chapter, Story Element, What to Change, How To, and Progress. As I move along through these edits, it’s nice to see how much I’ve completed.

Now you might recall me mentioning preparation and the term “Series Bible” earlier in this post. Before I started the act of editing, I set my spreadsheet aside, and started updating my research and notes in Scrivener. Being the same Type-A person I’ve always been, I could not imagine using anything other than Scrivener for my writing. While I use it for my poetry as well, it is absolutely necessary in the drafting and editing of a novel, especially since DREAM CATCHERS and future projects are not standalone works, but part of a larger series as a whole. The Dreamer Duology might only be two books, but there is too much I need to remember in crafting these worlds.

While the previous Series Bible was broken down by Characters, Places, and aptly named: Other, I have gotten even more specific in my updates. And while many might see this as an act of procrastination or even redundant, I knew I needed to have all the answers so as not to stumble my way through this new draft in the way I did when I first conceptualized the story in the MFA. Too much has changed between then and now. And I wouldn’t have the time to be aimless.

So how did I create this Series Bible?

For those unfamiliar with Scrivener, I think the endless possibilities and options for customization are what brings its true value to writers, especially because no one process is the same. I began with a right click to add a “New Folder.” If I were in the manuscript adding a new chapter, I would use the “New Text” option, but folders were much more useful here. I labeled the folder “Series Bible.” I clicked into the folder and added seven more: Characters, World, Outlines, Dreams, Playlist, Query, Editing. I color-coded them, and got to work adding my necessary notes.

1.) Characters

This section is broken out into BOOK ONE & BOOK TWO, but each of those folders contains: Character Motivations, Present Characters, and Past Characters. And then for each character, both past and present I have a folder with their name. Inside those folders (which can be customized with either text or a photo on the index card, though I’ve chosen a character photo) there are: Profile, Motivations, and Inspiration. The first two of those were created with the “New Text” option, but I made Inspiration as a folder to add photos for things relevant to my characters, much like the Pinterest board I’ve already created for this series.

2.) World

This section is separated into: Places, Technology, Traditions, Timelines, Glossary, etc. Since this section does contain many secrets and spoilers, I won’t break down what is held inside each of these folders, but do know, they also have sections for notes and Inspiration to keep the world as clear as possible for when I go back into the manuscript.

3.) Outlines

Also broken out into BOOK ONE & BOOK TWO, I’ve split this into a sections with a Beat Sheet and Full Outline, both of which are new additions to my writing process. I normally work off of my index cards in the Scrivener “Binder” to guide my plotting, but thought it would be interesting to do more detailed work with the finished book to use as comparison once the edits are completed.

4.) Dreams

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In a novel with the title DREAM CATCHERS, I’m sure this sections comes as no surprise. While Camryn’s dreams are woven throughout the narrative, it is much easier to look at their structure and pacing by having them all grouped together outside of the manuscript, which is why this folder was a necessary addition.

5.) Playlist

While this might be a new folder within the Series Bible, I have already created a playlist for each of my books and continue to keep them updated whenever I hear a song too perfect to forget. The difference between this and my Apple Music playlist, is that I’ve organized these by how they fall in the plot of the story and notated how they connect. In doing so, if I get stuck editing a scene, I can go and listen to that song once or twice or on an endless loop as I’ve done with Hozier’s “Talk.” This section, too, is broken out into BOOK ONE & BOOK TWO, and organizing the songs there gave me a few new ideas for the second book in this duology.

6.) Query

When I first started writing DREAM CATCHERS in Scrivener, there was no need for a query section. The goal back then was just to finish this book. But as the time approached to query, I knew I needed to stay organized. For any writer about to embark on the querying journey, I highly suggest researching agents first and foremost, and then find the best way to organize what you learn. Again, I’m sure many people would see this as overkill since I have used Query Tracker in the past and have a spreadsheet in place to track querying as well. But unlike both of those options, I’ve broken down each round of querying into a separate folder with my stats labeled on the index card (R&R, PR, FR, ER, CNR - all acronyms that will mean nothing to the non-querying writer). And within those Round 1-5 folders, I have another section for each agent as well as the query and synopsis sent at that time. For the agents, I have the date sent and the date of their response. Inside the folders, I have research and the communication sent back from the agents. Again, this might seem extreme, but I have found it a comfort in this often unsettling time within the query trenches.

6.) Editing

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Since I’m only editing BOOK ONE at this point, that is the only folder I am using within this section. However, I have uploaded my spreadsheet and have a separate section for any notes that have come up while editing.

So that is how I’ve created my Series Bible. I think the best part about having all of my research at my fingertips is that I am making use of every extra hour I have to work on completing these edits. Scrivener allows for everything to be kept in one place without having to open multiple word documents. Everything is always where I need it to be.

With everything organized and edits well under way, I am hoping to dive back into the query trenches by the end of this month. Until then, I’ll find the time to finish the work, even if it takes listening to “Vienna” on repeat to remember that there are really only so many hours in the day.

I’m going to make the most of mine, and I hope you’ll make the most of yours, too.

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A Dream No One Can See

It’s become a tradition each year to choose a word that will carry me through 365 days. There has been CREATE, BELIEVE, BETTER, and last year, there was PERSEVERANCE. And persevere I did. Through 164 literary magazine submissions, 133 rejections (query trenches included) and 16 pieces accepted, including my debut collection of poetry, These Are the Women We Write About, I’d like to think my own perseverance got me where I needed to be!

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But now it’s a new year, which means a new word. Getting here, I once again was a bit paralyzed with fear that I might choose the wrong word. I suppose it’s become another of those superstitious writerly things that I cling to as the days move along. It wasn’t until Christmas preparations took over that I found my word, one which stuck in my bones and felt too perfect to pass up. I ordered three necklaces and a bracelet from The Giving Keys, because I truly love how they strive to help homeless people in L.A., all the while, reminding us of the power of words, and the magic of passing them on to someone else. If you haven’t heard of this company or their mission, I suggest checking them out as they create beautiful products with special meanings.

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Yet, I digress. Upon purchasing these items, I was eligible for a complimentary “classic” key necklace, which would come with a surprise word and color and design. When it arrived, it brought a certain sense of knowing that I didn’t know I needed. My key said DREAM, and I’m not sure it could’ve been more perfect. And now, I have my word.

Dream.

Writing a novel about a world in which dreaming always means death, I have come to understand just how powerful dreams can be. I often dream too big and have said on more than one occasion that my ambition and penchant for dreaming bigger and better will be the death of me. But as a writer, I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing.

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As I edit DREAM CATCHERS once more before diving back into the query trenches next month, I cling to the dream of seeing this book published someday. And it’s difficult, I must admit, to be back in this story. I joked that I can’t wait for this book to be on someone else’s shelf someday just so I won’t have to read it anymore. Because it hurts to read sometimes. I’ve exposed too much of myself between those pages, and perhaps this is what will help future readers fall in love with my writing and this story. But for now, it terrifies me to find myself back in that time and place again.

Such is the life of the writer, I suppose. If the words don’t hurt, if what is being written doesn’t scare the writer a little, I’m not sure the story is worth telling. So I’ll tinker with this story once more before sending it out to the next 10 agents on my list. And when I say this will be the year I make this dream no one else can see into a reality, I feel the truth of the words ring through my bones in the way that some of my most authentic writing does.

I’ll keep focusing on this dream. Instead of simply listing my goals for 2019, I’ve separated these things into goals and aspirations; the things I can personally attain versus the things I so dream of coming true. I am taking better care of myself, how I judge my failures and accomplishments, because I have succeeded, even in small ways, and that is worth remembering. And for that I am so proud of myself. Already I’ve had 2 poems accepted for publication, and January hasn’t yet ended.

But as I continue to risk everything: sanity, time, sleep, future stories, etc. for this dream of publishing DREAM CATCHERS, I know it is worth everything in between. And with this knowledge, I will continue to dream too big all the year through, and I hope you will too! To stay up to date with this journey beyond this blog, check out #dreamlikekaylaking on Instagram and Twitter!

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All That Remains

Amidst drafting my current work-in-progress, I have found myself reevaluating my writing process. With DREAM CATCHERS still out in the query trenches, I have found this current project to be just as magical as it's always been. After nine years working on the Falling series, it feels like I finally know what BOOK ONE needs to be. And through this learning process, I've reminded myself how I've grown as a writer and how writing this book can be different than the last four years spent on the Dreamer Duology. 

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What I've discovered since being back in this fantastical world, is that writers can change many things: the process of plotting and writing, revision and editing. But as my best friend reminds, "you can't change your emotional truth." While she may have said this in reference to another moment and memory in time, I've continued to repeat the words through my mind like a mantra. Much can change. But when hurts and heartbreaks and heeded warnings are all that remains, it is best to remember them.

It is with this knowledge that I proceed into the drafting of the WIP, taking my burdens with me. It is the best gift and the greatest curse of writing that we may spill ourselves into fiction. Such remains a reality in this WIP. There is darkness and there are shadows within these new pages. But there is also goodness and light and hope; everything I know to temper the harsh reality of feeling too deeply about the world and its inhabitants.

As I continue to craft the beginning of this book, I won't try to change my emotional truths because to do so would deny the validity of feeling. But I will keep writing. I'll keep building a world of my own creation. I will plot and plan because that is the kind of writer I am. Unlike the early experience of writing DREAM CATCHERS,  I won't shy away or detach from writing the difficult scenes within this book, because those are the ones which ring and resonant with truth.

If anything, I have learned what works for me in the here and now instead of focusing on what I can't change about my lyrical style and voice. These are the things which I've never had to force, because they've always been there. I'm not sure it's worth dwelling on those things when there is so much power to be had in creating myself anew. So this time, I will write the chapters in a linear way. I will share them with my critique partner as I go. I will check in with the story from time to time to make sure character motivations are clear, that voices remain distinct, that what I am writing feels true to the story I'm trying to tell. But such are the fickle foes of writing.

Much as I would like to imagine writing to be magic, it is work. Alas, it is work that I so love. Maybe that emotional truth is the greatest of all because it reminds I will make this story into something real. And even as the world tries to break my spirit, as people depart and new ones emerge along this writing journey, I will cling to the dream of the Falling series and all it has done to make me into the writer I am today. 

Should you find yourself in the middle of burning bridges broken beyond repair, or breaking bad habits, writing or otherwise,  I hope you'll remember that even if you can't change your emotional truth, you can acknowledge the fear, the hurt, the joy, etc. and use it to grow. Become better. Remain true. 

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Beyond the Shore

While it's been quite some time since I've posted here, that's not to say I haven't had enough to write about. On the contrary, I've faced rejections, but have also had two poems accepted for publication in Sobotka Literary Magazine. My short story, "The Illusionist," is out now in Firewords Magazine Issue 10- Curiosity. I've read some great books and written new poems and short stories. I've created a schedule to complete my WIP by the end of the year. I've received a partial manuscript request for my book. I've drank too many cups of coffee to count now. Life has been busy. 

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But just last week, I found myself walking into the waves beyond the shore. While on vacation, I didn't write much. I did, however, finally read the best friend's favorite book, which is now one of my favorites. I wrote lines for a new poem. I woke with the world. I finished my acknowledgements page for the upcoming publication of my debut collection of poetry, These Are the Women We Write About. Just in time since it will be available August 28th from The Poetry Annals. And while time ticked away around me, I sat still, and relaxed. 

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While I'm enjoying my new full-time job immensely, I'll admit, I have felt overwhelmed in trying to meet my writing goals. Yet, I have not abandoned them. I'm still in pursuit of publication for my novel. And along the way, I can't believe my first ever book of poetry will be published, too. It's all very surreal, in that life is far from perfect, but there is still goodness and light. 

Maybe that is all I can hope from walking the narrow path. I knew when I began this journey into the writer's life that it wouldn't be easy, and it hasn't been. But there is something rather thrilling about treading through the deepest darkness of rejection into the luminous glow of accomplishment. 

Though I'm at 96 rejections for the year with only a few more needed to reach my goal,  I'll keep submitting. I'll keep writing. And alas, I'll be back to writing here weekly.  I'm not sure what the rest of the year will bring, because truthfully, I'm not even sure what to expect from the next week. But you, dear reader, can expect my words, for they are the one constant in my life.

Stay tuned for more about These Are the Women We Write About as I get closer to publication day. And If you get the chance to wander out beyond the shore, I hope you'll pursue the adventure.

Where the Story Begins

There is a moment I remember from childhood, sitting beside my mother as we took turns reading page after page of different stories. She was the first storyteller I knew, because in those early days of my reading life, she was the one who shared them with me.

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As a child, it's difficult to distinguish the difference between the person telling the stories and the person who actually wrote them. When I realized there were other people who wrote those stories, that knowledge didn't diminish the connection I had to reading and my mother. They were too entwined to separate one from the other. And somewhere along the way, I realized I wanted to write my own stories. So, in a way, I suppose that is the where the story of my writing life begins. 

The thing about being a writer, is that it takes a tremendous amount of support when the difficult days appear, which they undoubtedly do in the creation of something from nothing. And the thing about writing women, as in real female characters, is knowing what makes them wonderful. My mother has always supported me as I've continued to chase this dream of publication. And she is one of those wonderful women I aspire to be and to write. 

Now I know someday soon, people will read about my main character's mother and maybe they will believe I've captured my own on the page. I've already told my mom that she is everything good about Camryn's parents, because she is and always has been the goodness in my life. And while mothers often have complicated roles in stories, especially of the YA variety, I wanted to ensure I captured the complicated reality of parenthood within my book. 

One of my favorite lines I've written reminds: 

"Parents were sometimes the strangest of creatures; not really people, but more like shells meant to fit their children inside the lives they used to have: to make them better, to love them more."

This is one of those moments when character observations reveal my own truths. Because mothers are strange. I've seen the way my mother has worked to make me better, to love me more. She is not a character in a story, but the living embodiment of strength and kindness, love and light. And while today is a day we celebrate all mothers, for myself as a writer, I try to celebrate my mother in my writing, in pursuing my dream of publication, and in continuing to tell stories.

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"Here's to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them." 

So here is to my mother, the strongest woman I know. I aspire to be her, and am grateful every day that she raised me to be the kind of woman willing to keep going even amidst the most difficult days. After everything, my story will always begin and end with her. 

The Hardest Parts To Write

I had planned on writing this post a week ago after sending my finished edits to my critique partner. At 11:52 PM on Tuesday the 24th, I made it to the last line in DREAM CATCHERS. Victory swelled through my mind. But alas, somewhere between that moment and today, life got in the way. 

Looking back on some of those final sentences, I'm trying to find the truth in the above quote: "Sometimes there is power in letting go." For my characters, I know this must be true. And when I sent the latest draft of the book, I felt that surge of power in letting it go. But alas, amidst the devastation from the weekend, I am struggling to find the truth for myself. At 11:20 PM on Sunday the 29th, our beloved dog, Sully, took his final breath. 

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So while I'd planned to pen a post on Sunday detailing what it was like completing this last round of edits, my thoughts were consumed with the well-being of my first fur friend. I'd worked that morning and returned to find my sister crying. The rest of the day was filled with this same kind of sorrow. Disbelief. I sent a message saying we didn't think Sully would make it through the night, and even though the words existed, they didn't feel real. Sully had already been through so much, but he was always there. 

Always. 

We took turns laying beside Sully, emotion swelling in waves. My sister said something about loss, and I typed a note in my phone: "it's the moment you realize there is a lifetime of people to lose." We waited. We prayed. We stayed with him the whole day. We stayed with him after. It didn't feel real. 

Now I've written about real and unreal within DREAM CATCHERS, but this was the first moment I'd felt myself stuck between both. I closed up a box of cereal and half-expected Sully to lift his head like he always did at the sound of food. But he didn't move.

Even now, it's the quiet within the house that returns the sorrow in waves. I breathe through it, because I hate crying. But Monday, that's all we did. My whole family stayed home from work, and we took our beloved fur baby to the Pet Heaven Funeral Home for cremation. There was silence. There was quiet. There were no words. And even as I try to write this into a post, I'm not sure about the words, because they don't seem like enough. 

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Sully filled an emptiness in our lives for fourteen years, though there is never enough time with people you love. And Sully loved us like only the purest of hearts can. He had the happiest of personalities, and he's left a void in our lives. I know there are different moments that we struggle with most: the memory of Sully's last walk, just a week before his passing, the strangeness of dinner without his begging. But the morning is the worst knowing he won't be waiting in the living room to greet us. 

And there will be other things. He was always there to keep me company while I sat on the back patio reading, or writing. I think he might've known more plot details in future books than any other human in my life. He was the best of companions and a fierce friend who we will miss. 

While drafting this post the following week, I thought I might talk about endings. Bonnie Goldberg reminds: 

"Endings are the hardest parts to write. This is because they are false. Nothing truly ends; it transforms." 

Within her words I remember ending DREAM CATCHERS, because for too long, it was the hardest thing to write. And in that story, I've written about endings and goodbyes, and I think those words might be most true now as I think about saying goodbye to my first dog. Like I said, it is a hollow feeling. Death leaves an emptiness, and goodbyes leave nothing but echoes; unreal. Attempting to find the words to say a proper goodbye to a dog who meant so much is one of the hardest parts to write, but I'm trying. 

While I know this post details very little about completing my edits, I think it is important to note that sometimes life gets in the way of writing. And sometimes it drives us to find better words. To process. Revise. Mourn. To go on grieving.

I'm not sure I'll ever understand. And I know we'll never be able to fill the void of Sully's passing, but as we relive memories from the past, I'm reminded about the power of storytelling. I know we won't forget.

Surrender to Uncertainty

Once again, I've forced myself to surrender to the perpetual uncertainty of writing. Upon thinking about what I would post this week, I had hoped to document the success of finishing edits for DREAM CATCHERS. But alas, I still have six chapters to go, and cannot yet claim that victory.

But victorious was indeed how I felt as I penned the outline of this post in my journal. I've written many times about the life of a writer. About rejection. Querying. Hope. Belief. Perseverance. And alas, the act of continuing on despite the difficulties has finally paved the way for a small dream to be born into reality. 

So what does this mean? 

Before you get too excited, this post will not produce any agent news, nor book deals documented below. Like I said, I still have six more chapters in this edit before I begin querying again. But after three years and six rejections from Firewords Magazine, I have finally been accepted for publication! 

Maybe most writers would give up submitting after one rejection. But I have loved the aesthetic and quality of the work published in Firewords since 2015, and made it my dream to be published in this UK print magazine. Now all these years later, I have accepted their offer of publication, and am eagerly awaiting June for Issue 10 to make its debut. 

One of the more unique elements of Firewords Magazine is the artwork they have commissioned for each piece, and I can't wait to see what will accompany my short story, "Illusionist." Along with the print edition of the issue, Firewords offers a digital copy, but best of all: a special package to include an audio version of the magazine (you can listen to me reading this short story), plus special interviews with the contributors, and more! 

I couldn't be happier! This is a story, which I began back in September 2016. However, this started as a flash fiction seedling. That first story, "Illusion," was published in June 2016 by One For One Thousand. While this follow-up story went through dozens of titles, I landed on "Illusionist." It seemed fitting given how much of that former story inspired the latter. And in writing through this, I worked to discover what would happen after these two characters were gone. From each other. From my mind. And I wrote:

"But we’re not meant to keep people.” She wasn't sure he understood what she'd meant; an illusory impression would be all they'd leave behind someday." 

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This seems a bit ironic considering this short story follows the brief love between Aris and Prue: two characters I keep returning to because I can't let them go. While this story is from Prue's point of view this time, it still feels like a way to keep them.

Though I completed the short story for an anthology submission back in 2017, it was later rejected. I set it aside with the intention to return when I was ready. It wasn't until this year when I took the 4,500 word story down to 1,515 that I felt right about submitting again. I sent this in for Issue 10 of Firewords Magazine with the loose theme of CURIOSITY, and I waited. 

When I checked my phone and saw the email alert, I expected rejection. But instead I read these words: "We are pleased to announce our intention to publish your piece, 'Illusionist', in Firewords." I couldn't contain my excitement, feeling the news escaping my mouth too quickly.

Because I'd done it. I accomplished something which seemed slightly impossible. Almost unreachable. 

Now this seems like a sign for better things on the horizon. And with the edits for DREAM CATCHERS almost complete, I have a knowing feeling deep in my bones that representation and publication are not far behind for the book of my dreams. 

Sometimes being a dreamer is difficult, but then there are days like today when it all seems better. As a writer, I choose to be curious, but that also means I choose the vulnerability that comes with such wondering. And as quoted above, these choices often "require us to surrender to uncertainty." But I suppose from the moment I decided to tackle my dream of becoming a published author, in writing a book of my heart, I chose a life of uncertainty. I never know when I'll be rejected next, but that also means I never know when the possibility of being published will appear either. Through it all, I'm willing to surrender to such realities to make every dream as real as this one!

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Nothing Lost

This past week has taken me back to the process of editing. All was going well. I finished part one of DREAM CATCHERS on Tuesday, moving into part two with hopes of completing the third and final part of the novel by Wednesday. Darlings were cut away to make this story even better before sending it back out into the query trenches. When the epiphanies struck Wednesday morning, I knew there would be much more work involved, but a better version of this story I so loved would emerge from the ashes. Like a phoenix. Like a flame. 

To those not accustomed to the process of writing and editing, this may seem extreme. And yes, chapters will be cut, others reshuffled, but I assure nothing of this story, nor my dream, will be lost. Often I think of myself formed in the lines of the following quote:

"SHE'S A DREAMER. A DOER. A THINKER. SHE SEES POSSIBILITY EVERYWHERE. " 

And I remember all the many people in my life who've made me into this dreamer now as I attempt to find publication for a book about dreams. I think back to the time in fourth grade when I almost quit chorus. It seems like a silly memory now, and amidst rejections and years spent writing my novel, this might seem like nonsensical nostalgia. What I extract from such a trip down memory lane is not the fact that I almost quit, but rather, the notion that one person had  complete belief in me, enough to convince me to continue. Mr. Elwyn Roll was my elementary school music teacher, the director of every musical I performed in from 3rd-12th grade, and later, my choral director in high school. Long after that moment, Mr. Roll convinced me time and again to never give up. To continue on. 

Last night, I embarked back on a journey to my high school with many more alum to celebrate the retirement of someone who has brightened the minds and hearts and voices of our community for almost forty years. We gathered with candles to join current students in singing "Light the Candles," a song which encompasses all of my childhood, and the hope to make real change beyond school days.

It was somewhat strange going back. There were faces I haven't seen in years, but the auditorium smelled just the same. And I realized how many things have changed since I graduated eight years ago, and how much remains the same. I knew all the words to the song, and the voices filled the room and reminded me how those walls had kept me safe in some of my toughest times. But what's more, the notion that one person could imbue so much love into the world by making us all believe we could create real change beyond that stage and the hallways and practice rooms.

There's a moment I recall now from my senior year where I sat writing a first person narrative about Oliver Twist because I had been cast in the lead role of "Oliver" (pictured above). It was in this moment that I thought, maybe, I could be a writer. And eight years later, I still have that piece of paper I was given to capture my character on the page.  I was taught from a young age to rise after falling. To be better. Dream bigger. And after all this time, I haven't given up the dream of this book. The edits are still underway. The novel is becoming better. I am better. 

While last night I traveled from real world nostalgia back into the fictional world I've created, I realized that growing up does not mean that nothing will be lost, because things change. But there is some comfort in knowing that the people we love best, the ones who inspire and light sparks within us to make us believe anything is possible, they never change. They are still there to make us remember to continue on. Keep editing. Send another query. Share your voice with the world. 

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From the Person Who Wrote It

I recently had a conversation about the difference between author and narrator. As a writer of fiction and poetry, I know the readers of my work might confuse the narrators from my writing with me as the author. And this thought became most clear in writing the title poem of my collection: 

"And so it’s done; this endless, spirographic lie where they think you the narrator, instead of the ghost of a poet. Haunted by the writing. Emptied by this poem. An echo. Yes, an echo."

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So yes, this notion is one that has been on the brain lately, especially as I dive back into edits for DREAM CATCHERS. My goal for the end of the week is to make it through the first five chapters, and I'm right on track. And through this process, I'm reminded that while I'm not my main character, I've found myself while writing her story. There are times when a certain line or scene resonates, and it feels like home. 

This may sound strange. How can writing feel like home? At least for myself, home has always felt like understanding. And when I feel understood on the page, I imagine a reader might feel the same way. Somehow this makes it easier to fathom the fact that I might be confused with fictional people, even if they feel real. Because yes, they are flawed and messy and kind and honest; everything I know myself to be now. 

As I make my way back through DREAM CATCHERS, there are certain scenes that stop me in my tracks because they feel too real. And while I am not my main character, nor the other characters on the page, I understand their belief. I believe this book will be published, and I'm just as much of a dreamer as my favorite characters. Maybe they get that from me, or maybe I get that from them; I'm not so sure I could argue against either possibility. But they do make me believe this dream of writing is possible. 

I won't spend too much more time trying to prove the difference between narrator and author. And to be honest, there's a line in one of my favorite Plath poems, "Electra on Azalea Path," which makes me think she must be the narrator, that Sylvia herself must have had some vision of the future and relayed such divinity on the page for all to read: 

"I am the ghost of an infamous suicide."

But I know thinking this is Sylvia is not entirely fair. Yet, people are more than one thing, and by default, that must mean characters are more than their authors. They must be inspired by life and past loves, best friends and maybe that stranger seen every day at the red light.

Maybe we're all a little bit of the people we love best. 

I suppose this idea comes from the very real fear of confronting vulnerability and judgement once this book finds its way into the hands of readers. But such is life, and I'm used to such feelings. So for now, I will make my way back to the page to find myself, both the person who writes and the person now written therein. 

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Exploring the Exceptional

This week, I've once again started editing DREAM CATCHERS. I printed the in-text notes from my wonderful critique partner, formulated a revision plan, met with a beta reader, and organized everything into a new binder to make this arduous process that much easier. After almost four years, I keep thinking this book might be "finished," but now is not that time. And that's okay. 

If the years spent in the MFA with this novel taught me anything, it's that it takes time to develop the best of stories. And this one still needs a little more time to be the best it can possibly be before I begin my third round of querying. Though I have a few things now that I didn't have eight months ago when I entered into the query trenches. 

When I started querying, there was a sense of fear for the unknown, but now that I've been through the query letters, crafting the synopsis, researching agents, hitting send, and waiting, always the waiting, I know this process is manageable. And along the way, I received a Twitter pitch request, a partial manuscript request, and even a full manuscript request from a potential agent. I've submitted to 25 agents and so far all have passed, but I know there will be someone who will love this story. 

This knowing is even more clear after receiving all of the feedback from my amazing critique partner and my first beta reader. My CP has gone above and beyond in not only supporting me, but my vision for this book. So many of her suggestions have found their way into my revision plan. She also made me two more beautiful graphics to showcase my story and my words! 

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Both images now adorn the front and back cover of my editing binder as reminders that someday my world might exist in other readers' minds. It's a wonderful feeling to have after living with this world on my own. The first beta reader to finish reading the book in full has been someone who's traveled along my writing journey for eight years now. My National Honor Society advisor from high school is someone who continues to support my writing. She helped me figure out how to best pursue my passion for writing, she read my poetry sample before I submitted my application to the writing program at Buffalo State College, she read more poetry, my first book, my first poetry collection, and now, DREAM CATCHERS. 

On Monday, I met with her, and we immediately launched into the main plot and subplots of my book. We discussed dreams and scenes and characters. She gave me more feedback, which I've incorporated into my revision plan. But the most amazing and peculiar moments from this meeting happened when she stopped to read her favorite scenes from my book. This was the first time I'd ever heard someone read the words I'd written. And in her reading, I understood those paragraphs must've resonated with her enough to prompt such a thing, and it helped remind me why this book will be important to the world someday. She reminded me why this book is important. 

After the hard work was done we talked about life and literature, my writing, this blog, and this website. And she showed me a note I'd written on a guest check slip from the restaurant with my website address. And she told me it remained on her fridge with a magnet that reminded her of me because of the quote: 

"She was perfectly comfortable being exceptional." 

This was enough to make me realize the person I've become; the person she's watched grow from a bookish high school student to the writer I am today. Knowing she thinks me to be exceptional helped me remember what I've done in writing this book, in setting myself up for rejection after rejection, in not quitting, but continuing to persevere: I suppose I am exceptional. 

A few weeks ago, I wrote about finding my way back to believing again. Through meeting with this mentor and friend, through the friendship and support of my critique partner, and remembering my kingdom of those who've never stopped believing in me, I once again believe. That doesn't make the query trenches any less difficult, nor these edits any less extensive than I already knew they would need to be. This certainly doesn't make me any more exceptional than the dreamer I've always known I needed to be, but rather, reminds me I have everything I need to make this dream a reality. 

The Time To Choose Yourself

I knew today would be the perfect time to celebrate love. Love for my book. Love for my writing. Love for my critique partner. Love for myself. Love is love is love is love is love... And I started thinking that today might be the perfect time to choose to focus on myself, to celebrate love for the person I've become. 

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Now this post isn't meant to be a diatribe denouncing the traditions of Valentine's Day. But rather, an advocation to show love for my writing journey. 

If you've been following along with this journey, you might remember the best friend/editor, my kingdom of people who've supported the book and the writing and most important, me. Some of those people have even been given the printed proof copy of Dream Catchers to BETA read, and I am so thankful to those people. But recently, I learned the benefits of finding a critique partner.

Somehow, I ended up with an amazing new writer friend and spirit animal on my first attempt at reaching out. I know this is rare, and I'm grateful for finding this person. And after reading several other potential CP pages, I know how rare it is to click with someone over writing styles and editing styles and overall personality. But, I digress. 

You might be wondering what a CP (critique partner) does/who they are. What makes them different from a BETA reader? 

A critique partner reads your work and offers feedback, most notable, objective feedback on the story presented. With the exception of the best friend, my early readers have gone into my book just like that, as readers. A critique partner goes into the work as a writer and has the ability to advise on everything from language, pace, world building, characters, and everything in between. And my critique partner has done just that. 

So where did I find this glorious human? 

Quite simply, I searched 'how to find a critique partner' on Google. And from there, I found THIS Google Forum, and offered my pitch under the YA Fantasy and Sci-Fi request. And I found my person! I also searched #critiquepartners on Twitter and found another match-up listing HERE! And while I am so grateful for the other pages I had the opportunity to read, I didn't feel the connection to move forward with those writers.

Now maybe for me the situation is somewhat different, because I have a community of writers I met in graduate school. I have avid readers in my life who've eagerly waited to devour my book. I have the best friend, and my other friends, and they have been my resource. But I do think there is something about an objective reader, which works to the benefit of the writing process. And I have already seen the benefit of this in my writing. There are lessons I've learned in giving my CP feedback, and validation I feel from her comments. This, I know, is something worth celebrating. 

My CP has created a brilliant world filled with heartbreak and adventure and I can't wait to finish her fantastic story from a train departing to NYC this weekend. And I cannot wait for her to finish my book as well. Her honesty, keen eye for typos, and enthusiastic spirit is something my book so needed from the overwhelming place of the query trenches. And she's also a badass when it comes to creating design aesthetics inspired by my writing. 

Like these beautiful works of art!

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It's refreshing to have someone as obsessed with bees and dreams as I have been for the past four years. We both believe this will be a lifelong friendship and working relationship and it's crazy, yes, but in this community, I think this kind of mutual respect and excitement is amazing to find. I can't wait to celebrate our future book deals together, because we both BELIEVE it will happen. And we can't wait to share our next WIPs to keep the flow of the writing and the support between us. 

Today, of all days, I am choosing to celebrate the wonderful places and people my writing have introduced me to along the way. And I'm following the advice of r.h. sin today, too: 

"Marry your goals. Remain committed to success. Be loyal to your dreams. It's okay to choose yourself."

I love my goals. I'm committed to finding success for my book, and I've remained loyal in trying to make that dream a reality. And most of all, I choose myself. 

But I know none of this would be possible without the support of my people, and I am so happy to have added one more person to this group! 

So today, of all days, I hope you appreciate and celebrate the love, which helps you persevere in this crazy journey we call life. 

A Little Perseverance

Today is the last day of National Novel Writing Month. Though I managed to reach the 50,000 word goal two days prior to this post, I still wanted to commemorate this ending.

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In years past, I’d always wanted to take part in NaNoWriMo. But alas, other writing projects seemed to dominate my Novembers, and I never felt I could properly commit, and so, I never took part in the magic and insanity that is writing 50,000 words in a month. 

Until now.

For those of you following my journey to publication, you will know I am currently in the query trenches with the novel I conceptualized during graduate school. With that project done, and waiting for agent responses growing by the day, I knew I needed a distraction. This realization occurred last month and afforded me the time to take part in Preptober to get myself ready for the official start date of NaNoWriMo. I took the month of October to begin outlining for a somewhat new work-in-progress; BOOK ONE in the Falling series demanded to be written again. This time I knew it would be better. 

I originally wrote the first book in this series back in 2012, and it was the first novel I wrote. But long before that, I’d written a short story, and from those fourteen pages came the formation of this projected pentalogy, which I outlined in a British literature class during my undergrad. It’s been eight years since I first delved into this world, and it remains one of my greatest loves, and favorite escapes. This story is the one I took to grad school, too stubborn to let go my first semester, and then later set aside to begin the Dreamer Duology. In the three years I spent writing my other novel for grad school, I never gave up on the Falling series. Though I wasn’t writing in that world every day, I spent that time getting to know my characters better, and brainstorming all that will come to pass over the course of these five books. 

And now, at the end of NaNoWriMo, I have 51,032 words of this new draft, and it’s just as magical as I remember all those years ago. 

Before undertaking this challenge, I feared (what I now know was somewhat irrational) that I couldn’t write another book. Maybe other writers experience this same thing after working on one project for multiple years. You see, the novel I’m querying was not easy to write, and if you ask those closest to me, they might mention the toll completing this novel took on me and my writing.  Now that’s not to say I don’t love that book. I wouldn’t be querying agents with it now if I didn’t adore what I’d written. But the actual process was difficult. And through it, I’d started to doubt the magic of writing. 

But I digress. 

Starting this newish project for NaNoWriMo proved that writing and drafting are still magic, and not just because there is a fair bit of fantasy within this WIP. Writing this story reminded me how extraordinary it feels to get swept up into a world crafted entirely from your own mind. And while there were days more difficult than others this month, days when I did not write a single word, I still achieved that 50K goal. 

I think it is a common misconception that writers need to write every day to be writers. Frankly, that’s bullshit. Most writers, myself included, have day jobs, which pay bills and student loans. And we have family and friends and pets and other obligations, which sometimes prevent the act of writing every day from actually happening. But through NaNoWriMo, I discovered there is a difference between writing every day and writing consistently. Though I went four consecutive days without writing, those days away were much needed to prevent creative burnout and to brainstorm a rather difficult chapter. But still, my mind never left this fictional world I so love. 

As I scroll through the 183 pages I managed to complete thus far, I know I’ve tackled something important. I also discovered a new tool to help drafting, which was born out of my proclivity toward visual learning. With the help of Pinterest (which for those interested in what inspires my many fictional worlds, you can follow my book boards HERE) I created inspiration boards for each chapter, which are pictured below! In doing so, I had to narrow down what I was trying to accomplish most, which helped in the process of outlining, all while keeping me on task. 

And with the help of friends cheering me on from near and far, a fantastical Spotify playlist curated the month before, and many cups of coffee, I have a start to a story I’d always hoped to return to one day. 

I’m not sure where the querying process will take me in the months to come, but with the start of this newish story, I now have an escape for when rejection feels too real or the world feels too wrecked. I’ll make my art. I’ll write my stories. And with a little perseverance, and a little uphill climb (and maybe, even the Dear Evan Hansen soundtrack), I’ll write the next 50,000 words. 

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The Beginning Of Interesting

When thinking about what I would write this week, I knew I wanted to try to get back to that enamored feeling I once had for my book. That's not to say I don't love my book, because I do. But I also worry about its future sometimes, too. This feeling of love that I have now is absolute and unwavering; I'm not sure there is anything this story could do to make me give up on it or its eventual place on bookshelves. Together we've been through a master's degree. We've been through the good writing days and the bad writing days and the ones, which felt better than anything. And we're still a team. 

It wasn't until last night, however, that I had a desire to dive back into my archives and relive the initial excitement I had for this story.

And what, you might be asking, happened last night?

I received an email from the agent who had my full manuscript, which informed me she would be passing on my book. I'm not going to say this was an easy email to read, especially because there was no concrete feedback to implement in further revisions. But alas, the letter was incredibly kind, as you'll see below: 

Hi Kayla, 

Thanks for sending along Dream Catchers. I really appreciate your patience these past few weeks while waiting for a response. 

There's some great prose in these pages--in fact, the quality of writing is far better than most of the material that crosses my desk. And I found Camryn to be a sympathetic protagonist. It's with regret, though, that I must admit that I ultimately didn't fall in love with the manuscript as much as I had hoped. For some reason that I can’t quite put my finger on, the story itself just didn’t completely capture my imagination as much as I had hoped. Kayla, in spite of this manuscript's strengths, I'd better bow out. I suspect that, based on my above reservations, I just wouldn't be the best advocate for the project. 

Thanks so much for contacting me, though, and for giving me this opportunity! It is much appreciated, and I'm sorry to be passing. This is such a subjective business--I'm sure another agent will be a better fit. Thanks again, and all the very best of luck in your search for representation.

So what does this mean? For now, it means I'm still searching for representation. It means this agent was not the one for me and my work. And in this business, it is about finding a literary agent willing to support you and your words for an entire career. An agent has to be completely enamored, which unfortunately, this agent didn't have those necessary feelings of love for my book.

I'm not going to say I didn't hope for the best; I never wanted this agent to be my 70th rejection of the year. Sometimes I do, however, wish I didn't have to write so much about rejection. But such is the life of a writer, and I don't want to shy away from the truth or lie about my journey. Because that's exactly what this is: a journey. I want my candor along the way to ensure I remember every step until I make this dream a reality. And if such honesty helps another writer in the tumultuous query trenches, that would be something, too. 

But, I digress.

Three years ago, I stayed up until 4:30 AM writing something new, though the story of Dream Catchers wasn't entirely new at that point. I once wrote a flash fiction piece about a girl in a strange shop with a secret. Fast forward to a lunch with my sister wishing we could all be paid in dreams, and my obsession with dreaming as currency took hold; this was the original concept for my story, though it's come a long way from that idea. And in searching back through my archives, I found an email sent to my grad school mentor for my second semester in which I wrote to tell her that despite there only being a week until my submission deadline, I would be changing my thesis.

Up until this point I had been incredibly stubborn about moving on from a story I'd worked on since high school. But to get the most out of the program, I knew I needed to start fresh, and the idea for Dream Catchers had sat with me all summer. I remember being at LeakyCon during a panel about diversity, knowing that this story was one I wanted to pursue. And then the first line appeared in my mind one day while waiting for coffee. The windows were down, my sister was driving, and summer was turning to fall. I texted that line to a peer. I took notes. I showed the best friend. I wrote, and I sent that email. In it I said:

"I stayed up until 4:30 this morning working on this. And the result is 12 new pages and a story I think is fun and daring, adventurous, and experimental. But I love it!"

Now my book is 363 pages, 92,000 words, and after all this time, I still believe those words to be true. Looking back at that first chapter, I see how much has changed. This isn't the same idea I pitched to my mentor three years ago, but it is the story I conceived a year late during my last residency of grad school with a different mentor. And part of that first line I so loved is now the last line of the first chapter. The book is about dreaming, but also much more. And I'm not saying the character I have now is any more perfect than that same girl I wrote about three years ago. My protagonist, Camryn, is still incredibly flawed, and I wouldn't have it any other way. But that's okay. That's the way it should be. 

Upon dreaming up this post, I put away the notebooks and drafts and ideas from so long ago. And I realized just how much I refuse to put away the dream that this book will be published one day. Maybe it's the stubbornness or strength bred into me from my earliest beginning. Maybe it's that line from a song I sang every year for ten years: "Don't ever give up. Don't ever lose the dreams that you dream every day. Don't ever lose heart. Know who you are. And live your own life your way;" I still remember them. Though whatever the reason, this rejection is not cause to give up. I've written before that only time will tell the future of this book and my career as a published author. And that's true. This time when I refuse to abandon my creativity despite the fact that querying is not easy, that is the time Elizabeth Gilbert writes about in Big Magic: 

"DON'T ABANDON YOUR CREATIVITY THE MOMENT THINGS STOP BEING EASY OR REWARDING. BECAUSE THAT'S THE MOMENT WHEN INTERESTING BEGINS."

This, as she says, is "the moment when interesting begins." 

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Only Time Will Tell

One week ago, I was watching the episode of Parks and Recreation where Andy and April drive to the Grand Canyon, and "All Will Be Well," by The Gabe Dixon Band plays on the radio. As I sat constructing a chapter by chapter breakdown of editorial notes, I knew that everything I needed to accomplish would happen, that eventually, all would be well.

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And what was I trying to accomplish?

Well, rewind back to the day before.

I sat beside by brother as we binge-watched Riverdale, and my phone buzzed with a new email, and I ignored it for a few minutes as that current episode wrapped up. And then I saw the sender of the email, and my heart beat a bit faster. I looked at the agent's name, and braced myself for the rejection.

Upon opening the email, I discovered it wasn't a rejection, but rather a request to send my full manuscript for consideration! Maybe most people would've screamed something profane, or exclaimed their exhilaration, but in that moment, I couldn't say anything. The tears filled my eyes, but I didn't actually cry. I was too stunned. My brother asked me what was wrong, and I passed him my phone, and though he doesn't quite understand the query process, he said "Congratulations."

Now the first thing I did was reread the email, just to make sure it was real. I needed the verification that after reading only the first five pages of my manuscript, plus my query letter, that this agent really wanted to move forward and read the rest of my novel. The words were still there, and I knew I needed to call my mom and my best friend, but neither answered. I left one rather shaky voicemail, and sent a few texts with the same request to "please please please call me." They both thought something horrific had happened. They both called back. They both were just as ecstatic. And I reminded them both that this could still mean rejection, because it might. But in that moment, I knew it was still a huge step toward publication. 

That day the best friend and I talked for two and a half hours, and he mentioned his amazement at how grounded I stayed through it all; knowing the chance of rejection was still viable. And since receiving the exciting email, I have gotten a rejection from another agent, sent without personalization, but kind all the same. The first thing that came to mind after this long-winded phone call was my dissatisfaction with the overall end of the book, because I wasn't sure how it would lead into the second book within this duology. And just as the excitement dissipated, the stress took hold in its familiar place. 

My anxiety appeared based on the fact that I have a penchant for perfection. It is, I believe, my biggest flaw. I feared the fact that my book still wasn't perfect, and knew I needed to make adjustments, even minor, before sending this off to the agent. In the meantime, I let all the other important people in my life know what was happening, and they offered congratulations, and I existed in a kind of haze the rest of that first day. 

By Friday, I'd made it to the end of the book. I had a shower epiphany. I knew what final bit had to be added to the finale. I didn't change the last line, because that was what I wanted from the start. But I found a small way into what comes next for my story in BOOK TWO, and it felt right. I wrote the words. I texted the best friend about the ending. He read. I wrote. The day went on. 

At 4 PM I started reading my novel through from the beginning. I luxuriated in the fact that I'd finally killed the darling paragraph that opens the novel, in exchange for something that reads much more clean and offers higher stakes for the story. I read each chapter out loud to try and catch as many typos as possible. And somehow, even after the hundreds of times I've read through this manuscript, there were still stupid errors. (I'm still wondering if I will ever get credit on Goodreads for the many times I've read through my own book). I read straight through until 2:30 AM when my voice started to crack, and the view of my computer screen blurred through the veil of exhaustion. I slept four hours. I woke, and finished the read through. I compiled the manuscript from Scrivener into a word doc, and began the arduous process of formatting for submission with the updated word count, title, page numbers, etc., and ensured each chapter started on its own page. I finished the last of this from the back seat of my sister's car as we drove toward our hometown for the morning. As we made it back to the place I grew up, the place my story was born, I realized there wasn't anything left to do but send this back to the agent. 

And I did. 

Now it's been a few days since submitting, and all that's left to do is wait.

I hate waiting. But like that song reminds: All will be well. You can ask me how, but only time will tell.

Only time can tell what will happen with this agent and the future of my book. 

Now a week later, I can't say I've learned how to combat my perfectionism, but I can say I let go of the idea that my work is perfect in time to send this whole manuscript. Sometimes all we can do is let things go without knowing what will come back. I'm not sure if this will bring me an offer of representation, or a rejection. But I do know this is one step closer to my dream, and maybe, all really will be well. Until then...

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It Takes a Kingdom

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that it takes a village to raise a child, but I promise you, it takes a kingdom to raise a book. Now I've written here many times that I *finished* my novel. And I'm not going to say that any of those parts of my journey were not exciting, because they were. But I'm here to say I *actually* have a finished novel. My novel.

How do I know this is THE completed draft?

After sending the document to my Kindle, (which not only worked as an extra editing technique, but also made my book seem real) I read and read and didn't have anything more to add.

Now I'm not going to say I didn't find any stupid mistakes, though, after all this time, I was hoping the writing would be perfect. Oh, what a fool I still am sometimes! But what I did discover is that this feels and reads like a real book. And I had a thought of, "wow, I wrote this. I actually write THIS book." I'm not only proud of all I've accomplished, but I'm proud of the writing, the story, and the actual book. 

Maybe you're wondering what this has to do with my journey as a writer, and the journey of this book, so I'll tell you. It takes real commitment and courage, not just creativity to write a book. And sometimes I forget that a non-writer might not understand what this experience is like from day to day to month to year. It took someone talking about "real" jobs and expectations and frankly, not understanding anything I do, to prove my own resilience and my own determination to make the dream of publishing this book a reality.

Now I'm used to rejection. Really, I am. But these words from someone I love and respect hurt more than I thought. I went back to my computer that night, and reread my words. I typed END OF BOOK ONE, and I sent the draft to be spiral bound for someone else to read. And at that point, I knew the support I gave myself was enough. 

The next day, however, I posted a picture of my book on my Kindle. I didn't want to forget the excitement of reading this straight through for the first time without a red pen. It was just me and my characters and the words I'd so lovingly crafted and killed and reconfigured to be the best they could be to tell this story.

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My aunt was the first to comment on the post. She'd volunteered to read the pages that night even though she's not much of a reader, and the gesture was so heartwarming because she's been with me on this journey for the past three years. She was there to road trip for residencies in New Hampshire. She's listened to me prattle on about possible plot points, and she even brought champagne when I finished my final chapter a few months ago. She's amazing.

And then a childhood friend (Jess, I'm talking about you!) wanted to read the pages. And then my cousin (Lindsey--this is you!) also wanted to read. And all at once, the people with whom I'd found a real kinship in grad school started volunteering to beta read my book. One even wanted to see a chapter from a peer workshop, which still exists, but is much better now. And she reminded me of my army of supporters, my kingdom of people willing to love this book, to love me and my writing; they believe this will be published someday. 

Before this day, however, I had other support, too. My mentor from grad school had already helped with my query letter. She is amazing, and she is the reason this book is what it is today. The best friend called and talked for a few minutes and helped me see how Chapter Seven could be better, and now it is. My other two best friends from grad school (Erin & Alicia, this means you!) have the pages and they, too, have been my strength through these many months, nay years, of writing this book.

I have my mom who taught me to be a reader first and who's let me be the person I needed to be to write this book. And there are others, too, who I knew would read this, including friends who are more like family (Amanda Maher, I'm talking about you!), and people who I've never met who remind me that my story idea is intriguing and as someone said, "impressive." Then there are the wonderful members of my 1:1000 family who will be reading this in their own time, and who continue to cheer me on from different states and countries and time zones! 

But my people, my tribe from grad school (Mell & Erika & Meg & Amanda) were the people who reminded me it takes more than a village to raise a book. It takes a whole fucking kingdom. And their support means the world to me. 

Now this wasn't the post I was planning for this week, but I never want to forget the way it feels to be loved and appreciated and uplifted from the brutality of rejections and revisions and editing to this feeling of absolute belief that I can do this!

And I can. 

I believed it so long ago, and now I'm making it happen with the support of my kingdom of writers and readers and kind souls who are here to raise this project to be a real book you might get to read someday. All that's left is to finish the synopsis (insert dread), revise the query letter one more time, and then throw myself into the query trenches. Until then...

Finis

This time last week, I was handing over the *finished* draft of my manuscript to the best friend. I had spent the days leading up to that moment inputing the last of my hard-copy edits, and writing a few new chapters to fill remaining holes in the narrative. The process was extensive, and without the best friend's looming departure back to NYC, I'm not sure I would've finished in time. Since writing "End of Book One" two months ago, I have been editing and polishing words I'd already written. And I'm not sure the act of revision will ever not seem strange.

I wrote the last words. I printed the draft. I even added a faux cover just to make it seem a bit more official. And with the pages in the envelope, I had an overwhelming sense of excitement and terror. Now I know the best friend will be honest and will read these pages with care. He has been my editor since the moment I started writing. He was the first person to read my first book all those years before. He read this book back when it was only 100 pages of my thesis, which needed to be edited overnight. And now I am excited for him to read where I've taken this book, and also terrified that it won't live up to the years of work I've already put into the writing. But I suppose being a writer is like that most days; always teetering between fear and fragility and obsession and love. Or at least that has been my experience with writing. 

This same day, the lovely ladies at Hooked to Books sent me the loveliest of gifts; a signature pen, which this writer will put to good use. And it felt like a sign that I was really done. The kindness was too much. Too often, as writers, we do the work alone, and we forget there are other people in the world. But this gesture reminded me that there is support beyond the writing and the world crafted in the mind and put down on the page. 

Maybe this doesn't feel noteworthy, or rather, blogworthy to those reading from a different time or place. But as I compile names of possible agents and rework the synopsis and try to craft a query letter that will stand out amidst the slush pile, I'm not sure I want to forget any part of this process, which is why I am committing it to the memory of this blog. 

I've since sent the manuscript to my two other best friends, and I know they, too, will handle this work with care. They will also be honest and critical and everything else we were taught to be in our time in the MFA. They understand the work and edits and the writing better than most. They are my people. They once again reminded me that this process doesn't have to swallow me up alone. 

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Be Better

I was meant to write a post with a similar title just after the new year. But alas, life has already gotten in the way. The post I'd planned to pen had to do with hope and belief and the word better.

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You see, for the past two years, I've chosen a word instead of a list of resolutions. The new year hasn't been about changing myself, but rather, my outlook. And this year, I chose the word better because it has such a prominent place within BOOK ONE of my Dreamer Duology. 

That post was delayed because I finally finished the novel! And I wasn't sure I would return to this word or this post until the moment I opened my journal to a bee sketch from two weeks ago.

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I am writing this now from the same chair at the same Starbucks where I completed this novel exactly two weeks ago. Two and half years after I began this strange story for graduate school, I completed the chapters, and wrote the words: END OF BOOK ONE, which have been four of my favorite words written the past month. 

So I finished my novel. 

You might be wondering what happens next, or maybe you are some future version of me returning to this post to remember what it felt like to have this story as only your own (hi, future Kayla). 

For the past two weeks I've been editing, which has meant red pens and reading whenever I can find the time. These edits were done long hand on a printed version of the manuscript. Now I am putting the edits back into the document. It's a rather arduous task, but one that is necessary to my process. 

When this is complete (and I can read this story throughout without an eye twitch from stupid mistakes and plot holes and syntax and character arcs and motivations and everything that culminates in the magic of storytelling) I will send this off and away to New York City so that the best friend can read this whole thing through. And I'll share with a few others who I trust with this story. 

While they read, I might finally tackle that TBR pile that has grown too precarious in the past two and a half years since I started this story. But I will also be researching agents that are looking for a story like mine. I will write the much dreaded query letter. And then I will take the next step. I will send the novel out into the world, and see where my words take me. 

But for now, the scent of fresh ground coffee smells like possibility and endings, because when I took that deep breath after finishing this book, coffee was all I could smell. 

And now, maybe, you're left wondering about that bee sketch. I can tell you honey bees play a prominent part in my novel, as do many other things. I can tell you I wrote the last chapter of this novel to Amber Run's new single, Fickle Game, and that the middle was produced with the Strumbellas in my ears and wine in my veins. I can tell you I cried writing a chapter and cried when I wrote the last chapter. But I don't want to tell you too much about this novel, because I am hoping you will get to read it someday.

While the following quote is spoken by my wonderfully broken protagonist, it was written by me, and I suppose there must be some truth in such a sentiment:

 "I’ve always been wonderful at writing endings, but have never been good at goodbyes."

Though the ending to this book was much more difficult to write than any other I've written before, it is true that I've never been good at goodbyes. I can't imagine what it will be like when BOOK TWO  in this duology is written and comes to a close, when I have to leave my world of dreamers behind in exchange for new characters and new worlds and new words. But for now, the journey persists, and the writing persists. 

And through the possibility of perseverance I will be better. 

I hope you will, too.