dreamer duology

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. 

All best,Kayla King.png

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." 

All best,Kayla King.png

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...

All best,Kayla King.png

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. 

All best,Kayla King.png

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.