one word

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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Just One Word

In 2015, I ditched the practice of resolutions for the impending new year, and instead came up with one word to carry me through the entire year. Back then it was CREATE, and create I did. Then in 2016, I chose BELIEVE, and that word, more than anything, helped me complete the first draft of Dream Catchers, which I carried into 2017 with the hopes of making it, and myself BETTER. All three of these words became a sort of mantra that helped me get through the rough writing days, the rejections, and life in general. And here I am in 2018 with a finished book in the query trenches, and a new word to carry me through the year. That word is...

PERSEVERANCE!

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In years past, I'd always found it somewhat difficult to choose one word, knowing how important it would be to me. But this year as many of you might know, I got to see Ben Platt in Dear Evan Hansen, rounding out an outstanding year filled with Broadway shows. And in the beginning of Act II within this show, there is a song, which seemed to be in my head more often than others this year, most specifically:

"It just takes a little patience. It takes a little time. A little perseverance, and a little uphill climb."

It took completing NaNoWriMo, and writing about that experience here, to ensure the word perseverance remained stuck in my head. So far, it's been a rather fitting word. Maybe, you're wondering: how does this fit?

Well, I ended 2017 with 117 rejections, many of which came from agents. Going into 2017 with a goal of 50 rejections, I never thought I could survive that many, and yet, more than doubled, I can tell you I've done more than survive, because I'm not giving up. I know this will be the year some of my favorite poems will be published. I know I will find an agent. I know I will get that elusive book deal that seems like more of a mirage from the query trenches than anything tangible. I suppose that sense of perseverance has always been with me, and now, it is stronger than ever. 

So what comes next? 

I'll keep querying. I've already sent my first query of 2018, and I am hopeful for a positive response. I've started to submit new poems to new publications, and I'm still writing. I already have five rejections, and it feels like accomplishment this early into January. And while I don't have a list of resolutions, I do have a list of goals I'm hoping to accomplish this year, and this month, some of which have already been completed, others which feel a bit more difficult, and require more time. One of these goals, however, is very near to being completed, and as such, I'm excited to share it with all of you! 

Beginning this February, I will be unveiling my new author website! After much research, I have decided to find a new home for my site using Squarespace, which will mean a new minimalistic design, with much of the same content I've developed here over the past four years, plus more, including collaborating with other writers and bloggers! I will be making an official announcement when the time gets closer with links for the new home of KAYLA KING BOOKS. I am hoping this will be one of many changes in 2018 that bring me that much closer to making my dream a reality. After all this, I have known struggle, I've tried to find courage, and now I will hold tight to the idea of perseverance for the rest of 2018! 

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Do Better

It's the eve of my 25th birthday, and I've felt so much building to this point; the quarter life crisis, the paralysis of this place in my life, etc. I don't have a name for it, though I named a story with a similar sensibility, "Twentysomething,"  because that felt most true. 

Here's the thing: I think it's difficult talking about the trying times in our lives when we're in the trenches. In retrospect, they seem easier, maybe even manageable, because we've already made our way through them. But in the moment, the dark days seem darker, and the world seems scary.

I could tell you about the months of feeling incomplete and nowhere near enough of the person I used to be. I could tell you a story about moving an hour away from my hometown and living out of boxes for a month. But what I want you to remember is not so much that I lived in a mess, but that I was a mess. I found myself feeling bitter, not better. Now, I feel like life is too difficult some days to not be on the verge of greatness.  And there is the moment before coffee when the world still feels impossible, but I face it; I'm stubborn I suppose. 

I was recently told that maybe, it was time to give up on my dream. It was in the moment, but still the words existed. They were real. And if I were someone else, maybe I'd have listened. But like I said, I'm stubborn. I'm a dreamer. I'm a writer.

But you know this. There are certain things you know from this blog, and other things you'll never know. I'm hoping to share more of the unknown with all of you. 

I'm going back to my weekly posting schedule to keep the moments of this journey clear, and here's what you can expect in the posts to come:

1.) Stream-of-consciousness writing, and how it's helped me find consistency

2.) Writing along with the Plath Poetry Project

3.) Completing my first poetry collection

4.) Tour of the writing cave

5.) Querying process

6.) And more!

So. Much. More.

There are too many things I want from this life. I want work I love, and I want my words to find their place in the universe. I want to read a book and love it. I want to love reading again. I want to love the days while they're happening. I want to find happiness. 

And there are too many words, and not enough time; the minutes move by, and I'm almost 25. 

One thing I know for sure: I used to believe in putting good into the universe. But maybe it's just giving good to yourself.

So be good to yourselves. 

Be messy.

Be kinder. 

Be better.

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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.