publication

Out of the Spiral

Writing has and always will be my haven. Even on the difficult days. Maybe, most especially on those days, I escape into words. I spoke about this notion of retreat with a friend and fellow writer from the MFA. In emailing back and forth with her, I wrote: Success is relative. Perseverance is everything. And in articulating that sentiment in real words, I was able to find strength in my struggle and healing in my hard work.

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So what do I mean when I say words are my retreat?

For this to make better sense, I suppose I must admit just how difficult the month of February has always been for me. I don’t think I realized this until diving into my journal archives and discovering a pattern of exhaustion and struggle; all within the month of February. This year was much the same, with the added flare up of anxiety that was all at once consuming and vicious. I always tend to retreat into myself and become insular when my anxious thoughts take over. And usually, writing is the only thing to pull me out of the perpetual spiral of spinning thoughts and racing pulse.

But this year, I couldn’t write the words I needed to find my way out of the spiral, and this, too, was terrifying and contributed further to the sense that I was not only struggling, but failing. It was a sting far worse than any rejection I’ve ever received because it was was self-actualized. The more I felt I was failing: at work and in my writing and in communicating with the people I appreciate most, the more I felt weak and waning and weathered.

Fast forward to a much needed trip to New York City to visit with one of the best friends. I didn’t take my computer. The journal I had abandoned at the end of January continued to collect dust on my desk. I brought two books, one which I had so loved in the past, and in that memory, felt safe. I arrived to an empty apartment in Astoria and slept for three hours. I walked through a neighborhood I’d yet to explore, finding food, and quiet. I let my mind go without thinking and list-making and bullying for the act of just existing. I ate and showered and read some more and prepared to see Alice By Heart, a reimagining of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I spoke of some of my anxiety with the best friend and texted with the other. Throughout the weekend, I found my way back to my favorite places that still feel a little like home. I finished that book, connecting with it even more the second time around, and I bought more books. All the while, I knew the real work would begin once I was back home.

I would find my way out of the spiral. I would put myself back together. I would be kinder to myself. I would be better.

These were all promises I made with myself from a beach in Astoria beside the best friend as we drank Shamrock shakes and watched night take over. And when I returned home, I got to work. I ordered a new planner from Archer & Olive. I found an unfinished journal that was nothing like the ones I’d used since the MFA. I read a graphic novel, and then another. I started taking melatonin on nights where I knew sleep would be evasive. I apologized to myself, and started practicing self-kindness.

So how did I make these promises into realistic goals I could accomplish?

1.) New Planner

I've kept a steady journal since my undergrad in 2012, though they have evolved since then. I was strictly using a black hardbound square grid Moleskine journal. It became a rather superstitious thing for me. And up until February, I used to set up my monthly calendar, monthly goals, and weekly to do lists within the journal along with whatever I had been writing.

Unfortunately, however, I found myself getting days or weeks behind, which is right around the time my anxiety started to intensify. I think it was initially triggered at work, which held its own set of challenges, and trickled down through my writing life. But I purchased the Archer & Olive Daily Agenda, which comes blank. I have since fallen in love with it. I do my monthly set ups at the beginning of each month (mainly because I use a new pen color so I don't set it up any earlier than that) and I fill in my baseline weekly spreads at that point, too. I write my to do tasks on a week to week basis from there, using a new quote, stickers, and correlating washi tape just to add some creative flair to planning my week.

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I think the biggest reason my process NEEDED to change was that I had stopped enjoying/utilizing the old way of planning in my journal. I realized I wasn't using it for journaling and writing as much as I had in the past, which was problematic. I was beating myself up day after day for not keeping up with it, and eventually hit my breaking point.

Since switching to this new planner, I’ve worked on a facet of my anxiety that truly was the most concerning. I was making lists. And not the usual to do list. I was making lists of things I needed to make lists for and nothing was being accomplished, but rather listed the next day and the day after that and I felt myself slipping away from progress. This is not to say that a planner cured my anxiety. But by recognizing a symptom of this spiral and working to get it under control, I was able to be more mindful and realistic about my weekly and monthly goals.

2.) Bedtime Habits

As someone who used to be a night owl, my bedtime habits have been a struggle to balance with my full-time job. Upon returning well-rested from my trip to NYC, I knew I needed to make some changes to my nighttime routine, including taking melatonin on nights when sleep seemed too far away. And this has helped. I’ve also been better about being on my computer or phone before bed, exchanging technology for reading, and it has helped immensely.

3.) Self-Kindness

This might be the biggest factor that has helped throughout the month of March, making me feel ready to conquer the rest of 2019. I am only one person. There are only so many hours in the day. I can only accomplish so much, and that is not everything. This is something I’ve focused on throughout the past month. I get through as much writing and editing and research after work until I can’t anymore. Instead of bullying myself into working past the point of exhaustion or feeling guilty for the work I haven’t done, I instead tell myself there might be more work, but there is also another day tomorrow. That’s not to say I’m giving up or procrastinating, but rather, giving myself days to recover and recharge and refill the creative well before getting back into the edits or prepping for the query trenches. It’s all about balance, and this is something I still struggle to find. But I’m trying. And for that, I am so proud.

So what does this have to do with the idea of success and perseverance?

In many ways, this year has been kind to me. I’ve had several pieces published and accepted. But I also have 61 rejections for just three months into the new year, which is where the idea that Success is relative. Perseverance is everything seems more true than anything else. Poems that have been rejected too many times in the past are finding homes, and I am still seeking representation for DREAM CATCHERS. I am back to editing the manuscript to prepare for the query trenches, and exciting things are happening soon. Though I can’t discuss them just yet, know that good news is coming! To keep up with future blog posts, the secret announcement, and what’s being published next, check in with my NEWS!

Now that I’ve found my way out of the spiral for the time being, there is still the sense that I will be trapped in that bad place again. It’s a fear, but one I’m managing. And this is not usually something I discuss, because as I’ve said, I become insular and retreat into myself and my writing. But with celebrating my successes and posting my publications, I felt there needed to be some transparency.

Too often I find myself sharing only the publication news, and maybe that does my readers a disservice. I personally don't dwell too much on rejections, and so don't often talk about them. Not because they're taboo, but I just assume everyone gets tired of listening to writers talk about rejection. But I want you, dear reader, to know that success, however you define it, comes from hard work and struggle and perseverance.

The life of the writer is just as messy as any other. But I’m trying, and I think that’s all we can do. I hope you’ll try, too!

A Little Spark

I don’t have many words to spare this morning as I work toward today’s word count goal. Last night, however, I reached 25,164 words; the halfway point of NaNoWriMo 2018! To be honest, I wasn’t sure I was going to take part this year because I couldn’t fathom going back to that place from last year. But I’m doing it. Throughout writing, it feels somewhat like madness. Some days, it’s a little spark. Other days, it’s a blaze. Yet, it’s kept me going in these beginning days of NaNoWriMo!

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The last time I wrote here, I was just weeks away from the publication of my first collection, These Are the Women We Write About. Amidst waiting for that book, I was outlining a short story, which today, is published in Mistletoe & Magic: A YA Holiday Anthology.

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My short story, “in the Valley of Stars,” features three women from and a hint of magic from current work-in-progress. The anthology is now available for purchase from Amazon as an ebook for $.99 for one last day. And all too soon, print copies will be available, too, just in time for the holidays! There is also a giveaway running to include the authors’ books (my collection included), which can be entered HERE!

Now all these months later, that short story helped bring me back to my NaNoWriMo project as it grows like every story: word by word by word. There’s a very good chance I’ll “win” NaNo this year by making it to 50,000 words. But there’s also a chance I might finish the novel I dreamed up 9 years ago. I like the odds.

And yet, to say the writing is easy would be nonsensical. To say anything other than writing is work would be a lie. I love the work. And some days I stare out at the blank sea of a wordless page with blurry eyes knowing I should get to bed lest suffer the next day at my day job.

This time, however, the work of this story is urgent, even when the page appears wordless. I want to finish this not so first draft. I need to write this book. Whatever it takes: tired mornings, notes on my lunch break, talking out plot points with myself in the dark of night. I’ll make it happen. It’s what I do. And while I drifted from that place in September and October, I’ve written myself back to better. So here’s to better writing. Here’s to progress. And here’s to finishing my next book by the end of the month!

How They Remember

It's official. My debut micro-collection of poetry, These Are the Women We Write About, has been added to Goodreads. Though the days toward publication near, this book still feels too much my own. But I know soon, my words will belong to the world. Such words remain a culmination of my obsession with the women of mythology; the women we write about.

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On their new website, The Poetry Annals has quoted a line from one of my poems: "It's all in how they remember." And I know this, more than anything else, speaks for the bigger ideas held within this project. Each of us lives with recollection, and much of my poetry has been ripped from stories told and remembered. 

But, I must admit these poems and the women within them are not exactly like the old stories. Many began while I followed the Plath Poetry Project and others continued from the voice I found following along with Sylvia's writing for a year. And from such inspiration, women such as Medusa and Artemis and Eurydice and Hecate and sirens singing; all of their stories have been reimagined within the pages of my micro-collection. They are women with a voice; they are women with a story. 

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The Poetry Annals has written a beautiful description to accompany the book, and they serve as an intimate understanding of all I've tried to create in these poems. 

"Kayla King’s These Are the Women We Write About is both dreamlike and mythic. Drawing on the intricate stories of Greco-Roman mythology, her words trace the edges of the celestial and interrogate the boundaries between the known and unknown.

King writes with fluid and graceful language, crafting images both fragile and poignant. Her examination, through poetry, of the female narrative in myth is striking and beautiful in equal measure." -The Poetry Annals

While there are still 16 days until the publication of These Are the Women We Write About, this waiting time feels minute compared to the years I've spent writing these poems and telling stories long ago remembered. And after readers finish this micro-collection, perhaps they, too, will remember the women we write about. 

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.

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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Now It's Nostalgia

Since Sunday, I've been immersed in the idea of nostalgia. After receiving an email from MockingHeart Review, I immediately had the "better luck next time" kind of thought. As I've said before, I'm accustomed to rejection. But this was no rejection. My poem, "How to Heal a Snake Bite," will be published next month in the last issue of 2017 by MockingHeart Review. And what's more, the lovely editor said my poems (even the ones not accepted) touched her greatly. Her words took me back to the beginning of this poem's journey.

I was there, in that Williamsburg coffee shop where I first wrote this strange poem. Back before the revisions. Back before I submitted to five other publications who've all rejected this poem. There was the bitter scent of espresso, and the just-barely-there hum from the city beyond the patio of Black Brick. There was the best friend sitting across from me. There was the rest of the day we spent exploring, and the photos I took, and the memories I made. Looking back, I suppose I'd call this feeling now nostalgia, but then I just called it perfection. 

So now it is almost a full year later, and this poem will be published! Since diving back into the world of poetry, I've been struck often by uncertainty; unsure if I'd found the right words or tone or voice, though I enjoy writing them immensely. But this acceptance is validation that my words mean something, that the act of writing poetry has helped more than just myself.

The world of poetry is strange. On one side, I have my beloved favorites: Sylvia Plath and Tennyson, Jack Spicer and Stephen Mills, and then there are the typewriter poems and the Tumblr poets and their words are just as important. We are in this unique place where poetry can be anything. No more are the days of Ginsberg having to fight to demolish the expected, no more do we forget women's voice in poetry like too many did when seeing Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath together. Times are different. Poetry is different. And I'm not so sure us poets need the validation when it feels so delicious to destroy ourselves on the page, to permeate those same pages with a prose poem, or a couplet, or a strange twist of words. 

But publication feels pretty damn good! Sharing work is what juxtaposes these poems against our secrets still hidden in iPhone notes or journal pages or whispers before bed. But writing is still writing. Words are still words. And soon you will be able to read this completed work.

Until then, I'd like to remember that perfect day at Black Brick with the words of this poem barreling through me to the page. I'm still not sure where they come from sometimes. And I'd like to remember that conversation between myself and the best friend where we both discussed losing a story, and wondering who might've found it next. Because maybe we were too busy. Maybe it wasn't right for us in that moment. And I'm not sure what it was about sitting behind that small coffee shop visiting the best friend for the first time in NYC that helped me find this strange poem. 

I'd also like to note what happened after the joy and excitement from that email. As I readied to send an updated bio and author photo to MockingHeart Review, I realized I had to make sure this piece wasn't still out to other publications. In the world of writing and submitting, simultaneous submissions are not discouraged. In fact, literary magazines and presses understand it might take thirty rejections before your work ever finds a home. But they also expect you to withdraw your work upon publication. Now being an old-school, pen and paper loving person that I am, I had to go back through my archives to find where I'd sent this poem. Along the way, I did find the page where I'd written this (October 4, 2016), and I found many other things. I also discovered that "How to Heal a Snake Bite" was rejected everywhere else it'd been sent, and so withdrawing was a non-issue.

But I didn't let this go as an unlearned lesson. I've since created my own color-coded spreadsheet to keep track of publications I'd like to submit to in the future, places still pending, rejections, and those three acceptances I've had so far this year. It's currently four full pages, and getting longer. And even looking at all those red rejections contained therein, it is astounding to see all the places I've submitted in 2017. And sure the rejection list continues to grow (I'm currently at 49!), but so does my list of publications!

Maybe I'll look back on this acceptance a year from now and be taken back to the exact moment I opened the email. Nostalgia is a fickle fiend, which too often tricks us into heartbreak. But sometimes she's good and kind and perfect and reminds us all how wonderful we can be, and how much we have to be grateful for now. 

*Update: As of August 31, 2017, you can read "How to Heal a Snake Bite" published at MockingHeart Review